YOU TWO RECENTLY GOT ENGAGED! HOW DID YOU MEET?
MATT: Well.. [laughs] we met at Sonotheque, which is now Beauty Bar. Her best friend and I went to college together. I was running in to see some friends and I ran into Dionna and I was like “Hi, who is that girl with you?” There was some brief internet flirting…very weak MySpace flirting. I dropped a line. I said “ my mom would really dig you I think.”
SHANNON: He was like It’s so hard to find an Irish Puerto Rican dancing machine in this city. I was like “SOLD!” “True!”
YOU GOT YOUR START WITH MAC COSMETICS AND LAUNCHED YOUR OWN BUSINESS IN MAY OF LAST YEAR, WHAT MADE YOU MAKE THE JUMP?
SHANNON: I’ve always imagined owning my own business. Even when I was a kid, I wanted to own my own candy store. [Laughs] I really fell in love with makeup when I worked for MAC. I loved the business – I loved the marriage of art and commerce, and fashion and makeup. But retail is extremely exhausting. Physically, you’re on. I would be at that place 10-11 hours a day. You’re in people’s faces and you’re charming the pants off them for as long as you can stand. I just thought that this is something I am really good at. I needed a change. If I’m going to do this, I might as well go big. I just hit the ground running and am not ready to stop anytime soon.
YOUR CAREER HAS TAKEN OFF INSTANTLY! WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR SUCCESS?
SHANNON: The people around me, in a lot of different aspects. The people who molded me. My mom and dad have an amazing work ethic and they did a really great job in raising all of us to have that work ethic. The people who are in my life now, Matt and my best friend Laura. They are both small business owners and they helped me to get a better grasp on things because it is so new to me. I have this drive to just knock down everything in my way and go for it. It’s not in me to take on something and not give it 100%. I’m a bit of a perfectionist – all or nothing. I see the benefits of my hard work directly by the choices I put in. I have even more of a drive to do it even better. People respond to you being kind and a nice person. You should support other people and take other people up with you.
SHANNON: Matt is the chair of the Ambassador’s Board for Chicago Children’s Choir. Azeeza [Khan] called me and I was immediately ecstatic, elated and so excited and then in one second – it was sheer terror. [Laughs] “How am I going to do this?” I had the most amazing experience. You can’t help but get goosebumps thinking about it. My heart was swelling with how impressed I was with every single person there. I still am in awe. Azeeza is an inspiration. I’ve learned a lot from her. Being a businesswoman in the fashion industry, her hustle and her grind is so strong and she does it all herself. She’s a self-made woman.
THERE IS A STRONG TIE BETWEEN MAKEUP AND FASHION, AND YOU DO BOTH REALLY WELL. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON IT?
SHANNON: When I started working in cosmetics, I started to see it more as self-expression. The tie-in between trends in makeup and fashion was so close that you couldn’t help but get into it. I think I have a very strong point of view and I think that’s kind of where I get it from. I physically and emotionally react to imagery, color and texture. It’s about the image, the whole package and the way the color and texture work off each other and the balance. I really like putting things together and making them work, making them weird and juxtapose in a way that’s different.
WHAT ABOUT YOU, MATT? YOU LAUNCHED CROSSFADER KING WITH PARTNER EMILIO ABADIA (E-SIX) IN 2005, WORKING WITH DJS FOR CHICAGO’S BEST VENUES.
MATT: Crossfader King has been a tricky thing for us to properly explain. We are not a DJ agency. Our job is not to take young talent and mold them into superstar DJs. What we do is work for our clients to find the very best people for their budget that we can give them and make sure the night goes smoothly. In a given week, we will manage between 20-30 DJs but it’s not like they are Crossfader King DJs – Lettuce Entertain You is a Crossfader client. We’re about our clients and their needs. Being DJs ourselves, it’s important to us to meet the needs of our DJs as well. We want them to feel empowered with all of the information, music and make it easiest for them to do their job.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU?
MATT: We’re working harder to start running our company like a record label, start putting out music, making music – doing things that allow you to exist outside of the three hours you are DJing at a club. Doing things that are going to end up in people’s iTunes. We are close to 25-30 DJs that work regularly with us. So that’s where our focus is now. Finding new clients, helping DJs get a foothold. Right now we are hoping that we can continue to scale with Lettuce Entertain you. We have a really great working relationship. They’re our biggest client and we work very hard to make sure everything is going smoothly with them.
YOU’RE ALSO IN A BAND, INNKEEPERS. WHERE DO YOU FIND THE TIME?
MATT: I’ve been DJing for 7 years. I grew up playing in punk rock bands. I started my first band when I was 15 and I’ve been in bands off and on ever since. It is funny. It comes as a shock to some people. It’s such a nice release from being in the club/DJ world to get to play with a band where you’re a member of a group and it’s your job to make the rhythm happen as opposed to being the front man and the party guy. It’s a different method of performance. It’s very cathartic to play the drums as hard as you can.
WHICH VENUE HAS YOUR FAVORITE CROWD? HOW DO THEY DIFFER?
I do an 80’s night every month at Beauty Bar, which is fun because it’s the music I grew up with. Those are nostalgic and great memories and it’s fun bringing them back to life in a creative way when you’re mixing records that no one would have thought to play together or heard them in that way. People really react. I get to be creative. When you have a packed house at Studio Paris, it’s so fun. There’s something about playing to 30 people as opposed to 300. It’s night and day. People get into that group think. If you have 400 people listening to dance music, they get swept off into the energy that is surrounding them. It’s a snowball. The sound there is killer – they’ve gone above and beyond with the lighting and video. There are live visuals every night. It’s a great place to be – I love DJing there!
YOU WERE BOTH FEATURED IN BURBERRY’S ART OF THE TRENCH CAMPAIGN – WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE?
MATT: Kiran [Advani] – I’ve known her for a long time. I’ve worked on fashion shows with her DJing – Kiran connected me with the Burberry people. The best thing that came out of it was that I got to DJ the opening. It was a great party! For all the corporate gigs I’ve played in my life, that was by far the best one. That was next level. I think with modern DJing, image plays a lot more into it now that it ever has and the internet has a lot to do with that.
SINCE YOU BOTH HAVE VERY BUSY SCHEDULES, HOW DO YOU ENSURE YOU HAVE TIME TOGETHER?
SHANNON: When we first started dating, it was a challenge. I am up with the sun, in bed by midnight. For a long time, he was DJing three or four nights a week and at Underground closing until 4 a.m. so I wouldn’t see him until noon or 1 p.m.. Gradually over the course of our relationship, it’s gotten better. I feel like we spend quite a bit of time together.
MATT: Especially now that she is out of the retail game. We’re at the point where we can just be together. It doesn’t have to be intense all the time. I’m past that DJing four nights a week business. I usually do two nights a week and it’s either Thursday Friday or Saturday.
BACK TO THE TWO OF YOU AS A COUPLE. WHAT DO YOU THINK IT TAKES TO MAINTAIN A STRONG RELATIONSHIP?
SHANNON: Respect for one another. Caring genuinely about one another’s whole being from all aspects. I know people who are in relationships where you can tell that it is lacking and it’s constantly a struggle. If you don’t genuinely respect someone in all aspects of their life, how are you going to commit?
MATT: I think communication is important. I’m usually pretty good at saying my peace and I think that’s important. Festering on things privately is not going to solve any problems and I think that’s an important part in making it work. Being comfortable enough in what you have and all of the good things that you have together to not be afraid to voice that negative things to be able to tackle it and move forward.
Putting the other person first is really big too. I’m so excited for Shannon. I care so much for her. Especially with press and great things that keep happening – I’m so excited and I want to do everything in my power to keep that going. Whatever it takes, I want the very best for her and I feel like she wants the same for me.
SHANNON: I’ve been asked before if I think we are in competition. Never. I’m always more ecstatic than he is about opportunities and thinking about him first. I feel lucky. I think that he’s taught me to be better. I truly think that. I don’t mean to get mushy but I’ve learned so much from him and he’s made me better in a lot of aspects. Sorry that was really sappy! [Laughs]
YOU BOTH HAVE VERY BOLD STYLES – WILL THOSE DETAILS CARRY OVER TO YOUR WEDDING?
SHANNON: I’m trying to collect every disco ball in the tri-state area [laughs] – so we’ll see what happens! I know we both have very strong points of view.
MATT: I will be conceding mostly. But I feel good about it, we like a lot of the same things. We want everyone to come and have the most fun. We will have DJs, obviously plural. What I’m hoping we can do is have four turntables set up and have a couple of friends take an hour each.
SHANNON: When it’s all said and done, I’m not going to remember this napkin wasn’t right.
Photos by Lindsey Cavanaugh