DJ VyVans drops the bass for Iowa City

UI freshman Brady Vanlo lives by his alter ego behind his laptop: DJ VyVans.


Alyson Kuennen

UI freshman Brady Vanlo poses for a portrait at Gabe’s on Monday, March 11, 2019. Also known as Vyvans, Vanlo has been a DJ for nearly three years, playing gigs for local bars, house parties and special events.

Adrian Enzastiga, Arts Reporter

The crowd packed in the red glow of Gabe’s awaits in anticipation for a good song to get them moving. When the speakers finally crackle to life, an audio clip from “Winnie the Pooh” is played. It is a shock at first, until the children’s cartoon drops into remixed EDM.

This is the work of University of Iowa freshman Brady Vanlo, an aspiring DJ known as DJ VyVans.

EDM — electronic dance music — is a genre of club music highly used among DJs both famous and up-and-coming.

“I’ve always really enjoyed music. I was always interested in playing a bunch of instruments, like guitar and piano, and I always wanted to find a way to bring all those sounds together into one song,” Vanlo said. “I was always really into electronic music, so getting into producing and playing all that stuff was something that appealed to me.”

Vanlo is a business major with a focus on marketing, but he wouldn’t be opposed to taking up a mic and speakers for a career.

“Right now, [DJ’ing] is just a hobby for me,” he said. “I don’t really know how in the future I’m going to apply that; that’s why I’m trying to push everything so hard, see if I can actually make a career out of it. I’ve never taken piano lessons or anything like that, but I’ve always had this slight understanding [of music theory], enough to get me through.”

Vanlo has been a DJ for three years since his sophomore year in high school. Growing up in Iowa City, he practically taught himself the ins and outs of music theory and sound mixing on his own, from watching videos online to attending others’ shows. 

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“It was like, ‘I kind of wanna try to become a DJ’ and then lots of YouTube videos. I’ve been to a lot of shows to see what they’ve done,” he said. “It started out when I dropped $200 on a DJ controller. I was in my room trying to see how everything worked and teach myself everything, through YouTube and online classes.”

Vanlo has been booked at weddings and dances as a casual DJ, but his first time “performing” as a DJ was at Gabe’s on Feb. 22.

“[Gabe’s] was really fun because I got to play the music that I really enjoy, that I like to listen to, and produce, and play,” he said. “It was more of a concert-style set, and that was a lot of fun. Gabe’s is a pretty cool venue; I’ve seen lots of shows there. A bunch of my friends came down. It was a good time.”

For this DJ, producing music is just something he does naturally. However, he said, there is room for improvement.

“I haven’t been too pleased with my production skills yet, so that’s something I’m trying to get into,” he said. “It always feels like it’s paying off. It’s something I come home from school and just do. People can recognize me from DJ’ing, from my SoundCloud and stuff like that. It almost makes me feel like a celebrity sometimes. As far as a DJ’ing standpoint, my dream is to travel the world performing.”

One can find his original remixes and tracks at

Vanlo said that his DJ name “VyVans” came from a combination of his last name and an ADD medication he took as a kid.

“My DJ name wasn’t something that I put that much into. I took that Van’s aspect; they’re my favorite shoe brand,” he said. “When people take that ADD medicine like Adderall or Vyvanse, you feel energetic and jumpy, and that’s the way I like to portray my music as.”

Vanlo looks up to mainstream DJs such as 4B and Jauz that work with EDM. However, his music is a unique subgenre of EDM.

“EDM music is something that a lot of people listen to. I play a certain genre of music that’s more hard-hitting than most EDM music that you would occasionally hear on the radio or at a club,” he said. “My tastes and genre and style of music sets me apart from any other DJs that you’d see. That’s kind of like a blessing and a curse.”

As with any artistic performance, DJ’ing actually takes significant preparation in advance. Vanlo has worked on producing some sets, but his Winnie the Pooh introduction at Gabe’s was especially memorable when he remixes it into a hard-hitting house drop.  

“They were like, ‘Why is Winnie the Pooh playing right now?’ They all turn around and are like whoa, and the drop hits, and they start getting really hype,” he said. “A track list is super important, too. I like to think of making track lists like a story. You don’t just want to play bangers right off the bat, you want to ease the crowd into it.”