It's amazing how transformative a DJ name can be, even a ridiculous one. Half of the Newport Beach-based duo Sex Panther, Ryan Fontana says he settled on the name last year, hoping to distinguish himself from the rest of the EDM jungle.
“I told a girl I was dating at the time I wanted to change my DJ name to Sex Panther, and she told me, 'No, because all the girls will want to have sex with you,'” recalls Fontana. As if it would be just that easy. Well, turns out, it kinda was. After launching his EDM duo under the semi-erotic moniker, Fontana and partner Aaron Cool have been packing clubs from Las Vegas to Brazil with women who are fiends for their sweaty, champagne-spraying, hair-swinging stage presence bolstered by beats oozing with dirty low-end and sharp melodies. And unlike the name's reference to Bryan Fantana's putrid-smelling cologne in Anchorman, 100 percent of the time, their music works . . . every time.
But before embarking on their Sex Panther journey, Fontana and Cool were just two regular guys who loved EDM, attending every show and festival they could. They both played guitar, and Cool (born Aaron Pruss) played the piano as a child. Fontana, a Hawaii-bred entrepreneur, moved to Orange County to attend Chapman University, focusing on film production. While working for the Gotta Dance Dirty music blog on some nightlife video projects early last year, he found they ran a weekly club night at Avalon in Hollywood.
On impulse, he bugged the creator of the blog to let him have a crack at manning the decks. To his surprise, the founder of Gotta Dance Dirty agreed to it. It was then that Fontana encountered his first obstacle in becoming an internationally known DJ: knowing how to deejay. For the two days leading up to the show, he went to Guitar Center for hours to teach himself. Newport Beach native Cool, a far-more-experienced selector, came into the store randomly, and they struck up a conversation. “I was like, 'I'll give you some drink tickets if you come to Avalon Friday,” says Fontana.
“We never had the specific intent of starting a DJ duo,” adds Cool. Yet here they are, headlining shows as Sex Panther a little more than a year later, including a tour in Brazil.
Fontana and Cool got their big break while playing the major clubs in OC. In addition to being known for their energetic party-mode performances and electrifying progressive house sound, their wacky personalities and incredible raw talents create a bacchanal that epitomizes light-hearted hedonism at its finest.
Sex Panther's ingenious brand of big-room house remixes and bootlegs thrives on teasing with high pitches, laser zaps and thrusting bass that allows them to, uh, figuratively fuck the crowd. Their sole purpose is to take advantage of their fans, even if it means pouring shots down their throats—a habit at almost any show they play. Of course, behind all these fun and games are two tireless technicians who are killers when it comes to their craft. Their current bootleg package includes songs such as “Lost In the Sun & Moon” and “Epic Sandstorm,” which continue to make waves among the EDM elite. They even gave a set to Dutch DJ Nicky Romero when they shared a flight back from Vegas.
With a collaboration release with Brian Matrix titled “The Beginning” on Beatport, iTunes and Amazon and another original track, “Right Now,” soon to be released, Sex Panther are inserting themselves (sorry, too easy) into the national spotlight and climbing the charts. Their faces are on billboards on the Las Vegas Strip, yet they stay humble, partying with fans after gigs. This Friday, they will continue to spread their love for house music in typical Sex Panther fashion at Hollywood hotspot Blok before coming back to OC in December for a gig at the Yost Theater.
This column appeared in print as “EDM On the Prowl.”