Minneapolis electronic duo Niles Shepard reaches for the “Moon, Man”

Their summer Discovery Project win brought them to Electric Forest and now, a record deal.

Jim Brenk, left, and Cameron Dickison, right, who make up the electronic music duo Niles Shepard, pose for a portrait in their studio space next to Bauhaus Brew Labs on Thursday, Nov. 14.

Image by Liam Armstrong

Jim Brenk, left, and Cameron Dickison, right, who make up the electronic music duo Niles Shepard, pose for a portrait in their studio space next to Bauhaus Brew Labs on Thursday, Nov. 14.

by Norah Kleven

A year and a half ago, music-loving pals Jim Brenk and Cameron Dickison realized that together, they could manifest their dreams. 

The Minnesota natives met in the electronic music scene through friends and at shows. In 2018, they played their first set as Niles Shepard, and since then, they’ve been reaching for the moon. 

Niles Shepard’s Nov. 8 release, “Moon, Man,” is a testament to their goals. The release comes as part of their recent win with Insomniac Music Group’s Discovery Project — an open casting call to electronic artists. Contestants compete for a chance to perform at an Insomniac festival. These are big-name festivals, including Electric Forest, Electric Daisy Carnival, Nocturnal Wonderland and more. To apply, contestants must submit an hour-long mix and an original song; if chosen, it is released through Insomniac’s Discovery Project label. 

Niles Shepard’s original intention, Dickison said, was simply to expose music industry executives to the name Niles Shepard. 

“We knew we’d be in, but we didn’t think we were going to be winning, necessarily,” he said. 

Dickison recalled he was working at his day job, setting up audio and visual production elements for Soundset, when he got a call from someone at Insomniac. 

“I could feel the smile from ear to ear,” he said. 

Niles Shepard was one of two winners of the Electric Forest Discovery Project.

“Then he called me,” Brenk said. “And we’ve talked a lot, right? Never in my life has Cam said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ Then he said something to the effect of, ‘Well it doesn’t matter because we’re going to E-Forest baby!’” 

“Moon, Man,” which helped secure their win, is a disco-influenced house jam, a common trait between much of Niles Shepard’s music up to this point. The track oozes creativity, including a partial vocal sample of Neil Armstrong’s iconic line from the from first moon landing, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

“I would say it’s the music that you dance in the dark to,” Brenk said. 

Though Niles Shepard’s sound takes influence from disco and the Chicago house music scene, the pair is still evolving and doesn’t plan to constrain themselves to one sound.  

Niles Shepard credits the Discovery Project win with proving to themselves and others just what they are capable of together. 

“It’s kind of legitimized our case completely,” Brenk said. 

After the release of “Moon, Man,” Brenk and Dickison say they saw their Spotify listeners jump from hundreds to thousands. This week, the track earned recognition from LA-based house music producer Jauz, who played it on his radio stream. 

Alyssa Burgess, Niles Shepard’s friend-turned-manager, met Dickison and Brenk at Electric Forest when they performed this summer. 

“The energy that they brought was so infectious,” she said of their Electric Forest set.

Burgess said she has noticed that Niles Shepard is stronger with each record release and performance. 

“They’re just constantly getting better and as a result, they’re more inspired,” Burgess said. “They take these opportunities and experiences and turn it into so much more.”

On the horizon for Niles Shepard is a busy schedule, with six upcoming releases before February and a whole lot of studio time. Their next song, “Whips,” comes out Nov. 22. 

“They already have been amazing, they’ve just been working even more now that they can see their future being panned out in front of them,” Burgess said. 

“Niles Shepard will be a big name to watch out for.”