“I do not want to work with Daddy Yankee.”
That’s a bold declaration from a Latinx producer in Miami. But producer Daniel Mendez is resisting the lucrative allure of reggaeton often presented to his peers. Mendez is adding a new pulse to Miami’s electronic scene under his stage name, Triangles.
Mendez’s choice to identify with the most ubiquitous shape in alternative music is a conscious one. While groups like Yacht and Alt-J have made the triangle somewhat of a joke, Mendez seems unbothered, even amused, by its overuse. “It’s a funny story,” Mendez says. “My friend George said, ‘Man, you’re gonna get a triangle tattoo and call yourself Triangles.’” So he did. “If I was in an indie band with the same name, I think I’d get messed up.”
Mendez, 25, was born in Miami but grew up in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, which he describes as “the murder capital of the world.” Nonetheless, Mendez is thankful for the perspective he gained there. Back in Miami, Mendez resolved to help change the narrative of violence often imposed upon Latin America.
“Hell yeah,” he interjects. “I want to put Honduras on the map. When was the last time you heard something from Honduras that wasn’t reggaeton?” He cites Empress Of, an Honduran dream pop and R&B act, as an example of Honduran talent outside of the ubiquitous genre.
Mendez approached music first as a fan. Growing up, his Colombian father introduced him to disco, soul, and house, and he listened to a lot of rap and R&B in Honduras. He cites “the OGs of beat music,” J Dilla and Mad Lib.
Mendez blends these genres in his instrumental work, a tessellation of countries and genres anyone can vibe to. Miami and its EDM craze of the late Aughts provided the backdrop for Triangles’ launch into experimental territory. “It was when that whole EDM wave popped up, remember?” he reminds me. “Everybody wanted to be a DJ, and I thought, This is boring.”
He admits he never thought he’d be a musician in the traditional sense, like his pianist brothers, though he used to play the violin. “Then, I started making beats.”
Having just moved back to Miami at 18 years old, Mendez’s ambition found a voice in beat music. He studied audio production at Miami International University of Art & Design after leaving his psychology major at FIU, deciding that he “didn’t want to just graduate, get a job, and make beats on the side.” He began recording his surroundings to create his own instruments and signature sounds.
“I got into jazz,” he recalls. “I did three or four tapes of jazz, and then I got bored again.”
Mendez often mentions getting bored. Restlessness is the crux of Triangles’ ethos: learning a genre, mastering it, and moving on, all the while weaving it into a tessellating fabric of chillwave color. His first album, 2015’s Swimming in Solids, is a geometric arrangement of sounds released initially on cassette—a soundtrack for the kids sitting on the couch after everyone else has found the next party. 2016’s Miami 2100 pares this vibe down to a concentrated soundscape with electronic and acoustic instrumentation that paint a futurist vision of Miami. This is his project: a confluence of the hard and soft edges of Miami that make our city feel like his Miami Paradise shows. “Ethereal,” he describes, “but you can dance to it.”
The album also sees Triangles collaborate with singer Gaby Guerrero of Native Youth, who Mendez met at the Art Institute. His production on Guerrero’s “Body Talk” made the song a hit, and Mendez’s deep-dive beat elevates the track’s sensuality to another level of slow-burning desire.