Dave Wrangler Brings Disko Cowboy’s Eclectic, Electrifying Vibes to Austin
The deejay and founder of lifestyle brand Vinyl Ranch creates multi-genre dance parties at SXSW, ACL Music Fest and more
By Darcie Duttweiler
Photos by Jamie LaCombe of HEAVY GLOW
Disco photo by Emily Jaschke
Yes, Wrangler is Dave Wrangler’s real last name. He admits it’s a little serendipitous given his “Urban Cowboy” lifestyle and his lifelong love of country music. Also coincidental: The day Wrangler was born in 1979, Donna Summer’s hit “Bad Girls” was No. 1 on the charts.
“What’s that saying? Like, you always idolized the era you were born into?” Wrangler laughs. “There’s something about something like that.”
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With a fascination with both country and disco music growing up in Blanco County — he would listen to 1990s country radio hits in his family’s car on road trips but also dance to disco tunes in his room with his friends — Wrangler says his foray into deejaying was also quite by happenstance. He would spend his days watching MTV on the floor in his parents’ house and hum lyrics to other songs over the videos he was watching.
“I didn’t really know what deejays were or what they did or anything when I was a kid,” he says. “It was just kind of something that I naturally did, and then I ended up becoming a pretty prolific mash-up remix producer.”
After moving to San Antonio at age 20 and learning how to use professional equipment from working deejays who graciously took him under their wings and taught him the ropes, Wrangler quickly made a name for himself. Eventually he relocated to Houston to immerse himself in the nightclub scene and “reinvented” himself. He became known for his multi-genre remixes and deejay sets that helped to define the dance music culture of the late 2000s.
Wrangler jumped onto the national radar in 2008 with the release of the mixtape, “Life Of The Party,” which was called a “goldmine of dance floor-friendly indie rock, hip-hop and electronic music” by “Rolling Stone.” Wrangler went on to release bootleg tracks and mixtapes at a rapid rate, and in 2009, his remix of the Animal Collective single, “My Girls” thrust him onto the international stage.
During this time, Wrangler was also becoming prolific at Houston clubs, spinning tunes at local hotspots and deejaying high-profile parties for the likes of Lady Gaga, George Strait, Tom Ford and more. He also created Vinyl Ranch, which was originally slated to be a one-time gig to celebrate his birthday, but word spread quickly, and after a chance meeting on an airplane with nightlife legend Mickey Gilley, Wrangler reimagined Vinyl Ranch to juxtapose infectious country classics and the hedonistic disco lifestyle. Two months later, the party became one of the biggest in Houston and the start of something new for Wrangler.
Nowadays, Vinyl Ranch is more of a lifestyle brand, churning out streetwear, t-shirts, boots and other goods perfect for any “urban cowpoke.” Think shirts brandished with “chattahucci” in the iconic Gucci font and other fun plays on sex, drugs and country music. In order to maintain his own identity, Wrangler decided to separate Vinyl Ranch as its own entity and took up the mantle of Disko Cowboy, where he continued to spread his gospel of neon-loving dance party remixes. He says he derived the name and vibe from his memories of visiting the Midnight Rodeo 18-and-up dance nightclub as a high school kid.
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“I’ve just been really nostalgic about that time in my life,” Wrangler explains. “The deejay would play a mix of top 40 hits with general club classics from the ’70s and ’80s, mixed with a little rap music and some country music. It was just like a multi-genre dance party. And that’s what the Disko Cowboy set is, more or less.”
Although he has had roots in Texas his whole life, Wrangler has extensively traveled and played major festivals, gigs and parties all over the country, including the Super Bowl and Bonnaroo, as well as opening for headlining talent like Empire of the Sun, Talib Kweli, Ghostland Observatory, Passion Pit, Psychedelic Furs and more.
Following a stint in Tulsa after winning a grant from the Tulsa Remote program, in which he lived in Tulsa for more than a year while working remotely, Wrangler is finally settling down in Austin, where he hopes to make his “own cultural tweaks to the Austin matrix via collaboration with the local tech and creative communities.”
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After an electrifying set at ACL Music Fest last fall, Wrangler is looking forward to a busy year with gigs already booked at Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, South by Southwest, Stagecoach Festival, Third Man’s Blue Room in Nashville and Mercury Lounge in New York City, where his bumping genre-bending dance parties will always encourage partygoers “to wave your freak flag, to dance, absorb the music, wear a big hat, two-toned boots, gold chains — whatever you need to feel like yourself.”