Muses of the Month: The Dust Bunnies Dakota Ushigome and Gen Ariella
As told to Marc Graser Images courtesy of The Dust Bunnies
For The Dust Bunnies, the charismatic DJ duo who are performing at Honolulu Pride and the return of Lei’s annual Pride Pool Party, “traveling equates to personal growth,” says Gen Ariella. “It exposes us to diverse situations, knowledge, and experiences that continuously mold and shape who we are.”
DJing together since 2016, the bunnies have seen their share of clubs and music venues. “The perfect club should have an amazing sound system, one or two dance floors, spectacular lighting and good cocktails and mocktails,” says Dakota Ushigome, who you’ll pretty much always find in a white V-neck T-shirt, her self-described “uniform.” “Indoor and outdoor is always a plus, and bathrooms with multiple stalls!”
Ushigome was drawn to music, especially the house community, at an early age after learning how to play the piano at age six.
“DJing allows me to express myself through music and share love through music,” Ushigome says. “I really enjoy being able to put a spin on tracks to make them unique using the mixer and all of the fun and interesting effects. I love feeling the energy of a crowd and seeing people dance and watching them truly be in the moment.”
I love feeling the energy of a crowd and seeing people dance and watching them truly be in the moment.
Before relocating to Hawaii nine months ago, the two performed at the North Warehouse for Portland Pride. “It was truly phenomenal,” Arriela says. “The energy was electrifying, and we thoroughly enjoyed the music selection we put together for the event.”
The two were mainstays in the local Portland music scene as resident DJs for No Requests, a converted bank building, and regulars at No Vacancy, an elevated club where many international house and tech house DJs played. “The owners were great and the amount of creativity that went into the space to make it so classy was top-notch,” Ushigome adds.
This interview has been edited for length.
Where did the name The Dust Bunnies come from?
Gen: Back when Dakota and I first started dating, well before our DJing days, we used to stroll around Portland. It seemed like wherever we went, someone would recognize her and say, “Hey, you’re that trainer from 24 Hour Fitness.” One day, I playfully turned to her and said, “You’re the local celebrity. I’m just a dust bunny.” We both shared a good laugh about it. When it came time to pick a DJ name, that memory popped up, and I thought, why not just be the Dust Bunnies?
What makes you passionate about DJing?
Gen: I specialize in curating and mixing music, utilizing my artistic intuition to carefully select and blend tracks. My passion lies in uniting people together on the dance floor and guiding them through an extraordinary musical journey.
Since you travel so often, where’s home for you — and what does that mean to you?
Dakota: I was born and raised in Mountain View, California, and I would have to say that was my first home. My parents were both born and raised in Hawaii. I’ve lived in many places but I’m going to have to say that living in Kailua, Hawaii, for the past nine months has truly made my heart and soul feel like I am finally home.
Gen: My roots are in Brooklyn, New York, and that city has played a significant role in shaping who I am. It will always hold a special place in my heart. Nevertheless, even before relocating to Hawaii, I felt a deep connection and was quite certain that this would be my home for this phase of my life. I am grateful for it every day.
Do you have a favorite DJ memory?
Dakota: Our first gig as the Dust Bunnies was Candyland, labeled as a girl party for Pride in 2016. It was the first time a house music party would ever be thrown for Pride weekend so we were a little nervous about attendance. The club ended up being packed to the gills and even went a bit over-capacity.
Where are some of your favorite clubs and what makes them unique?
Dakota: There was just something about 177 Townsend in San Francisco back in the day! It was the home of many clubs in SF like Club Universe, Mighty and Club Q. The club was HUGE and you could just feel the vibes waiting in line to get in. We’ve had great experiences in San Francisco at Halcyon where we went to celebrate our engagement in 2017 (Chus and Ceballos were spinning that night) as well as SF Audio. In Miami, Space is an awesome club open all night into the day.
Gen: My early clubbing experiences were in New York, frequenting venues like Sound Factory, Pacha, Crobar, and Limelight.
I’m precisely where I want to be. I’m filled with enthusiasm about becoming an integral part of this community and delving into its vibrant experiences.
If you could be anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Dakota: I’ve been to Japan before but mostly the Tokyo area on business so I would LOVE to go and have some fun as well as sightseeing — places like Osaka, Okinawa and Kyoto. Since I’m Japanese, I’d like to learn more about the culture, both the traditional/beautiful, as well as crazy.
Gen: I’m precisely where I want to be. I’m filled with enthusiasm about becoming an integral part of this community and delving into its vibrant experiences. I’ve dedicated significant effort to turn this dream into reality, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Looking ahead, I have dreams of exploring Japan and wandering through the various countries in Europe.
Where have you been that really surprised you?
Gen: New Orleans was a place that took me by surprise. The live music echoing through the streets of the French Quarter truly captured my heart. The city’s music scene, lively nightlife, abundant festivals, delectable Creole and Cajun cuisine, and the charming colonial architecture all left a lasting impression on me.
What’s your favorite travel memory?
Dakota: My favorite travel memory is taking Gen to Hawaii for the first time. It was for my birthday four months into dating. Since I had been to Oahu so many times it was easy to show her around and have so much fun together and visit Matsumoto shave ice, Waikiki Beach, the Polynesian Cultural Center and Waimea Valley, just to name a few stops!
Gen: What she said! Experiencing Hawaii for the first time was truly extraordinary. Even now, I continue to feel that all my senses are heightened in this breathtaking place. It’s undeniably a place of immense beauty and I feel so lucky to be here.
Where is that one place someone should go at least once?
Gen: I might be a bit partial, but in my opinion, New York City truly exemplifies a city that never rests. It represents the epitome of a diverse melting pot, catering to a wide array of interests and passions, making it a place for everyone.
What is it about Hawaii that you love?
Dakota: Number one is the people. I truly feel the love here unlike any other place in the world.
Gen: My friend Mei shared with me that Hawaii is often acknowledged as the heart chakra of the world. Having lived here for nearly a year, I can genuinely attest to feeling those positive vibes. It’s a breathtaking place with a closely-knit community that looks out for and supports one another. The aloha spirit generates an energy that I haven’t encountered anywhere else.
5 Musings of the Month
Attend Pride to celebrate and support a local community event that is fun and inclusive. Whether you’re a part of the LGBT community or not, there’s someone in your life who is — someone who would love for you to experience a bit of their life in a colorful way! Pride is fun, exciting and inspiring! — Dakota
Traveling is an ongoing learning journey. By maintaining an open mind and heart, it contributes significantly to one’s lifelong quest for knowledge and personal growth. — Gen
Visit the country of your heritage to learn more about your roots and experience the history and culture. — Dakota
Big cities have the best clubs. New York and San Francisco truly have exceptional venues. These spots invest heavily in their club spaces, evident in the top-notch sound, lighting, and ambiance. It’s what sets the experience apart and leaves a lasting memory. While I haven’t visited Europe yet, I’m eager to explore the club scenes in Berlin and London. — Gen
We are all about variety when it comes to traveling. We relish the joy of exploration, savor moments of relaxation by the beach, and dive into the vibrant music scenes both during the day and at night. Embracing spontaneity and allowing the day to unfold organically, following wherever the wind takes us, often leads to the most rewarding and unforgettable experiences. — Dakota and Gen