After asserting their re-imaginative prowess on remixes of P!nk’s “Hurts 2B Human” and San Holo’s “Right Here Right Now,” Midnight Kids now channel their artistic energies to “Run It.” The fourth Midnight Kids-stamped single to gain a release, “Run It” broadens the duo’s stock of original productions, and as Midnight Kids disclosed to Dancing Astronaut, it won’t be the last to do so.
The Annika Wells-assisted number is but one Midnight Kids project to make the leap from the pipeline to streaming platforms. With a queue of unreleased music eagerly awaiting rotation, Midnight Kids are poised to further expand their electronic influence in the year to come. The producers delineate how “Run It” fits into their continuously expanding catalog, the sonic moves they’ll be making in the new decade, and more in an exclusive interview with Dancing Astronaut.
Arriving at the close of the year, “Run It” builds on a stream of singles, such as “Those Were The Days.” How, specifically, does “Run It” build on/expand the sound that you’ve developed over this past year?
We want every track to sound like it’s a step up in production quality from the last. With “Run It,” it feels like the culmination of everything we’ve worked on this past year. Great vocals, lush chords, and a rich, full soundscape are what make this record so special for us. “Run It” will give everyone an intro to the Midnight Kids world they haven’t heard or seen yet. This is a record we are very proud of and we’re so excited to see what everyone thinks of it.
How did you approach the production process of this record?
The production on this track came together incredibly fast and naturally. We were sent a batch of demo toplines and Annika’s original demo really stood out to us. We loved the way she sang the chorus. It had an incredibly bouncy, moving rhythm and we tried to preserve that as much as we could in the production process. Having such an amazing vocal to work with from the get-go made executing ideas that much easier for us.
“Run It” follows two Midnight Kids remixes: P!nk and Khalid’s “Hurts 2B Human” and “San Holo’s “Right Here Right Now.” What are the qualities of a song that attract a Midnight Kids remix, are there any particular hallmarks that you look for?
It’s sort of a case-by-case basis. The most important thing we pay attention to, though, would be the vocal. We love big and beautiful sounding vocals, really anything that is filled with tons of emotion. Most of the time, we end up building an entire new track using just the vocals for remixes, so as long as we like the vocal, we can end up making something awesome.
Your sound has a youthful, whimsical flair to it, and it’s certainly safe to say that its brought color to the electronic scene. As you continue to develop your sound over the next year, and in the extended future, are there any particular sub-genres or artistic approaches with which you hope to experiment?
We’ve explored the mid-tempo and house genres pretty thoroughly at this point, it could be cool to experiment more with halftime oriented records. We’ve been utilizing real guitar and instrument recording for quite some time now, but recently we’ve been experimenting with modular synthesis and feel it could elevate ideas to a new level creatively moving forward. Being able to physically create and manipulate sounds in the real world has infinite potential for new inspiration and ideas.
What’s in the cards for Midnight Kids in 2020, can listeners expect a long-form project?
You can expect a lot more music from us in 2020. We can’t say much at the moment, but we can say that everything you see from us for the foreseeable future is only a small part of something much bigger that we’ve been working on.
In the context of Dabin’s continuously developing career as an electronic multi-instrumentalist, 2019 was a watershed. The highlights: the arrival of the producer’s sophomore LP, Wild Youth, released via MrSuicideSheep’s Seeking Blue imprint, an ensuing remix album of the aforementioned, and inclusion on ILLENUM‘s Ascend tour, not to mention a series of lauded singles such as “One That Got Away.” On the horizon in 2020 looms the launch of Dabin’s largest headlining live initiative yet.
Needless to say, the momentous activity that defined Dabin’s presence in the dance scene over the past year is poised for replication and, unsurprisingly, amplification. Dancing Astronaut invites Dabin listeners to momentarily revel in the present moment alongside Dabin, to gain insight on the artist’s shifts in creative vision, sonic bildungsroman, and everything that happened in between this year.
With 17 new remixes, Wild Youth (The Remixes) is a full offering replete with different takes of Wild Youth originals. Tell me a little bit about how this remix album came together.
I always loved remixes and definitely wanted to get a remix album going for Wild Youth. Out of curiosity, I tweeted and asked if anyone would be interested [in remixing the album] and the response was amazing. The remix LP is filled with remixes from good friends and new producers I’ve found. [It] has everything to chill out [music] to break your neck type of stuff. I’m really happy with how it turned out and am super proud to give my friends and these up and coming producers another platform to showcase their talents.
There’s a host of remixers on the album. How did you choose the artists that you did?
I personally asked a few good friends like Trivecta, MitiS, and Sam Lamar to do a remix. I’ve been a big fan of their work and definitely wanted their takes on the album. Some have had remixes done for awhile like Fransis Derelle, Inukshuk, and Astrale. I actually tweeted [asking] my fans who they would want to hear on the album. I had a crazy amount of responses from both fans and artists so I basically tried to pick the artists who I thought would be a great fit while also catering to my fans [to give them the artists who they] wanted to hear as well.
Was there one remix in particular that really blew you away; what was it/why?
It’s so difficult to pick one. All of them brought such a unique spin to Wild Youth. I genuinely can’t pick one as I love them all in their own right.
Let’s backtrack a bit to Wild Youth, your sophomore album. It’s been out for a few months now and the reception has been warm. Were you at all surprised that the album got the response that it did from fans/can you comment on the reception?
I was completely blown away by the reception of Wild Youth. I never really think about how well my music is going to do after it’s released. I think the best thing is to enjoy the process and be genuine to yourself and that’s what I did during Wild Youth, so I’m happy it was well received.
Can you talk a little bit about the making of Wild Youth and what you were specifically hoping to achieve with the LP?
Wild Youth started coming together a little after my Two Hearts LP, which focused on themes of love and loss. I wanted to tell another story with Wild Youth with similar themes, although I wanted to shift the focus to the idea of growing up. It feels like we’re out in the wild, innocent, just making our way through the world. It’s fun, it’s exciting, but there are also pitfalls and obstacles that we overcome and learn from. I wanted to package all of that into a musical story that paralleled my shift or rebirth into the crossover style I’ve been [cultivating over] the past few years.
It seems that with the making of each album, artists learn something about themselves and/or try out new musical approaches. Was this the case for you in crafting Wild Youth?
With Wild Youth I wanted to bring in as many acoustic, ethnic, and live elements as I could. My music has definitely shifted more towards that “live” or band feeling, and bridging the acoustic and electronic worlds is something I really enjoy doing. Wild Youth allowed me to hone in on exactly the kind of music I want to be making.
The album really seemed to further propel you into the public spotlight. You’ve had a pretty meteoric rise in the electronic scene. How does that feel?
It feels unbelievable. I’m grateful to my fans and my team for sticking by me and really involving themselves in what I have going on. Everyone feels like family to me. I’d say the best feeling in all of this craziness is when people send me messages about how my music has helped them in some way or through a hard time. I’m all for having fun at shows or enjoying my music at a party, but seeing my music increasingly help people overcome obstacles–that’s what really keeps me going.
With Said The Sky and Olivver The Kid on the list of “Hero” collaborators, three proves a party on this record. How did “Hero” come about, from the initial idea for the track to its creation?
I actually made the main guitar riff for “Hero” while I was on tour with Illenium in Australia. I showed it to him and he said he loved the riff and that it should be a song. I basically made this entire idea around that riff and sent it to Trevor (Said the Sky). He was in LA finishing his next album at the time and told me Olivver the Kid [had] made a great vocal part to it. He showed me via FaceTime and I absolutely loved what I heard. We basically finished the song in a few days after that.
You’d previously worked alongside Said The Sky on “Superstar,” which was warmly received, to say the least. Evidently, there’s a natural creative synergy between your style and Said The Sky’s. What is it, specifically, that you feel makes your styles work well together?
We come from a similar place musically. We grew up playing instruments, listening to the same bands, then got into making electronic music, and those worlds [collided for the both of us]. I think that we could sit down and make any style of music; the chemistry we have will always work its way into that. With our collabs, we’ve decided to stick to a certain style within our wheelhouse and it’s been great. But I think at the end of the day, it’s our strong bonds that really give our collaborations that synergy. He’s like a brother to me. What’s next for Dabin as 2019 winds down?
I’ll be playing shows with Illenium and Said the Sky, which will be our last shows as a band. We’ve all grown and got our own things going on and I hope we’ll get some reunion action down the road, but for now I’ll get to push myself in 2020 on my own and see where I want to go musically and as a live performer. End of this year may be a little quiet music wise, but expect a whole lot in 2020!
In April 2009, a 16-year-old from Frome, England wanted to share his love of bass music with the world. Luke Hood started a YouTube channel called UKF (which stands for United Kingdom and his hometown of Frome) and saw his subscriber base steadily begin to grow. The brand launched that year with the creation of its original channels: UKF Drum & Bass and UKF Dubstep, which now have 2.2 million and 6.3 million subscribers, respectively.
It’s been 10 years since the launch of these lauded channels, and Hood’s passion project has turned into something bigger than he ever could’ve imagined. Videos across the UKF channels have garnered more than 3 billion views, and the brand has hosted UKF events in 20 countries and 38 cities around the world.
Hood and his team have been celebrating these momentous milestones all year long by dropping singles from the label’s UKF10 – Ten Years Of UKF album—a massive 37-track compilation that makes its full debut on Friday, Nov. 29. So far this year, the world has been treated to fresh tunes from bass music greats like Camo & Krooked, Hybrid Minds, Matroda, and more. Finally, to cap off the year, UKF is throwing a huge party in London on Dec. 14, featuring a lineup that most bass music lovers could only dream of.
To hear more about the journey from humble YouTube beginnings to legendary compilation albums and worldwide events, we chatted with founder Luke Hood.
What does this 10-year anniversary milestone mean to you as UKF’s founder?
For me, it’s my entire adult life’s work! So it’s a really special moment to reflect for me. We’re all guilty always looking into the horizon, setting goals and comparing yourself to others along the way, without ever really taking a moment to pause and reflect, so it’s been really special in that respect. We’ve achieved a lot over 10 years with so many artists, managers and labels, and it’s been one of my favourite years ever running UKF.
What have been some of the most exciting moments in UKF’s timeline?
2011 was a really crazy year for us. We released UKF Dubstep 2010 in December 2010 which in January topped the iTunes Dance charts and remained in the top 50 for years, followed by venturing into live events where we put on our first 500 capacity show in January, through to a sell-out 12,000 capacity show at Alexandra Palace with UKF Bass Culture, which tied into our first TV advertised album. It was a lot to take in at the time, but I look back on it with some pretty fond memories.
In more recent years, festival takeovers and launching UKF.com into an editorial platform to help up and coming artists in the bass scene get support where they otherwise wouldn’t. I’ve always wanted to champion new music and supporting artists with some of their first interviews written on UKF has been a highlight.
And finally, taking UKF back to my hometown of Frome in Somerset was a real moment for me. I had the pleasure of bringing some well-known UKF artists back to my hometown where while I was growing up it was impossible to go out and see artists in the bass world perform. When I was 16/17 I always wanted to go to shows but they were all too far away, I hope that some people who had never been to a dance music event before were able to attend and hopefully be inspired enough to go on that journey and build the next UKF.
What have been some of the biggest challenges UKF has had to overcome?
When you’re a global youth music brand focusing on multiple niches/genres of music, it becomes really difficult to stay on top of the various scenes we cover while knowing which platforms to focus on as they appear. We obviously started out as a YouTube channel, but our ethos has always been to try and spread the music we love everywhere, so had invested from the early days to make sure we had a presence on Spotify and Apple Music, where a lot of our audience now live. That extends to social media too, where when you cover such a broad spectrum it’s hard to know should we be on Facebook? Instagram? Snapchat? Tiktok? How much time and energy should we focus on each? I think we’ve done a good job of striking the balance over the years, but it’s something we have to constantly review.
What do you think makes UKF special and contributes to its longevity the most?
I’d like to think there’s a degree of authenticity that our fans subscribe to. Unlike most streaming services today we really do our best to keep our ear to the ground to find the latest tracks that are being made and getting reloaded in clubs, compared to the data-driven/algorithm-led world we live in today. I’m still heavily involved in the curation and I hope that consistently over the channels it’s noticeable.
The second and most important thing I think, particularly that has kept the longevity is the community. There have been people commenting on our videos for years, and it’s that interactivity and engagement you don’t get from other platforms. We are nothing without our fans and the comments/likes/dislikes that come with them. Without that, we’d just be a streaming service.
What has feedback been like on the UKF10 singles hitting the airwaves this year?
Positive! We were overwhelmed by the feedback initially when we put out the first single with Camo & Krooked. As soon as “Atlas” was announced we had so many artists and managers get in touch to express an interest in getting involved with the campaign. We’ve always been there promoting artists to our community at the core of what we do, and naturally helping artists release their music felt like a natural step after 10 years. I’m really proud of the album that’s come together as part of this and I’m excited to see the response to it when it finally drops! It’s an amazing collection of artists old and new that we’ve worked with and supported over the decade.
The 37-track UKF10 arrives Nov. 29. Listen to the compilation’s previously released singles here.
Who are some up-and-coming artists we should be keeping an eye on?
There’s a few, and I always find this a challenge to pick a small amount because there are so many! But if I had to pick 2 it would have to be 1991 and Notion. 1991 is coming out with some brilliant music, which doesn’t stick to a particular path like a lot of other Drum & Bass artists that will find their sound and stick to it for a while. Each release has a very different vibe to it and I like that! “Midnight” is probably my favourite track of his, as well as his UKF10 track “Full Send” and his upcoming track on RL Grime’s label, “The People.”
Notion I’m a big fan of because he is great with melodies and has taken that bass house sound and made it his own which a lot of producers have struggled with. Check out “Hooked.”
What are you looking forward to about the London event in December?
It’s been a long time since London has had a diverse showcase of artists big and small for a club event. There’s a lot of purely drum ‘n’ bass nights, dubstep nights, bass nights, but nobody is combining all three. I think it’s really special that we’re able to promote the full spectrum, and I hope that we’re able to introduce some people to some artists they wouldn’t usually go and see, with some favourites old and new. We’ve got Dimension headlining, who first had an upload nine years ago!
Get tickets to the Dec. 14 event and learn more here.
What does the future look like for UKF?
I want UKF to remain a consistent voice people can trust to help them discover new artists as well as see some existing favourites across all the different streaming services. The current streaming landscape on Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube means that algorithms are always giving you more of what you already know you like, which is great, but who is making sure the people grafting away in their bedroom with no audience are able to be heard? I hope that we’re able to continue to talk about artists in 5 years time that we discovered and picked up on in 2019 that are going on to achieve big things. There are plenty of exciting projects in the pipeline as well for our live events, but that’s all I can mention for now!
What do you want UKF’s legacy to be?
I hope we’ve helped billions of music fans discover new music they wouldn’t have otherwise heard, while continuing to engage a core community of around the various genres we cover. In addition to that I hope we’ve helped tens of thousands further their career in music, whether UKF inspired them to try and make their first record, carried out their first interview, played them for the first time, or helped accelerate their development by putting them in the spotlight on our YouTube channels.
You may not have heard of Oliver Malcolm yet, but that’s all about to change. And while the 20-year-old producer may not yet be a household name, you’ve certainly heard his music already. That’s because Malcolm already has a slew of high-profile production credits to his name, including work with Joey Bada$$, Jay Rock, MF Doom, AlunaGeorge, and Cee Lo Green. Now, the young producer is planting his own flag, signing with Interscope/Darkroom—the same team that broke Billie Eilish to the world. Ahead of Oliver Malcolm’s impending breakout in 2020, we sat down with the emerging beat maker to learn a little more about him and what makes one of music’s next torch carriers tick.
Currently, which musicians inspire you the most and why?
“It really depends on what I’m listening to each day. One day I’ll be listening to the Clash and be super inspired by them, the next I’ll be inspired by Jimi Hendrix and the next by Kendrick Lamar.”
Is there a single moment or event that made you decide this was the career for you?
“Yeah, I mean when I was twelve or so I picked up some DJ decks to teach myself how to spin and that was sort of my introduction to really finding my love for music. But becoming a producer and eventually wanting to be an artist, I remember downloading a cracked version of Logic and once I was in that it was game over.”
In the first few years of your newly emerging career as an artist, what would you say your primary goals are?
“I want people to just feel something with my music, that’s all I want at the end of the day. I’m really excited to start playing shows and want to do this full band set up. I have so many ideas, it’s going to be crazy. Other than that man, I just want to see what happens once I put my own music out there.”
What made this the right time to launch your own project after working with such recognizable stars?
“It just felt right, man. I mean I love producing and will always be down to collaborate and produce for others, but I hit the point over the last year or so I’d say where I was like, ‘Why don’t I just put out my own shit? I have something to say and can do it 100% myself.’ So it just felt like the right evolution.”
If you weren’t producing music, what else would you be pursuing? What interests you outside of music?
“Honestly man, music is it! When I was in school, I would just think about music and wasn’t interested in much else. All I would want to do is get out of class and be cooking in the studio. If I had to pick something though, it might be something in fashion or photography. Something to do with art, because at the end of the day that’s what I’m here for man, the art.”
Is there a genre or a musical niche you feel is under-represented in pop culture? Do you intend to change that?
“I don’t know if there’s a musical niche or a genre is under-represented but I do feel like culture can change at any moment and I want to be at the forefront. I just think there’s an intersection between what is out there pushing boundaries as well as music that is more digestible and popular and I want to be at that point where they collide.”
Look at your Spotify/Apple Music—what is currently in your personal rotation?
“Oh man, definitely anything Eminem. He has always been such a massive influence on me. ‘Jimmy Jazz’ by the Clash. ‘Ghost Town’ by the Specials is essential. In terms of songs right now, few that come to mind are the new FKA twigs “sad day”, Dijon’s ‘CRY BABY,’ the new Frank songs, tons more.
There’s a grainy, sci-fi character to the technics of DEVAULT‘s sophomore EP, Sapphire. Sonically conceptual from start to finish, Sapphire harkens back to the retro, new wave sound of the ’80s and the emergent electronic styles of the ’90s. Sapphire comprises four cuts: its eponymous title track, “Saunter,” “Accept Yourself,” and “Scar.” Each of the inclusions would easily sound track an episode of The X Files.
I wanted to create something that pays homage to the music that got me so excited about electronic music in the first place, the new wave sounds of the 80’s, the French Touch, and the rave music of the 90’s all influenced this record.
Crepuscular chord progressions tangle with tingling rhythms across the EP. Fixated beats pump away in the background, augmenting Sapphire’s spectral titillation. It’s time travel, without an H.G. Wellsian time machine to transport listeners a few decades in the reverse. Sapphire is the sequel to DEVAULT’s earlier EP, JADE, released in April.
DEVAULT expands on his vision for Sapphire in an exclusive interview with Dancing Astronaut.
DA: With Sapphire you said you wanted to pay homage to the music that first got you excited about electronic music, “new wave ‘80s sound, the French touch, the rave music of the 90s.” Once you had this idea, all that was left to do was to actually start crafting the EP. Where and how did you start?
Normally when I approach music it tends to be very spontaneous ideas flowing in the weirdest of times throughout the day. For these tapes, however, and for Sapphire specifically, I wanted to take a very premeditated approach. The visual concept, soundscape, etc. was all thought out before I even started to write the songs. I think this method helped me create a true world for each tape.
DA: You’ve got 4 tracks on this EP in total. Was there one that you enjoyed making the most or alternatively, was there one that you might have found a bit more demanding in terms of the production process? Which one was it and why?
I really enjoyed making “Accept Yourself.” Making fierce, energetic records has been so fun for me lately, as its a new place for me creatively. I normally tend to be on the melodic end, so testing myself in new waters has really revitalized my love for making music. The most demanding record was the title track, “Sapphire.” So many tiny details were involved to really make this record feel like it was out of a 80’s synth wave movie.
DA: Can you say a little bit about how the production process of Sapphire differed from that of JADE?
Sapphire is definitely a bit [more] mature compared with JADE, and I took a more simplified approach. Synth wise, I incorporated the same sounds from JADE but made everything sound a bit concise rather than [involving] a ton of textures. Sapphire was also a much more pre-thought [out] idea after learning from JADE and its world. I wanted Sapphire to feel like a full on 80’s soundtrack compared to the industrial sound of JADE.
DA: It seems that with the making of each EP artists learn something about themselves during the creative process. Was this the case for you when making Sapphire, and if so what did you take away from the experience?
Totally, Sapphire was another step in me learning what music directly translates to a live show and what doesn’t. I think the music I initially put out with, say, my Stay EP was melodic and ethereal, but wasn’t quite hitting how I wanted it to [hit] live.
JADE and Sapphire in particular were a direct channel from me to the dance community. And now, after making music on two sides of the spectrum, I’m currently working on bringing the elements together, where a strong vocal and can stand hand in hand with a strong club record.
DA: In your own words, how would you describe the sound of Sapphire and how does it fit into the sound that’s defined your catalog to date?
Sapphire, at its core, is a night drive/80’s influenced record that highlights different styles that immediately got me hooked on electronic music. It’s dark and energetic but on a continuous journey, as if you’re placed right into the middle of [a] Blade Runner/Tron film. Sound wise, its truly my version of the club music that I want to put out: something that can immediately be placed in my sets and [that] focus[es] on energy before anything [else].
Introspective drum ‘n’ bass finds its voice in talented producers like BoxPlot. The Boston-based producer first caught the attention of the dnb world back in 2015 and has been making a name for himself via his unique brand of dreamy beats ever since.
His newest piece of work, an EP called Alice, arrives on Liquicity Records on Sept. 6. Hear its opening track, “Voicemail Poems,” and learn more about the work that went into the EP below.
Tell us a little bit about the making of this EP.
The initial idea came from my tune “My Non-Existent Friend, Alice,” but not from the tune itself. It came from the people in the YouTube comments sorta wondering “who is this person” or “why is she non existent.” That got me wondering if I should build this story further into an EP, and so I did. The making of Alice was a pretty grueling and extensive—1.5 years or so—but it was definitely fun. I’m very meticulous when it comes to writing songs because I nitpick on literally every detail and I absolutely want to make sure that it’s 100 percent the direction I want to go in. As for production techniques, I’ve finally gotten to utilize my Eurorack synth that I’ve been on and off building for a year or so. I’ve sorta designed it to where it’s basically made to be an ambient-lofi drone machine, and it does wonders when it comes to making atmospheres.
What can listeners expect from this EP?
I’d definitely consider this to be like a mini concept album if anything, but still very familiar to my Tramontane EP. I really wanted to hone in on the emotions of lust and loss and sorta play around with them. You can sorta view the timeline of these two imaginary characters and see how things evolve over the course of the four tracks. I periodically listen to the entirety of the EP end to end and I still get chills from it.
What does this EP mean to you?
While making the EP, I didn’t really think it had some sort of emotional connection to my actual self. I more or less just thought I was just writing a story just for the sake of writing a story. But after these past few months have gone by, I’ve come to realize that this body of work was actually me subconsciously telling myself how I felt over the past year. It kind of is surreal to think how when writing things you can be writing something that has no meaning or anything behind it, but in actuality it does and you don’t know it yet.
What are your hopes for drum ‘n’ bass in the United States?
I’m optimistic about it, but I’m realistically in the middle. I’m noticing there’s now tons of hype coming from a good majority of the big EDM guys talking about how drum ‘n’ bass is so sick and are asking for tunes from people, but it’s one of those things where I sorta need to see it to believe it. Now I’m not talking about the talent here in the U.S. The talent I’m seeing from the States is actually rather insane to be honest. A great example of this is a guy named Winslow. His tunes are absolute stompers and he makes really quality YouTube videos that I tend to watch periodically and enjoy greatly. Anyway, back to the original point: it’s the promoters that are based here that I’m iffy about. For example, if you don’t originate from the UK, you aren’t getting booked. It’s as simple as that. Flite I know for a fact is working his butt off to make sure to change that, and it’s working. It’s just that these promoters aren’t willing to pick up these homebrew artists at all, or they are at times but they are getting paid in pennies. It’s a slow process yes, but that’s what it is going to have to be; a waiting game.
What’s in store for the remainder of 2019?
I do have some collaborations with some artists that I’ve always wanted to work with, but I won’t name drop them because I do want to keep things secret. I do have plans to also make a non drum ‘n’ bass EP for once since the good majority of music I actually listen to isn’t really drum and bass. Finally, I also have another EP lined up, but this time it’s for my side project, Tetracase. Nothing is completely set in stone for that one, but it’s probably going to receive the majority of my attention for the remainder of the year.
Just a few days before his Vujaday debut in sunny Barbados, Jeremy Olander sat down with Dancing Astronaut to shed a bit of light on some new personal and label developments, as well as what he’s anticipating most about the destination festival.
A Swedish electronic stalwart after his years of cementing his name to the forefront of the house/tech scene, Olander also runs his own record label, the Stockholm-based Vivrant, which as of last year, secured an impressive nine of its then 14 EPs No. 1 spots on Beatport. Olander received global attention following a decisive recording contract with Eric Prydz‘s Pryda Friends imprint and auspicious tour spot alongside the prolific label boss. Now, the Stockholm native is looking to add the coastal Carribean Vujaday to his illustriously on-brand festival record, which includes map-spanning performances at London’s Steelyard, Sydney’s Electric Gardens, San Diego’s CRSSD, and Croatia’s Labyrinth Open, to name a few.
Olander will hit the Copacabana Beach Club Wednesday night, April 3, to jump-start the five-day affair. Tickets to Vujaday, which runs April 3-7, are still available here.
This is your debut performance at Vujaday Music Festival in Barbados this April. What excites you most about Vujaday?
I’m very excited for it. Some of my own personal favorites are on the bill and the location is something else. I also plan to have a few days off so I can explore what the island has to offer.
This year’s lineup is pretty stacked with genre-defining names like Sasha, Lee Burridge, and Bob Moses, to name a few. Aside from your own, what three sets would you recommend catching at Vujaday?
As you mention, Sasha is definitely one that I would check out myself. Aside from that, Moodyman and DJ Tennis are two masterminds behind the decks and I think you’ll be sorry if you miss those two.
Since its inception in 2015, your label Vivrant has seen the #1 spot on Beatport multiple times. Any new developments on the Vivrant front these days?
We just recently dropped one new EP and one new single, the Docks EP and “Shogun.” The other ones that are completely done is a new EP by André Hommen, which I’ve been playing out quite a bit. We also have a killer remix EP of Khen’s last release with Karmon and Magnus International, which is due soon. Apart from that I don’t want to spill the beans quite yet.
Tell me about the vision behind incepting your own label…
The initial vision I feel has been reached but as time goes on the vision keeps developing. I want to keep things interesting and over time, dip my feet in other creative areas outside of music.
Anything new in your pipeline (production or otherwise) for 2019?
I’ve been working on some really exciting stuff during the last weeks but I can’t tell you the news just yet, you’ll have to be patient.
What’s been your most memorable performance to date?
Wow, tough question. It’s really hard to pick just one. I have so many memories from touring, every show is special in it’s own way.
Music often serves impetus for healing, and Motez‘ mission as an artist is to wield this power to its maximum extent. He comes from a background fraught with hardship and perseverance, fleeing his native Baghdad at the height of the Iraq war to seek asylum in Australia. With a background in music that stretches back before uprooting his life, Motez grew up knowing that he was meant for a life of spreading positivity through music and using it as a way to help others out of turmoil like it had to him. He settled into dance music come adulthood, building a name for himself in the house realm for his frenetic take on the genre and adoration for a quality vocal collaboration. It wouldn’t take long after his break before he scored a Triple J residency and widespread support on the DJ/producer circuit.
This theme persists in his latest single, “Steady Motion”—which features optimistic verses by KWAYE. Disco-esque string accents and a funk-driven base wrap around KWAYE’s warm voice, creating an effective tune without piling on too many bells and whistles. It’s the kind of tune one would want to toss on during an outdoor gathering, or when craving a slice of euphoria in general. Curious to know more about this swiftly rising star, we poked his brain a bit on what inspires him, the messages he hopes to send with his music, and more.
You’re a classically-trained pianist; tell us about the path that led you into electronic music production, and how you came to fall in love with this genre.
The turning point for me was listening to artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Boards of Canada. Even though it’s electronic, it has heart and soul. There’s a focus on melody being the “hook” rather than words and that’s what made me think I’d like to do electronic music.
How can music be a vehicle for positive change, and what do you do in your own work to implement this?
Music is a universal language, even though the phrase sounds corny but it is. I am lucky enough that I grew up in Iraq listening to lots of Arabic music yet I was, and still am, making predominantly electronic music. That combo has helped me understand the power of positivity in music and the universality in the messages. I try to make messages within my music personal, reaffirming stories that most of us encounter in every day life and helping people who might go through them find solace.
On a similar note, you’re an outspoken activist and participate in campaigns to aid the global refugee crisis. What are your thoughts on politics in music, and have you ever produced or thought of producing a socially conscious/protest record of sorts? Or do you think it’s important to focus on music as a unifying force?
I think the answer is linked to the previous question; the key for me (as a person who was once an asylum seeker) is to make good music and have all positive messages weaved into it. That is what we can do as a positive answer to governments and politicians who treat people seeking asylum as scapegoats or tools to frighten the masses in their fear mongering tactics. We can only add cultural value, contribute and help build those new countries we move to. Our worth is the invaluable work we provide.
What was the inspiration behind “Steady Motion,” and how did the writing process go?
Steady Motion at its heart is a song I wrote about the struggles of being in a volatile and chaotic life of a touring musician. Above it all, you have to keep a brave face, stay positive in the age of social media where you have to always stay present. I wrote the instrumental after being inspired by emotional yet upbeat house music from the likes of MJ Cole, George Fitzgerald and Jon Hopkins. I received the vocals from Kwaye and immediately knew that it is the one. He perfectly translated the emotions and story behind the song, as he was also feeling the same about it. I wrote the string section soon after which was performed by the amazing Davide Rossi who has collaborated with lots of heavyweights around the world including Alicia Keys, The Verve, Jon Hopkins and Coldplay. I am very proud of the end result.
Define the “Motez sound” for us, and what makes your music different than the rest.
I am attracted to intelligent music with heart and soul. Even with my club-driven output I tend to make dance music with purpose, with melody and lots of musicality. I think it is music that I hope surprises people and doesn’t sound like anybody else because I draw a lot of inspiration from non-electronic music.
What else is coming down the Motez pipeline?
I am working on a few new originals that hopefully you will get to hear, I have also finished a remix for Icarus that will be out very soon.
Cameron Alexander and Cody Nadeau may be based in Los Angeles, but that hasn’t stopped the duo from creating feel-good music and quickly gaining momentum within the electronic music scene under moniker BRKLYN. The duo started to make a name for themselves after releasing “Steal Your Heart” in 2015, and from there, they have toured around the country opening for larger names like Audien as well as headlining their own shows. While their style fluctuates from progressive house to commercial crossover releases, they have found a way to keep each track they make fresh and original in a cluttered landscape of catchy vocals and predictable drops.
Both Alexander and Nadeau grew up playing the piano and the guitar, eventually joining bands that kickstarted their musical journey. They then joined forces to make electronic group BRKLYN, but their first shows under the moniker included the artists playing guitars during their sets and bringing out singers to perform live. The duo sat down with Dancing Astronaut and notes, “We will always play instruments and will always incorporate live instruments into all of our records and live shows.” In addition to infusing instrumentals into their live shows, every track they write is built on the foundation of a guitar or a piano.
While impressive that both artists create thanks to a foundation of instrumentals, they are quick to call out that claiming to play an instrument and infusing it with a live electronic show is becoming overdone to the point of inauthentic. When asked about their response to the stigma that electronic music artists are not ‘real musicians,’ the duo claps back, “You either write good tunes or you don’t. And you either have a killer live show that blows minds and creates experience, or you don’t.” They continue, “Now it almost feels like a gimmick. Everybody is so dire to prove they are talented musicians, so they started playing drum pads. I could never find the strings on those things.”
BRKLYN has released their first EP titled Things I’ve Learned with five tracks spanning from feel-good “Gotta Have It” to infectious “Good Vibe,” which has the capacity to be a radio fixture. Things I’ve Learned features collaborators including Zack Martino and Disco Fries among others. The duo spoke about what it feels like to finally have their first EP out, saying, “For us, an EP rather than just a single was something we always felt strongly about.” They continue, “We wanted to finish a body of work that our fans could listen to on repeat that captured this shared time in the world.”
In honor of the release, BRKLYN put together an hour long mix for Saturday Night Sessions, and the set takes the listener all over the map whether it be current hip hop releases or old school Skrillex infused drops. For those curious what a BRKLYN live show would be like, this mix is the perfect taste of what is to come.
What jobs did you work before becoming full time musicians?
Cameron: Lighting technician at a local music venue called Chain Reaction.
Cody: I taught guitar lessons And was an Intern at Sunset Sound Studios in LA.
How important are instruments to your creative process when you start working on a new song?
BRKLYN: Live instruments have always been crucial to our creative process. Every song we write starts on a foundation of guitar or piano.
Although it is becoming better, what do you say in response to the stigma that electronic music artists are not ‘real musicians’? Especially curious since you both are skilled instrumentalists
BRKLYN: I think it doesn’t matter anymore, and the whole stigma is whack. You either write good tunes or you don’t. And you either have a killer live show that blows minds and creates experience, or you don’t. Now it almost feels like a gimmick. Everybody is so dire to prove they are talented musicians so they started playing drum pads. I could never find the strings on those things. But I do think there is a distinct advantage for writing records if you know how to play an instrument. For us, all we know is guitar and piano and instruments. We grew up playing in bands, and to gain any type of success or recognition, we had to be better at playing, writing, and performing than anybody else. During our very first BRKLYN shows we played guitars live in our sets and brought out singers. So, we will always play instruments and will always incorporate live instruments into all of our records and live shows.
How does it feel to finally have your debut EP out?
BRKLYN: It feels tight. We been crafting these tunes and felt it was ready to release into the world. For us, an EP rather than just a single was something we always felt strongly about. We wanted to finish a body of work that our fans could listen to on repeat that captured this shared time in the world. We are all tapped into the same energies and some of us are better at identifying what they are and others will know it and it will feel familiar or like an answer when they do experience it. I feel songs are that. So, we are very happy to share a mutual experience with our fans. And hopefully they are expanding and learning through our music just like we are expanding and learning through them.
What is one thing about each of you that your fans would not know?
Cameron: I want to have twins.
Cody: Hmm… One of my favorite places is being inside a theatre. Musicals, plays etc… Such a creative vibe in there.
What other hobbies keep you sane as you balance living the lives of touring artists?
Cameron: Exercise, meditating, and reading. My physical, mental, and spiritual health has been an important journey for me.
Cody: I love working out to clear my mind, running outside specifically.
What is your musical guilty pleasure?
Cameron: French Horn and Christmas music.
Cody: John Mayer has been my favorite artist since about 8th grade.
What kind of a Saturday night is your mix getting us ready for?
Cameron: This mix is tight! This mix will get you ready to blast off into another dimension that you didn’t know existed. This shit is hype and lit at the same goddamn time.
Cody: This mix is a little heavier for the pregame vibes. Throwing in some things y’all might hear at our shows!
As the year comes to a close, London’s Alexander Kotz tops the list of artists who continue to prove their worth by cementing a unique sound and a distinctive voice in today’s oversaturated electronic music scene. Kotz, more popularly known as Elderbrook, had a meteoric ascension into popularity after his breakout collaboration with CamelPhat, “Cola,” scored both of the artists a Grammy nomination. The producer is taking this newfound popularity in stride and capitalizing on it with a new four-track EP titled Old Friend. The EP proves that Kotz is a far cry from a one-hit wonder, with each track seemingly strong enough to be its own standalone hit.
Kotz spoke with DA about Old Friend, and revealed that the EP shows his more electronic, upbeat side. “I wanted to release these songs as a body of work to show where I’ve been musically over the last year since the success of ‘Cola,’ ahead of next year when I plan to release my album.” While he did not divulge more details on his forthcoming album, he did give insight into how he measures his own success and how that relates to his future bodies of work. Kotz notes that although “Cola” scored him a Grammy nomination, his measurement of his own future success is going to be based on whether he releases music that he loves.
The EP contains four tracks, and each has its own distinctive flair. Title track “Old Friend,” which the producer cited as his proudest creation of the EP, has an eerily similar effect on the listener as the infectious “Cola.” With its enthralling vocals paired with an upbeat synth progression, it is seemingly impossible to not replay the song over and over again. Kotz has figured out the formula to create catchy releases, and “Old Friend” has the capacity to take over the radio airwaves like past hit releases. Another track of note is “Capricorn,” with its groovy backdrop set against vocal chants that keep the track moving.
Old Friend undoubtedly has the ability to appeal to everyone from techno fans to pop fans, which is consistent with the producer’s own description of his musical style. He comments that, “because I love all genres of music; country, electronic, indie rock to name a few – I like to think that my music takes a little bit from each. Obviously the sounds I make are predominantly electronic, but the vocals and vocal melodies are definitely more down the indie route.” Old Friend is a big end to an important year for Kotz, and the EP is out now via Big Beat Records.
Your recent collaboration with Camelphat scored a Grammy nomination. Is this now a bar that you are aspiring for with new releases and perhaps a release on this EP? Or are you happy using that momentum to continue to build?
The collaboration with Camelphat did better than I could ever have expected, and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t want that kind of success again in the future. However, since the release of “Cola,” I found myself considering where my music was going to end up as a result. After a while, though, I realized that when putting music out there again, all that matters is releasing music that I truly love. Music that represents where I am as an artist right now. As long as I love the music, reaching certain heights or comparing myself to anything or anyone else seems irrelevant.
Do you have a favorite track off of the EP?
I love them all, but I’m really proud of “Old Friend.” It’s different to what I’ve done in the past and that’s exciting! “Bird Song” is another one I love. It was amazing to work with TEED on that one because I’m a big fan and have been for years. For us to have written a song together definitely means a lot to me personally.
This year was your first tour of the US. What did you think?
It was amazing. When I was younger I always pictured where my music career would take me. I had always imagined myself in the US, touring and driving across the country. To think that I’ve now done that is surreal, and I can’t wait to get back out there again.
How would you characterize your musical style?
This is a difficult one for me because I love all genres of music; country, electronic, indie rock to name a few. I like to think that my music takes a little bit from each. Obviously the sounds I make are predominantly electronic, but the vocals and vocal melodies are definitely more down the indie route.
What were some of your influences for this EP?
I’ve always been really influenced by people like Bonobo, Hot Chip, Jungle, music like that. With this EP I definitely wanted to show my more electronic side. However, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year finding new sounds that I’ll be exploring next year with my album.