In Conversation With... DETROIT SWINDLE
... also know as Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets.
Hailing out of Amsterdam, with the reverent name, ‘Detroit Swindle’ coming from a homage for their love of the Motor City sound. These guys are the brains behind some of the most vibrant, energetic and diverse house sounds to grace the dance floors over the past nine years. With twenty-four previous releases attributed to them including their astonishing album High Life.
Being avid followers of their work for years and after reading up on the pair and getting an understanding of where they’ve come from it is a great pleasure to get a few minutes with the celebrated duo to unearth some home truths and get a feel of the current climate for them both during these testing times.
Lars & Maarten have been labelled as some the hardest workers in the scene and it’s pretty clear as to why people say this about the pair when you delve into their careers to date. As well as being prolific producers and performers, they run their ever-impressive recording label, Heist Recordings. Established back in 2013, the print now has a backlog of over forty releases to date, garnering a diverse and expressive sound carefully cultured by the pair, the label goes from strength to strength with every release.
Their new release ‘Coffee In The Morning’ is no exception. Check out clips of each track below and see what the guys had to say when we chatted with them...
1. The first Detroit release of the year is sounding nothing short of excellent. Rolling basslines, a jazz sax, cool keys and velvet vocals courtesy of Jitwam – it has it all. If you could tell us a bit about the tracks and how you go about achieving that signature, energetic sound of yours?
Maarten: Ouch, that’s a really big question. How do we get that energetic sound? I guess we work on a track and keep working until we can really visualize people dancing to it. The energy can come from so many different elements though.
For 'Coffee In The Morning', it’s the really basic, rolling groove juxtaposed to the short stabby Rhodes hits. For 'Move Out The Way', it’s the shuffle in the percussion working together with the bassline. We’re always looking for elements to complement each other in terms of energy and its always about the movement of elements within our songs.
2. You've collaborated with some pretty special talent over the years including Tom Misch, Lorenz Rhode, Jungle by night, Seven Davis Jnr, Jitwam (On this EP) - whats been your favourite collaboration experience and why?
Lars: All have been really nice in their own way for sure. I guess the collab with Mayer Hawthorne was special because it was our first big collab. I remember we were both super excited to meet him and –with our album already planned- it ended up being a really close call to get him to record the vocals.
I remember one day he texted me like ‘Hey guys I’m in Amsterdam today for a show lets lay down those vocals!”. Back then, we didn’t have a proper recording booth, but luckily, we had (and still have) some good friends over at Red Bull. They were kind enough to get their engineer off his couch –who was super excited to do it once he heard who he was getting into the studio with- and they opened up their Amsterdam based recording studio for us. We met up with Mayer, he jumped into the booth and within half an hour, we had the whole thing. It was amazing to see him layer the vocals and really really laying down a cool groove.
That said, recording with Tom Misch in our studio, hanging out with this super talented young dude and suddenly catching that groove along with Lorenz was something really special as well.
3. We remember watching a video of Kamaal Williams with Jitwam doing a live show back in April of 2019, where he drops the line ‘Coffee In The Morning’. Could a collab with Kamaal be on the cards for the future?
Maarten: Yeah, I remember the video as well. I think it was a few months after we recorded the track in our studio and I remember thinking – hey that’s a cool version as well! Kamaal is obviously a great musician and it’s something that has crossed our minds for sure. Both Lars and me really into jazz and the stuff he puts out is amazing. The new album is great and his chords and progressions are always so lush. So who knows?
Kamaal Williams & Jitwam
4. Just like on your track Flavourism, there seems to be a breakfast / food related narrative running through them, especially based around cinnamon. Is there a link here between your creative process and a love of food? Any food spots you’re particularly missing whilst being in lockdown?
Lars: Ha, that’s funny. I remember thinking about the when Seven sent us the vocals. I thought really? What are the odds? This is actually the first time someone asks us about it. I guess it’s a form of rhythm as well, isn’t it? Repetition of elements. Besides, cinnamon is an amazing spice that works in sweet and savoury dishes, so what’s not to love about that? Food is probably one of our biggest loves (after music and the loves of our lives of course) but it’s not something we actively plan to use in music. That said, food, same as music, is something that’s great to share and can really build bridges.
Maarten: I really miss going out for dinner in general. When we’d be touring and we’d find out the promoter planned to take us to this local gem, we’d already get excited before even getting to the restaurant. But hey, what can you do. Luckily we’re both fairy decent cooks, so we both manage to still get a decent meal in. Lars started making Kimchi for the hell of it, and I’ve been perfecting my pizza making skills…
5. We’re big fans of the Heist sound at Acuña and the other artists that you bring through such as Nachtbraker, Makez and more. How did Norwegian disco don Prins Thomas come on to your radar and end up on the remix?
Maarten: We were playing in Oslo for Jaeger and the artist liaison was Thomas’ label manager. We hadn’t seen Thomas in a while and it was nice to hear about him and the million labels he runs. We’ve been fans of his music for a long time and had some great memories of playing with him. He’s such a lovely guy and very approachable. When the tracks were ready and we were brainstorming about the remix we remembered this conversation and thought, hey? That would be a super interesting fit. Not the obvious choice, but I remembered Thomas is a really good bass player so I thought the track would fit him. I think he replied within 5 minutes after I sent him the track that he wanted to do it. It turned out great and we’re super happy having him on the label.
Norwegian disco don: Prins Thomas
6. We’ve been loving your live streams over the last few months of lockdown - the energy you've still been able to bring has been great. How have you found them and do you think they’re here to stay beyond all of this?
Lars: Ever since the pandemic, we both really felt the urge to stay connected with our fans, and to keep looking for new ways to connect. The streams have all been very personal and even though there were a million around, it was still nice to do something from our homes and our studio. People especially seemed to have enjoyed the studio Q&A so we might do more of those.
Since regular parties are not really an option for now, I’m sure that more and more streaming concepts will emerge. We’re actually already taking part in a few new concepts where we’re playing on a special location and everything and the content will get streamed in several movie theatres, for which people can then buy a ticket. That’s a really cool idea and I’m sure more of these creative concepts will emerge. But to be fair, when people get to go to a club again, I think everybody will be super happy to get away from their computers for a while for a real party.
Detroit Swindle @ Soenda 24hrs Live Stream from Above
7. On the topic of Covid, and running a recording label. Do you think the soundscape will change for Heist and yourselves as producers? Without having festivals and club dancefloors as a means to promote tracks and see the reactions of the crowd for the foreseeable future, how do you go about generating that buzz around a track like ‘Call Of The Wild’ which tore up many dancefloors and events last year?
Maarten: We’re keeping a close eye on how people react to our releases, but it’s not like we can easily release something completely different from what we’ve been doing. Heist after all is a dancefloor-oriented label. I do think that the music we release is diverse enough for a good listen at home, so we’re not too worried yet. I’m curious to see what will happen with vinyl sales and we expect it to go down a bit along with the shrinking economy. It makes sense as well, even though it’s a shame that this format becomes less relevant for our main audience when there’s no parties to play at.
There’s a lot to win in terms of visibility of our music in these times and we don’t rely too heavy on clips from Dj’s playing the music. We’re very much tapped into radio and streaming playlists, and we personally share our music with our own close friends in order for them to play the music on streams, radio shows etc. It’s also a nice opportunity to talk to more niche media (like yourselves) for a bit longer and this will also help build the profile of the music we’ve got coming out. But in brutal honesty: it’s a shame to have your music come out and not being able to play it in a club or on a festival and see people really getting down to the music.
8. Having been locked up and unable to really get out there and play any festivals or events yet this season, we would be extremely grateful if you could give us a 5 track sampler of what might have been on rotation for you during this time had it under better circumstances?
5 tracks that would have been doing it for us...
1. Masarima – Freak Like U
2. Detroit Swindle – Coffee in the morning (Prins Thomas Discomiks)
3. Hector Plimmer – Joyfulness (Elkka Remix)
4. Bandé – Gamboa – Pe Di Bissilon
5. Demuir feat Bluey Robinson – Lusting U
Thanks very much to Lars & Maarten for making the time to chat with us. We look forward to catching them at a gig sooner rather than later!
'COFFEE IN THE MORNING' EP
RELEASE DATE : Friday 5th June