When the term ‘overnight success’ is bandied about for an artist, there can often be raised eyebrows. But when it turns out that that there’s a perfect fusion in the cosmos of talent and timing and ultimately, staying power, then you know it’s legit.
Amsterdam’s Detroit Swindle is Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets, two guys that have had an almost identical musical upbringing inspired by Soul, Funk, Hip-hop and Jazz. In one year their unique sound of deep, sophisticated House has risen way above the swell of ’90s sounding tracks flooding the market and each release they’ve had can stand to the test.
So I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but how did two guys from Amsterdam decide on a name like “Detroit Swindle”?
We actually had a few test names that we weren’t really happy with. We didn’t want to do anything with our original names, so we wanted to use the main influence in our music in the name. And that was Motown for us, because that’s something we both grew up with and we listen to a lot of it. But Motown is a label.
On the other hand we like to have fun and we like to make fun of ourselves as well, and we’re very aware of the fact that we’re just two white kids from Holland. So we used “Detroit”, but there had to be a joke in it and “swindle” is like a hoax or cheating your way into something. It’s not a word that’s used very often these days and that’s what we liked about it. So the name “Detroit Swindle” is the inspiration, but we’re not from Detroit, we’re Dutch.
Have you ever gotten any heat for that from people in Detroit?
[laughs] Yeah we had a fun interaction with someone sending us a wrestling video of a guy punching out two other guys. But then we were actually booked in the same party once and he stepped up and apologized for that. It was Kris Wadsworth, and we have the same agent. We get along great now but the start was a bit rough!
I was looking up your background, and although you’re fairly new in terms of being in the spotlight, you’ve both been active in your local music scene, yes?
Well, my DJ career is nothing to really be proud of – I’ve only done small clubs. I used to play Hip-hop, Funk and Soul but it wasn’t a full-on occupation… I did lots of behind-the-scenes work, organization and promotions for parties for about 10 years. Lars is a really good Hip-hop DJ, it’s what he started doing. He was doing parties and promoting for over 10 years as well. He then kinda switched towards doing these cheeky Baltimore edits about seven or eight years ago and then worked his way towards House. His alter ego solo project is Lars Vegas. He recently did a really good EP on Large Records. That’s kind of a side project for him now because we’re doing so much stuff – Detroit Swindle is really where our heart is.
And what is your solo artist name, and how did you and Lars start collaborating?
Mine? I didn’t even have one! I’d make up some name for the parties, but that was it.
The way Lars and I met was I was doing promotions for the electronic stuff at this club – Lars was DJing and promoting as well for the Hip-hop side. We were both already messing around with music. But then we both got together two and a half years ago, and that’s when it got really serious for us.
It’s crazy because it just seems like you both came out of nowhere!
It’s kind of true! People in Amsterdam know us and they know what we’ve been doing because the parties were going for quite awhile. But they don’t really know much about what we’re doing now. The fact that our first release was in March of last year (2012) on vinyl, everything just went so fast. Our first one was the Wrap Around EP on Saints and Sonnets, Huxley’s label. One of our friends sent two of our tracks to him and within a day Huxley sent us an email saying “I think they’re fucking amazing and I’d like to put them out on my label.” We were just astounded, because we weren’t even considering putting them out in the first place. This was a big break for us. It got really good reviews, and it was the second release on his label, which was already getting loads of attention.
And this was a vinyl release for two months prior to a digital release? That should definitely have increased the attention towards the music.
I think if you don’t do vinyl you’ll miss a lot of attention. People know that you’re serious about it because it just costs shitloads of money to make. So if you see a vinyl release, it is definitely a sign that people are taking their label seriously.
Deep House seems to be the really in thing right now. I’ve noticed that a lot of Jacking House producers are making the shift to that deep, ’90s sound. I myself like it because it’s anything but deep sleep House…
For us – not only with our productions but also with the stuff we play (and we get loads of promos, we buy vinyl, we browse the internet for new music) – it’s always about the energy in a track. Because you buy it to play in a club and the club needs to be a party. For us it has to be a party.
I think it was Josh Wink who once said this really cool thing: “I’ve done a really good job if I had everyone in the crowd with their eyes closed and zoned out.” They’re completely hypnotized by the music. For us, if we have everyone hugging and kissing and jumping and screaming, then yeah, that’s a good party. So we’re more about the interaction and he’s more about the inner feeling.
There’s lots of Deep House that’s well produced, but it doesn’t give me the energy to dance or tease me to find out what happens next. In Europe the whole 909-oriented House, the ’90s, the Jersey stuff – it pops up everywhere. And there are tons of producers trying to copy what Kerri Chandler did in the ’90s.
I think my favorite track of yours is your remix of Softwar’s “One Day”. You focused on one element of the original and created something completely new. It’s like if you had to make a pizza, instead of loading it up with everything you guys might just choose 3 ingredients and it’s perfect as is!
Oh yeah. Before we finish a track, we strip it down. And it’s ready when there’s nothing left to take off. That’s the test. So it doesn’t have to be minimalistic, but if there are too many elements, you lose the groove. So we try to strip back as much as we can and create a powerful track with that.
You were just here in the States, weren’t you? I know you played with the Golf Clap guys in Detroit.
Yes that was hilarious. The party was super cool. We almost didn’t make it because of a traffic jam when we came from Canada. We came in like five minutes before the show and the guys ordered pizza in the club. We were playing records with pizza slices in our hands.
The last thing I wanted to ask you was about ADE in October (Amsterdam Dance Event). A lot of us here in Chicago have never been and I’m told it’s the event to go to. What are your thoughts?
Well if you like nice weather, don’t go to ADE. It’s always raining in Amsterdam during that time. If you like to be around pretty much everyone that matters in the scene, go to ADE. It’s five days and tons of parties, and during the daytime it’s really inspiring as well with all the lectures and forums. It’s a full schedule and for us I think it’s going to be really busy. You will run into so many people in the industry! I think it has a bit of a broader range than a lot of other festivals with the clubs doing a bit more experimental stuff as well. And we have weed. So it’s also a nice excuse to visit Amsterdam!