Month: December 2019

Interview: Amsterdam’s electronic duo, Broj

About a year and a half ago two friends from Amsterdam who called themselves Broj, reached out to me with this track:

Somehow it didn’t reach my ears until February of this year and I’m so thankful they persisted as it would have been sad for me to go on any longer without knowing their music existed! Casper Jansen & Benjamin Brommer ‘s friendship is deeply rooted by their passion for writing music. Inspired by the underground electronic scene in Amsterdam the two are churning out rich and eclectic electronic melodies and diving into some fantastic collaborations like their most recent one with The Woods (I featured his track “Armchair Expert” May of 2018). The latest single, “Northbound”, features lyrics and vocals by The Woods:

These two pressed “pause” on writing music to answer my questions. I am very grateful. Check out their answers below:

MFL: You describe your recently released single, ‘Northbound’ as “emotive and euphoric.” It is absolutely that! How do you use electronic music to capture this mood and what is ‘Northbound’ about?

Broj: Ah thanks! ‘Northbound’ for us is about a certain feeling of getting lost in something, in a good way. This can be everything, from being in love, to listening to your favorite band, to the sense of freedom you get from traveling around the globe. The Woods (the performing singer) wrote the lyrics, and he described it like this: ‘It’s about that spark when you meet someone from a different world who turns your life upside down. Moving mountains to see them again; that electric anticipation.’ And that’s the feeling we tried to capture in the track. For us it’s always a challenge to make our music sound as organic as possible, even though its foundation is always electronic. To make it sound like there is a live band playing the song is what makes it sound more alive and euphoric. The emotion comes through in the melodies and detailed soundscapes which play a big part in all of our songs.

MFL: How did you get to collaborate with The Woods on ‘Northbound’ and who wrote the lyrics?

Broj: When we first heard his song ‘Armchair Expert’, we knew straight away that there was something interesting about his music and his voice! The way he layered up pieces of his vocal reminded us of the way we use different layers in our own tracks to create a moody atmosphere. His style is a bit different than ours though, but we considered that to be an advantage rather than a setback when creating music together. When we reached out to him, he was excited about our music too, and that’s when we started to exchange ideas. We were working on some instrumental demos at the time, and one of them (already titled ‘Northbound’) became the one he wrote lyrics on. Writing lyrics is not our strongest point, partially because English isn’t our native language. And besides, for us it was far more interesting to hear which emotion comes through when someone else is listening to our instrumental.

MFL: When you send me music, you always begin your emails with “We are two close friends from Amsterdam…” Describe the origin of your friendship and how/when it developed into Broj.

Broj: Somehow it feels right to emphasize this. As our ambition was born out of passion for music and a close friendship. We feel that stating this in emails and promotion helps to create the image that what we do comes from deep within. And on top of this, it makes it more personal for the receiver, keeping in mind that some bloggers and playlist owners receive maybe hundreds of similar emails every day.

About our friendship; we’ve been friends for about ten years now, since we met in high school. We were always talking music in lunch breaks, and you could say that this escalated a bit into what it is now. In real life we make jokes all the time, but when it comes to music it’s serious business, on most days. It really is an important way for us to express ourselves creatively and emotionally.

MFL: Are you still based out of Amsterdam? If so, where do you fit in in the music scene there and how does it influence Broj?

Broj: Amsterdam has been our home town for almost six years, and we don’t have any plans on leaving the city anytime soon. We just love its atmosphere and appeal. The city has a long history with electronic music, with a busy underground scene and Amsterdam Dance Event being the most prominent examples of that. What is interesting for us, is the rise of electronic live acts these past years. This is probably where we fit in the most, because this is where the electronic and organic meet. We would say that the live influences and combination of different worlds is something that the city and our music have most in common. We get our inspiration from music scenes all over the world though.

MFL: Does the word ‘broj’ have a meaning? How did you settle on this name and how does it encapsulate your project?

Broj: The name actually comes from something that the guys on the American TV show ‘Workaholics’ used to say. They would name someone a true ‘braj’ if he was a true ‘bro’. But since this was never written down or spelled out, we made our own adaption phonetically. Since we really enjoyed this show and the meaning behind the word, we settled on this pretty quick. Later we also noticed that the name had something mysterious and somewhat of an international appeal, which we liked. Friends around us sure do have difficulties pronouncing it correctly though, haha!

MFL: As I dig into your music from the last couple years, I notice the titles of all your EPs, singles and tracks are so simple, just one word. Is there a reason behind this simplicity? The songs are not simple, your attention to detail in soundscape is incredible.

Broj: Thanks! And funny that you’ve noticed this, it is actually intentional. We feel that the shorter the title, the more powerful it is. Of course we try to choose the right words that cover the emotion and vibe of the track for us personally, but we want to leave something up to the imagination. In the end it’s the listener that makes his or her own associations.

MFL: Have you noticed a musical evolution since the release of your first EP, Origins, in 2017?

Broj: Definitely! Every song we make is a reflection of a certain time period with its ups and downs. Also production wise, with software, samples and influences, it reflects that specific time. Musically we feel like we’ve evolved a lot since that EP. Although we are still very proud of those set of songs, we’ve gotten better in production, soundscapes and songwriting, simple because of years of practicing and experimenting.

MFL: As electronic musicians who write somewhat exclusively music without lyrics, how do you approach conveying messages/stories without lyrics?

Broj: That’s a good question! We always start new songs by jamming and experimenting, and once we feel that there’s something special there, we collect as many unique elements as possible which we then use to make the song. An important part of this process is the use of multiple layers and dynamics, that we use to include the listener into the story we’re trying to tell. Choosing a good title and designing an artwork that triggers the imagination helps conveying this message.

MFL: What do you have planned for the future? Anymore epic collaborations we can look forward to?

Broj: As a matter of fact, we do! We are working on a new collaboration with a female singer as we speak, so that sure is something that we’re excited about. We’ve also been playing with the idea of working on a new EP which we would like to release next spring if things are going according to plan. In the meantime we’ll keep on trying to reach more platforms and listeners, and hopefully we get to bring our songs to life on stage in Amsterdam soon!