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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!

Interview: Finnish musician,

Originally from Hämeenlinna, Finland (the same town that brought the world Jean Sibelius) Teemu Sätilä found his way to Sydney, Australia and now London, each destination painting his musical path. Sätilä writes alternative pop music that is both wrought in emotion and totally addicting. His latest single, “Like You Do”, was released earlier this year and an acoustic version released just last week. Check out what else he has up his sleeve and where music all began for him in our interview below!
 
 
 
 
MFL: I have read that you started writing music at age 7! I’d love to know if you remember any of those songs and what you were inspired to write about at that age.
 
Teemu Sätilä (TS): I do, unfortunately. I remember I started writing songs in English when we started learning it at school at age 9. I would just make songs out of the stories in our books, like Goldilocks. I can’t remember any of the early original stuff, though.
 
MFL: Along those lines, are there any trends in what you feel inspired to write about as an adult with your latest project, Sätilä? How does this differ from previous experiences in other musical projects?
 
TS: I’m quite reflective and the move to London has aroused thoughts on community, loneliness, pursuing dreams and self-doubt.
 
MFL: Where in Finland did you grow up and how did that community influence your decision to choose music over other careers?
 
TS: Most of my definitive years I lived in Hämeenlinna, a town of 50,000 people an hour north from Helsinki. I had friends doing music when I was young and they were getting international recognition, too. Jean Sibelius was born in that town, maybe that has something to do with it. There’s a band called The Holy who are doing well and growing internationally and most of the guys are from there. When I started releasing music I lived in Turku and the community over there really encouraged and supported me to do music. I’ve been studying and working in retail on the side as music is not yet paying my bills.
 
MFL: You have bounced around from Finland to Australia and then all the way to London. How do you think your travels have influenced you as a musician?
 
TS: I think they have opened my eyes to see possibilities in music, whether that’s artistic choices or the different ways of creating a sustainable career. I love Finland but the size of the market and music industry feels very limiting at times. I guess that’s the problem of many small places.
 
MFL: Even though you are now based in London, do you still have your finger on the pulse of Finnish music? If so, who are some musicians from Finland that you feel are making waves?
 
TS: Oh for sure! I think there are really interesting music in Finland and also coming out of the country. I mentioned The Holy earlier, they’re really cool. Also an indie folk producer duo Lake Jons is very worth checking out. Karina makes soft indie pop in Finnish but are gaining traction abroad, which is so inspiring. If you enjoy cinematic indie folk pop, you have to check out Peura! Inside Finland, artists like Vesta and Ruusut are challenging the mainstream pop arena. And of course, our pop export legend Alma. She is a great writer, genuine person and has a sick voice.
 
MFL: When you are writing, recording and editing a new song, when does the song feel complete?
 
TS: Good question. I think it varies a lot. I think the song feels complete when you are satisfied with how the song conveys the original idea. Deadlines help a lot because you have to stop working on it at some point. If you still feel like it’s not complete, maybe leave it for a while and work on something else.

MFL: How did you come to work with producer Mikko Pennanen on “Like You Do” and what did he bring to the creation of the track?
 
TS: We met ages ago through a mutual friend. I was looking for new people to work with. I sent him the rough acoustic guitar version of the track and we met and chatted about music and what my inspirations and sonic vision were. He then went on to work on the track on his own and sent me the first idea. I loved it, we did a session together playing some more instruments and working on the production and eventually recorded vocals. The vocals have actually been done three times cause I wasn’t happy with my performance. It’s very rhythmic and especially the post chorus’ massive choir was so hard to perfect. I’ve never worked on a song like this, either, but Mikko managed to bring my vision to reality in a beautiful way, helping me develop my sound.
 
MFL: You mentioned once that “Like You Do”, was part of a bigger vision for you as a musician. Can you tell me more about what this musical vision is and when we can expect to hear more of it?
 
TS: At the time I started releasing music, I was inspired by singer-songwriters and folk rock. Australia and its scene had a massive impact on my early sound. I was listening to artists like Boy & Bear, Matt Corby, Ben Howard and Of Monsters and Men. The musical landscape started to change more into electronic music and I was listening to more electronic stuff so I felt the need to move with it. In a way, it was really painful and I think you can kind of hear the growing pains on my Out of Love EP. I was looking for ways to incorporate synths and electronic elements with the organic music I was making, still very much singer-songwriter at heart. The music that is sitting on my hard drive waiting to be released is a mixture of indie rock, alternative rock, singer-songwriter and electronic influences. Inspiration varies from Foals to Ry X and Tame Impala to Maggie Rogers. My love for pop music is manifested in the melodies and the polished sound, which makes it hard to box my music to solely indie or pop. The next single will be out early next year and it’s a mellow, more electronic track.
 
Thanks to Teemu for answering all of my questions so thoughtfully and to Lydia Reed of LPR for coordinating. You can follow Sätilä on Facebook, Spotify  and Instagram.

Interview: Montreal-based musician, LIA

I first heard LIA’s sound when listening to “Out of Control”, the track off of the top of her debut EP, Vasilia. I was instantly captivated by her soaring voice and clear command of electronic music.

 

LIA’s passion for music started at a young age and has carried her through her musical career including many exciting collaborations, debut EP and a collection of remixes titled Drifting Remixes, just released YESTERDAY (11/15). We discuss all of this and much more below.

 

MFL: When and how did music become part of your life? Discuss any influences including friends, family or other musicians. 

LIA: I always loved to sing. Both of my mother’s parents were professional singers at a point in their lives (my grandpa has perfect pitch and grandma sang for a Madrigal choir in her youth that toured the east coast of the US). My parents sent me to singing lessons at 10 with a local Opera singer but I stopped after a year because I hated practice. It wasn’t until age 13 when my dad taught me how to read tabs for guitar that I started playing and singing on my own for hours at a time. My dad really encouraged me to take up guitar. He used to play me classical pieces he remembered from his studies at uni on his acoustic guitar when I was younger. 

 

MFL: Is there a moment you recall when you landed on what would become ‘your style’ of music? Perhaps the first single you released or the first song you wrote?

LIA: I used to be so stubborn about what I thought was quality music. I hated electronic music and thought that acoustic or very minimally processed music was the best kind. I listened to a lot of early Bon Iver, Dave Matthews, Ben Howard so I think my lyrics take inspiration from them. When I was learning to sing, I heavily relied on covering Adele, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor and Feist so I think my vocal technique and melodies originate from them. I was invited to Banks’ show back in 2014 without knowing who she was and that night opened my eyes to the possibilities of marrying my voice to electronic music. I started to experiment on GarageBand. Once I explored the electronic scene in Montreal and met all of the collaborators I’ve worked with, I fell in love with electronic production. I would say my production is most heavily influenced by Bon Iver, James Blake, SOHN, Tourist and my friends!

 

MFL: Congratulations on the release of your EP, Vasilia. I understand it is inspired by a slavic folktale. Tell me more about the reason for this source of inspiration and how you wove your music around it. 

LIA: Thank you so much! This EP began from a place of deep internal distress. I started some of these lyrics when I finished my undergrad degree at McGill back in 2016. I believe Out of Control is the oldest. When I had the initial idea, I remember feeling like I was walking down a path into the unknown – it reminded me of Hansel & Gretel. I built the lyrics off of that. Another day, I thought of the concept for To The Woods by exploring ways to  metaphorically talk about the self. These organic landscapes and stories of challenge reminded me of the folk tales I’d been exposed to earlier in life. When I was a kid, I played a computer game called Baba Yaga and the Magic Geese. Out of curiosity I researched her legacy a bit and came across the story of Vasilisa (a protagonist who triumphs against Baba’s challenges). By researching eastern european folk tales, I stumbled across Uldus Bakhtiozina’s stunning photography and found huge inspiration from her aesthetic. Kissel Shore was written based on one of her photos. 

 

MFL: What have been some of the greatest challenges you have experienced as a musician since you started writing/releasing music?

LIA: Definitely the pressure of an online presence vs. real-world. Everything is quantified and it’s very anxiety inducing to think someone can look at your statistics and assign you a value without ever experiencing your art or you as a human. There are many beautiful advantages of technology’s integration into the music industry: for example, the democratization of distribution, accessibility to music production tools and networking capabilities with other artists & industry professionals. Then, there’s a really dark side where people constantly compare themselves  and feel inferior to others with bigger budgets, more time or more savviness. At one point this year, I was definitely spending more time worrying about statistics than making music and that felt awful.

MFL: It looks like you have done some incredible collaborations including “Distant” with Clement Bazin and “I Promise” with Fossa Beats and Thomas White. How did these collaborations occur and are there more coming in the future?

LIA: Thanks! Both of these were internet connections. Clement is based in Paris and Fossa in Melbourne. Clement reached out with an instrumental and my friend Thomas White pitched me a collaboration he was working on with Fossa. I wrote and recorded both in my bedroom actually! There are for sure more collaborations coming with some very exciting and talented artists 🙂 I don’t want to spoil anything though so just keep a lookout! 

 

MFL: I read that you grew up in Washington D.C. then moved to Montreal for school. How did this change in location change you both musically and otherwise?

LIA: Before moving to Montreal I would say my taste in music had less variety. Montreal pushed me to expand the horizon of my inspiration and of the self that I could be. I felt like I grew up in a fish bowl and I entered an ocean when I came to this city. It’s not even that big but there’s just so many people from so many places that all come here. Lots of cultures meld together to create the pulse of this city and I love it. It pushed me out of my comfort zone when I needed to grow and has had a huge influence on how I matured into adulthood. 

 

MFL: Is there a particular time of day you feel the most productive/creative as a musician? If so, when is it and how do you harness those moments of inspiration?

LIA: I really love mornings for work but I find I have the best ideas at night. I guess I’m most productive starting my day and most creative ending it. I like to develop new ideas at night and round them out the next day.

MFL: When you are not writing or recording music, what are you doing with your time?

LIA: Cooking mainly. I love getting creative with new ingredients or recipes. It’s a great outlet when I’m not feeling I’m flowing musically because I can get immediate results from my efforts when I decide to make a dish. Also, connecting with friends is really important for me. I often make time for dates with my good pals!

MFL: Finally, what does 2020 hold for you musically? 

LIA: My first release of the year will probably be a remix EP. I’ve solicited 7 incredible producers who all happen to be women. I’m also doing a remix by myself. Many times it’s not assumed that I produce or that my female friends do either. I’m really excited to release a project that puts a spotlight on talent that doesn’t get recognized often enough! My collaborations will be trickling out throughout the year as well. I’ve already started my next project which so far has 10 tracks all in different states of being finished so next year I’ll definitely finish it and start the release plan.

 

Big thanks to Ava Muir of Auteur Research for connecting LIA and I and BIGGEST thanks to LIA for taking the time to answer my interview questions while simultaneously working on releasing her remixes ❤ You can follow LIA on Facebook, Instagram and Spotify.

New single from Danish duo, ARES: “Ghosts”

Just over a year ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danish power duo, Louise Væver Andersen and Line Mortensen, who call themselves ARES in the musical world. You can read that interview here! Now ARES is back with a new single and a new sound. Their more minimal approach to the new single titled, “Ghosts”, showcases their ability to expand and experiment with their sound while still delivering rich and emotionally-invested music.

They had this to say about “Ghosts”:

“With our previous releases we introduced a more dark and melancholic side of the project, but with ‘Ghosts’ we wanted to show that our sound and songwriting is constantly evolving. ‘Ghosts’ shows a different and more minimalistic soundscape than what we presented on our debut EP. We wanted to challenge the classic and well known ‘pop formula’ and show that a good pop song doesn’t necessarily need to end with a double chorus.

 

 

The track was released TODAY and is the first taste of more new music that we can from the duo in the coming months!

New single from Terence Jack, “Bloom,” Out today

Terence Jack and his musical accomplices have been exploring a new and expansive sound more recently as they have been working on their latest LP, Bloom, due out early 2020. Earlier this year we got to hear the first of this new chapter with the release of “Found It.” The latest single, “Bloom”, is equally as rich and bolstered by the same fresh, electronic flavors. Terence Jack had this to say about the new single:

The concept of “Bloom” was inspired by today’s sociopolitical climate – where division of any kind is at the center point of the media world. It’s about being able to converse without being offended, without taking things personally, being able to listen, and watching your own actions. The chorus, “will not label my mind” is about not having to categorize each thought, nor identify as either liberal, republican, Christian, atheist, or any other name. “Seeds planted too deep will never grow blooms” refers to one’s belief system being rooted so deeply that it can hinder one’s ability to bloom into a free thinking human.

You can hear the second single from Terence Jack’s forthcoming LP, Bloom, wherever you get your music. Bloom was crafted and 99% improvised in studio with producer Daniel Klenner.

 

Interview: Kate Davis

Portland-based, Kate Davis, opened her heart to music at age five when she touched a violin for the first time. The rest is history. Her debut, indie-rock record, Trophy, is a testament to her pure adoration for music, both the musical process and what it offers you as a human. Trophy will be released November 8th. Below, Kate discusses what music has and will always mean to her, including the incredibly beautiful vulnerability that writing and releasing music offers.

 

 

MFL: From what I have read, music has been a mainstay in your life from the moment you could pick up an instrument to play it. Has your relationship with music changed or oscillated at all over time and if so, how?

Kate Davis (KD): My relationship with music has always been solid. It’s the anchor which everything else in life revolves around. The most difficult time in my life musically was when I was still finding my artist voice. I was developing as a writer and was involved in musical projects that didn’t; resonate. It’s really hard to sing and play music that doesn’t feel right or reflect your POV. I’m fortunate now that the music I listen to for fun and the music I make lives within the same world. There is true balance in life… 🙂

 

MFL: When did the thought of creating your own record cross your mind and when did it start to become a reality?

 KD: I had been trying to make my own record for YEARS. When I was a kid I recorded a lot with my dad who was a hobbyist engineer. Mostly dorky and obscure jazz standards. Post college I was tangled up in some funky career stuff that made it impossible for me to record or release any of my own songs. Because of this I laid low and wrote until I felt like I had the right material. I looked for the right people to make the music with and finally, in 2017, I was able to record an album that I was very proud of. It took a long time, but I am grateful to have had all of the life experiences and obstacles that ultimately shaped this record (and myself) into where we’re at now!

 

MFL: Where did you grow up and did that have any influence on your musical upbringings?

 KD: I was lucky to have been relocated to a suburb of Portland, OR as a 10 year old. I was a young violin player and played in an amazing youth orchestra called PYP. My high school had a very good music program, and I had mentors in PDX who encouraged and hired me to play around town as a bass player and singer. I had so much playing opportunity and kind teachers always suggesting new music to learn and listen to. I was exposed to all different genres and was able to develop a very individualized ear. Portland is such a nurturing arts town that I was able to thrive musically as a teenager. I have a lot of gratitude for the teachers who helped me along the way.

 

MFL: What is the story behind the title of your debut album, Trophy?

 KD: The album title comes from the song, “Trophy.” The song felt different from the rest – a strange departure from my existing songs. When I was recording the album, “Trophy” took on a life of its own. The album’s producer, Tim Bright, and I really ran with it. Having had to wait so long to make my debut album, the triumphant feeling of completing something after so many years really aligned with the songs themes. It’s a dark perspective on doing whatever it takes to win or possess something, but I do have a deep sense of pride for being able to reemerge with a record that feels so personal and deliberate.

  

MFL: I dance and choreograph and there is a certain level of vulnerability that comes with sharing something that has come from within you. Where do you stand with this as a musician, especially now that you are releasing your own record?

 KD: I feel vulnerable when I write a song and it exists as a skeleton. Being able to produce these songs, live with them for some time, and make intentional moves towards completion can shift that feeling into empowerment. I am so used to people wanting me to do something else that I have worked on tuning out the critics. I make stuff and there’s no reason to feel bashful or deterred from doing so. These songs tell stories through my own perspective – some of the experiences are not ones I have lived. But at a certain point you set them free. They take on lives of their own and you move on. I think vulnerability keeps you focused and dedicated which can only lead to meaningful work. It’s a part of the process but I have learned to embrace its shape shifting.

 

MFL: Who were some of the most influential musicians to you as you were growing up and do you still find yourself inspired by their music?

 KD: When I was a kid I was obsessed with classical music. There are composers like Mahler, Brahms, Barber, and Vaughan Williams, that I still return to for inspiration. In high school I was deeply moved by the flexibility of the great jazz singers, but at the same time was inspired by the songwriting of Emily Haines and Annie Clark. In college I discovered Jeff Buckley and didn’t talk to anyone for two months. All of the music I have loved throughout my life are still great loves. My taste in music has never changed. I go back to all of my early influences often to remind myself why I love music. I discover new favorites all the time and have a feeling that like everything else I’ve picked up over the years, I’ll hold on to these too, forever.

 

MFL: Your album comes out in a little over a month. What kind of feelings or thoughts are bouncing around in your head as release date gets closer?

 KD: I feel so liberated letting this music out into the world – song by song. I have waited so long for this. It gives me satisfaction and a buzz knowing that I get to keep writing and recording. I live for this experience.

 

Thanks to Kate for diving into my interview questions and to Solitaire Recordings for facilitating. Follow Kate Davis on Spotify, Facebook, Instagram and her official website

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