How The Self-Taught Artist Vicetone, Went From Making Music In Their BackHouse To Becoming Global Phenomenons

Media Personality Melissa Mushaka with Global Artists Vicetone
Media Personality Melissa Mushaka with Global Artists Vicetone

They are one of the most anticipated sought after acts in dance music. Vicetone has set an accelerated career pace, being center stage with a huge global following. Voted in DJ magazine as top 100 DJ’s-- this successful self-taught duo have reached outstanding heights, under the age of 25. Chatting with them in Los Angeles at their press teams U.S. offices was effortless, fun and simply great. Take a look as we discuss their new EP Aurora, being on a hot summer tour and evolving successfully as a team against all odds. 

 

Mm: Within your new song Siren, that you recorded in Nashville, I was reading an interview you both did where you said, You don’t want to be type casted or subjected to a specific genre, you just feel the melody and then you create it from there. Which, I don’t hear a lot of artist say that at times. I love that you are choosing to break these borders. Have you always had that mindset?

 

V: I think in the beginning we had it a little less because in the beginning your just starting out and your kind of trying to find your own style and your own sound. You know as you make more music and you mature as an artist you kind of — you don’t want to put your in that one little box. Take off that its only EDM box and sometimes fans don’t like it when you go outside their genre because they like you for the older stuff that you did or the dance music. Yet, suddenly you do something a little different but for us thats where our creativity shines and whats the bigger challenge for us. It has to say fun and exciting and challenging. It’s not something that we want to force so much, its something as producers it is way more fun to try stuff thats out of your league and experience more things. That’s why we took this trip to Nashville to work with other kind of writers than LA, so that’s where siren became interesting.

 

Mm: What was your experience like being in a hub that is primarily country music infused?

 

V: It is actually amazing. It was an amazing vibe, you know it's a much smaller city than Los Angeles and the saying is that every neighbour that you have there is a song writer in one way or another. Everybody wants to write songs, even the Uber's we took our drivers were songwriters.

 

Mm: Really? That’s kind of cool— haha!

 

V: So, its a very different vibe than LA which is fun.

 

Mm: And less traffic!

 

V: Oh my gosh so much less traffic. It’s actually surprising how many pop writers there are. It's not only country its pop and r&b its everything its certainly getting more diversified as well.

 

Mm: Speaking of diversified, I love that you guys are self taught.

 

V: Yeah, we never went to school, we never took classes.

 

Mm: Yet, within that. I must say you are both quite young and you have already amassed a lot of success. When did the process of teaching yourself begin?

 

V: Before we even started making music and learning it, we already had a really long history of going to raves and listening to dance music. When I was 11, I bought my first album in the Netherlands; actually I got it from a friend who was like “hey listen to this”. It was Tiesto it was his 2003 album. I was 11 still in elementary school and that just blew me away. I was blown away by the sounds and just the energy of it was completely different than what you could hear at the time on the radio or Tv, I was captivated. Then years that followed, I went through a lot of phase with genre’s so I had like my hip-hop phase and a hard dance phase, r&b, pop and everything in between. Yet, I always came back to dance music in the end as kind of my favorite genre. So once we started creating dance music, we were the same. We already had this vast collection of records that we were so inspired by. We got inspired by our childhoods and we still do.

 

Mm: Were you both friends at age 11 or did your collaboration evolve later?

 

V: I think we met each other when we were 15 in high school and thats when I also started getting into this European style dance music, really melodic up-tempo, thats what I really love. Then we just started sharing music we went to raves together and started just looking at YouTube videos like how do you make this kind of stuff? Cause after all these years of listening to it for so long you just kind of start wondering. We always kind of wanted to do it, it was always like this little cheeky dream of mine, but I was under the impression that because I never had a formal music education that I couldn’t do it.

 

Mm: Yea, the limiting beliefs that we all tell ourselves— right?

 

V: The limiting beliefs was the biggest challenge for me personally because I felt like even though I have melodies in my head and when I hear the track— I thought if I can do it, I know how to remix this. I think, I can make something cool out of this but I didn’t know how. I also figured if you’re not trained and you don’t have experience playing instruments for like a year or two, then how can you possibly do this? Once I started learning about other producers who did so well and who didn’t have a formal education but were self taught as well and figured it out by themselves with hard work and perseverance. I starting thinking well we can do this, you know thats kind of where we started making music and we were very fortunate and lucky that its kind of brought us so far.

 

Mm: I was really inspired by this line that I read in an interview that you did in Miami where you said, "you gave up everything to pursue music solely". When did you both go from how do we do this and figure it out to diving in head-first giving up everything to do your music?

 

V: I think in the first two years leading up to that point, we were kind of messing around with the programs and trying stuff and getting into it a little bit but we never took the steps like now where going to do this full time. Then when we were like I think 19 or 20 Ruben had this house like a detached back house. My parents had that for when guest came but nobody ever came over the last few years that I was there. So I was like, can I turn it into my studio and my mom was like sure go ahead and so I turned it into my studio. I hand built some acoustic material with my dad.

 

Mm: No way!

 

V: Yeah, I bought second hand speakers. I bought the cheapest I could get because I didn’t have a lot of money.  I invited him over the first day  I was finished. I was really proud, I was so excited. We grew up in a really small town, we always say that we are from Amsterdam because realistically thats the only place people know. But in reality we are like two hours out in a place that nobody knows and its very small. So he was the only person I knew out of all my friends and old teams and people I just knew, that was making music. I had heard some stuff and  I was like this guy has a really good ear for it. So, I invited him over the next day and he stayed over for like a week straight and we just made music continuously. At that point, I already knew something was there but it was to early to say hey, Im going to stop my college education now.

 

Mm: You eventually did stop college to further pursue music?

 

V: Yea, we did!

 

Mm: All the greats do that, if you notice so many through the years have done that.

 

V: I think when I said, I don’t want to do this anymore basically the moment came where I would have to go to class or sit in on a lecture and I was so miserable to be there— just miserable.  All I wanted to do was go back and be in the zone make music and my parents could notice. They were like well why are you still going?  I was like, well I’m kind of doing it for you and then they said, “ you don’t have to do it for us, just do whatever makes you happy.” We weren’t making money at that time, but then that following year that when things went up. I think what helped as well is that the music that we made our parents actually like as well. They were like this actually sounds good, you guys have an ear for this you know continue wha your doing and we just had to prove ourselves that we are able to do this. After a year we signed our first contract with our booking agent.

 

Mm: That you sought out?

 

V: No, our management— we had management at the time and they were like your music is doing well, you should start looking at touring and they found our booking agent that we’re still with. He’s the best agent were so lucky to have him. He has been with us from the start, thats kind of how we rolled into that. Then we started touring a little bit the music got better and better and more tours happened  —gradually we starting growing.

 

Mm: What was the feeling of going from figuring this out to building this career  progressively making money from your passion? A lot of people are still in the struggling broke space.

 

V: It felt really good for us but what we did is we still lived with our parents we had a I had a studio in my home and Ruben had a studio in the guest room. We just kept on investing in our equipment to make our sound better. Yeah, like the first pay check we got I feel like we immediately spent those few checks. Like we upgraded the studio and then the next pay check we upgraded my studio.

 

Mm: I often say this to myself that I am just gambling on myself. Everything is just a gamble.

 

V: Exactly its taking risks.

 

Mm: Yes, and hopefully calculated risks. It feels calculated because what I am doing feels right, yet still feels like a gamble right?

 

V: That’s true! For us it felt like investing in yourself and there’s money that your going to get out of it later if you do a good job.

 

Mm: So was doing your first EP Aurora, did that feel like the next gamble that made sense?

 

V: Well we’ve never done something like that before so it was definitely— not scary but uncertainty because you don’t know how its going to be received and you don’t know how its going to play out and if people will listen to all the songs or just pick one. Yet, its done really well and I think 5 tracks — some people have an EP with like 8 or 9 its almost like an album some have 2 or 3 tracks. We think 4 or 5 tracks tells the exact story that we wanted it to tell. It showed different aspects of our sound and it took a long time to make.

 

Mm: When you do one hit you want that hit to just really pop, yet with 5 songs is there less pressure to make them all like that?

 

V: I think so because first we picked a lead single just a month before we released the EP — we had another single in mind.  Then is was like what track do we like the most ourselves. But yet you don’t have to make 5 smash songs that are all amazing. If you want to go for the mindset you can make one or two and the other three can be really different from each other. That’s what we did and thats also what I really like about the whole project. Not all of those songs were going to be singles with music videos. It’s more important that you have three decks of complimented together that make is good as a whole rather than if every single one of them stand out. There was the freedom to try some different stuff as well which felt really nice creatively to just do three completely different tracks. That’s also the first time we have ever done that. Before that it was just single after single and remix and then a collaboration— one by one basically.

 

Mm: How have you kept a creatively healthy relationship inside of working together and outside of working together? Because you guys live together right?

 

V: We do, yeah!

 

Mm: Which is really crazy because, I interviewed Snakehips and Amine Edge and Dance who are both collaborative artist that don’t live together some don’t live in the same country. They weTransfer stuff to each other not because they don’t get along thats just how collaborating works for them.  Which is cool although, when I read that you guys lived together and worked together, I thought that makes sense in my own view of how I imagine making music with someone would go; yet how does that work for you both?

 

V: It’s way easier for us to work this way. We have two studios now, we can work on creative ideas separately and then if were getting stuck on an idea, I can just call Ruben like yo, can you come over. It takes 10 seconds for him to walk over to the studio.

 

Mm: Essentially you two collab together and then one of you finishes it right?

 

V: It really depends on how it works out and how it feels. It also depends on how far along the track is, if the track is 95% there and we just need to do some mixing; you know mixing in the drums to make it sound crisp and adding in some room sounds and kind of finalizing the track, thats something I would rather do myself for example. And, if we start an idea like starting from scratch then, we prefer to do it on our own too. Then once we have an idea ready, I present it to him and he’s like this is good but lets change this and then we work together on it until its to a point where were like ok, I can finish it by myself now. So, mutually the tracks start with an idea either him or me and once the other party gets involved thats when it really becomes a proper Vicetone track. The best thing about our living situation is that I can just walk to his studio in like 10 seconds and be like “ hey come over here I just started something new” and he’ll come in and be like thats crap or thats good and we go from there basically.

 

Mm: Now that 2016 is at the halfway mark, what are some definitive goals you have your eye-on-the-prize on? Along with the feeling you are looking to create within your summer tour?

 

V: We really want to release some music that not something that we have done before.  We have had a lot of fans ask for hey can you do something in the old style and thats really easy for us to do its more challenging for us to do stuff thats a little different or keep evolving. While still staying true to that sound or feeling and the melodies that make Vicetone- Vicetone. Creatively thats a big challenge that we are working on and touring wise, I kind of want to see more cities that we haven’t been to before and more countries.  Last year we went to the Philippians which was a amazing and beautiful. Thats really inspiring going to countries where you can’t even read the language not even the letters and just being in a completely different world is very inspiring. You always come back with more ideas. We went to Vietnam for New Years Eve we had a gig on the main square of Hanoi and we really didn’t know what to expect. They have a different New Years which they celebrate later which is Chinese New Year so we didn’t know what to expect, like are there going to be people there celebrating with us? We went up and the whole square was filled to as far as we could see. It was so crazy to see people just getting into the music scene and see them so excited about it and that we are apart of spreading our sound and the sound of dance music to them. We didn’t know a lot about Vietnam before and now we have do.

 

Mm: Yes, and you have a strong base in those regions which is incredible. I loved this opportunity. You guys are super chill, cool and so easy to talk to. I appreciate the time and I am excited for all of your endeavours.

 

V: Thank you so much so are you, we appreciate this!

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