Showtek Talk Surviving the Pandemic, New Music, Artist Growth and Personal Moves [Interview]

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Few acts have been at the forefront of modern dance music like Showtek has been for over a decade. The production duo of Dutch brothers Sjoerd & Wouter Janssen have been through many cycles of the dance music industry. From their early days producing UK hardstyle tracks, to their massive mainstage anthems like “Booyah,” “We Like to Party,” “Bad” and “Cannonball;” Showtek have ridden the industry rollercoaster and have emerged as heady veterans.

Like the rest of the world, the Janssen brothers dealt with the trials and tribulations of the global pandemic, while at the same time evaluating where they wanted to take their music career. With plenty of time to record and a new mandate to experiment, 2022 is setting up to be an exciting new chapter for Showtek. The duo have been hard at work in the studio, and Sjoerd is back out on the touring circuit. We got the chance to chat with Sjoerd ahead of his show at Academy LA. He gave us updates on Showtek music, his move to Los Angeles, growing as a person and artist, and so much more. Check out the exclusive interview below.

Hey Sjoerd, thanks for chatting with us. Give us your Showtek 2021 year in review. The year started with most people still in lockdown, but we ended the year with some great shows.

“Yeah, so a little throwback. Like, 2020 and 2021 were obviously tough for everybody, everybody had their own challenges. I think that those two years did a lot of good as well. I think a lot of people realized what their lives were bringing them, and what was noise, and what’s not. Because, sometimes when you’re just going and going and going, and you don’t really see the noise anymore; the noise becomes part of you, so you kind of sit back.

A big thing for us was creativity, because we have been just like, if we think back on it, since like the beginning of the boom, basically since like 2014, we did the Major Lazer record in 2017 which was pretty big. So, we’ve been going up until like 2019-ish, we’ve just been going and going and going. And, the first two years of the pandemic, I had a personal issue, I had two knee surgeries. So, I used those two years to really recover, but, it also reconnected me with a lot of family members, and my friends who were there for me, who I normally only see like once a year. So, on a personal level, to be really honest, it’s been amazing. I really gained a lot of deep connections that are close to me. Same for Wouter, I’m also speaking for Wouter in this case. But, we also used that moment to realize what do we want for Showtek? Because, if you look at the history of our career, we were really big in hardstyle, we sold out all the stadium shows, we sold out big shows in Sydney and Amsterdam. And, we realized, hey, is this what we want forever or do we want to go in a new direction? And, it was a little tricky.

We took like two or three years for that, to really find ourselves again, overcome some struggles as any artist has to overcome. So, the past two years, we were like, you know what, there’s not many shows anyway, we can’t really travel. And the challenge was, even though Wouter and I live in the same city, he doesn’t always go to the studio, because every studio we use, they need testing results everyday. They didn’t allow people to go in because of insurance problems and stuff. So we were working from What’sApp and working over FaceTime. It was super challenging, but, we realized, let’s do a big kind of relaunch in 2022 somewhere. The idea was to launch a new album earlier this year, but, to launch that, you need a lot of prep time. And because of Covid, we didn’t really know what was going to happen. Yeah, the US is opening in some states, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be forever. So, why would we launch an album without knowing if we can tour?

So, we built up, I think 59 tracks. Yeah, and then Wouter’s a night owl, and I’m more of a day person. So, sometimes, when he’s been working at night, he’ll send me something at 7 in the morning. I’ll wake up at like 8:30, and it’s like, oh, there’s a bunch of IDs, let’s continue. So, we kind of find a really weird groove. So, it wouldn’t work if we were together, but, because of the situation, it kind of worked. So, we’ve really been trying to make a lot of new songs, and now we actually have a list of 20 tracks that we filtered from those almost 60 songs. We’re probably going to launch into an album, but we realized that it would be better for us to do it after summer, because I think the world is slowly opening up. Asia is starting to show some progress, even though our show in June got cancelled due to Covid restrictions. So, even if we had an album out right now, it would be very restricted. And I really want to come out with a proper tour with proper visuals. So, if we do it, we do it right.

So, we’ve been doing a few club shows, like tonight I’m doing Academy. Because, it’s still good to stay on the radar and play for some big promoters, obviously it’s Insomniac. So, you know, you still want to show like, hey, I’m alive, we’re still doing things. But, we have a lot of new music in the pipeline. So, long story short, we’ve worked a lot of music that hopefully we can bundle that in an album for after the summer. We’re going to release a lot of music, and probably the tracks that will release this year will be part of the album. And, then we’re going to surprise people with some unreleased tracks to kind of put the album together. It’s going to be fun, everything is new, but we don’t want to pull the same tricks out of our sleeves everytime.

Because, you think of Showtek, you think party, hard, energy. And, yeah, that’s still part of us, who we are, but I’m not 15 forever. Sometimes I’m vibing on a totally different track than I would when I was 18, like, what is this crap? I never used to eat sushi when I was 18, but now I love it! So, we grew a lot, and I think Wouter is very focused on, like, okay, I want to do something new, I want to reinvent myself. And we did it from hardstyle to EDM, so we’ve got a few cool tracks, unexpected IDs coming up. And a few collabs with some artists, and not all of them are super big. So, we also try to work with names that are interesting to us. We’ve worked with Major Lazer, we’ve worked with Tiësto, we’ve worked with David Guetta, what else can we do in that spectrum, right? So, we also focus on who do we think is really cool right now, which artists surprise us music-wise, what genre can I vibe with? So, we have a lot of different things and hopefully we’re going to put it together and build a strong concept.

So, from the music side, we’re super excited, but it’s also very important to be happy in your personal life, and that’s something I know from other artists, it’s hard to be in-touch with your family, especially if they’re overseas. I think that really helped me feel good, just taking time off, spending some time with your mom or your dad, things that sometimes you take for granted. I’ve really charged my battery.”

Tell us about your latest track “Pour it Down” with VÉRITÉ. What was the Genesis of the track? I like the vibey piano house.

“So, Wouter met her via a contact in New York, because he lives there in New York part-time. So, he met her via a writer in New York, she is actually a really great voice. So, she wrote the lyrics, Wouter immediately felt like, hey, this needs some like house-y, 90s stuff. My brother is very big on house and 90s, like Crystal Waters, that kind of vibe, that’s my brother. So, he likes all the chord progressions, just a little more difficult. So, he kind of setup the ID to do it. So, then I said, let’s make it a bit more summer-y, because tracks these days take time to grow. With all the music being released these days, sometimes it takes months before a track is even digested by the crowd and other DJs, whatever.

As for Covid, instead of bringing a party track, we wanted to do a good vibes song. So ‘Pour it Down’ if you listen to the lyrics, literally, it’s a love song. But, if you listen to it from another perspective, we also put a lot of love into music and we haven’t been seeing our fans. It kind of took away everything we’ve been doing, so why don’t we show a little bit of love to the crowd, to the fans. So, even in the video, it’s literally a collection of iPhone videos that we just filmed being on the beach during Covid, or when we were traveling. I was in Paris, and this stuff that made us feel good. So there’s a few layers, which we like. And, today the remixes came out. I personally like all of them, but the Holseek remix, that’s a vibe!”

I know you also just recently moved to LA full time! Tell me what the transition has been like?

“So, Wouter has been based in L.A. for quite a while, so he’s been going back and forth between New York and LA a lot. And, I was always based in Miami, and don’t get me wrong, no hate on Miami, it’s an amazing place. But, sometimes, you just are ready for a new chapter. And, that doesn’t mean I don’t love Miami, it’s beautiful, the food is amazing. But, everytime when I came to LA, I have my friends here from Europe, from Germany, from the Netherlands, I have a few guys here that I hang out with on a personal level. I love hiking, hiking in Florida, forget about it. And then, I realized, when my friends went skiing here, I said, what the hell, there’s skiing there? Because I love that stuff too. And, the music industry is very active here, and the weather isn’t humid, it’s a lot of things that I liked. And I always said the first time I came to America with Wouter together. We had a big first tour in 2011 or something, as Showtek we played like 500 people crowds. First time I got here, I said, I want to live here one day. It’s like the palm trees, and the vibe, and the mountains.

So, I had a place in LA, like a small place, but I just stayed there when I had shows for a week, and then I would leave. So, during the pandemic, this was also fun, I discovered my neighborhood for the first time. I lived there for two years and I had a little apartment, but I never walked through the neighborhood. So, during the pandemic, I was like, this place is amazing, all these houses are amazing. Oh wait, Whole Foods is here, all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, it gave me a lot of peace, and my wife said, oh, I always thought you were more Miami than LA, but maybe this brings us peace right now. And I was like wait, I want to be here more often, I have more friends here. So I sold everything. I was like, you know what, I’ve worked so hard my entire life, I’m going to make a decision that I’m not going to regret. So, we just packed up our stuff and we left, and we’ve got one nice place. So we sold everything we have and now we’re living full time here in L.A., it’s been amazing.”

What do you think is the state of the music industry right now? It seems like dance music came out of the Pandemic pretty unscathed.

“Well, this is the thing. First of all, the industry kind of changed. I kind of realized, in the beginning of the pandemic, that club music was kind of low on the streaming portals, DSPs. Well, I understood it; if you’re a kid or a youngster that just wants to go out and have fun, you listen to go to a club. But, if you don’t have a place to go to really listen to it, why would you pump yourself up at home if you have nowhere to go? So, I understood that listening to EDM music or dance music is part of a culture where you also go out. If you’re home and there’s no festivals or clubs to go to, why would you pump the music the whole time? So, we understood where it was coming from. But, now there’s festivals on the horizon; Coachella is happening, EDC is happening, Europe is slowly opening up. Now, I see more engagement on social media again on music, it’s really noticeable. So, I think dance music came out pretty strong.

The funny thing is, personally, I’m listening to a lot of drum & bass lately. And here in LA, they also digest things very well. They always have been, since the beginning era of Skrillex with dubstep, it’s always been accepted. But the UK drum & bass sound, I listen a lot to it, you know the kind of Rudimental vibe, the kind of uptempo, but not too hard, still vibing. So, I think a lot of people have been listening to a lot of different kind of music as well during the pandemic. Not just EDM, like four-to-the-floor, 128. And I think now it’s almost like good and bad at the same time. It’s shitty that it happened, but now, it’s almost like a fresh start. Right now, when I do something, I can always say I have a story to tell behind it. Because, before, people were like, oh, wait, this is different; now people are open to it.

We did a meet and greet with fans here in LA, it was part of a contest for fans to have dinner with Showtek. It was super fun, because it was hard to connect over music the past couple of years. So, we thought, why don’t we connect over food? And, it was cool, because we want to give a little something extra to our fans. So, why don’t we connect through music and food? It could be a cool thing, and I’ve always wanted to have something going on with fans that’s different. Instead of being all sweaty backstage, I’m tired, my ears are popping, so we decided to make some time for our fans; not every show, that’s impossible; but once in a while let’s do this experience. I love all kinds of food, and food is also a big part of culture.

So, yesterday, the girl was from Mexico, she only moved to LA seven years ago. She even saw us in Mexico and saw us here. And then you start to talk, and it’s like who’s your favorite artist? And it’s just mind blowing that these kids have such a wide range of who they like. It goes from Kaskade to Steve Aoki to Showtek to Darren Styles. Like 10 years ago, it would have been one or the other, never both. So, it was really fun for me to talk to the fans and hear what they’re listening to. All the four different fans had different ideas about what I listen to, how I listen to music. It was a really fun experience to do.

So, I think people are very open-minded nowadays, that provides a lot of opportunities. Obviously I follow a lot of other artists, I think what Diplo is doing is amazing with his whole new house vibes and really built up an identity. But, five years ago, who would have thought he’d go in a direction like this? If you can see it’s real, and feel the authenticity behind a character or a person. It’s the same with Kanye West’s albums. Say whatever about Kanye that you want, but, as a fan, when he came out with his new album, I was like okay what’s he going to do this time. But, if you listen to it, you can still hear it’s him, but it’s fresh. That’s what I want to do with our style, we’re really building to, okay, you can still hear it’s Showtek, but there’s a little shock value in there. Like, oh, wow, I didn’t expect that.”

Any other words for the fans?

“Yeah, I hope they like the remixes that just came out. That’s a pretty big thing for us, so just go and support the music. There’s also a new single coming in early April. I also think what’s really important, especially after the pandemic, is that we start to appreciate each other and what’s happening in the world, we don’t even have to talk about it. We are all just seeking love, love each other, let people be whoever they want to be without clashing into each other. So, hopefully everybody stays strong-minded and doesn’t go into a direction where it turns negative. So for everybody, just send all your love to whoever needs it because it’s very important at this point. I think we really need it after these last couple of years. So, hopefully our music brings some good vibes and people will have fun.”

Check out the remixes of Showtek & VÉRITÉ’s “Pour It Down” out now on Virgin/Universal.



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