Makèz have come a long way since they first sneaked into Amsterdam’s studio 80 at the age of 17 to hand over their demos to Dam Swindle. Those demos led to their debut EP ‘Different planets’ on Heist in 2019 which gained major support from artists like Seth Troxler and Chez Damier. Quickly after, they signed two records on New York based label Let’s Play House. Fast forward two years, and here we are: the release of their debut album “City of all”.
“City of all” shows an admirable level of sophistication and matureness and effortlessly bridges genres across its 13 tracks. You can feel the amount of thought that has been put into this record, with songs happily blending into each other as Makèz submerge themselves in their concept of accidental encounters, inclusiveness and what it means to live in a city like Amsterdam.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Please introduce yourselves to our readers. We are two close friends with a shared passion for making music. We do this by the name of Makèz.
Where are you from? How is the mood where you are? We grew up in the south of Holland, in an area famous for its tulips and long beaches. We both moved to the city centre of Amsterdam 7 years ago, to dive deeper into music and club culture. Coincidentally, we now live two streets away from each other. Like more places in the world, our city is now opening again. Most restrictions are gone, and we are finally able to play music for excited crowds again!
How long have Makèz been together? Almost ten years ago, Willem’s brother introduced us to each other at a party. He knew about our specific interest in soulful house music. Not long after, we started to hang out. We swapped records and made our first beats together. It was a great feeling to share your passion for underground music with a likeminded person back then, and it still is.
What parts do you both play in the duo? Over the years we evolved our skill set in complementary ways. From the beginning on, Willem was more focused on melodies and harmonies, and Kees more on the beats, mix and arranging.
How would you describe your sound? What other artists do you stand by/ are alike to? Inspired by the old, focusing on the new. Our sound is soulful, electronic, melodic, and raw. Say we host a festival stage, this would be a perfect line-up: 30/70 Collective, K15 b2b Henry Wu, Moodymann, Bradley Zero, Carista, Chez N Trent, Dam Swindle, Joe P (great friend and talent from Amsterdam) & Makèz (live).
So, you sneaked into Studio 80 to hand in some demos to the Heist boys. How did you know where to find them? We had been sending demos to Dam Swindle for quite a while but didn’t get a response. Sometime later we hosted our own parties in Amsterdam and booked them to play after us. Before they took over the decks, we played the demo of what would become ‘Different Planets’. This is the title track of our debut EP on Heist Recordings. The guys seemed to like the track, and we gave them a USB-stick with a couple of demos on it. Later that week we saw a video of them playing ‘Different Planets’ during Wildenburg Festival. We were thrilled!
How old were you both at that time? Early 20’s
You seem so fluid and comfortable with jazz and soul, as if you were from another era. Who were the artists you were listening to when you growing up? Thanks for the compliment. We don’t particularly pursue certain genres when we make music. Just like everything that’s ever been created, it’s a reflection of matters in life. But of course, it has something to do with the music we grew up with. For instance, Kees has been listening to artists like D’Angelo, Guru and Earth, Wind and Fire from a young age. Willem was more into electronic music like Daft Punk and St Germain. Later, we both expanded our horizons and found each other in soulful house influences. But again, genre thinking isn’t something we adore.
Was ‘Different Planets’ your first ever release? Or your first release on Heist? This was our first release as Makèz. Before that we released one EP on a record label from Berlin.
Heist are known for breaking new artists. Was it a conscious decision to work with a label that’s as into development of its artists as well as just selling records? Heist Recordings always felt like a musical home to us. Not only because it’s based in Amsterdam, but most importantly because of the sound they represent. In the end, that’s what really counts.
You also released on Let’s Play House. Another great label! Did Jacques approach you? We met Jacques in Rotterdam at a party where we both played. We kept in touch. A couple of years later, Willem lived in New York for some months, and caught up with Jacques and Nik from LPH. This was the beginning of a good relationship.
You are soon to drop your debut album ‘City of All’. Is there a concept or a common theme that holds all the tracks together? The album embodies many influences and is an ode to all the people and places that formed us. City Of All reflects our journey together, we used our own field recordings of environmental sounds from places that hold valuable memories. The photos on the back of the album cover are hints to those memories, taken from our personal archives.
The album skilfully moves across a lot of genres, from neo soul to funk to house. What was the first track that was formed? The backbone of the album was made in, what we call, a studio retreat. These were two weeks of isolation in nature with our studio gear. The Entrance was the first track we produced over there. The field recording you hear in the intro is literally us walking into our studio cabin.
We have the pleasure to premiere the title track ‘City of All’. Tell us what this track means to you? The title track is our take on orchestral disco. Which is lovely to play in a set as it evokes a certain feeling of togetherness.
Are you big studio geeks? What’s your set up? Willem is often singing hi-hats and arpeggio’s and Kees loves to get sucked into a Youtube rabbit hole of obscure hardware. So, we think it’s fair to say we are studio geeks. Our studio is very humble but filled with enough gear to translate our thoughts into music. Willem is in love with the MPC 2000XL and the Nord Stage 3 and Kees with drum computers and effects like the Strymon Deco.
Is there a process that you follow when you start on a new track? How does the magic happen? Basically, our workflow consists of Willem just ‘throwing paint’ and Kees being responsible for organizing it into a painting that makes sense.
How do you know when to stop tweaking a track? What tells you it’s done? Once we have a weird-dirty-bass face, or we shout random lyrics out loud, or Kees is headbanging, or Willem is dancing over-enthusiastically. Then we know we have something going on that’s worth the work.
With a sound that’s a blend of funk, house, soul, and sometimes pop sensibilities, who are the artists that inspire you today? There are so many artists that inspire us… Some who pop up in our minds instantly are K15, Metro Area, Theo Parrish, Max Graef, Photay, Miles Davis, James Blake, we can keep ‘m coming! We are both into a lot of different styles. One day it can be jazz the other day it’s acid rave stuff but that’s what keeps our ears and minds fresh.
In a world of super star DJs and online profiles, do you think it’s tough to break out as new artists? Interesting question… There are a lot of pros and cons to this one… There is so much out there today that it can be hard to stand out as an artist. However, with the online platforms, there comes possibilities as well. (The artistic content, unconsidered) When you start gathering a community around you, the word will spread, and the platforms can work as a catalyzer. The offline part of the story is also super important. We try to go to parties and concerts. Not only to enjoy them but also to get inspired by other artists and connect with them.
What are the challenges you have faced? For years, we struggled to sign our music to the labels we aspired to. Back then, we had the feeling there wasn’t really a market for our music. So, we built plans for our own record label, did the research, contacted people in the industry, and even had the first ep including a remix ready. Just before we put these plans into motion, Heist and Let’s Play House showed their interest. Change of plans! To some, this might sound like a waste of time, but we are happy with the knowledge we gained.
As artists, how do you discover new music? It is a combination of things. Online and offline. We love to hang out in local record stores in Amsterdam like Rush Hour, KillaCutz and Seawolf Records. These people have amazing record catalogues and know what we like. We also like to dive into online discographies and playlists on Youtube, Bandcamp and Spotify/
How important is Spotify to you? Spotify’s role is becoming more and more important for finding new music. In the beginning of the Spotify era, we had the feeling that underground music wasn’t released that much on platforms like this. Nowadays, we find more obscure music on Spotify. We’re still not really impressed by the algorithmic recommendations yet, because they often lead to the most popular tunes you already know. However, if you don’t focus on algorithmic searches, and do the digging yourself, it does the job. From another perspective, our music could benefit from both these same algorithms, and the playlist culture.
What are your feelings on remixes? Do you feel protective over your songs or are you open? Lots of music we adore is developed through sampling. Which you could state, is also a form of remixing. You take a sound from another song and give it your own twist. Just like a remix. So, we are totally open to share our music with other creators as long as they have the best intentions.
You’ve collaborated with some cool artists on this project. Allysha Joy of Melbourne’s 30/70 has done an incredible job on Looking Up. What drew you to her voice? Allysha has her own way of flowing over a track. Her vibe was exactly what the instrumental track needed in our eyes.
LYMA features on Not So Different. The track has bags of swagger. Have you worked to appeal to different audiences consciously on this album or is this just how it came together? We were already eager to record more vocals for our tracks, and then LYMA basically crossed our path when Willem met him during the Amsterdam Dance Event of 2019. We were hooked by his voice and style. Eventually, LYMA turned out to be the perfect fit for the ‘Not So Different’ instrumental.
Are there some artists that you’d like to collaborate? Most definitely! While creating the album, working with both vocalists and musicians taught us more about making songs instead of tracks. We haven’t stopped creating vocal-focused instrumentals ever since. There are lots of artists we would love to work with. Examples are Dan Kye, Hadiya George, Channel Tres, Jitwam, Rhi and Oscar Jerome.
Are there plans for live gigs, pandemic permitting? Most of our upcoming shows are DJ-gigs. However, we’ve been rehearsing live-sets lots, and will make sure people will notice.
Do you have release projects in the pipeline that we should look out for? We’ll have a track out on a SlothBoogie V.A. later this summer. There will be a vinyl-only project out this autumn. Finally, we’re working on a bunch of new demos. Which we promise, will include nice new collaborations.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Makèz? We’ve told you quite a bit already, but if you’re reading this and know talented instrumentalists or vocalists, always feel free to reach out. Furthermore, we hope our album brings you joy. A message to all the ravers out there: it’s been too long guys, hope to catch you soon on the dancefloor!
Title: City Of All
Label: Heist Recordings
Release Date: 2021-07-16