Detroit Swindle play It'll Do 10 p.m. Saturday, May 20Since their formation as Detroit Swindle in 2011, Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets have had a meteoric rise in the world of house music. The Amsterdam-based duo have put out a steady stream of albums, and the entire history of house music seems to be boiled down into every tune.
For live shows, they execute improvised versions of their songs with the help of a keyboardist, translating their house music brand into something new — more akin to a futuristic, electronic funk band. After their first run of successful singles on various labels, they started their record label, Heist, in 2013. The label has provided a platform for their music as well as a host of choice producers, including Max Graef, Nachtreaker, Andy Hart, Frits Wentink and Adesse Versions.
All of this adds up to an extremely hectic schedule, but amid their South American tour, Dales and Smeets found time to chat with the Observer about their Dallas appearance at It'll Do this Saturday.
Dallas Observer: You debuted a few years ago, but you already sounded fully formed. How long had you been in the DJ and production game?
Smeets: I guess that was more of an accident than the result of years of practice and hard work. Lars had been doing edits and stuff for a while and been a DJ for a long time, and I’d been deejaying for quite some time as well, but as soon as we got into the studio together, it just kinda clicked. Lars had already been working on some ideas, and within a year, we had made a lot of music. At first, we were not confident about the productions at all, but our friends more or less forced us into releasing the first EP, and it all took off from there.
DO: How did you come together as Detroit Swindle?
Dales: We used to do programming for the same club and had some mutual friends, but it wasn’t until Maarten started deejaying for one of the clubs I was programming that we really got talking about music. It’s a funny story that management of that club Maarten played told me to get rid of him because he was playing too much underground music. In a way, that was the starting point for us to get into the studio. We used to live quite close to each other, and Maarten would come by every Wednesday night in my little home studio, and we’d mess with samples, have some beers, play some games and really have a good time. That quickly got out of hand, and Maarten quit his job at the ad agency he worked at and I stopped all my DJ gigs that weren’t really doing it for me musically.
DO: As musicians, have you always operated within the realm of dance music?
Smeets: Apart from a high school crush with drumming, music hadn’t really been my focus. I used to really be into sports, and that took up all of my time. I loved listening to music, though — but electronic music came to me really late, when I was in college.
Dales: I always used to mess around with making mixtapes and stuff. I’ve worked as a cook for a long time as well, doing private caterings and working in different restaurants, but deejaying and throwing my own parties has been my main thing ever since I was old enough to get into nightclubs.
DO: Although I'm sure they both scratch different artistic itches, do you have a preference between deejaying and performing live?
Dales: I really enjoy doing the live show and perfecting the performance — constantly fine-tuning the setup with new machines, stuff like that. We recently got rid of the laptop, so it’s a hardware-only show right now with a sampler, drum machine, a bunch of synths and some effects. We bring a key player along as well, and he plays two synths and a Rhodes live on stage, which gives the show a really fun live and funky edge. Maarten is more into digging for records and playing them — looking for weird new tunes and finding unlikely mixes that really blend well on the dance floor. I love deejaying as well, so I'm happy that we’re able to do both.
DO: What is your current favorite piece of gear in the studio? And same question for the live show.
Smeets: Ouch, that’s a tough question. We recently got a vintage Arp Odyssey, but we went on tour pretty much straight when we got it, so haven’t gotten round to messing around with that one. I love our Crumar Performer, which is being serviced now, but we’ll soon get it back. It’s a brass/string machine that doesn’t really do a lot, but what it does sounds so, so good.
Dales: I guess for the live show, the Rhodes really gives a great vibe and is a lovely machine to work with. We just got the Dave Smith Pioneer Toraiz, which is their modern take on a classic MPC. I’ve been talking to their developers a lot since we got the machine really early in the development stage, and we’ve really worked together in making the sampler work well for live performance. Pretty much everything we had running on the laptop is now running in the Toraiz, and it’s a super fun machine to play around with live on stage.
DO: How often have you played in America?
Smeets: We’ve been here a lot. I guess we fly over three or four times a year, sometimes just for a weekend and sometimes longer. We’ve never been to Dallas, though, so we’re curious to see what the scene is like there. We’ve heard great stories about It’ll Do, the party we’re playing, so I’m sure we’ll have a great time.
DO: Are you planning another album any time soon?
Dales: For the first time ever, we’ve taken off three weeks last March and locked ourselves up in the studio. We made a lot of new music in that period, and we both feel like that could be a good basis for a new album. There’s still loads of ideas to work out and people to invite that we want to collaborate with, but who knows, maybe 2018 will be the year when a new DS album will emerge.
DO: How is running your own label? What future plans do you have for Heist?
Smeets: It’s great. We both really love looking for new artists to sign and run the creative side of the label, and we have our manager, Sonja, and label manager, Peter, who run the business and production side of things. We’ve got a few really good releases coming up and actually already have 2017 filled up in the planning. We’ve got Fouk, ourselves, Nachtbraker, Nebraska and a yearly collaborative EP at the end of the year coming up, and we’re already working on new signings for 2018.
DO: Do you collect 45s?
Maarten: Forty-fives are really becoming a thing again, and it’s a cool format to play. It’s always really nice to flick through the bins of 45s in records stores or secondhand shops, but our collection is not that big yet. It’s growing, though, and funny enough, we just decided we’re in need of a proper 45 bag for touring. So ask us again in a couple of years, and it might have gotten out of hand.
DO: What is coming up in the near future for Detroit Swindle?
Dales: We’ve got a few really busy months touring-wise right now, but we also wanna focus on working on that album material. We’ll be writing new music for sure but also working on the existing sketches and seeking out possible collaborators, such as vocalists or other instrumentalists. The coming period will really be about forming the concept for the set of music we have now and really [finding how to tell] a story that is true to us and inspiring to share. So let’s see where the music will take us.
Detroit Swindle, 10 p.m. Saturday, May 20, It'll Do, 4322 Elm St., $15, eventbrite.com.