You know the Utrecht dance duo Tinlicker do remarkably well if you just consult their tour schedule: three times around the world, from Australia to the US, and then a host of major domestic pop venues. And this weekend, Jordi van Achthoven (39) and Micha Heyboer (43) will play on the main stage at one of the biggest dance festivals in the world: the legendary Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium. Yes, then you are somewhere.
But you also feel the positive energy when you just ring the doorbell at the gentlemen in Utrecht. Van Achthoven (39) and Heyboer (43), dressed in optimistic floral shirts, open the doors to a flashy new studio, which they have built in a luxurious industrial area. It smells of paint. The air conditioner buzzes in the office of table football. And when you speak in the creative space, your voice sounds pleasantly subdued as the space is perfectly insulated from floor to ceiling. An impressive music company.
Cases of poor timing
The two producers themselves went a little less relaxed through their musical workplace in recent months, they would have liked to have noted. “We made this significant investment two months before the outbreak of the corona virus,” says Van Achthoven. ‘We had a pretty good year and we thought: now or never. When everything stopped after that, and so did all our achievements, we naturally became anxious. A case of poor timing.
But let’s look ahead: Corona is on vacation, and the suffering really seems to be a while ago for Tinlicker. As we meet, the band is traveling to Las Vegas for the crazy and colossal Electric Daisy Carnival. The duo has just played a steamy live show in a sold out local Ronda in their hometown Utrecht. And travel to the US again this fall, following the festive booking at Tomorrowland. They are clearly doing something extremely good, and have apparently unleashed their melodic, cinematic and at times quite melancholic listening dance to the world at just the right time.
Van Achthoven and Heyboer crashed into each other eight years ago, fired from completely different musical worlds. Heyboer, a passionate metalhead who grew up in music, has been an integral part of the successful drum and bass band Black Sun Empire for twenty years: a company that made a name for itself with pitch-dark underground shows and suitably gloomy breakbeats and basses. From the age of 14, Van Achthoven sat behind laptops loaded with music software, making mainly more accessible and more commercial dance, like many of his countrymen and contemporaries. ‘I’ve never listened to bands, never gone on the Tivoli pop scene or anything like that. I was more into gaps in my youth. ‘
Drink a beer together
In 2012, Heyboer decided that as an experiment he would escape his beloved, but sometimes very straightforward drum and bass, and that he would also just put together some smooth and often emotionally charged melodies in the free hours, of course still on the measured rhythm. of the drum computers, but more based on classical house and techno. A common musical knowledge linked the two together. Achthoven: ‘He said: I think you should have a beer together someday. She thought we could do something beautiful together. ‘
That beer came and it clicked. Also during an initial appointment behind the screen. “We discovered that despite the different backgrounds, we both liked a lot of things, from certain chords to rhythms and atmosphere in the music,” says Heyboer. “But especially that we would not look like anything.”
They came up with emotionally charged techno with broad perspectives, for example on their debut album This is not our universe from 2019. Available dance with a patient melodic structure, preferably without the superficial climax and ‘drops’ of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) still prevailing in the United States.
The time was ripe for this kind of quieter, thoughtfully composed dance, perhaps also because of the corona. Heyboer: ‘The Corona period was initially a struggle, also for us. How do you give your dance somewhere if there is no club life? Does something like techno or house still have a right to exist if it is not played for a dance floor? ‘
The lockdowns, of course, provided a sea of time and opportunity to work for days on new tracks, which have now appeared on the album in all its glory. In another life† tal som Healing Forestwhere the patient cadence really pulls your listening head through a comforting green canopy.
Van Achthoven: ‘I think you hear our music was not made with a steamy dance floor in mind. That you can also listen to it on the sofa, in your bathrobe ‘. Heyboer: ‘But when we were able to do some first performances again after the corona, we noticed that the new tracks could also be expanded very quickly live on stage, that beats and basses could regain impact and punch. And then we got that club feeling again. ‘
Tinlicker was not the only dance band to find musical depth in a sluggish period. The Northern Irish duo Bicep also released an album full of melancholy techno, from which the curious mix of silence and excitement arose. And the American duo Odesza is just as tough on the road with controlled listening dance, which also works well in the club, both as numbers in a DJ set and on a pop club scene.
The music from Tinlicker and other bands in the same boat is doing very well internationally, and is especially embraced in the United States. Heyboer: ‘It has become our most important market. One can say a lot about the music culture there, and the amusement park that pop music sometimes takes there, but we have the feeling that the public is more open to new styles, to music that does not clearly fit into a box. ‘
Van Achthoven: ‘In Holland, dance and club culture have a much longer history, but there are still clear dividing lines between the genres: this is cool, this is not. This is also noticeable with bookers in clubs and at festivals: it is sometimes almost arrogant. ‘
And now: huge scenes
Still, the duo can not complain, also because the playing field of the new generation of dance bands, natural heirs to the big names from the 1990s, from Underworld to Orbital, is so wide. Heyboer: ‘It’s truly a huge luxury: we can play in a small club, on a pop stage or at a festival, from Tomorrowland to pop festivals.’ Van Achthoven: ‘The sound of our and many other bands and DJs is now doing very well, so you get more and more platforms. And you also notice that the audience is getting wider: especially for our live shows, we see a very varied mix, from a lot of older to very young. ‘
Heyboer: ‘I also think this music was discovered by people who liked 90s dance music. And because today’s dance music is listened to much more outside the club thanks to streaming services like Spotify. Dancing used to work really differently. ‘
But a familiar frame awaits Tomorrowland this weekend: two guys behind the turntables in front of an insane mass audience. Heyboer: ‘Although that festival has always passed me by: it’s definitely a milestone, us on the giant stage.’ Van Achthoven: ‘For dancing people in Spiderman costumes. By the way, did you know that Tomorrowland is streaming all over the world, Micha? ‘ Heyboer: ‘Okay, thanks Jordi, now I’m still getting nervous.’
Tinlickers album In Another Lifetime is released by Anjunadeep. Tinlicker will play at the Tomorrowland Festival in Boom, Belgium from next weekend. On 22/7, Tinlicker will be in TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht.
A musician, two worlds
Micha Heyboer from the dance duo Tinlicker shares their new Utrecht music studio with the drum and bass band Black Sun Empire, of which he is also a member. The furiously rhythmic and grim dance style of the nineties is almost nothing like the accessible dance he now does with Tinlicker. ‘The drum and bass rhythms are so complex and dynamic that there is no room for anything else. Everything has to be hard and have an impact. It also makes the genre extremely difficult to make. ‘