About a year ago, I stumbled into a late night Porter Robinson DJ set, in the midst of a chaotic slew of Buku festival afterparties.
I remember entering the venue and feeling the melodic vibe emitted by the crowd in response to the music and dimly lit environment. Amidst head nods, and slowly moving thoughts, I was awoken by the subtle vocal tag “swirl” which had been embedded in the wavy undertones of a futuristic beat currently being played. I remember feeling the entire crowd’s energy shift and was instantly captivated. I ended up later finding out that the track was actually an original released under the Dutch producer, San Holo. Sander Van Dijck, a 25-year old producer from the Netherlands, known for his harmonious blend of past and future sounds, has been creating a surreal musical medium with his live performances and productions.
Being supported by Monstercat, Owsla, Spinnin’ Records, and many more, San has released a plethora of singles on various networks and has recently formed his own creative label, Bitbird. His New Sky tour is taking him all over America and is introducing a new type of musical experience to the somewhat oversaturated and mundane EDM world. We were fortunate enough to catch him this past weekend in New Orleans, while he accompanied Jauz on his Frendzy tour to talk about the meanings behind his music, new projects, and future plans.
I have to ask being that your name is very similar to one of the biggest roles in American movie history if Star Wars had any influence your artist name, San Holo.
Well, everyone has been calling me San since I was born because my name is Sander. It’s always been like, “Hey San, come for dinner” or something like that. But then one day my friend came over and we were making hip hop beats and just rapping over them and my friend goes yeah, we should have cooler names and he suggested San Holo, and I was like let’s go for it, and then it just got out of hand from there haha.
I do like the movies for sure, but it’s more because my name is Sander then that I am such a huge fan of Star Wars or something.
With festival season on the brink and lineups being released daily, we’ve spotted your name on one of the biggest electronic music festival’s lineup of the year. How does it feel to be playing at Ultra Music Festival? Is this your first U.S. festival?
Actually no, I’m playing at another one before Ultra, it’s called Get Lucky in Salt Lake City. And I also have a few unreleased festival dates coming soon, but Ultra is my first really big U.S. festival. I’ll be playing on Sunday, March 20th on the UMF Radio stage and I’m really honored and excited for such a big festival. It’s a really big step up.
You’ve been consistently releasing a lot of collaborations throughout this year, do you have any special collabs with new artists coming up?
I’ve got a collab coming up with Cesqeaux, who is also from the Netherlands and he’s amazing, and another one with Yellow Claw. And lots of stuff with artists from my own label, Bitbird. We’ll be doing some collaborations with them because we are going to be releasing a compilation soon.
Bitbird has been accepting submissions lately for their first compilation and is described as an open ended creative label.
How did Bitbird come about?
I was thinking about a name for a side project for even weirder music because San Holo is kind of, could be weird, but is also playable in clubs, and djs can play it too. But I also make a lot of crazier stuff that you cannot play in clubs at all, so I was looking for a cool name to release that stuff under and I saw this sign with a bird, I think it was a restaurant sign and it was just a bird and I was like Bitbird, it just came to me, and I was like oh wow, this is amazing!
But then it later ended up as becoming a label and I began working on it with Thorwald, my tour manager. He also owns half of Bitbird, so we do that together.
Does Bitbird aim to cover more than just music?
Yeah, we really want to go beyond only releasing soundcloud clips. We really want to do stuff with art, clothing, film, and really the whole picture. I’ve always been interested in way more than just music; I’m into art just in general. I can see a painting and can feel the same thing I feel when I listen to a beautiful song.
What are your future plans for Bitbird?
The main thing with Bitbird is we really want to get the interesting stuff. The stuff that’s not really out there yet. I feel like most labels are into finding what’s hot right now and we really want to find what’s hot in maybe a year or two years.
So, when we release stuff there is always a group of people who love it and also a group of people who really don’t like it and kind of hate it. And that’s what we always try to do. We release something and you either hate it or you love it. So, we’re going to release a couple of compilations and we want to really expand to film and clothing and all sorts of art. There are no boundaries with Bitbird.
Where do you draw your inspiration from in everyday life and while on tour?
Actually, I draw inspiration from just that, everyday life. I guess most of my inspirations are kind of nostalgic, like memories from the past and emotional things. It’s really about nostalgia in many of my songs. Lots of people also tell me I have such a nostalgic sound, and I’m not exactly sure what makes it sound nostalgic, but I am a very nostalgic person, personally. I love to think back on beautiful things.
Sometimes I feel like I enjoy the past more than the present, which is kind of a problem because I wish I could enjoy it right now.
Your past must have been really amazing.
Yeah, the hard thing is that I know that I will enjoy this more in a month than what I’m doing right now. But, I really want to learn to be more in the moment.
Along with your New Sky tour you’ll be releasing a brand new EP. What can we expect from New Sky?
Well, one track has already been released. Actually, The EP is really small, it’s just two tracks, but it was just enough for me to say what I wanted to say. New Sky has a deeper meaning and feeling behind it. I’m trying to find that balance, it’s always about the balance with San Holo of finding that deep and meaningful stuff and mixing it with the club stuff so it can be playable in many different places.
Will you be releasing the EP on Monstercat?
Yes, the EP is dropping next week in its entirety. I feel like it has a lot of stuff contained in those two songs and Monstercat is the last label I will be releasing on before I start releasing everything on my own label, Bitbird.
Last year, I released on many different labels and it’s always been the plan to release on many different labels with many different audiences. I even released “I Can’t Forget You” on Spinning Records, which is typically really EDM, but that’s what I love about it, it’s so different. It’s to expose people to different music that they aren’t really familiar with and so that they can form an opinion about it.
They can hate it-I got a lot of hate there [referring to his release on Spinning Records], but also a lot of people who actually liked it and ended up following me. So, now we’re going to take that diverse following and try to get them to listen to Bitbird and expose them to more new things.
That’s kind of the general consensus among EDM listeners, to break away from the norm and indulge in freedom of expression. Is that more of the focus for you?
For me, it’s really all about doing new things. Because even now with this, they call it future bass, this melodic stuff-I’m already starting to do new stuff and different things because I’m starting to notice it’s getting really popular and everyone is doing the same thing already.
That’s kind of the typical EDM norm. If something sounds really cool, many producers create things that sound similar, instead of releasing something original. But it sounds like you are creating a new platform where people can be exposed to more innovative forms of art that will outlive the generic standard.
That’s the only reason why I like doing music or art is just to innovate, to do new stuff. That’s really the only thing I care about. Is to create something new. I thought about it a lot, like why do I love making music so much and it’s also about myself and to innovate myself and to keep thinking about new stuff and to evolve.
A lot of fans and up and coming producers look up to you and resonate with your musical style and mindset. Do you have any advice or direction to give to those creatives out there?
First off, I think it takes many years before you have this vision of what you want to do. You can’t expect to make something, or start producing and the first year you have your sound. It comes in the coming years. I think it is very important, to first compare something that sounds good when you produce it to something you know. Like it sounds like Skrillex or Jauz or San Holo, but in the end it’s actually really good when it doesn’t sound like any of that. It sounds like something new and that’s very hard because when you make something new, you cannot compare it to anything. It sounds weird and you don’t know if it’s good because you can’t compare it to anything. I think it comes with years that you realize this has quality, but it’s just different and that’s really good to be different.
That’s what you want to do, but it’s different for everyone. Because I know there are a lot of djs and producers that do not really care about creating something new or different that much; they just want to make cool music, which is totally fine too, but for me that doesn’t work, I just want to create a new sound and new things.
What’s it like being on the Friendzy tour with Jauz these last couple of stops? Is the crowd dynamically different since you both play two completely different styles of music?
When we first got here there was big room EDM playing like 128 bpm music and I must say that-I’m not going to say I’m really nervous, but it does make me think, is this the right place for my sound?
I use to be really scared and change my set to the venue I was playing, but then I realized this is what I want do and if people don’t like it then, they don’t like it. I’m just going to play my set, with the stuff that I love, but there is always a little bit of nerves or excitement. And Jauz has a great set, I heard it the other night, but it’s just completely different from mine and very heavy. And like the stuff that is heavy to me, isn’t heavy for him, sometimes I make something and I think it’s so heavy and I show it to people and they say, it’s so cool, it’s such a chill vibe. And I’m like a chill vibe? This is heavy for me ha.
It’s really about resonating with a specific type of frequency or idea in this scene. Even if there are only two people in the crowd enjoying my music, that’s enough for me. Sometimes people come up to me after my set and say your music really touches my heart and that’s what I want to do, I really want to touch people’s hearts. They don’t have to specifically go crazy or jump around, it just needs to touch them and mean something to them in a different way. I feel kind of snobbish saying that though. I feel like there is music to really go crazy to and then I feel like there is music to have some deeper meanings to it, and that’s just me also as a person.
Being around such genuine people is rare in this world and in this industry.
I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of sincerity and humbleness in such an established and well rounded artist. San even ended up staying in New Orleans for a couple of days after his performance and played a surprise set at a local lounge.
To see the crowd response to his energy in such an intimate environment definitely had an positive and emotional impact on his fans. The EDM community is often times overcome by drama and anything and everything that isn’t even about music, but San Holo and his new label, Bitbird, are reaffirming the basics and the things we all sought after most.
Staying true to the innovative groove of creating new music, keeping the music first, and defining original creativity are in the works and we can’t wait to see the future of San Holo and Bitbird.
Article by Megan Holland