KRAAK & SMAAK – MUSICAL PHENOMENON

Since the Dutch trio of producers Kraak & Smaak released their first album ‘Boogie Angst’ worldwide in 2005, the boys’ act has steadily grown into a well-respected force in today’s international club and festival scene. The first time the live band was put together and played was a one-off to promote the producers’ album. But after that show premiered in Amsterdam, with its energetic mix of funk, disco and house, plus a heavy dose of rock ‘n roll attitude, the reaction convinced the band to embark on a follow up tour. Their set-up, combining the club sound of their releases with live musicians and vocalists, turned out to be a musical phenomenon on the Dutch circuit, leading to invitations to play at Europe’s festivals and renowned USA hotspots like SXSW, Coachella, Miami’s WMC and New York’s CMJ.

What prompted you to start the group and when did things start to take off for you guys?

We knew each other already from DJing and we all had the wish to produce as well, as we were full of ideas. Only thing was that two of us (Mark and Wim) didn’t have the studio skill and musical background while the other (Oscar) did. So it made perfect sense to start working together. We just started out, making a couple of demos, and then sent them around. Before we knew it we had a deal for a first EP with Jalapeno in the UK. From thereon, we just continued with releasing more records; we really noticed that we hit a nerve globally. It really took off with our first album, Boogie Angst, and after that, with the second album, we of course had a minor hit with Squeeze Me, which opened up things for us even more. In the mean time we continued with our dj sets but also started a full live band – quite a novelty at the time that made a big impact as well. In that regard we took the best of both worlds really:being able to do proper DJ sets as well as performing with a live band.

How have you diversified your sound within the electronic music scene?

Originally we started out as a breakbeat and lounge kinda affair, but we quickly expanded into electronic and house music territory as well. Given our background, enjoying, collecting and playing genres from soundtracks to funk to house to hiphop to jazz to new wave etc. etc., I guess we quite naturally developed that eclectic sound people give us credit for nowadays. It’s also important to stay hungry for new developments out there, keeping in touch; we wouldn’t be happy with making the same style of music and albums again and again. So although we haver developed far more electronic sound in recent years we don’t feel as a typical electronic act as such. Actually lately we’re experimenting more and more now with ‘traditional’ live instruments and are also rediscovering sampling again, which we had mostly laid aside for a while.

Where do you draw your musical inspiration from and which artists have influenced your sound?

It all starts with a love of music really: we have been avid record collectors for a long time, so we have always sucked it up big time. When we started out DJ’ing we also played venues where it was normal to play all different styles, from pop to funk to soul, alternative & indie, wave, disco, etc. so we developed a real broad taste as well. Later on hiphop, house and drum & bass came along, which diversified it even more and opened up producing. We can enjoy very basic club tracks but also a more musically interesting pop song. I guess we took all those genres, styles and fancies and distilled our own take on pop and dance music.It’s difficult to pinpoint to particular big influences however. Most important perhaps is that when we are producing we are always very ‘referential’ in terms of sound, of what we know and like, and that all depends again on what we are working on.

How is it working as a trio? What do each of you bring to the table that ultimately creates this cohesive group?

It’s not the most common collab type but happily for us it works. All three of us have different characters and backgrounds, which can clash once in a while, but at the same time also bring in different ideas, opinions, perspectives and expertise on the creative and business side. We also don’t necessarily always do the same things in and around the studio. Mark does the DJ sets, Oscar and me (Wim) do the live stuff with the band. When we started out we were often together in the studio making music but given the whole expansion of K&S that’s undoable anymore. Instead we focus more on who can do certain things best but still drop ideas, give feedback, etc. on anything important for K&S, whether it’s production, performing and so forth.

What does the timeline for a track usually look like and how long does it usually take you guys to produce a finished track?

It depends really. Sometimes a good idea comes really quickly and the basis for a track is there the same day. At other times different ideas can float around for months, even years before they fall into place – or not at all of course. It usually starts out with a groove, a synth hook or, or a sample. From thereon you work on it, seeing if it has potential. Then, if you think it could need vocals, you start thinking about who to ask to have a go on it for a catchy topline or a full song.

What do you appreciate most about your music?

The diversity, its originality. And apparently being able to make a difference. Being able to co-op with songwriters and vocalists that lift a track up to – sometimes a far – higher level.

“24HR Fling” featuring Wolfgang Valbrun was just out recently, catchy title ! What’s the story behind it ?

Thnx guys! We definitely wanted to work with Wolf (singer of Ephemerals) or our new album and so we invited him to our studio in Leiden. Did some more serious stuff first but we also had this funky demo lying around, and one thing led to another I suppose! The lyrics were written by our songwriting and live collaborator Ivar Vermeulen. It’s about a night of dancing, lovemaking, no sleep, no strings attached and general all round fun – something Ivar’s not unfamiliar with 😉

Kraak & Smaak quickly made a name for their unmistakable boogie. Seriously, what’s you recipe ?

Ha ha ! All three of us are longtime funk, boogie and disco aficionados, and already from the start we were keen to sprinkle that onto our productions. We have of course become more versatile over time, but thankfully it still is a recurrent thing in our work. I guess maybe we just love the quirkiness of many boogie artists and records, a feedback we often get on our music as well.

https://soundcloud.com/kraaksmaak/24hr-fling-feat-wolfgang-valbrun

Anything past the “24HR Fling” we can expect from the three of you this year ?

Oh yes! With 24HR Fling we have officially started our new album cycle. Before that drops later on this year, we’ll first release a couple more singles, remixes, etc., to work our way towards it. We can’t name names yet, but we have put a lot of effort in finding new vocal collabs and are really happy again with the results, just as with Juicy Fruit. We will also do some extensive touring the next couple of months, with for example a string of shows in the USA (July) and in Asia (June). To top things off, our label Boogie Angst will continue to release various exciting and fresh signings. Much to look forward to!

Who’s on your watch right now ? Any under-the-radar artists that caught your attention ?

We have been listening to loads of artists lately, also to find collabs for the new album, as mentioned earlier above. Stuff that has stood out for us were for example Shook, Still Woozy, David Marston, The Palms and Mk.Gee in the more hippety hoppety / indie electronic scene, but also more dance-orientated producers such as Kassian, Intr0beatz, Sworn Virgins, Girls of the Internet, etc. But too much to mention really.

Last but not least, if you guys had to keep only one song of yours, wich one would it be ?

Oh dear… well, to stay on the boogie side of things then I would say the Boogie Funk version of ‘Dynamite’, a staple track in our dj sets, always does the damage! Has a relatively high bpm as well, which makes it a great record to drop after an uptempo house record and change the vibe al lof a sudden – while keeping the tempo up. Nice….

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