Vicetone have been steadily building their debut album, Legacy, over nearly a decade, and their debut album is the crowning achievement. The Dutch duo comprised of Ruben den Boer and Victor Pool have had storied careers thus far. The two college friends started creating music in 2012, and have had many successful singles and remixes since. In 2014, Ultra Music Festival tapped them to create “United We Dance,’ the progressive anthem used in UMF’s after movie.
In the years following, Vicetone has released countless singles and two EPs. They even achieved worldwide viral fame when their 2016 single “Astronomia” became the soundtrack to a Tik Tok phenomenon at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. But their latest achievement is by far their biggest and most spectacular to date!
We got the chance to sit down with the guys and have a conversation about their creative process, the road leading up to the album, and how their biggest inspiration Avicii has influenced their sound and their lives over the years!
Alex Opalka (Electric Hawk): The first question I have for you guys is how long has Legacy been in the works? How long have you guys been working on these tracks for the first full album?
Ruben den Boer (Vicetone): Well, it’s been a few years. It’s not like we had the idea to do the album years and years ago. But we had a few of the tracks already, you know usually it starts with, “What kind of music do we have ready or have we been working on?” I think it was 2019 when we had worked on a bunch of records that we felt really worked together, and that’s really when the seed was planted. Like “Hey! We should do an album!” It just felt like the right time.
This was before we even knew about Coronavirus, like late 2019. We’re both really excited because we always said that eventually we want to do an album, but we wanna make sure that we feel completely ready to do one and we feel like we have enough material that we feel proud of and is cohesive enough that it works as a unit. This is the first time it felt like that.
So we were first scheduled to release it in 2020, but then you know Corona happened and “Astronomia” happened and there were all these things, you know, the whole year was flipped upside for everyone, including us. So we decided to postpone to 2021. It also helped because it gave us months more time to really fine-tune all the tracks. But some tracks were in production since 2017 or 2018, so some of them have been in production for like 4 years. Some of them were like 2019, it just depends on the track. In 2019 and 2020, we really got all of them together and started mixing them and producing them in a way where they felt like a cohesive unit.
AO (EH): The way you said that segways perfectly into the next question I have. I’ve been a big fan of you two since 2014. My first introduction to y’all was when you did “United We Dance” for the Ultra 2014 after movie. I was like, “This is amazing! These guys are really good!” and that’s when I really dove into your catalog and I’ve been a big fan ever since.
One thing I picked up on and noticed was like, “Man these guys really take a long time to really perfect each track,” For me, its at the end of your year mix of 2016, the “Chasing Time” vocals and everything there. But it was over the track that eventually became “Feels Like,” on your Elements EP that released in 2019. So my question is, is that the norm for you guys? You take such a long time to really craft and perfect each song?
RB: Well, first of all, you have a great memory and you’re very keen. That’s great that you’ve noticed that, like most interviewers would not know it, so I’m really pleasantly surprised that you’ve picked up on that. That’s awesome! Yes, we did release that later as an EP, it’s called “Feels Like” now. To answer your question about how long a track takes, yes this is really true.
Sometimes you have an idea and you get really excited about it and we’re in the studio working on it for a few days. And we finish the track to a point where maybe the details aren’t in place, but the whole body (all the chords, the basslines, the melodies), the whole structure of the track and the arrangement’s all in place. Sometimes we’re like “What’re we going to do with it? Well, we want to have a vocal in it. We have these two options.” But it doesn’t feel like it’s ready yet.
So for example “Something Strange,” that vocal was written over a different instrumental we had made. Randomly, Victor and I were like, “What if we take this ‘Something Strange’ acapella and put it over this other instrumental piano track we have?” and it fit like a glove and we were both really surprised. But that was also years in the making, sometimes these things just take time. I think there’s also something to be said where if you leave something alone for a while – I mean a track. Like we produce something, we work on it for a few days, weeks, months. Then you take a break from it for a half-year or year or so, and then you come back with fresh ears. Suddenly you get all these new ideas and inspirations again, and that can really bring a track to life.
That happened with “Feels Like” too, the track you talked about in the end of year mix in 2016. We didn’t really have a full, good enough top line. So we just put it out in the mix with a mash up of one of our old tracks to see what people said. The reactions were really positive about that particular track, so we knew we definitely wanted to do something with it. But it still took about two years to find the vocal that we were happy with.
“We always feel that its important to stay productive and make art, but at the end of the day, we’d rather take our time and really fine-tune and hone in on things rather than rush tracks.”
AO (EH): One thing I have realized about Vicetone over the years is you’re definitely more of a duo that values quality over quantity. Lately you’ve been putting out a couple singles a year, and they’ve been very, very well written and well produced, mixed and mastered tracks. I can tell you really do your due diligence on your music.
RB: Thank you for saying that, we definitely have that outlook for sure where we prefer quality over quantity. And it’s an ongoing talk with most people in the industry because with the saturated market, and I don’t mean just dance music, I mean music in general and with movies. It’s the same with Netflix. I mean, there’s always something to scroll, but it’s almost like having all this choice makes it harder. So we prefer to really make those tracks count. That’s also why this album felt like a big deal. We definitely don’t want to do another album for a few years.
AO: Speaking of the album, do you and Victor have the same favorite song? What’s your favorite song out of all the songs on it?
RB: I would say, of the songs that we’ve released as singles, like “Animal” for example, and that’s on the album too. I would say that’s overall probably my favorite track. Of the new tracks that are coming out for the first time, … it’s probably “Elevate.” It’s a very, classic piano-style song, that kinda reminds me of those golden 2012-2014 days.
AO: I was going to say the same thing about “Elevate!” Monstercat sent the album over, so I’ve been listening to it all day. A few of those tracks definitely have that mainstage, 2012-2014 “Golden Age” of EDM vibes to them.
RB: They were the golden days, weren’t they? And that’s the time when our careers started to grow and we became professionals. It does feel like we entered into that time. And for Victor, his favorite track…
Victor Pool (Vicetone): I’d say “Animal” too, of the released. And then “Somebody Like You.”
RB: I think we both like “Animal” so much because it has so much raw energy, and we really love that in dance music. It feels like a cool blend between the guitar sounds that we love. What is yours, having listened to it? Which one did you vibe with the most?
AO (EH): Of the singles, my personal favorite of the ones that have come out has been “Shadow.” I fell in love with the track immediately. Of the unreleased ones, I really do like “Elevate” and I also really like “Ghost of My Past.” That one’s really good too.
RB: Ah, I’m glad you say that! That’s the most unique sounding one of the album, I think.
AO: So, I know you guys have talked about in the past how Avicii (may his soul rest peacefully) was one of your biggest inspirations. I know he was a heavy influence to you, which is really beautiful because you can hear faint tones and notes in a lot of your music that are very reflective of his sound. What did his musical career, but also just his impact as a person to dance music, mean to you guys? How do you try to channel that into everything you make?
RB: For us, especially for Victor, when we started making music when we were like 19, he was our favorite artist at that moment. We found out about him in 2009 when he did that Tiesto remix for “Escape Me.” At that point, we were like “Holy crap! Who is this?!” He had no pictures, no Facebook page. It was just the name and he was from Sweden, that’s all we knew. So we followed him from the very start of our career. We saw him grow from an unknown, underground producer to the biggest act in dance music for years.
His music just screams joy and passion and love for the music and (he had) just raw, raw talent. So he really helped Victor get very inspired by him, that “Rapture” remix from Nadia Ali that he did, and the same with me. So, he was one of the reasons why we love dance music so much and why we wanted to make it ourselves.
I think when he died, and I’m sure it was for you too, it was so completely unexpected. So completely unexpected and out of the blue. We had no idea how to really handle it and deal with it. I remember those first few weeks were really tough. It was very hard to play tributes for him during our shows. It’s not like we had a personal relationship with him. But when you love someone’s music, and you resonate with it so much, you do kind of form this weird bond with that person, right? That’s why people adore artists and musicians and singers.
It felt like we had lost someone special to us. I still can’t listen to a few tracks or watch his tribute concert without feeling very emotional or very down. I feel like time will eventually heal that, too. But it made us realize that as sad as it is, there is something quite profound having left this legacy, all these albums that will be listened to for years to come. I mean he still, 3 years after his death, has millions and millions of people listening to his music. I think that is quite beautiful about the medium. Despite him not being here anymore, he still leaves us something behind.
It’s something you’re just not prepared for until it happens to you. There had never been any celebrity deaths that had really affected us until that happened. Then we finally understood why some people get so upset. His music has been an incredible influence. That’s actually one of the reasons why we wanted to name (our album) Legacy. The more we thought about it, the more profound we thought it was that he did leave a legacy. No matter how big or how small, it’s still something beautiful, and I think that’s important.
AO (EH): It’s aptly named, because this album is a part of his legacy too because of how much he influenced you guys. I wanna switch gears to something more lighthearted. What is your go to meal after you’ve just played a two-plus-hour club set?
RB: It’s usually just breakfast food. We love eggs in the middle of the night. Just eggs and toast and bacon. We don’t usually eat it, but if I could have anything, that’s usually what I’m trying to get. Eggs, toast, bacon, hashbrowns. I don’t know why we don’t eat breakfast food for every meal. But we obviously try to be healthier because it’s hard enough to stay healthy on tour as it is. We usually have a lot of fruit on our rider.
AO (EH): How was the experience working in the church and with the children’s choir on “I Feel Human?” Was it the plan all along, or was it something that came up as a surprise?
RB: It was definitely the plan from the beginning, but it was also a lot of planning going into it. We had to make sure the children had food and drinks, and had to make sure they were all present. There was a choir leader guiding the kids on what to sing. I was also in the studio giving him directions. It was incredibly rewarding and such a fun time. These kids were amazing singers and very experienced. It felt kind of surreal because we were in this old church turned into a big live room.
They sang their hearts out and put so much energy and excitement into the vocal. Those kids really took the track to the next level. When we sent (the director) the version with the choir, he couldn’t believe how big it sounded. It was a team effort for sure with the engineers and the crew at the church recording 4 different mics. We had about 200 individual stems of all the recordings, so it took a long time to mix. It was unlike anything we’d ever done before.
AO: So March is Women’s History Month, and Vicetone has always worked with incredibly talented female vocalists. Even just here on Legacy, you’ve got tracks with Lena Leon, Allie X, Allison Kaplan, and Emily Falvey. Who would be your dream collaboration? Who are the one or two ladies whose voice you’d like to have on a song in the future?
RB: I would definitely say Rihanna would be amazing. Her voice just screams radio and polish, and is just so nice in those higher registers. She’s been at the top of her game for almost, what, two decades now? One and a half? An amazing amount of time and she has a great voice. The other would have to be Adele. She would be really cool, but that would never happen. She’s very careful and doesn’t release a lot of music, but she has an incredible voice.
Both of them have an incredible, incredible voice range. We’re lucky that we had the pleasure to work with so many great talents on our album. There’s so many great vocalists, and we feel it wouldn’t have been as good without all of them. So we feel very thankful and grateful that they all wanted to work with us. We created something that we’re all excited about.
AO (EH): My last question: what would be the message or something that you want all your fans to keep in mind when listening to Legacy?
RB: The main thought is that we want there to be a song on here for everyone. Whether it be fans who’ve been with us a long time like you have, or people who discovered maybe last year or this year or just now. We’re really curious to hear what your favorite song is and why. We really love the fact that usually when we ask our fans their favorite song, there’s never one clear winner.
That’s something we really love. We hope the variety on the album will create new favorite songs. If ten people listen to the album, we hope each person has a different favorite song. That’s what we hope for. It’s a snapshot of our career so far, our main sounds, and our music production philosophy in one album. We hope that it will resonate and that people will love it as much as we loved making it.
You can stream Legacy by Vicetone, out now on Monstercat!
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