Dutch DJ and producer Jarreau Vandal is beginning a new chapter in his career following the release of “Anthology,” and he’s loving every minute of it.
The smooth, stylish, groovy and diverse collection of stories and poems collected in “Anthology” has taken 27-year-old Jarreau to new heights, having embarked on his most ambitious and extensive project to date. Though one could call “Anthology” Jarreau’s debut album, he insists that this is just a mixtape, and that more is still to come.
From R&B and dub, to grime and reggae (and even some Latinx grooves), this mixtape has it all. The veteran member of Soulection has collaborated with artists such as Luna Mae, JGrrey, and MOBO-winning singer Shakka, in his efforts to pinpoint the most crucial moments in life through music.
We caught up with Jarreau to dive into the magical world of his debut mixtape, and to get a small sense of what we can expect from his upcoming live European tour.
Were there certain factors or inspirations that led to you deciding to create “Anthology?”
When I started working on the project, I did not intend to make a mixtape or anything like “Anthology.” At one point it just came to me like, all of these songs sound good together and would be pretty cool as a project. Even though a lot of the songs sound different, they still sound like they’re made by me.
You chose to focus on using more live instruments as opposed to making bedroom beats for this project. Did you prefer this approach?
Yeah, definitely. It was refreshing for me to work with so many great musicians, and I will keep doing it even more as it’s such an enjoyable experience! A lot of this mixtape came together by making the songs online, so it was me sending instrumentals to artists and musicians that I wanted to work with. It’s nice that the Internet allows artists to send music back and forth to collaborate. At the end of the project, I went to London for two weeks and a lot of the songs came out finished after that time. That was probably the most productive two weeks I’ve ever had!
It was a nice surprise to hear your vocals featured across “Anthology,” especially on “No Fear Intro” — so smooth! Can we expect to hear you sing on more tracks in the future?
Yeah, this is something that I’ve been trying to do and working on for the past three years. Slowly but surely, it’s finally happening. I feel like if you’re singing on your own music that you’re producing, then you become very independent; you don’t need many people to move forward with.
We also hear you singing on “Rolemodel.” I sense that you have a real personal connection with the lyrics?
I wrote this track out of frustration. The city that I live in, Amsterdam, is small and this was a period where I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time. I was doing my own thing and going a bit wild, but people were trying to get into my business. They were telling girls, “yeah, don’t hang out with him,” and that was very frustrating for me.
We need to talk about the slap bass. It’s featured several times across “Anthology” and I absolutely love it. Could its inclusion become a hallmark of your tracks in the future?
For some reason I just really enjoy the slap bass. It just works for me — and it feels good and it sounds great! I also used it in my previous single, “Someone That You Love.” I had the same bass player play those lines on “Anthology.” I thought it would be cool, as a stylistic thing, in some of my songs to have this slap bass return.
“Westside” is a personal favorite of mine — it’s such a smooth summer jam. What were your reasons for adding the vinyl record crackle?
I tried to go for an organic sound, and I feel like this noise adds a certain warmth to the track. It could be seen as lame because it’s not actually a real record. But sonically — even if you don’t hear the noise itself — it’s a layer over the whole track, which makes it sound warmer.
Do you have a favorite track that stands out above the rest?
I don’t know if I really have favorites on the mixtape. “Breathe Fire” with Sam Wills is a track that I’m particularly proud of. If I were to pick one... honestly, then “No Fear Intro” would be my favorite! The track is very powerful and magical; it conjures up thoughts of entering Disneyland and it introduces people into a certain vibe. Plus, I’m singing on it too!
What does this mixtape mean to you?
To me, it demonstrates that I have become more mature in the music that I make, and have shown that I’m more than just a SoundCloud or record producer. I would say it also shows my versatility as a producer and as an artist. It’s the start of a new chapter.
Staying on the topic of new chapters, your headline European tour kicks off in less than a week’s time. How are you feeling about that?
I’m very, very excited but also nervous, because it’s my first live show with a band. We’re in full rehearsal mode, and not everything is finished yet, so I’m also stressing a bit — but it’s going to be fine. I’ve got a great team behind me, so I can’t wait to start!
Are you being supported by a big band?
I have a standard sized band I guess. I’ve got a drummer, bass player, keys player, a vocalist and myself doing vocals, additional keys, electric drums, and controlling the backing track on Ableton. I’ve got a few special guests joining me on stage throughout the set as well, but I won’t say any more as I don’t want to spoil the surprise!
Are there any shows that you’re looking forward to most, and any particular tracks that you can’t wait to play?
My hometown show in Amsterdam is sold out, and it’s going to be the last show, so we’re going to be super tight by then and won’t be making many mistakes, and I think it’s going to be the best show! The reggae song I made with JGrrey, “Down About It,” is really nice to play so I’m looking forward to performing that one.
What can fans expect from your live show? A similar high energy performance prominently featured in your DJ sets?
This tour and the shows are not going to be DJ sets, but I still want to include elements of that in the show, as that’s part of who I am and my music. There are going to be high energy peaks in the show for sure, as DJing is still a big passion of mine, so there’s a lot of references to other songs that exist. I like to include these references to keep the energy high, and I just really want to make people dance. I’ve been to a lot of live shows, and there’s been a big dip after half an hour, so I’m really trying to avoid that.
Are there any songs that have been released recently that you would love to remix?
There are actually a lot of songs that came out that I would love to remix. One example is the “Boo’d Up” song by Ella Mai. I actually made a DJ edit of it but I’m not completely happy with it so I’m going to take it back to the studio and make a better remix. This band from the States called Khruangbin recently released an album, and it’s so good. Everyone should check it out! There’s a few songs on there that I would love to remix.
I know you’re keen on discovering and showcasing your favorite music through your radio show on NTS and through your Spotify playlist. What three songs have caught your attention recently that people should check out?
Ooo... That’s a tough one. Picking three, I would say: “White Gloves” by Khruangbin, “We Guhd” by Chelsie Denise, and “Backend” by Don Toliver.
You recently performed in South Africa. What was that like?
It was crazy! I was performing in Cape Town and Johannesburg with Soulection, and I had never been there before, but a lot of people were requesting me to visit. So, I finally got to visit and meet my “South African fanbase,” if you will. They were really nice people — very welcoming — and I would love to go back there.
You’re very active on Instagram: keeping people up to date with your travels, and reposting a lot of fans stories. Their support must mean a lot to you?
The way I portray myself online is also how I am in real life. Instagram can be very misleading, and when I wasn’t doing that much music, I encountered these situations where I met artists that I really admired in real life, and they turned out to be assholes. That really killed my love for their music, even though it’s good. I feel that the person behind the music should be a nice person, in order to make their music more genuine and believable.
What’s next for you after this tour? Starting to work on your debut album?
A lot of people that mention me on Twitter or Instagram refer to “Anthology” as an album, while I keep saying that it’s a mixtape, so that’s already a good sign, but also applies more pressure. I definitely want to go for an album as my next project; I just don’t know when I’m going to release it. I feel like I really need to get inspired before I start focusing on an album. I need to find a concept. I also feel that I need to improve my sound a bit. I just need to make a lot of music before that point, so I don’t even think it’s going to be next year; it’s probably going to be 2020. In the meantime, I will be doing a lot of shows. Producing. I’ll release some singles. It will be good fun!