Dutch art school student Vincent Rooijers and Hein Hamers met about five years ago when they teamed on a project. Rooijers studied music composition, while Hamers worked in the visual arts. Their flow was natural, and they became fast friends, soon extending their partnership toward a stab at the Soundcloud electronic music scene.
Droeloe released its first song in 2015, and today, the duo nabs nearly 2 million Spotify streams a month. Rooijers continues to lead the music while Hamers evolves the visual environment within which the project lives. Droeloe's first two EPs, A Moment in Time and The Choices We Face, told ever-deepening stories of the human experience, but as the duo dug deeper into its imagination, it also realized that growth sometimes demands change.
Droeloe is not breaking up — nothing close to it — but when fans see Droeloe at future concerts, there will only be one man on stage. Hamers searched his soul and decided that tour life is no longer for him. More time in his studio means a more highly-developed visual world for Droeloe, by means of release artwork, music videos, stage performances and more.
The move echoes the message of the group's forthcoming third EP A Promise is Made, which explores the tough choices and dedication needed to make one's highest goals a reality. The single “Virtual Friends” introduces the new chapter with a high-style lyric video, which Billboard Dance readers can check out in an early exclusive, below our chat with the guys.
It's pretty unique for a producer to team up with a visual artist. How did you two meet, and what was the genesis of the Droeloe project?
Hamers: Me and Vince met in art school [about five years ago] at HKU University of the Arts Utrecht in the Netherlands. I was in graphic design, and Vince was doing composition of music technology. We were working on a project together, became really good friends and just started messing around with making music and making artwork for it.
Rooijers: It was also the first time that we found out about artists like Mr. Carmack, and that showed us there could be a cooler vibe to the dirty south trap stuff we thought was quite interesting. We were like, “We can try and have fun with this, see what comes from it.”
Was it always a delineation of Vince taking the lead on the music and Hein creating a visual world around that?
Rooijers: Yeah. I took the lead with the music and Hein created the artwork. We just wanted to see how we could elevate that and create a brand around it.
Hamers: It started really incidentally. The first track that we actually made artwork for was “Moonwalk Mike,” because we were gonna upload it to Soundcloud. I was messing around with this pattern which contained a golden skull in it … the skull and some bottle caps.
Rooijers: That was “Dilate.”
Hamers: Oh yeah, that was “Dilate.” Then we were like "wouldn't it be cooler if instead of the skull being part of this pattern, the skull would be puking out all these bottle caps?" That was the initial step into this world that we're trying to create now with the golden skull and everything around it.
Does the art sometimes inspire the music, while the music sometimes inspires art? Does it move in both directions like that?
Rooijers: Up until this point, most of the things got inspired by the music. The conceptual idea behind it also came in a later point in the progress and process. That was when we came together and started creating the story behind it all. That's part of the reason we're going into this divide and conquer path; to go about it the other way around, so that I can make music or even sound design contributing to an art piece, which I think is very interesting to do.
Hamers: We're now in a position where it's time to take that next step. There is definitely a very big plan in place. For me, around the last tour that we did, I started reflecting on, when it all boils down, is being on a stage and performing something that I truly want to do for the rest of my life? Does that make me happy? Although it's super fun, and it is a once in a lifetime experience, I personally like to sit at home and focus on creating something. We've got all these ideas, but we always ran into the problem where it's not enough time, not enough this or that. The most effective way to have the Droeloe project come to its biggest potential is if I don't tour anymore. I can just focus on this visual world that we're creating.
Rooijers: And the same also goes for the way I perceive doing shows. I would really like to build it more into a live performance. I used to play the trumpet for seven years, and I'm always doing some percussion stuff when I produce. I would love to do stuff like that on stage. Together with the art and the visual aspect that Hein will still provide for the show, we can build a more intense or more interesting show to witness.
These personal realizations really reflect the premise of the EP, this concept of promises made and the work that goes toward fulfilling an ultimate goal.
Rooijers: It's the way we see life at the moment. I made a lot of the music during the last tour, since that was the moment these feelings started. It was really inspiring to see how well our second hard-ticket tour performed, and it brought up a lot of questions, like, “Where do we want to go from here?” We have had moments of doubt, moments of choice. Now, we're really certain of where we want to push this project.
How does “Virtual Friends” reflect the concept?
Rooijers: The lyrics were created a while back, before the second EP came out. It was always something we wanted to use, but we didn't find the right spot for it [until this] promise. I wanted to create an overwhelming feel, a discomfort of feeling alone and having all these connections on your phone. Having an urge to experience something different, but not really knowing what that is.
This week. I'm staying at an airbnb in Los Angeles, and I'm basically here working by myself. The only connections I have with other people have been through my phone. I felt the need to go hang with somebody and drink a beer, but I don't really know that many people. How do I get to know more people when it's not work related? How do I make new friends in a place I'm not from? These are all frustrations I felt could be translated or explained through this overwhelming production.
Hamers: The overwhelming part it is a big angle and direction I wanted to take with the artwork. We created all these little cubicles that have their own little personalities together in this massive landscape. Everybody is secluded; together but still alone. I found that to be a beautiful metaphor for the fact that, even though with technology we're so close to each other all the time, there's still this disconnect.
Our entire management team is remote. Nine out of 10 times, me and Vince work remotely from each other. With technology, we're super close, but because of the way that everything gets formulated in text messages or emails or whatever, there's still that disconnect, this one missing link you can only have when it's face to face.
Rooijers: The moments that we've had those face to face communications, the ideas and the progress of the project doubles or triples even in the way in progress, which is very interesting to me as well. There's so much communication that gets lost if it's just through text or just through the phone.
Hamers: There's so much nuance.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Hamers: We're both just super proud about what we made. It's definitely a step up from what we've been doing so far. There's no better feeling in the world than finding purpose. It feels like everything we've been working on in the last four years is coming to fruition, it's getting direction, and everything's moving. We're really working on something.
Droeloe will tour as a solo act in support of the new EP this fall. The tour announced a kick off show at the Novo in Los Angeles. Watch the lyric video for "Virtual Friends" below.