The Dutch artist and musician's newest release is buoyant dance music inspired by nighttime bike rides.
You might recognize some of the art created by Nick van Hofwegen, aka Young & Sick. It's adorned the covers of Foster the People's Torches and Mikky Ekko's Kids, among many other albums.
You might also recognize his music—and if you don't, you very well may be hearing him everywhere soon. His newest EP, out May 3, is a collection of dance music that's as atmospheric and complex. With its crystalline production, pumped-up rhythms, and dreamy loops of synths and keys, it's tailor-made for clubs, bike rides, or for any time you need a pick-me-up or an excuse to take off and drive. Ultimately, it's the product of a mind that's clearly enamored with its own ability to distill color and sound into shapes and tunes.
The music has a buoyancy to it, a clarity that belies meticulous attention to detail but still meshes well with its sense of electric intensity and free-spirited energy. Standout tracks include "JET BLACK HEART," a track that—despite its brooding lyrics—feels like the sonic equivalent of making it to the top of a mountain after a long trek; the thrilling, bittersweet "IT'S A STORM," and "SIZE OF RELIEF," which layers van Hofwegen's angelic, slightly overdriven vocals over an arrangement of reverb-drenched horns, cool synths, delicate strings, and tense rhythms.
Popdust talked to Young & Sick about the relationship between visual art and music, inspirations for his upcoming EP, and the importance of listening to albums all the way through.
Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming EP, and the inspiration behind it?
YOUNG & SICK: This collection of work was made right before I went on tour with the Knox. In the back of my mind, while knowing I was gonna be on tour with them, I got really in the mood to make something more uptempo and uplifting, so that drove me to be faster in BPMs than I usually am. I'd also been making a lot of remixes for people, so it tied in with that, too. I took European dance roots and made something more sample-heavy and dancey.
At the time, I was also living in the valley in Los Angeles, and when I was making all the songs I was going on long bike rides in the evening. The songs I'd listen to while riding also shaped what I was creating—it was more dance music, so it made me shift towards that.
Are there any other inspirations, sonically or in terms of place, that you feel influenced your new work?
This EP is very largely inspired by the emotion of the city passing by on the bike. A lot of my inspiration—especially with this record—is drawn from sampling; I'd find a nice little piece of music that I'd chop up, and it would guide me to the next spot.
Have you always been into dance music? Did you grow up going out and dancing?
Growing up in the Netherlands, dance music was always pretty prevalent. I grew up a rock kid. Nirvana was my first love. There was always a lot of dance music around me, though, and when acts like the Chemical Brothers came out and started merging rock music with dance, a lot of people like me got very into that. Dance music has always been around me, and I've always had a big love for it, but it hasn't necessarily always come out in my music before.
YOUNG & SICK - BITTER END www.youtube.com
I know you do a lot of art as well, and it's pretty unique to see someone doing such high-quality work in two fields at once. Which did you start out with—art or music—and how do you see those two fields relating to each other?
That's really kind. I've always done both, as long as I can remember. I've been drawing as long as I've been playing guitar. I always say I feel like they come from the same place, and anyone's brain that can do one can do the other—it's multidisciplinary. They feed off each other so well. If I get stuck in either, I just switch up and keep going. I don't think there was one before the other; it was a chicken-and-egg kind of thing.
Your art and music seem to fit so well together. Do you have any sort of synesthesia? Do you see music in colors, or see them related in that kind of way?
I do think they tie into each other incredibly. I know people have full-on synesthetic things where they actually see color in sound—I don't have that to the full degree, but if I do artwork for my music or others' I tend to listen to it while creating the artwork, to really shape them around each other. I do see a very strong connection between them. When a band or artist gets that connection right, it makes me very happy—when someone's just getting it when the music and art live in the same world, it's such a gratifying feeling.
Did you feel pressure to choose between them? Was there a moment when you decided you weren't going to pick one of the two fields?
I wouldn't say I was pressured to ever choose. There were early moments where I was thinking, I want to use this name for both fields, for doing art for other people and for myself and also for making music, and there were definitely moments where people were kind of wary of that. But I never had to choose, luckily.
Your music and art are very psychedelic. Is that something you're interested in and do you explore spirituality in any way, or where does that imagery come from?
My work draws from 70's psychedelia, and obvious bands like the Grateful Dead that I've always looked up to, in terms of their art and how well they made an insane brand for themselves. I'm a big proponent of that type of art, going that far in detail and tying everything together that well. I'm not necessarily a very spiritual person but I do tend to like the occasional psychedelic… I definitely draw inspiration from that.
What's happening next with your music?
I'm working hard on a follow-up. A lot of musicians like me, as soon as you finish something, it's kind of out of your system. I'm working to follow it up with something different, but in a similar line.
What's the inspiration behind your band name?
My manager used to throw a lot of parties in New Orleans when he was going to Tulane University. He'd ask me, do you know a good name for a party? I'd come up with one and make a flyer, and he'd start passing them out. One day I saw those two words [young and sick] together, sitting next to each other, and I made a poster for him with that name, and he said that was one of his favorite parties. I had that poster up in my bedroom in London when I was living there, and I was looking at it and thought, I kind of need that name. I started putting out songs and making art with it, and it kind of stuck. It's a simple, striking name—you just have to tell someone once and they remember.
Are you going on tour soon?
There's going to be a few shows—LA and New York and some festivals—and I'm doing a bunch of DJ sets as well. We're figuring out what the next tour is because we just came off of one.
You do a lot more than visual art and songwriting. What other fields do you work in?
Remixing is something I've been very fond of lately. Obviously, the art for festivals and other people and that kind of thing has been amazing. Fine art and making things, in general, is definitely a big passion. With music and art, there are so many little nuances within each field.
Are you particularly excited about any of the songs on the upcoming EP?
Every time you make a release, there are a lot of songs that don't end up on it—usually I make about triple the amount, and we send them to the people we work with at the label and they come up with their favorite lists, which were pretty close to what I had in mind for this one. Sometimes it's hard to pick between the songs because you made all of them, so it works well when somebody on the outside picks one and it aligns with your choices. My favorite songs all ended up on this EP. The song that's about to come out, which will close the EP, is called "SIZE OF RELIEF," which is also the name of the EP. I wrote it in New Orleans in such a short time—maybe a two-hour window of making the first loops and all the vocals—and it just felt so right. I just had to change a few things, and detailing and mixing took a lot more time—but initially, it just took a few hours, and when that happens, I just feel so good. That one is definitely one of my favorites.
Anything else you want people to know?
I know it's hard for a lot of people these days to take in more than a few songs at once, but I'd encourage people to take off 20 or 25 minutes and listen to the EP in full.
It seems like kind of a lost art to go through and listen to a full album, but it's super rewarding when you do.
That's kind of how it was meant to be heard. If anyone's able to do that, that'd make me happy.
Young & Sick's debut album was released in 2014. "Size of Relief" is now available on streaming services. Listen here.
Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.
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Bandcamp is waiving revenue shares today, and you should support POC artists.
Today is another Bandcamp Friday, meaning until midnight tonight, the platform will be waiving revenue shares and letting artists take 100 percent of profits.
Now more than ever, as Black Lives Matter protests occur around the world, it's extremely important to lift marginalized voices. The music industry has repeatedly erased Black voices throughout history, despite the fact that most mainstream genres were invented by Black people.
The label founder talks music and the 90s Chicago scene.
Beach House. Dan Deacon. Speedy Ortiz.
Carpark Records has been known widely as an industry tastemaker and incubator for budding indie artists for the past decade and then come, but what do you know about the man behind it all? What does it take to create a label that withstands the ever-changing tides of the digital age. Who is behind curating the diverse but stream lined roster of artists on Carpark? He is none other than Todd Hyman.
Todd has seen all sides of the industry it seems. He tells me about his formative years in Chicago. It was the early nineties, he was attending Northeastern University and the scene in Chicago was intoxicating. He calls the time, "an indie music golden era." Many of the influential labels of the time were located in Chicago and inspired the local scene. Hyman recalls being inspired by the likes of Touch and Go who had Jesus Lizard, Big Black, and more signed to them and Drag City who had Pavement on their roster. He recalls seeing Nirvana at The Metro during college and feeling invigorated to make his own music- and that he did. Little did he know, he'd be playing at the same venue years later.
Todd has always been an audiophile and tastemaker in music. In college, Todd worked as a DJ at Northwestern's college radio station which was prominent in the area covering a large part of Chicago. He was going to 2-3 live shows a week and immersing himself in the culture. Around the same time, Todd formed Wendyfix and began gigging around Chicago and around the Northwestern College scene. He says though they played quite a bit, Wendyfix didn't quite fit the vibe of Chicago at the time. While Nirvana had broken the glass ceiling and set a standard of the alt indie rock scene there, Wendyfix was quieter, more introspective guitar music. He tells me it took a long time but a small indie pop scene emerged from Chicago and Wendyfix ended up collaborating with other like-minded bands. Eventually, Wendyfix' hard work and payed off and they got to play amazing venues like The Empty Bottle and The Metro which he mentions felt surreal after seeing so many of his role models play that venue.
At the same time, Todd was working as the Rock Director at Northwestern's radio station. He reflects on a time where email wasn't used for business, so he'd get calls all day long inquiring about radio placements. He remembers his voicemail filling up and having fifty pieces of music to add to their programming a week. In a way, he remembers looking up to Touch and Go and Drag City for their ethical way of operating. Even 50/50 royalty splits with the artists and letting the artists do what they want were some of the amazing aspects of both labels, aspects that would inspire the way Todd would hope to run a label one day. Though he admits, it wasn't totally on his mind at the time. He mentioned that his music taste changed so rapidly that though starting a label was on his mind, he felt like he could never commit to one type of music.
After moving to NYC, Todd finally saw reason to establish Carpark. At the time, he was running a DJ night. He loved the music of so many of the electronic artists that came through and decided to start a label to give them the platform they deserved. Carpark's foundation was sort of a punk DIY version of electronic music. It was reflective of the liberation that came with the ability to start making music on one's computer. After a while of operating as such, Todd mentions he had a little internal crisis over the fact that he started an electronic label, but quickly realized that it's his label and no one would really care if he started signing other artists that didn't fit the profile of early Carpark artists.
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