We Need To Talk About The Outsiders

Dynamic duo The Outsiders make their debut full release with VISION – the label synonymous with their futuristic, technical, Dutch-fusion sound. 

But as their name (and the vague description just used) suggests, the pair’s music doesn’t fit into any one box. They’ve developed a diverse sound palette, ranging across tempos and taking inspiration from mainstream pop, through to the filthiest bass music on the market. 

The results are an interesting hybrid of abrasive beats and bass, accompanied by a sonic assembly of sugary synths, samples, and atmospheres. This could only be pulled off with a serious amount of skill – which these two have been building unison since they met in high school. 

The new EP ‘2222’ serves as The Outsiders’ magnum opus for this unique sound and production-level they’ve achieved. The timing and naming of the release is apt, as 2222 is what’s known as an ‘angel number’ representing moving forwards, finding balance, and going in the right direction. But even if you don’t buy into superstitions, the fact is that these two just reached their 20s – and have almost a decade of quality production experience behind them. It’s a positive outlook for Roeland and Jozef.

UKF wanted to chat through their journey so far, leading up to the release of their fantastic new EP. 

I want to kick off by asking how you both got into making music? 

Roeland: Well, for me, it started with meeting Jozef. He was already into production slightly longer than I was, but we met in high school. 

Jozef: We were like 12, and we were in the same class. I think my excitement kind of made Roeland excited as well – and that’s when we started sending each other really crappy ideas over Skype, making each other jealous of the new tricks we’d learned. 

Roeland: Yeah, at one point it was just about making something that was cooler than what  the other person was making. So it was an interesting way to learn, being so close together so early in our music career. It was nice because it created this constant feedback loop.

Jozef: Whenever we weren’t in school, we’d be at home producing, and then in school we would just talk about music all the time. We didn’t really collaborate much back then, but then when we found out about drum & bass – the track ‘Could This Be’ by Noisia in particular – that was when we knew what direction we wanted to take. That was when I was around 15 and Roeland was 16.

You guys have been on this for a long time then! So after deciding on the drum & bass route, how did you come up with your name ‘The Outsiders’?

Roeland: One time we were camping in a very quiet and peaceful place in the Netherlands called Ommen. We were working on a track at the time, which was one of the first D&B things we’d done together – and the working file was called The Outsiders. We just decided at that time that we’d go with that for our name. 

Jozef: Back then we were also a bit young and pretentious. We wanted to have all these alien documentary samples in our tracks, and we had this idea of: ‘we’re The Outsiders, coming from outer space to bring you this music’. That concept fell off pretty quickly, but we still have a song called Abductors which uses alien vocal samples. 

Roeland: And now, we rather like to use the name as a way to say that we don’t really fit in one box in the D&B scene. We’re sort of just everywhere in between these (sub) genres and labels, but there’s no one specific place for us. 

That’s how I interpreted it – you’ve definitely got a unique sound.  So besides Drum & Bass do you have any external influences from other places or people?

Jozef: Definitely. I feel recently we’ve been more into different styles, especially since the pandemic. We never really got into D&B because we were DJs, we mostly were just fascinated by the technical challenge of drum & bass because it’s a difficult genre to make, from a sound design and mixing perspective. But there’s always been a musicality-side driving most of the decisions we make. During the pandemic, we had some time to reflect on the direction we wanted to take – and you can sort of hear in all the tracks we’ve released since then, there’s more of an open-mindedness when it comes to the inspirations we’re drawing from. So I feel like it’s really important for us to really look outside of the scene now. 

Also, after the 2222 EP we’re dropping on VISION, we’ll be taking the time to focus on some solo work, exploring some different genres as well.

Oh, really? That’s big news. What’s the plan? 

Jozef: We’ll be redirecting some of our energy towards our own separate projects for a while. Mine isn’t launched yet – but it’s going to be a bit more indie pop-based. Roeland is working on some more experimental stuff. Not necessarily dance music either – kind of in the realm of Tsuruda or Eprom. 

Roeland: More on the Brainfeeder type of vibe. It’s not really connected to the bass music scene. The project is called Sorza.

Nice! They both sound like exciting paths. What has spurred this decision?

Roeland: We really like the D&B scene, but in a way it’s annoying because it’s such a ‘scene’. We feel like if we’re releasing music as The Outsiders, it should be D&B – we’ve built the whole project around D&B. We love it, but we feel like we want to be able to release different music and vibes, and tell more of a personal story through that.  With these solo projects, we’d like to be less associated with a strong scene, and instead have a small scene of our own, where we have more creative and musical freedom. 

Jozef: You can sort of see this with pop artists. Some are kind of branded in a way that they are not so linked to labels, or to a very specific community that they depend on. They’re branded more by themselves, with a fanbase no-matter what they do. So they can progress into all these different tempos and vibes – and because they have their own vision and direction, this type of fanbase will consistently follow them. So that’s something we really look up to. 

So when you two are venturing off to do solo projects? Will there be another collaborative project after the 2222 EP?

Roeland: We’re still very close friends, so we’ll still be very involved in each-other’s projects. But as ‘The Outsiders’, who knows, we’re open for anything, so we don’t want to force things one way or another.

Lots to look forward to, but up until now as a collaborative duo, what are each of you bringing to the production session?

Roeland: Well the process started very interestingly. Back in the day, Jozef’s computer couldn’t really handle huge projects, so we usually had a workflow where Jozef would start with something, and if it gave me energy I would take it and complete it on my PC. As we’ve developed, I don’t think we really do a lot of studio sessions together. We’ve felt way more productive independently creating drafts and WIPs. 

Jozef: If we’re both working 10 hours a day separately, then we have 20 hours of work – whereas together that’s only 10, and probably more talking and less productive hours.

Roeland: Yeah exactly, and sometimes you really don’t feel like going into a serious session. When you’re alone, you can have a little bit more space to mess around. Any horrible idea you come up with, you can sit with for a little bit longer, rather than it being rejected quickly. This can lead to some weird and interesting results. When you’re together, the time needs to be well spent, and there’s more pressure. So we’ve developed this sort of work-station system. 

Jozef: It’s fascinating that me having bad laptops really helped us build this workflow. Right now it is often that I will start us off with a hook, or melody, or core concept – and when that inspires Roeland, he has so much patience to try all these different sounds, and make it really loud. He thinks about textures in a very specific way as well. 

Roeland: It sort of depends on the track – but sometimes I focus on the composition as a whole, but Jozef will focus on a small but crucial bit that can make the tune. But it’s never the same and there is always a lot of role-switching, it depends on the track.

Yeah I think I can start to tell where each of you might excel. But having grown up together doing this, that must be a nice advantage – so much chemistry and shared tricks, the 2222 EP put this on full display. 

This is probably your biggest release to date – how are you both feeling about it?

Jozef: I’m really proud of it. It started a quite a while ago – maybe fall 2020. We made a couple of track ideas, basically they were full tracks but they were very technical and synthetic. We sent those to Noisia and they really liked them and wanted to release them as an EP. And that’s how the whole project started.  Then there was a lot back and forth between us and Nik. He gave us a lot of feedback, and we had a lot of good conversations about what this project meant for us. We already knew we wanted to go separate directions – so Nik really pushed us to make this the most meaningful that it could be for this stage in our careers. Instead of just four technical D&B tracks. So then we scrapped two songs and started fleshing it out more. After some of those A&R conversations with Nik, we started so many ideas for the EP. We had this Kingsnight VISION livestream set which we’d put as the deadline – the tunes had to be cool enough to play there. Those then became the EP demos, and we had a lot of talks and it was a big selection process. 

Do you think your approach to making a project changed, given the weight of it being a full release on VISION?

Jozef: Yeah definitely. I think VISION means so much to us, so there was an extra weight to it for sure. 

Roeland: Definitely. But also what was nice about this project was that we had around two years to think about everything and what the project should be – so there was so much headspace. There was pressure of course, but also I don’t think there have been other Outsiders projects where we’ve had this much freedom and time. 

Jozef: It wasn’t an impulsive project, that’s for sure. Also I feel like you can really hear it with how all the tracks progress into one another. I’m really proud of that because a lot of dance music, it’s often just for the cub experience, but listening to this EP front-to-back really tells a story. 

A bit more like a mini-album. 

Roeland: Yeah. For example we made a completely different outro for Crush, to blend it more into the last track of the EP. A lot of other decisions we made were around trying to make it feel like we’re moving between different sound-worlds and different musical ideas. 

Jozef: I feel like Nik had a really good point of feedback for us too. He wanted every track to serve a different purpose, and I think that really worked out well. 

Roeland: There was another track I really wanted to have on the EP – it was called Control and it was similar to Adore. It took me quite some time before realising why we should not have both of them. The energy and statements were quite similar, and Nik really taught us that, when you’re doing a project like this, all the individual tracks need to tell their own story. They need to have their own purpose. 

I’ve heard many good things about VISION – ultimate professionals. 

Roeland: Yeah definitely. We also live in the Netherlands and we’ve known them for so long – so it’s a little bit different maybe. They’re our friends. We’ve actually both done internships there which was really cool, that we were able to have the opportunity to get involved so much. So I guess the process is definitely different than if we released it on another label. 

That internship sounds like a crazy opportunity. What was involved in that?

Jozef: I did an internship with them when I was in high school – I think I was around 17. We had the option to do a week-long internship for school, and we’d already released tracks with their other labels DIVISION and Invisible, so I just asked. I learned so much during that week – getting a view behind the management and label-side, and getting closer to how they work. 

Roeland: Yeah and I did it a little more recently at my previous study at HKU – a Dutch music school. For a couple of months I went in every Monday, helping to do back-end stuff for the label – I got to build a collection of the full Noisia catalogue. So I can confirm I’ve heard every single Noisia track ever made. 

Jozef: Even unreleased ones right?

Roeland: Yeah – I heard some really cool unreleased stuff, and some pretty funny stuff as well. But yeah it was really cool to get closer with them and learn more about the industry. 

What’s next for you guys then – how’s 2023 looking?

Jozef: Well as The Outsiders we would like to have more international bookings. Right now we get so many messages from people outside of the Netherlands who want to see us. We’ve done a couple of international shows, but I feel like it’s a bit weird that we didn’t do more bookings outside of the Netherlands yet. 

And individually, I am working to launch my solo project. 

Is there any info on that?

Jozef: I’ve worked on it a lot in the past few years, but I can’t give much information. But I’ll be singing for it as well, so it’s a whole different skill set to learn. So I’m trying to be patient. I want that to be really good before I start releasing anything.

What about you Roeland?

Roeland: I’m looking forward to having full focus on Sorza for 2023. There are a lot of cool things coming for this project – a remix album I’m really excited about. And I’m also working on more remixes for some cool artists. 

Okay, final question – what’s the meaning behind the EP name 2222?

Jozef: Well, first of all, the number 2 represents being a duo. It feels very much like a full circle moment for the two of us together, so that duality is important. It also represents all kinds of symmetries in the tracklist. Spiritually, 2222 is an ‘angel number’, and it means to be on the right track, and balance, and stuff like that. The EP is also 22 minutes and 22 seconds long. 

Finally, purely by coincidence – we hadn’t told VISION about the title yet – but it releases on December 22, 2022. 

Roeland: I’m also 22 right now. Ever since we’ve named the EP 2222, we are just constantly seeing the number everywhere.