Audiences in North America are quickly getting acquainted with Amsterdam’s most mind-altering export (no, not that export):
Lucky for them, there’s no shortage of sweaty venues on their upcoming U.S. summer festival circuit. Originally from Utrecht, the Netherlands, the lively electronic trio of long-time friends has garnered tremendous reception from fresh crowds at both SXSW and Ultra Music Festival in Miami. Composed of two producers (Collignon and Sjamsoedin) and one visual artist (van der Zwagg), their live shows encompass a continuous stream of improvisational creativity based on heavy bass beats and vivid lightshow landscapes.
Soon after Ultra, the guys will head to Seattle for Sasquatch Music Festival in May, where they’ll unveil ‘The 333”,’ an innovative visual installation composed of nine massive screens behind the band on stage. ‘The 333”’ debuted at Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) this past October, but has yet to be seen in North America since its massive size and technological complexity makes transporting and installing it quite a feat.
“Because making electronic music live on stage can be a little bit abstract for the [audience], the starting point for us has always been to communicate with people through visuals,” says van der Zwaag. “We use three projectors that are placed behind the screens, with every projector projecting on three screens. These are controlled by a laptop with Modul8 software [and] a Triplehead2go splits the video signal into three different signals, which get sent to the projectors. We also have a MIDI signal coming from the laptop [equipped with] Abelton, so Sjam and Jori can influence the visuals as well.”
The result is a bombastic cirque du lumiere, a fantastical light show that “freaks with the synths” of the band’s ever-throbbing, club-banging sound. “People are instantly amazed by it. It’s such a beautiful thing, even if there’s no projection on it. The amount of light that comes from the projectors can be overwhelming. Rogier had to adapt his visuals so people would actually dance and not just stare,” laughs Sjamsoedin.
The band currently uses a laptop with Ableton Live, and a Novation Launchpad as the main sequencer in their musical production. Three stereo audio channels stem from the Launchpad (typically spitting out drums, bass and percussive sounds), and are directed to separate channels on a mixer. They also incorporate an Elektron Machinedrum, a Vlavia Nord Rack II and a Vlavia Nord Wave, where Collignon commands the keys. Apart from that, Sjamsoedin notes, “I trigger samples on the Akai MPC 1000 and tweak the incredible old analog beast, Korg MS10.”
“The [music] setup changed so many times over the years … because we always want to feel fresh and inspired onstage,” Sjamsoedin continues. “I haven’t seen any other band play with a live set that reminded me of ours … We’re always looking for new, or even really old stuff [to play with]: synths, drum machines, circuitbend toys, tabla drumboxes, whatever. We call it our playground, and it should be exactly that.”
“Remember how it felt as a kid at the gates of a playground with cool slides and swings?” van der Zwagg asks. “That’s the feeling we want to have before [we go on stage]. 3D projections would be cool [one day] … And a laser! But Rogier doesn’t like that [laughs].”
For an exclusively North American-promoted preview of ‘The 333”,’ check out some footage from Nobody Beats the Drums’ performance at October’s ADE Festival, or catch them while you can at a summertime festival near you. The band’s latest album, Currents, is out now on Basserk Records.