[Interview] Jeremy Olander

After being the first-ever young talent to be signed to Eric Prydz’s Pryda Friends almost a decade ago, the Swedish DJ, producer, and label head, Jeremy Olander has become one of the most appreciated and highly regarded artists in melodic house and techno.

At the start of his career, Olander went on to release multiple EPs, singles, remixes, record a shortlisted BBC Essential Mix, and performed at iconic venues like Madison Square Garden in New York City, Brixton Academy in London.

Following his departure from Prydz’s label in 2014 to pursue his own imprint and event series Vivrant, he released original music on some of the world’s most respected imprints such as John Digweed’s Bedrock, Sasha’s Last Night On Earth, Adam Beyer’s Drumcode, UK behemoth Anjunadeep, and M.A.N.D.Y.’s Get Physical. In 2018, he was the first Nordic artist to be invited to play a show for Cercle, and his set has been streamed over 1 million times.

This December Jeremy Olander released his newest EP ‘Rubicks on his own imprint ‘Vivrant’. We caught up with him to ask about this new release and how he coped with the struggles that this year brought upon us.

Hi Jeremy! Thanks for speaking with us, it’s been a while. You’ve finished off this crazy year with a new EP called ‘Rubicks’ on your label Vivrant. Tell us about the project and your year.

Thanks for having me!

Well, I finished last year with a lot of new music on my Balance mix album. I had 14 new originals across three aliases on that project and released a remix for Tove Lo around the same time, so I wanted to let things breath a little before the next one. I think it’s nice to have a steady flow of releases but I didn’t want to flood people with too much music, so I waited until the summer to release ‘Steps’, which was a single on Vivrant.

Ever since that came out I knew I wanted to do a proper EP before the year ended, and that became the ‘Rubicks’ EP. I try to finish every year out as strong as I can music-wise and want to do it with tracks that I feel are telling of where I’m at musically at that time, and where I’m going in the new year. This EP showcases that well I think.

All tracks were made before the pandemic hit and I had a few opportunities to try them out on a few occasions and they really work well, especially the lead. It’s always special playing tracks that have been a little anticipated and then get released. Can’t wait to get back out there again and play this EP out!

 What’s it like releasing music in 2020 without being able to play shows? Is the process different?

It’s very different from releasing music without being able to properly test it out in clubs and get people’s reactions. I usually get an idea down during the week, try it on Friday and Saturday and then keep working on it the next week until it’s there. That’s a process I’ve had for almost 10 years, so now I’m doing it blindfolded in a sense.

I feel lucky that I have a few people around the world that follow me and don’t care about that. Clubs or not, they’re just into the music. I’m very thankful for the community that’s emerged around the label these last few years.

It was also never an option not to release any music this year just because I can’t tour. Even if the stuff I make is inherently club music I to try make music that’s enjoyable to listen to everywhere. For me, club music is very escapistic. I think that’s something we all need right now. A few minutes to drift away.

Going into the pandemic, there were a lot of voices predicting this extra time from not being on the road would result in higher levels of productivity and better music. Speak on how it’s been for you.

I was one of those people but quickly realised there are a lot more things in your life you don’t get to spend a lot of time on when you tour. Fixing stuff at your place that you’ve been putting off because you’re too tired, hanging out with your friends, family and stuff like that. Productivity-wise, I’d say I’ve spent about the same time in the studio as any regular year except that I took a few weeks this summer completely off. I have a set routine and work regular office hours and that’s worked out well. 

I would lie if I said I haven’t enjoyed all this extra time, because I have and I think I needed it, but I really miss the way things used to be. I realised the other day that I’ve been travelling and playing shows for almost ten years, and when that gets taken away it puts things in perspective. I really love what I do and feel more motivated than ever to get back out there.

With a lot of time comes a lot of thinking and trips down memory lane. What show do you go back to in your head now that you can’t play, and is there any specific one you really look forward to when things open up?

Great question!

I was just wrapping up my Balance tour when all this happened and had like 4-5 shows left. One was in London with Patrice Baumel and Sasha at E1. I can’t say enough good things about that city and the crowd there. I feel like I say this in almost every interview but they really know the music and always stick around until the end. People are usually up for it regardless where you play, but it’s a big difference from place to place in how long people stick around. I also have to mention the Cercle Festival that was suppose to happen in Paris this summer.

As for shows from the past, it’s usually my hometown label shows with Vivrant that come to mind. We did one at an old castle 40 minutes outside Stockholm in August, 2019. I played 8-9 hours and could’ve probably gone on for another 8. It’s one that sticks with me.

You have a vast catalogue with releases on labels like Pryda, Last Night On Earth, Bedrock, Anjunadeep, Get Physical to name a few, and in 2015 you started Vivrant, which has developed into a respected addition to  melodic house and techno. The label turns 5 this year. What’s the journey been like and has it evolved in the way you envisioned?

I’d say so. I’m very happy with where things are at with Vivrant. In some ways it’s been above and beyond what I could’ve ever expected. We have an amazing group of artist in Marino, Khen, and MOLØ that I consider to be a part of the core family and I feel very lucky to have them release music with us. Biggest thing for me is the community that’s grown around it. It’s incredible seeing so many familiar faces at shows I play all around the world.

 You mentioned earlier that you appreciated this time off as it allowed you to spend time with your family. You have a son and you recently let your fans know on Instagram that you had a second. How do you juggle the lifestyle of a touring artist with having a family?

You tell me. I try to get better at that every day. I guess being a good communicator and staying in the present when you’re at home is important. Not just being there physically, but actually interacting with kids, family and friends and doing stuff together. Having an understanding partner of course helps a lot. I’ve been together with my girlfriend for over 10 years and she’s been with me since the first show I ever played. I think it makes things a lot easier when you both grow into it as opposed to being thrown into it.

In recent months a lot of DJs have started playing shows again in certain parts of the world. What’s your take on playing shows when the world is still at the height of a serious pandemic, and do you haven any shows planned?

No shows planned in the next few months. I’ve had a few offers here and there but nothing that felt right or made sense. 

In a perfect world, all musicians that tour and depend on being on the road shouldn’t have to play shows at a time like this. Musicians pay taxes too and should be taken care of by their countries and receive some sort of help to weather this storm. 

Unless you’re one of the biggest artists and have financial independence, you live hand to mouth and can’t afford to say no to shows. I don’t judge people for making decisions that help them make ends meet and I think this kind of situation we see now with some countries allowing promoters to put on non-distanced shows, while others are in full on lockdown, will go on for a while.

As we touched on before, Vivrant turns 5 this year and obviously you can’t put on any shows to celebrate. Are you planning anything else to commemorate the occasion?

Yes! There’s a new vinyl project called Annum out for pre-order on our Bandcamp. The first edition includes our favourite tracks from Vivrant’s first 5 years, and going forward it will be released annually as a kind of summary of our favourite tracks from the year past.

The design, pressing and everything else in the manufacturing process has been done at our office and at a newly started pressing plant 15 minutes from where we’re at. It’s a homegrown and homemade product, which feels extra nice. It’s our first ever vinyl release on the label and I feel great about the track selection and how it came out. I think people will like it!

 Thank you for your time, Jeremy. Any last words you like to share?

Thanks for speaking with me. I also want to thanks everyone that’s ever purchased, streamed, shared or liked a track of mine or any other of the artists on Vivrant. Thank you for these 5 years we’ve had together and I look forward to making lots of new memories with you when all this blows over. 2021 has a lot of surprises, shows, and new music in store.

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