Downtime is a new series that showcases a different side of our favourite DJs. Up next, Black Girl / White Girl blend soul, disco, house and ballroom to get us lifted.
Black Girl / White Girl are a force of nature squared, combining their taste for raw and rousing music in the field of acid, electro, house, techno, and more. They channel this alongside influence from their respective Curacaoan and Israeli heritage, crafting tracks and sets that are packed full of potent sounds and able to keep dancefloors enthralled while veering in unexpected directions.
The Netherlands-based duo have released across labels such as Green Velvet’s Relief Records, Resonance Records and Desert Hearts Records. Despite the global disruption of 2020, they’ve remained busy on the output front with EPs arriving on Of Unsound Mind, EI8HT, Super Rhythm Trax, minimal kids and Food Music, and instalments of the monthly OPERATOR mix series dropping to keep fans dancing at home.
For their Downtime mix, Black Girl / White Girl have put together a spirit-raising exploration of the soul, disco and house music they’ve been digging in lockdown, as well as weaving in some ballroom for added zest. It’s the feel-good mix of the summer.
Listen and read the Q+A below.
Where are you living during lockdown and how has it affected the local area?
We’re currently staying in Haarlem, a city located near Amsterdam. Right now, life is pretty much looking like right before the lockdown. Almost everything is starting to operate close to normal, and we’re even going to be allowed to go to the gym again soon. The Dutch government just announced that bans on large events could be lifted soon, this would include (seated) festivals and events. Clubs will likely stay closed until there is a vaccine, which makes sense if you ask us. Nature areas are full of people looking for a way to unwind, and as the summer season begins, it’s slowly starting to look a bit livelier in the streets again. There is a glimmer of hope, but you can also tell that fewer people still seem mindful of the fact that COVID-19 is nowhere near done with us yet.
Have you been together or separated? How is this affecting your friendship and the way you work together as a duo?
We’re lucky enough to be together right now and throughout the lockdown. Before the lockdown, we used to produce music every day - it was our full-time job. When the pandemic hit, we actually decided to take a break from producing music. There was a lack of creativity and we didn’t want to force it. Thankfully, we already had a decent amount of tracks ready to go, so that decision was not that hard to make. Due to a decrease in creativity and an increase in the multitude of insecurities surrounding the future, especially in the beginning, producing music felt trivial at times. For us, it just works better to be in a more relaxed mental state so we’re really able to focus on the process. So instead, we shifted our focus to completing our projects that had already been scheduled. Pre-lockdown, most of our time was already spent together so there wasn’t really a change in dynamics in that sense. We get to do what we love together, celebrate successes together, so that had already made us closer. We’re just lucky that we have similar personalities and are able to get along easily, which helps a lot during stressful times.
How much has COVID-19 affected your original plans for this year? How are you adapting to that?
We are definitely looking forward to see how the scene will make a comeback, and how it will affect us. Will we be able to tour and make a living from it? We were planning gigs throughout Europe but because of the pandemic, that was put on hold. The same goes for the music, will it make the same impact, now we can’t experience it in the rave? At the beginning of 2020, we had just travelled back to the Netherlands from Tel Aviv and started executing our plans for the future, working hard to make sure that 2020 would unfold in the best way for us. So, you could definitely say that COVID-19 was a massive blow for us business-wise. Most of our plans didn’t happen, release parties didn’t happen, talks with promoters were postponed. We did wonder if we should push back our releases too, but we quickly came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be worth it, as we all know what’s probably going to happen once the pandemic is over (an avalanche of new releases coming out at once). We also feel music is one of the things that continue to bring people joy, so we wanted to keep the good vibes going. In the end, it is what it is, and all we can do is try to adapt and figure out what the new normal is - not just for the dance music scene, but the whole world. We’re always looking into different ways of entertaining people, be it with exclusive mixes or live streams, or maybe something else that’s yet to pop up.
Have you been speaking to other artists across the world? Is there still a sense of community during this period of separation?
More than ever, there is a huge sense of community. A lot of people are at home and have more time to (re-)connect, we’re all actively seeking that human connection, trying to figure out what’s next, sharing our fears and doubts with each other, but at the same time, we try to stay positive too, as it’s the only way we’re going to be able to survive and thrive post-pandemic. We also see that the Black Lives Matter movement is bringing a lot of people together on- and offline, and it gives hope to see so many getting involved. It would be just if the relentless pressure brings accelerated positive change to our society, and hopefully, the momentum will be translated into real improvement and justice for all BIPOC lives and especially black trans lives, who are disproportionately affected by violence, racism, poverty, and injustice on a daily basis.
Have you been directing your time and energy towards any other causes, projects, or plans?
Absolutely, we’ve been going through older music, rediscovering, and unearthing countless amazing tunes, but honestly, it’s been bittersweet. It has left us wishing we could play these records out, lift people up, have a good time. Production-wise, even though we haven’t been able to create a lot of music since the pandemic hit, we were asked to do a remix of Dance System’s ‘Can’t Stop (Lovin U)’, which turned out to be pretty different from our usual bits. It was really fun to do and super rewarding to remix such a banging tune. We’ve also just released ‘101010101’ on Bandcamp, a track we produced in the summer of ‘19 which has been doing the rounds since, with Jamie Jones playing it for weeks in a row at Paradise/DC10. For more long term projects, later this year our Physique EP comes out on AEROBIK, that’s going to be a mad one too. Finally, we’re also working on a release for UKR, one of our favourite OG labels pushing out the most jackin’ techno trax since forever.
How do you think the dance music scene might change once lockdown is over?
It’s super hard to predict, but some things we discussed speaking with industry peers, is that safety is going to be a number one priority. Will clubs be able to guarantee everyone’s safety in a viable way? Which clubs will even survive? Do agents and promoters even want to make promises and sign contracts? Many clubs have already gone under or are on the verge of shutting down. We’ve been hearing that we might even get (small-scale) festivals back before clubs are able to operate fully. In terms of bookings, promoters operating in regional scenes might be more interested in booking artists (geographically) closer due to smaller budgets, but also to possibly avoid mandatory quarantines imposed by some countries. Who knows? Everything seems weird at the moment and sometimes it feels like common sense has been thrown out the window. We’ll just have to wait and see and stay alert to incoming signals.
What’s your dream for the best-case scenario?
That would 100% be more inclusive and varied line-ups with exponentially better representation for LGBTQ people and BIPOC, and a stronger focus on upcoming artists as opposed to the rinse-and-repeat line-ups that are still the norm today, globally. We hope people will assume responsibility and take ownership of their words and actions moving forward. The dance music scene has a lot of work to do, so take a stand for change, or be left behind. There is such a diverse group of people DJing, producing music, and working behind the scenes in the industry, yet somehow, we still don’t see it represented in the majority of media, labels, panels, line-ups, and for us artists, especially those ‘chosen’ by the gatekeepers to make it. Surely there is more we can do to level the playing field?
We liked the music on EI8HT from the very beginning, it’s different from the usual techno, so we always thought our music would fit there. We actually sent ‘Unfading’ to Truncate and he played it on his B2B with Eats Everything on BBC Radio 1. After the show, we got a message from Dan saying he loved the tune and wanted to hear more music, so we sent him some tracks and as they say, the rest is history. For this EP, we really wanted to keep it simple in terms of the number of elements used in each track, mainly for our own sanity, really. The tracks go harder than our previous tunes, with a really raw and dancefloor-ready feel. Each track has its own uniqueness and flavour, but they’re all tied together by the high energy levels and overall forward-pushing feeling. It’s always been important for us to showcase all the different shades of Black Girl / White Girl, and these tracks are a very accurate representation of where we’re at creatively. During lockdown, we sent a handful of DJs advance promos of the EP and got lovely feedback and support from Noncompliant, MATRiXXMAN, Parris Mitchell, Anja Schneider, Ben Sims, and later on from Josh Wink and Wehbba as well. Needless to say, we feel extremely blessed and grateful for the opportunity to release the tracks on Dan and Andres’ label.
You also released ‘Cinderella 99’ in March and ‘5XXXI’ in May. How does it feel to be releasing dance music during a time when all clubs are closed? Do you think it’s impacting the way the EPs are being/will be received?
Both those releases did pretty well considering, but the tunes definitely would’ve gotten more exposure if they'd been played in clubs. Releasing music during lockdown feels weird in the sense that it probably won’t have anywhere near the same impact, and then you think of all the time and effort spent on not just producing, but also promoting the music, it can leave you wanting more. Luckily, our music released during lockdown managed to reach the right ears: ‘Cinderella 99’ racked up a ton of streams and ‘5XXXI’ was selected as one of the best 12” dance singles on Bandcamp. Generally, we’re not on the receiving end of this type of praise, so the fact that it all happened during lockdown was pretty amazing to us.
How did you approach your mix and what inspired that decision?
During lockdown we finally found time to explore older records without having to rush it, so we started digging into disco, house, and soul records from the 60s until approximately the early 90s. Think Teddy Pendergrass, Larry Levan, Black Soul, Machine, Billy Nichols, Grace Jones, Patrick Cowley, Sylvester. It has now gotten to a point where we have enforced a strict soul-and-disco-only policy in the house during the morning! All jokes aside, our love for those sounds is never-ending and we owe a lot to this ground-breaking generation of artists. Soul and disco bring this passionate, expressive fierceness, and it just feels very soothing to let this music wash over you in a time where our whole lives are turned upside down, so you can definitely hear a lot of those vibes in the mix.
It was a beautiful experience to craft this ‘Lift Me Up’ mix with soul, disco, and house tracks mixed in with ballroom, a style of music we vibe to daily and feel deeply connected to. Obviously, our style on the decks is pretty heady and hard, especially compared to this mix, but our aim here is a different one. We want to lift people up, we want to remind them that good times will be back soon. It might take a while and that’s ok, we still have each other, and we can use this time to discover new things, even learn and study the stuff we previously couldn’t find the time to start doing, and who knows, maybe we can even make the world a better place in the process.
Patrick Cowley - Menergy
Lester Fitzpatrick & DJ Stretch - Boogie People
Two Tons O’ Fun - I Got The Feeling
Kano - I'm Ready
Love De Luxe - Here Comes That Sound Again (Parts 1 & 2)
G.Q. - Disco Nights (Rock Freak) (12" Disco Remix)
Skyy - Skyyzoo
E.G. Fullalove - Didn't I Know? (Divas To The Dancefloor...Please) (Cevin's Diva Mix)
MikeQ Ft. Madonna - Vogue 2012
Lil Louis & The World – I Called U (The Conversation)
Masarima - Freak Like U (Club Mix)
Sylvester - Dance (Disco Heat) (Louie Vega Re-Touch Main Mix)
Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Patrick Cowley Mega Mix)
Robbie Tronco - Runway (As A House)
GRRL - Drop Ha
Omar S - A Toast to Momma Rose [Vox]
MikeQ - The Master Blaster (Vjuan Allure Remix)
Chelley - Took The Night (Extended Mix)
Manhattan Transfer - Twilight Zone
'ELEV8' is out now, get it here
Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter
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