I sat down with Stefan and Olle of Dada Life in June to talk about their Hakkasan residency, their newest single, and what it takes to stand out at festivals like EDC in this day and age. The guys were a blast to talk to, and Hakkasan was exceptionally accommodating—in hindsight, I might be one of very few people who can say they wore shorts into the club—both for the interview and their set that night. This is what our happiest Swedish DJ duo has to say about production and the club life, so take notes:
If you were sitting across from a younger Stefan and Olle right now, what would you tell yourselves as you begin producing music and playing live?
Stefan: Eat less candy. I would say, ‘do what you did.’ When looking back, I’m like ‘damn, there are a lot of hours in there… sitting in the studio. Hours that you need.’ Now it’s like you become a Yoda—you hear something in your head and you do it. You know how to do it. You don’t have to experiment so much; you experiment to find out weird new stuff, you’re like ‘this is what I need to do to get this vibe.’
What was your breakthrough year?
Olle: We never think about music or our career in that way. We move forward by always thinking about the song we’re making right now or the one that’s being released; we’re looking forward all the time. Almost to a point where we forget about what happened yesterday. But, if you want one specific occasion that changed our career… it was the first track, because that’s what made us start working together.
What’s your favorite set you’ve ever played together?
Stefan: It’s similar to the tracks we produce—it’s always the latest one. Then you start thinking about the next one. But, personally I have one moment: when we played EDC Vegas last year on the main stage. You can see a bit from the stage—it’s a lot of people there. But then, two days later, when all the helicopter photos came out, and they said ‘this is during your set,’ you realize ‘this is so massive.’ I could see like a fifth of the whole thing. For me, that feeling is like, when they sent the picture, I said ‘no way.’ It’s like ‘yes way,’ this is it.
What are you most excited for in the next few months of your tour?
Olle: I’m always most excited about releasing more music. I’m really excited about “One Smile,” which is our next single; it’s so happy and I just think that everybody needs to be a little bit happier.
Tell us about the background of “One Smile.”
Olle: Have you seen the smile masks? It’s about that.
Stefan: It’s a song that started with the masks (and then came the song).
Olle: We will make you happy. And when you’re not happy, we gotta force you. And with the smile masks and the vibe, it’s real. Then we realize there’s a thing called smile-mask-syndrome. It’s a thing that people in department stores get—there’s the girl standing there selling perfume with a big smile, and then her muscles tighten up becoming a big smile… the problem for them is that they can’t turn it off, and apparently making a smile takes the same muscles as those that make you sad. But for us, we don’t have smile-mask-syndrome in Dada Land, just happiness.
What kind of advice would you hope to receive from yourselves ten years in the future?
Stefan: Eat less sugar.
Olle: We’re always thinking about the future, and not really thinking about the past, but you’re not thinking so much about the long term future as what’s happening right now and the song you’re working on right now, the tour you’re working on right now. You have to be in the moment in order to make it good. It’s impossible to plan things so far ahead; there are so many things that can happen. If a track is super good, you can still get unlucky when something is released, perhaps it didn’t pop the way it should, then ten years later the song could become big; there’s so much random stuff going on. For us, we just try to stay high-consistency with making music that we like.
Tell us more about the technical characteristics of your music now.
Stefan: One Smile is 126 bpm, to get technical—we dropped it because it felt that the track needed it.
Olle: But also, the big thing about that track that makes it a little different from other songs is that it’s really happy.
Stefan: It’s so happy.
Olle: You feel like you just want to grab ice creams and run out on the streets and throw them at people’s heads. That’s how happy it is. There’s not that much music out there right now—in dance music—that’s really happy. It can be powerful or melancholic and emotional, but not really happy. That’s been a thing for dance music when you look back in history. There’s been a lot of happy tracks, we just felt that we needed something really happy.
Stefan: With the technology now, and with so many producers, everything sounds… I wouldn’t say it sounds the same… but it’s harder to make a happy track than an aggressive one. But it’s hard to make an aggressive track, too, aside from that one-note easy producing kind of way that other people do. Then I think, compared to that, it’s like happy track is a bit harder.
Olle: Not for us, though!
How can new producers stand out nowadays?
Stefan: Stick to making music that you like. That’s the best way to go in long-run, instead of making music that they think other people will like. If they just tutor themselves, they can listen to their own tracks and be happy, that’s it.
Let’s talk about Hakkasan. Tell us what to expect from your residency there.
Stefan: For us, Hakkasan is amazing. It’s a proper environment for Dada Land, and also for us to come back as often as we do. For us, it’s not getting boring at all—it’s just amazing, because we see it grow every time. There’s so much stuff happening. And also for the venue being…
Olle: …the perfect sized club. We’ve been playing a lot of bigger ones, and we’ve played a lot of smaller ones, too. This size for the club is the perfect size; you can see everybody clearly. It doesn’t get too big.
Stefan: People that come to Hakkasan embrace the Dada Land vibe from the beginning. They come there to have fun. It’s still an upscale club, I’m not sure how much the club costs, it must be insane, but that’s the beauty of it. When we come, and people come over to have fun, it’s so good to see. We get energy from it. Sometimes when we play similar clubs in other cities or other countries, people there are just stiff. They sit and drink their champagne.
Olle: I’m still surprised they let us in here every time. Knowing what we’re supposed to do every night.
Stefan: And that’s why we love it here. And for us, it’s also a good platform since we come back as often as we do. We can try new stuff. They’re so open to it. We’re always having the conversation ‘what can we try?’ We’ll try it here first, then we’ll take it on the road.