Get Familiar: PLAZA
Artwork by Thijs Jaeger & Valentina Gal,
Concept Joeri Woudstra, Sandor Dayala & Thijs Jaeger
As a small, independent brand, almost all our business is based on personal relationships. For a long time, Sandor Dayala has rolled with us and after the pandemic hit, he stepped out of Amsterdam back to his home city of The Hague. It was there that PLAZA was born and as they embark on their inaugural effort this Friday at Garage Noord, we caught up with the team behind Plaza to find out what's been keeping them busy and what they have coming for us.
What have you been up to, it's been a minute?
Yeah it's been a while! Always a pleasure talking with you guys. Ahhh man, there has happened so much in these past months. 2020 has been the craziest year ever for me. I was living in Amsterdam last year, and I was busy with my life as a DJ. I was already booked at several big festivals that summer, and I really felt this was going to be an important year, career wise, for me. That indeed turned out to be the case - but not in the way I'd expected. Because of the COVID situation I was forced to go back to live with my parents in The Hague again. I'm always working on projects to keep myself motivated, so when I came back to my hometown I wanted to make a new mixtape. Because I wasn't DJing anymore, except for a couple of streams, I also started to focus on producing and singing again. During this period I was only seeing my closest friends, who also DJ and make music themselves. While the lockdown continued, there were more and more moments when we dived in the studio together. Organically, everyone produced, gathered and exchanged music. I was really blown away by the talent of all of those young musicians, all of them were making such beautiful tracks. So I decided to make a mix that consisted solely out of unreleased music from the people close to me. Soon all the others started contributing to the process. We called it 'Vibes Plaza'. The mix would become a musical painting of what was going on in The Hague at that time and would also act as a boost for the careers of each individual in the group. During the lockdown we all went through a couple of changes & new experiences. The clubs were closed and the context was hard to find. This caused a kind of acceleration in the (bedroom-) production of tracks. The music that was made would probably be released much later or would've been never released at all. The threshold of releasing music and presenting ourselves to the outside world had to be removed, and Vibes Plaza was a perfect start for that. In the end, next to the Vibes Plaza mix, the idea for Plaza was born, an embodiment of connection (in times of disconnection).
Can you tell me some more about Plaza?
Plaza comes from the urge to make our voices be heard, to add something to the (musical) face of The Hague and simply because we as close friends wanted to build something in this strange period. We are proud of our city but are on the other hand kind of dissatisfied about the fact that some cultural opportunities are used in the wrong way (in our perspective) or even left unused. In the future we want to create a (fictitious) place where we can release our own music, organise events and support other new talents. What started as the need for an outlet for ourselves is slowly growing into something potentially bigger. Of course we want to commit ourselves to help the city grow, but we don't want to limit ourselves to The Hague only. That's why I wanted to work with platforms like Patta (family things), Garage Noord & Dekmantel. Because in our eyes it's all about collaboration & friendship. The first mix symbolizes this collaboration. What I really want to make clear is: I DON'T want to call it a platform or creative space, we are just a group of friends where all the members have undergone their own personal growth (which is expressed in the mix). We just happened to find each other in music and other interests. Vibes Plaza is therefore not a project of one person, but has grown into a creative conversation between several friends. The lockdown has, as it were, forced us to look further and create something ourselves.
So what is it about Den Haag that inspires creativity?
The influence of the city is very large. Musically, The Hague is not as big as Rotterdam or Amsterdam. In recent years, opportunities and places have been scarce. Because of this lack of representation, recognition and simply a place, Vibes Plaza was something that felt needed. We are very proud of our city and we believe that there is a lot of talent and creativity in it. It's time to take this to the outside world. Of course different platforms such as recordstore '3345', PIP & Hoop have been an inspiration for us and have pushed us through the years. We (Eddy Rakovic, Willem Feltzer, James King, Thomas Riguelle, Thomas van der Putten & myself) have met each other in different ways, at different periods of our lives. Some of us have known each other since childhood, others have just met. But in each meeting, music has been the unifying factor for our friendship. We're all very different but all have a common sense of connection because we accept each other. The great thing about our group (also outside Plaza) is that everyone is very different (in every aspect: culture, interests, origin etc.), but still can be themselves and that is something quite unique that we are proud of. We love our city.
We have seen other collectives coming out of Den Haag, do you believe that there is an added bonus to taking on creative projects but not being alone?
The way I see it is that you can never accomplish something big by yourself. Every platform, brand, group, accomplishment or success comes out of collaboration. Everyone at Plaza has their own unique strengths and we all make different music. All those influences and forces come together on this project. There must be a balance between cooperation and individuality. You don't have to do everything together, but you don't have to do everything alone. For example, I took the initiative to make this mix and build something, but without the help, ideas and beautiful music of all the others, this project would've never existed. Me and the others have learned to give everyone the space to do what they do best. We are a group of friends and therefore there is room to criticize each other. This has of course caused the necessary tensions from time to time, but in the end that's also what brought us closer together and made Vibes Plaza what it is right now. It comes down to a basis of trust, in others but also in myself. I know what my role is in the process and I know what my abilities are. The lockdown has strengthened this, there was more focus and I've had more time to evaluate my own process. I'm much more self-confident than I was last year.
As a DJ yourself, what is the difference between that and this project?
Normally I play music from others and select tracks based on my own taste and what's working in the club at the time. Now the focus was not only on myself, but I had to select the tracks together with others. Together with my friend Seedless (Willem) we've spent days in studios and listened to the music of all 6 artists. It was a real learning process for us, we learned to listen more to others. What does the producer want in contrast to what we think of it and how does this track come into its own in the entire project. There were many choices and it was a difficult task to decide which track to use and which not. We wanted to make sure everyone's sound was represented as good as possible and that everyone felt heard on this project. I'm very proud of everyone and also of myself.
Last time I saw you, you were dropping Paleman cuts in Skatecafe. What has changed in your sound during this transitional period?
Bro my sound is constantly changing hahaha, sometimes it's even confusing for myself. It's really fluid. When I was playing at Skatecafe (February 2020) I was playing so many different vibes. Headie One tracks next to a Paleman classic, Vybz Kartel after a soul sample from a Project Pat song. I was already trying to combine a lot of genres but man this year has been such a big evolution for me. Because of COVID I went back to basics. I started listening to music more focused and longer. Before that I was consciously and unconsciously always looking for music that suited my DJ sound and that was mainly hip-hop. Now there was more time to ask myself: what do I wanna do? I really started opening up in a new way. I (re)discovered a lot of pop music, I naturally started looking for more ambient and listening music and I took more time for albums. All my friends from Plaza inspirate me so much because they all have such crazy knowledge about music and we definitely enlighten each other. Our collective idea about authenticity in music is very strong: We want to play everything. There are a lot of stigmas and assumptions that you can't play certain types of music in specific clubs. Fuck that shit. If someone is really feeling a track he should definitely play that. 99% of the time the feeling of the crowd will be mutual. That's what I like about PC music and Charli XCX in particular. Like what the fuck is that music anyway, it's so eclectic, i LOVE it. We want to be eclectic in the true meaning of the word, we will play what we like without hesitation or insecurity. When you listen to a song you will get a feeling, that first 5 second feeling. After that a lot of filters will pop up in your head: what is the context, does it work in a club, what's the opinion of others etc. I try to ignore those filters, and go back to that intuitive gut feeling when I decide if I like something or not. The only genre I don't wanna hear in the club anymore is disco music hahaha. Now you can expect anything from me when the clubs open again. If you come to me you'll dance and connect no matter which corner of my selection I'm going to let you hear, and that also applies to the others on Vibes Plaza.
So now you guys are ready to release a mixtape, what can we expect from this record?
Our first installment is the 'Vibes Plaza Mix'. As I previously said it's a mix that consists exclusively of unreleased music made in the past COVID year (except for one track from James King). Because all members of the group come from a different musical background, the mix is very varied. Influences from ambient, club music, hip-hop & drill, pop, rock and house can all be heard in the more than one hour long tape. The goal of the mix is to shine light on the various sides of the artists and to show a still undiscovered sound from The Hague. The mix is like a musical collage of what happened in the city during the lockdown. Like the tape, the cover art is a collaboration between friends. The Hague based artist Thijs Jaeger has created a clay sculpture inspired by the Plaza logo, which in turn is created by artist & friend Joeri Woudstra. Last but not least artist Valentina Gal has given the figures a plush cuddly look, to make them look like little cute monsters. These, too, are all people who have joined the process quite naturally. As a result, the mix and everything around it came about very organically. The mix embodies the starting point of a group of friends with big dreams and above all, a need for a voice.
When I spoke to you a few days ago we had conversations about all the genres in this mix, with such a diverse palate of sounds, how do you make the conversation between the flavours?
Each track feels special and complements the other seamlessly. The music fits together because we were (and are) so connected as friends during this period. I don't totally understand why, but all the songs have the same energy around them, whether it's Eddy's beautiful piece 'Crypt1' or Seedless his club banger 'Lyves' all the tracks have the same kind of 'vibe' (haha) to them. It also works because this is really what we do: taking influences from music we like and this is what comes out. We use a lot of colours in our musical painting and they go very well together. So after selecting and listening to all the tracks, putting them in the right order wasn't that hard at all. I don't wanna sound too spiritual, but the mix really made itself in a way.
So you guys are playing on the last night before clubs reopen in the Netherlands for your project that was almost spawned out of the lack of night culture, what can we expect from you & from Plaza after this friday?
Yes that's right! We're having a release party at Garage Noord with all of our friends. Everyone from the Plaza crew will be playing at that event, except for Thomas Riguelle who is currently in Paris (we miss you Thomas). With everything going back to 'normal' again, I'm ready to pick up my DJ career where I left it. But besides playing in the clubs again I want to release my own music. With Plaza we want to involve more people in the process and come up with new projects, organise club nights & workshops, release music individually, perform as a dj-team and help to make nightlife much more interesting. We are relatively young and playful, but we have a serious vision for the future. A fresh youthful approach, but always with respect for the generations that came before us. Lastly, I would like to thank Vic Crezée (& Patta) for all the advice, help and time he has given everyone during this process. He was the one who gave us the extra push to take this project to the next level.