Makèz have come a long way since they first sneaked into Amsterdam’s studio 80 at the age of 17 to hand over their demos to Dam Swindle. Those demos led to their debut EP ‘Different planets’ on Heist in 2019 which gained major support from artists like Seth Troxler and Chez Damier. Quickly after, they signed two records on New York based label Let’s Play House. Fast forward two years, and here we are: the release of their debut album “City of all”.
“City of all” shows an admirable level of sophistication and matureness and effortlessly bridges genres across its 13 tracks. You can feel the amount of thought that has been put into this record, with songs happily blending into each other as Makèz submerge themselves in their concept of accidental encounters, inclusiveness and what it means to live in a city like Amsterdam. On “City of all”, Makèz bring together all the musical influences they’ve picked up in their life as music fans, clubbers and art
The jazz-funk of opening track “The entrance” feels breezy, casual almost, like the freeform rhythms that are played in a jazz club during soundcheck. That energy also oozes from “Not so different”, which features the smooth vocals of LYMA. There’s a hint of the house-meets-R’n B vibe that made Anderson .Paak the star that he is now. The song is brilliantly funky and shows the songwriting and arrangement talent of Makèz, who cleverly use pop & soul cues to create one of the album’s highlights.
What follows is 4 cuts ranging from the syncopated Balearic funk of “Orbit”, the strings of album title track “City of all”, the organ-led jam “Gonna getya” and the downbeat “Sonder”. Allysha Joy -best known for performing in Melbourne Hip Hop collective 30/70 – is featured on the deep and jazzy cut “Looking up”. If Makèz and Allysha are all looking up, it’s clear they’re seeing the same thing. These kindred spirits perfectly complement each other on this track, where the deep bass, warm harmonies and jazzy percussion prove to be a perfect foundation for Allysha’s rhymes.
Is it an album all about jazz and soulful tracks to listen to at home? Far from that. There’s a nice bit of dance floor-oriented tracks, where the distorted filter funk of “Roselane” featuring Fouk proves to be a highlight along with what is arguably the heaviest cut of the album: “Bent with funk”. In an EP context, these house tracks would surely do their work, but they really come to life in this album format. No
compromise has been made to storytelling and the house tracks all play their part while still standing their ground as powerful club tracks. It’s the expert production and smart arrangement that gives this album its casually funky feel. On “City of all”, Makèz showcase their remarkable talent for writing an album that goes to so many different places, but most of all, just really feels like home.
Thanks for talking to us you guys! You are a new name to our readers, please can take a moment to introduce yourselves?
Thank you so much for having us guys. We are Willem & Kees of electronic music duo Makèz. We’re two close friends who produce, play and perform jazz-injected dance music. We love to design records for the clubs, as well as to produce music to wonder off to on your own. So far, our discography is released on hometown label Heist Recordings and NYC’s Let’s Play House. After some EP’s we released our debut Album ‘City of All’ on Heist last year. We’re really happy to now be able to share this follow-up to the album, our Holy Sun EP.
Where are you from and where are you based today?
We grew up in Leiden (Willem) & Noordwijk (Kees) here in the Netherlands. After high school, we moved to Amsterdam to explore the city’s nightlife and study music production. We’re still located in the Dam, spending lots of time in our cozy studio full of synths, samplers & cables in Amsterdam-West.
How is the club and music scene in your city right now?
Vivid! There’s so much happening in our city. From club nights to a great number of festivals… It’s pretty overwhelming how many inspiring artists, venues and events Holland has to offer. Both inside- and outside of Amsterdam. There are lots of local talented artists, as well as bigger well-known names that love to be back here. We understand why, and our grateful to experience this.
How long have you been friends? How did you come together as Makèz?
We were introduced to each other by Willem’s brother 12 years ago, at a party where Willem was DJ’ing. We we’re 15 years old, and Willem played NY Stomp – The NY House Track. A bold track for a crowd that age, but Kees loved it. So we decided to jam together, in our bedrooms, what we called “our studio”. Fast forward a decade, and this jam is still going strong!
What are the characteristics of the sound of Makèz?
Soulful, electronic and joyful. Expect warm chords, which find their heritage in jazz music, loose rhythms sampled from old records and plenty of synthesizers. We have a strong love for both classic- house and hip-hop. Which is why we combine the sounds of today with vintage gear.
Who would you say are the artists from the past that have inspired the music that you make today?
Artists such as Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane & Gill Scott-Heron layed the foundation for the sounds that inspire us. Decades later, pioneers such as J Dilla, D’angelo , Nuyorican Soul, Moodymann, Kerri Chandler and Theo Parrish amongst others would all bring innovative new takes on jazz-oriented music. New forms of music technology were involved, and musical styles from around the globe were fused. We love the combination of sampling techniques, and live-music.
How did you get signed to Heist?
Back in 2018, we had been sending demos to Dam Swindle for quite a while. We didn’t get a response. Not long after that, we hosted our own parties in Amsterdam and booked them to play after us. Before they took over the decks, we played the demo of what would become ‘Different Planets’. This is the title track of our debut EP on Heist Recordings. The guys seemed to like the track, and we gave them a USB-stick with a couple of demos on it. Later that week we saw a video of them playing ‘Different Planets’ at Wildenburg Festival. We were thrilled!
Your new EP ‘Holy Sun’ kicks off with a nu jazz stunner of broken beat flavour. What can you tell us about this track and how it was made?
One day last summer, the temperature was too high to enter our studio… So we decide to take our gear, and started to jam on Willem’s rooftop. Not much later, we had the first version of the Holy Sun instrumental. Untitled back then, but the name turned out pretty accurate after producing music under those circumstances full of sunshine. Willem met Ava Lavá a couple of years ago and was blown away by her voice. This track seemed like the right moment to reach out to her, and collaborate. She wrote the lyrics, and really locked into the feeling of that one sunny day when we made the instrumental.
What can you tell us about Ava Lava? What has she done before?
Annebelle Valentina Angelique (Ava Lavá) is a talented singer and producer from Amsterdam. Born to a musical family, her roots come from eastern Europe, where her grandfather played jazz piano and stood for freedom during the communist era. She began playing the piano and singing at the age of 5. From the very beginning she had been exposed to music from all over the world. Ava Lavá stands for the process of transformation, the element of fire, music as healing, and the concept of Phoenix. Ava Lavá is currently working on her first full length EP, and finishing the Jazz conservatory in Amsterdam. Keep an eye out for her!
You got the remix heavies on board in Retromigration. How did you entice him onto the record?
Maarten of Dam Swindle brought up the idea to ask Retromigration for a remix. We’ve been loving what he has been producing. So it was an easy decision.
This release is for lovers of ….
Jazz, house and broken beats. This one is for the dancers, the clubbers, the heads, the dreamers and the lovers.
What does Makèz have in the pipeline?
We are currently finishing the first 2 EP’s for our own new label. Next to that, we’re working on an EP for Chez Damier’s label Balance, which has been most influential to us while growing up. Last but not least, we are working on our 2nd Makèz album, which will include some pretty exciting featuring artists. First things first, though! We got some nice DJ gigs coming up this summer, including the release party of our Holy Sun EP at Radio Radio on the 14th of July. We’re celebrating together with Heist & Steppin’ Into Tomorrow. Album collaborator Allysha Joy will be there to perform a live set. We’re stoked for this one, come and dance with us if you’re in town!