“Can artistic merits still speak for themselves in the age of social media-driven superficiality?”
Township Rebellion holds the answer. True to the “Rebellion” in their name, the duo has maintained a staunchly enigmatic persona through their eight year career—letting their entrancing and delectable club cuts speak for themselves and refusing interviews until this year. This notorious mysteriousness stimulated a rabid and widespread attraction akin to the obsession you get when chasing after a hard-to-get love interest.
In 2020, Township Rebellion’s sensuous appeal has reached fever pitch. RÜFÜS DU SOL signed them t0 Rose Avenue after their impressive Burning Man set last year, which resulted in an EP this August. New York Times journalist Ian Urbina also tapped them to forge a sonic counterpart to his coverage on Interpol’s most wanted poaching ship. Continuing on the brilliance, their latest single “Mosaik” transports its listeners to a world shrouded in shadowy progressions, subtle vocal accents, and throbbing kicks that come together in a haunting embrace. It’s these sonics, paired with their ethos, that have aided in building the duo’s cult like following through the years.
The German producers enamored the underground as early adopters of the then-fledgling “melodic techno”—a subgenre which has since blossomed into one of the most popular in dance music. It wouldn’t take long for Oliver Koletzki to bring them into the Stil Vor Talent fold, beginning a fruitful bond with the label institution that helped skyrocket them to superstardom.
We were able to coax them out of their shell for a rare chat on their career, philosophy, and defying the status quo.
How have your backgrounds influenced your sound? What about your hometown?
We both grew up in families with a musical background. That probably helped the both of us. We live in a rather small City in Germany. If we have to name an influence it was more the ‘Technocenters’ like Berlin or Cologne that are also a big influence for the whole scene.
In what ways have you "rebelled" or pushed back against the status quo of the industry, and how has this benefitted your career in the long haul?
That's a complex question, but in general we can probably narrow it down to one thing: avoid fear of missing out. It's hard to do, but that's something we found to be very helpful to follow your own path. No matter if you’re just starting out or far ahead, the world always has a lot of things to tell you to do, to follow etc. to gain success. But how can you create something new if you’re just following a path everyone goes? It's also better to stay sane that way, as the music Industry can be quite demanding sometimes on mental health. We decided to do all of this because we wanted to; even without the success we would still be making music.
You guys are known to have helped melodic techno reach the heights that it has in today's underground; do you think you'll continue creating this type of music forever? Or evolve with the times as new genres and flavors come into prominence?
Our style of music has been given different names a lot over the years (at least in the stores). We just make the music we love to make. And at least in our opinion, it's already always evolving. Following trends etc. is not a good way to create new authentic things. That approach only works if you want more variations of the same to choose from. And it doesn’t age really well. It's probably a natural process that the “underground” is getting more “mainstream.” But to be honest, we don’t like that it's seen that way. Good music is good music, no matter if it's popular or only known within a certain scene.
What do you do to resist trends and "copycatting" in musicmaking?
You have to be aware that everything is always inspired by something. It's a complex topic. To answer your question in our context: it's not really something we do or had as a topic within the team. Like we mentioned before, avoiding fear of missing out is key to creating authentic art in our opinion.
Where do you see yourselves as artists in the next five years? What are some of the most important goals to you that you wish to accomplish?
We are the happiest when people listen to our music. So we are always happy to share our music in places where people probably haven’t heard us before.
You've become big names in the Burning Man sphere. What makes the event special to you, and how does your artistic ethos fit in with Burning Man? How does this compare with other places you frequently play in?
Burning Man is one of the few things that deserve a category on its own. It's all about the culture and living a utopia that's difficult to do in ‘real life’. You can't really compare it to regular gigs—firstly because it's not a gig, but also because music is just a part of the whole thing to create the magic of thousands of interesting and artful people in a desert.
On this note, it feels like Burning Man and other "transformational festivals" are generally more of a USA type of trend. Do you ever see this growing in Europe? Why or why not?
We don’t know if Burning Man can be considered a trend. Hasn’t it already been there for over 30+ years? In our opinion the trend towards a more well balanced and wholesome lifestyle is probably more a sign of people getting tired of the never-ending loop of the fairy tale of endlessly growing capitalism. The topics in it aren’t really new. Things like meditation are part of human history. The direction in general is also something we see more and more in Europe. But it really depends on the country. We think it's a good thing that people are finding their way back to these topics. Especially if it brings people peacefully closer together in their mindset.
Why/how is secrecy around yourselves and your craft such a key ingredient to your success as artists? Do you think this is a practice that more artists should adopt? Why or why not?
Our focus is the music. We are aware that we as persons are part of the cosmos. But we don’t want to be the center of attention. First because we believe that music is there to be claimed by the listeners as their own. Hopefully our Music is a place for people to attach their own emotions to it. But we are also not the biggest fans of social media to be honest. Art that speaks for itself is more powerful in our opinion.
Visuals are often a big component of your live sets. Describe the importance of audio/visual synergy in your performance.
Light is essential for gigs and extremely important in our opinion. Being in a dark club with the exact right amount of light fitting with the music played is just magical and key to create an unforgettable experience. It's sort of creating a mood foundation for everyone to be in.
Can you talk more about your EP '2020' and your upcoming single, 'Mosaik?' Is there any life significance to these creations? What is the meaning or message you are conveying in the EP and the single?
We are super excited about the great feedback we got for our ‘2020’ EP we released on Rose Avenue Records. All of us are big fans of RÜFUS DU SOL and we couldn’t be more proud & honored to be part of their label now. It was so crazy to learn that they were part of the crowd at our Burning Man debut. We got in touch through social media afterwards, which led to our EP. We have chosen the title because it marks an extraordinary year for all of us, in the negative as in the positive. Now we didn’t want to stop and teamed up with our friends at the Desert Hearts Black Crew for our last release of the year. This time we tried to do something different with a single and some amazing remixes. We can't wait for you to hear them!
Creatives have reacted in polar ways to the pandemic, with some feeling less creative due to the circumstances, and some thriving. How has the pandemic affected your creativity as individuals and as a group? What about your ability to collaborate?
It's a super weird emotional rollercoaster…we were just a few days ahead of starting our first big US Tour when Covid hit. Then everything else started to get canceled for this year. It's tough, but we see what we do as a privilege that we shouldn’t take for granted. We try to deal with it the best we can. It really helps that we are together in this and support each other within our team. We also decided that we still want to release our music, despite not being able to play it / have it played at gigs. That way we hope to provide a few of those precious moments to escape all of this through music. Collaboration hasn’t really been an issue. But all communication is slowed down a lot and is sometimes not that easy to do like before. We can only recommend staying patient and taking care of each other. We are sure that we will get through this and look forward to dancing again with everyone.
Is there anything else in your pipeline that you can share with us?
Can't really share it yet. But we are already working hard for some of our new releases in 2021! Hopefully we will also be able to play some gigs that had to be postponed.