Joyhauser: Belgian techno breaking through at record speed

Pictures by Robin Kemizz Goossens

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On Saturday August 24, Joyhauser will play an exclusive 12-hour DJ-set on the beach of Recreatiedomein De Ster in Sint-Niklaas. That’s actually quite remarkable for a local DJ act. The Limburg-born duo of Joris Cielen and Stijn Vanspauwen has been waiting patiently for their moment of glory. Finally, it seems that their moment has come. 2018 was as big of a breakthrough year as you could possibly wish for: going from dropping a debut EP to touring South America in the space of months is a pretty phenomenal feat. In anticipation of next week’s marathon showcase, we pinned Joris and Stijn down for a quick update on everything Joyhauser.

What advantages does working in a duo have over working solo?

There are loads of advantages, you literally have more hands to work with. Nowadays, good DJ-sets are not enough to break through on a higher level. Great set of producer skills and the ability to create and maintain a strong image have become just as important. We are lucky the two of us are very complimentary in that regard. Furthermore, we have a lot of fun together; at home, in the studio, during our time off, but most importantly when we’re on the road together. You often hear about DJ’s that deal with loneliness and depression; our friendship works as a remedy against that. We’re convinced we would never stand where we are today if we worked on our own.

When did your careers really lift off?

From 2018 onwards, our careers really started to grow rapidly because of many different reasons. First of all, that's when we started coming out with our own productions, the result of years of work in the studio. Amelie Lens really gave us a strong push upwards when she started playing our track Galaxy Phase in her DJ-sets. Not much later we released our C166W EP on Monika Kruse’s Terminal M record label. That gave us an international boost. Other than that, we got picked up by Ugur Akkus (manager at Labyrinth Club and Extrema Outdoor Belgium, ed.) who added us to his Labyrinth Agency. He really believed in us, so he gave us a platform on which we could build our national and international careers. Lastly, getting a load of big festival bookings last year further propelled us forward.

You recently quit your day jobs to focus on your career. How does that feel?

It finally feels incredibly liberating. The weekly workload was getting really heavy and this was beginning to take its toll. For a long time, we tried to combine both sides of our lives but at a certain point you need to take a leap of faith. At the moment, we have a lot more time to allow ourselves to grow as artists. We have fixed meetings every week and when we hit the studio we’re a lot more productive. In the past, the only moment we could really work in the studio was on Sunday evening, usually after a full weekend of gigs. We would arrive at work the next morning with barely any sleep. This had a negative impact on our creativity and energy. Hard times.

For a long time we tried to combine our fulltime jobs and music careers, but at a certain point you need to take a leap of faith.

So at which point should an artist decide to quit his/her job in order to focus on music?

That’s not an easy decision. You need to estimate the right timing for yourself – and that timing is different for everybody. There are so many things you need to take into account. Money has never been our motivation, but the reality is that splitting everything 50/50 doesn’t make it easy to support two households. Last year we decided to go all in and give everything we had to make it. Luckily, it lead to the situation we’re in right now and we haven’t regretted this one bit.

Belgium seems to be doing pretty well when it comes to techno: Amelie and Charlotte are currently peaking high on the world stage and a handful of others (like yourselves) are gaining more traction every day. What is it that makes Belgium unique according to you?

Belgium has always had a strong image when it comes to electronic music and nightlife. The Sound Of Belgium (the 2012 documentary by Jozef Devillé, ed.) illustrates that beautifully. It’s crazy to see how Belgium played a leading role back in the early days of raving. Sadly, a lot of discotheques from that era have closed down, but the seeds had been planted. Charlotte De Witte and Amelie Lens are two of the best examples of that. Their impressive achievements have put our country back on the map, giving both the younger and older generations something to be proud of. Whenever we’re abroad people tell us “Belgium is doing great” or “there is a Belgian sound you can find throughout the music of all of you”. I think we can all be grateful to them for that. I’m sure a lot more talent will follow in their footsteps. 

How does the Belgian crowd compare to crowds elsewhere?

Belgium is and always will be our home; so that’s something special, you know. People here are the reason we grew into what we are now, so they are part of our success. It’s not something we forget, so it’s always a special moment when we play in front of a home crowd. There’s just a lot more emotion involved.

You have been playing music across the globe: what surprised you the most about the tour life?

We recently finished our first South-America tour. It surprised us how well people already knew us. Both our headline shows in Colombia and Uruguay sold out and many people wanted to get a picture with us. Walking through the crowd over there proved a lot harder than doing the same thing in Belgium. Whenever we played a production of our own during our DJ-set, people recognized it and starting screaming. This proves how important social media and streaming services are when you want to develop your sound globally.

It doesn’t feel right to go straight from one gig to the next. We value our time with fans, so we always try to show our appreciation to them and the promoters that booked us.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give anyone that travels as much as you do?

Not to drink alcohol on tour and to get to bed early after each gig! A piece of advice we don’t always follow ourselves (laughs). As true beer lovers we just can’t help it! We do like to party from time to time. Although usually, we have good intentions in the beginning of the weekend. There’s so much more to being a DJ than just playing your set. For us, it doesn’t feel right to go straight from one gig to the next. We value our time with fans, so we always try to show our appreciation to them and the promoters that booked us.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you in general?

Make sure you have a plan, have patience and believe in yourself. We see a lot of enthusiastic young producers and DJ’s that are so eager to make it like Amelie Lens of Charlotte De Witte did. It’s not that easy. You really have to give yourself a lot of time to develop yourself as an artist and as a DJ. The former has become even more important nowadays; you may be a great DJ, but you need to be great producer too if you want to break through internationally. Similarly, great producers aren’t always the best DJ’s, even though that’s what people expect when they come to see you play. When you can’t deliver on these kinds of moments, you can find yourself in a dead end.

Another important thing is the need to build your fanbase. In the end, fans are what you build your career on. From the beginning we have always been focused on getting a good reputation in Belgium. Behind the scenes, we were spending all our free time in the studio, waiting years before we even sent our first tracks to record labels. That patience paid off, because quality trumps quantity. Once you have a plan, you got to try and stick to it. After the success of our Galaxy Phase release, many record labels and artists came knocking on our door for new tracks and remixes. At that point you have to stay sober and think ‘which labels are right for me?’ and ‘where do I want to go with this'? Credibility and identity are crucial.

You guys are set to do an all-day-long open air party in Sint-Niklaas next week: a 12-hour marathon. How do you prepare for a set like that?

We will dig very deep in our crates to prepare for this set. We’ve been following the techno scene since we were 16 years old, so we’ll make sure to take our audience on a trip through older and newer music. Many of our fans are younger than we are, so it’s a lot of fun to see them getting blown away by classics while others get nostalgic. That’s a challenge we really want to take on. It will be a trip down memory lane, although I’m sure that even 12 hours aren’t enough to play all the music we want (laughs).

Any other projects in the pipeline we should know about?

Musically speaking, we’ve made a remix for 2 Belgian guys that will come out in September (more on that soon). We’re super happy to drop our second EP on Terminal M somewhere in October/November, because reactions upon playing some of the tracks out in our DJ-sets have been amazing. Of course there’s more in the pipeline, but unfortunately we can’t share everything just yet!

When it comes to gigs, many things are about to happen. Our schedules are filled out well until the next summer, so we don’t really know what’s happening to us! The past year we’ve been getting some attention from countries close by, like Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, but by now people are reaching out from further beyond. We are planning tours in North America, Asia and even Australia. Lastly, we received a confirmation that our absolute dream gig will happen! More news on that later! The future is looking brighter than ever.