Star Apps: Kraak & Smaak

The Dutch DJ trio chats about its new, college-chart-topping album "Chrome Waves," SXSW appearances, DJ software, and favorite mobile apps.

Dutch DJ trio Kraak & Smaak are best known in the US for singles like 2008's "Squeeze Me" and 2010's "Dynamite." A soulful house track, "The Future Is Yours," leads off "Chrome Waves" (perhaps my favorite party album of 2013) and has already topped US college radio charts. Kraak & Smaak returned to SXSW this week for three shows.

Kraak & Smaak

Kraak & Smaak, riding the Chrome Waves of success.

(Credit: Krijn Van Noordwijk)

Are you excited to return to SXSW? What will you be doing there?
It's great to be back again. We missed the US a lot! We will do three showcases on Tuesday and Wednesday with our full live band. And a lot of talking and hand shaking, hopefully.

How would you describe a Kraak & Smaak performance?
The live band is very dynamic in terms of songs and dance tracks, ranging from downtempo to club. For SXSW, however, we have prepared a more uptempo set, especially because the set times don't amount to very much -- max 45 minutes. Moreover, we have two vocalists (one male, one female) on stage, one after the other, and with their own K&S songs in the set. So there's a lot happening on stage visually as well. Sound-wise it's a blend between analog instruments and our studio sound, as we don't want to sound like a regular live band or a fully electronic one.

Within the DJ set, we have always been quite eclectic on our styles, but lately the emphasis has been more on deep house and nu disco -- apart from our own stuff, of course.

What software do you use for DJing and performances?
For DJing only we use Pioneer CDJ2000s, but the live band setup (six people in all on stage) consists of various synths and keys, bass guitar, and analog drums, as well as triggers and a Roland SPD. Plus a minimal backing track on a laptop (running on Steinberg Cubase) and additional flavoring through loose samples and sounds through CDJ1000mk3s (these are just a little faster than the newer ones, which is helpful when skipping through samples and sounds and using them), and a good old Kaoss Pad 2.

For promo DJ mixes and radio mixtapes we use Ableton Live, a perfect program for quickly trying out tracks, mixing, looping, etc.

Please describe each member in one word. What does each bring to Kraak & Smaak?
At the core we are three, and although "three is a crowd" is sometimes correct, we have managed to divide most of our activities up in such a way that we individually do the things we are most good at. But apart from that, all three of us often still own opinions on all matters K&S, so there is always a lot of discussion and feedback, too, on our productions, live band, DJ sets, whatever. It does work, though!

Kraak & Smaak

Cracked but never broken: Kraak & Smaak's bond is unbreakable.

(Credit: Krijn Van Noordwijk)

Are you hands-on with recording software? What do you use?
We have always used and stuck to Steinberg Cubase in the studio. We started out with an Atari version early '00s -- with those little bombs if the program crashed -- but now one of the latest versions. Apart from that we always use Universal Audio plug-ins and their Apollo audio interface. We moved up the ladder!

Your music is so soulful. How did your love affair with soul music start?
I guess we just like it that way. Music always needs to have soul, whatever style, right?

"Squeeze Me" really blew up in the US when it was in a car commercial. What can you tell us about the writing and recording of that song?
We don't explicitly try to write hit songs, but this one just seemed to turn out that way. We had a couple of good instrumental samples and stumbled upon this vocal one; sometimes you just have to skip through lots of old vinyl records and hope for the best. So the instrumental was there already, quite soon. But we couldn't find the right vocalist for it, as it had the potential of a really great pop song, and we knew we nailed that one. We tried out a vocal line we had lying around, but it didn't work out; it just didn't fit well enough. Then we got the idea to ask Ben Wetbeech to have a go, and it was an immediate bingo. Together with the video it kicked up the track to a fairly higher level than we could imagine, at first. In the end we actually used that other vocal line for another track off that album, "Bobby & Whitney."

Check out Kraak & Smaak's "Squeeze Me" video:
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What is the meaning behind the "Chrome Waves" title?
There is no big meaning behind that. It just sounded cool and seemed to fit the album's music.

You have a song called "The Future Is Yours." What software invention would make your professional lives easier in the future?
Automatically generated phatness.

View the official promo for "The Future Is Yours":
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What are your top five mobile apps?
1. Shazam is perfect for sneakily finding out what great track that was.
2. XnView Fx has more possibilities than Instagram.
3. SoundCloud is a great app to check out our own streams and for an instant listen to new stuff.
4. Talking Ginger is a toothbrush program that works great for little children.
5. WeTransfer was already our regular favorite upload and download program, but it's very helpful that it's now available as a proper app, too.

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