IN CONVERSATION WITH PARALLELLS
Hailing from Southern France and growing up in The Netherlands, Parallells is a musical duo sculpting their sonar authenticity by focusing on organic recording, world music, and performing with bands around the globe. Based in the dutch capital, Julien & Thomas De Bie are the owners of Klassified Music and studios. Both are multi-instrumentalists and electronic music composers, constantly on the fly searching for new exotic sounds to incorporate both in their live performances and their movies. Far away from typical, Parallells is actively involved in projects regarding sustainability and creating eco-friendly merchandise for the audience, from vinyl records, notebooks, earplugs, etc., raising awareness about consumption and making a change in the dance music scene. Their latest album, ” A Day At,” came out in November, a project compiled with numerous sounds taken from different everyday scenarios: kitchen, grocery store, airport,carpenter, wood factory, atelier, green house, ski station. They’re currently on tour to work on their next big project, “A Day In,” where they will be shooting live videos with local talents in every location they go. Make sure to follow their journey and check their breathtaking videos available on their Youtube Channel and socials.
- A french/dutch duo and brothers who grew up influenced by jazz and classical music, you’re now carving an extremely diverse and experimental way of making music. You both are multi-instrumentalists and performers who showcased your talent in massive festivals like DGTL, Burning Man, The Monastery, Fusion, SXM, Caprices, and many more. How did it all start for you and what made you want to embark on this journey?
Thomas: I think it all started from growing up in a very musical family. Our dad listened to jazz from morning till night, so we were waking up and swimming into music from a very young age. Then, they sent us to a Musical Academy, learning the theory and playing an instrument. You know, it shaped our musical direction. We had a couple of bands when we were kids and also played together. Then, I bought myself two vinyl-players when I was 14, and learned how to scratch and beat-juggle hip-hop music. Julien was, on his side, playing electronic music in high school. The move to the Netherlands has played a big part because we got introduced to underground music here, where we found ourselves fully.
Julien: It is true, we were jamming a lot together and with other friends when we were young. Then when we went studying in Holland, we took a break from music or performing with bands. I didn’t even bring my instruments to uni, so it created a gap where instruments were put aside and was replaced by electronic music. Same for Thomas.
To be honest, our shared love for electronic music got us back together, and since we know how to play some instruments, we asked ourselves why we didn’t add it on top. Just like that, the instruments came back. And then, we created Parallells. That was in 2015.
Julien: I played and organized underground music events in Den Haag, and Thomas was already composing electronic music. We were both already very interested. Thomas had just finished his master’s degree, and I finished my master in Music management, I knew I wanted to go into electronic music. I had a vision of both of us joining forces to share our music with the world as Parallells, and bringing Klassified to the next level as an event and music company. Thomas needed to make a choice of life at that time and decided to go on a trip to Iceland, to clear his mind. When he came back, he agreed and we started this venture together fully!
Thomas: I could’ve worked in many places, as I bear a very entrepreneurial mindset, but in the end, I asked myself a simple question : “Wouldn’t a life filled with festivities, music and euphoria be a life worth living?” And I came to the conclusion that yes, this is the path I want to carve for myself together with my brother. And here we are indeed!
- A Day At is a concept that started in 2017 when you were helping your uncle in his leather factory. You’ve compiled over 200 sounds and melodies recorded in many different scenarios: a ski station, airport, a grocery store, and many other surroundings. There are Youtube videos of you both recording the environment and jam with what you recorded. To complete this album you also teamed up with conservatorium musicians Nicolo Ricci on sax tenor, Alessandro Mazzieri bass, and Simon Cesarini on guitar. Tell us about the overall creative process of this album and creating a whole band ?
Thomas: The creative process started from sound recording. One day we decided to film all the processes and posted the videos on YouTube. Reaction went crazy. I mean, in the beginning, we didn’t even think of making an album, we just wanted to make music with everyday sounds that would characterize our day. So it started at our uncle’s leather factory, then it went into our father’s greenhouse, then our friend’s supermarket in Nice. The creative process is relatively easy because it always has this story behind every sound when you capture them. Each sound has visuals in our memory: Julien cutting leather with scissors, chopping carrots, etc. I think having these images in mind makes it very easy to compose music. And recently, we took over everything again and said, ” Okay, let’s make something proper.”
Julien: And then we said, okay, if we want to make an album, we have to make a more extended version and find new paths. So by re-opening all the projects, we came up with new ideas, new lyrics, new melodies. In the end, all the tracks had the same rhythmical foundations, but the melodies were slightly different. After this, we went back to the studio and started to play more with musicians from the Conservatorium. Niccolo is my mentor as a saxophonist. He’s often coming to play and shares his knowledge with me. Simone is a friend of Thomas that he saw play guitar a lot in the jazz clubs of Rotterdam. And Alessandro is such a genuine person that has helped us in so many ways in terms of mixing and mastering, and he replayed all the bass we wrote. To be honest, there’s nothing better than the natural feel of a real bass.
Thomas: Plus we had so much fun, recording and jamming together. Italian banditi in the studio haha
Julien: In the end, working with them every day for a few months, we had the idea of the band, which came naturally. We took it very seriously and made it.
- In addition to your A Day At series, you also shared a video where you travel the world and perform with local musicians. How is it to connect and improvise with artists from around the world?
Thomas: I think this is the most fulfilling feeling. It opens up your musical perspective and broadens it. As soon as you go to a different place, people have different ways of seeing music, rhythms, instruments, etc. It’s entirely about discovering and inspiring each other. After experiencing that, you understand that music doesn’t have boundaries, frontiers, or borders and shares a common ground which is emotions and story-telling.
Julien: This is our primary focus now. From the ‘A Day At’ videos, this is where we want to go. We want to explore the world’s sounds, find places we have never been before, and play with musicians we have never heard of before. This is the project we will dig and dive deeper into.
Thomas: This is what makes us the happiest. And the most fulfilling aswell. It’s the combination of our musical knowledge with their musical knowledge. Music allows us to connect all the time, a magical power. I don’t know what it is, but somehow it’s always incredible to see people in Essaouira, for example, who don’t speak the same language as you. But when you start playing together, you communicate in that sense, maybe even better than with words. The synergies that get created are just out of this world.
Julien: Yes, and we want to step to the next level on this not only musically but also visually by creating quality movies for every trip we go together with our DoP Arnaud Moro.
- Not only artists but animals too! There’s a breathtaking video of Julien playing with an elephant in South Africa. How did you feel while playing in front of such a majestic creature?
Julien: Yes, so we went for 3 weeks in South Africa to film this project where we wanted to show the connection between animal and human nature, especially the reconciliation with the wild. It was my first time playing with these majestic beings, so I didn’t know what to expect. We heard many elephants from afar. I started playing, and then one came very close to me. I was a bit scared initially, but I would remind myself to be calm and breathe. It came closer and closer, but I kept going and played melodies eye to eye with this elephant. I think I even cried a bit because the emotion was so powerful that I couldn’t play anymore; my right hand was so tense, I finished with very long notes. The elephant stepped back and went away. That feeling I had was indescribable.
Thomas: Plus you need to realize that being in the wild for such a long time, you connect to everything around. The silence there is composed of the sound of rhinos, zebras, wildebeest, lions, birds, crickets, rivers, trees in the wind. It is soothing and stressful at the same time.
Julien: Yes. We’d hear lions all around us at night while in the car, so we started recording with our very sensitive microphone, which even allows you to hear more than usual. It was fascinating.
- How do you both approach composition when laying down new ideas?
Both: It depends, but usually, it starts with a story, a moment or an emotion that is translated into a melody, or in a rhythm. Then the melody needs to fit the rhythm and vise-versa. The fact that we record our own sample can also be the initial approach, a speech, a sound, an atmosphere. It really differs all the time. That’s the beauty of it. There’s one thing that is not creative at all though, is dealing with all the recordings beforehand; it’s a time-consuming and such a detailed job, where we usually take the entire afternoon renaming, categorizing, and equalizing so that the creative process can start smoothly.
- What type of synthesizers do you use to make music?
Thomas: We use a KORG Minilogue, The bloefled, but our all time favorite is the Prophet and of course many many plug-in such as Diva, Moog, Sylenth and all the emulation of the most iconic synthesizers.
Julien: Soon we will get them all in hardware haha!
- Your record label Klassified Music is a symbiosis of creation and composition, concentrated in maintaining an organic vision and creating a sustainable environment for artists and the community. You are also active in ByeBye Plastic, a platform initiated by Canadian DJ/Producer Blond:ish where the main focus is to eliminate plastic consumption at parties and reduce waste. What is your take on this topic and what are your expectations of the future?
Thomas: I think we can’t deny climate change anymore. It’s either we take action now or are doomed.
Julien: You sometimes feel part of the problem by being an entertainer because the entertainment business can be very polluting. So either you contribute to the problem, or you are part of the solutions.
Thomas: I think that’s why we joined Bye Bye Plastic. The first part is refusing single use plastic. It’s also about taking a stand and going sustainable, and if we can do it, why not all the other companies? Music is a way to reach not only the mind but people’s hearts, where you touch them emotionally and not only rationally. I think it’s a good tool to make a change. Choosing subjects, lyrics titles of song about contemplating preserving nature. We also decided to produce all of our merchandise plastic-free, or through recycling process, and we are now setting up, together with an association in Berlin, flight offsetting possibilities (planting trees, recycling, wildlife preservation, ect..) for all our Klassified’s artist. We want to sensitize others to do the same, and by doing this, we can raise awareness and inspire people to consume more sustainably and consciously.
Julien: The way I see it is there’s a lot of people getting more and more conscious of reaching a point of awareness that is the tipping point to switch all the rest. It’s going to happen soon. Once you arrive at this tipping point, it will be more significant. Organizations, governments, and everyone making choices.
Thomas: For example, in The Netherlands, they’re banning boats that use gasoline motors by 2025, and soon everyone will have to drive an electric car. This phenomenon will also apply to events where you’re not allowed to have single-use plastic, which is forbidden by the law, and boom, everything changes. We shouldn’t put all our hopes in the government and companies, so we might as well act now and stay optimistic.
- What are your plans for the near future in terms of shows and music?
Both: The focus is on “A Day In,” and we are planning a lot of video shoots in Real De Catorce, Bangkok (we just finished that), Iceland, Indonesia, India, and many others. This will be our next album, and in combination, we’ll publish many episodes of our adventures. Our shows are going to be more focused on world music and electronics. Tour will consist of experiences with new culture and shows. Let’s say, for example, you record in the Amazon forest, After that, we combine what was recorded and play it live at a show around Brazil. We would like to do that with all countries of the world.
- What does balance mean to you?
Julien: Balance for me is doing everything in the correct quantity and not going to the extreme.
Thomas: I think balance It’s a bit like the Ying and the Yang. The contrast in life, that makes it worth living. And finding that middle way between extremely fulfilling and painful experience, between stressful and relaxing time, between healthy and less healthy habits. I, for instance, had to go through two back surgeries lately, but now it made me realize all the changes I needed to make in my life in order to feel complete. One key aspect was reaching a more sustainable balance.
Julien: But how do you define the right balance? You can change it, and it’s like creativity. It’s forever flowing, a constant search for balance. I don’t think it exists. Same as happiness, there’s no pure happiness; you’re always seeking it. Your happiness might be different in 10 years than your happiness now. Same as your balance, it will be different from your balance now. I also think balance means making the right priorities, at the right time.
Talent : Parallells @parallellsofficial
Music editor & production: Joiah Luminosa @__joiah____