Some producers go at it for years, releasing new tracks over Soundcloud and playing the smaller stages at Ultra before getting their big break. Others come out of the gate running, and you can’t help but watch.
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Niiko x SWAE – two 23-year-olds from Orange County, Calif. – fall into the latter group. They got a significant amount of attention roughly two years ago for songs “Run This Down” and “Flavor,” which cracked the Billboard Dance Club Chart and led to appearances at the Breakaway Music Festival in Dallas, Art of the Wild in Las Vegas, and The Beach Festival in Orange County, plus club shows at Omnia San Diego and Liv Miami.
Rather than stall, they’ve surged ahead with shows at Hakkasan and Omnia in Las Vegas, where they’ve opened for Steve Aoki and Zedd, and a performance at Coachella. As the next stage in their career, they recently put out track “Keep on Calling,” featuring vocals from Jamaican singer/songwriter Olaf Blackwood.
We had a chance to chat with them about this track and their summer plans:
How did you two start working together?
We actually grew up with each other most of our lives. We were both born in the same city (Newport Beach) and played sports together and had the same friend groups growing up. It wasn’t until we got to college, though, where we really began to work together.
When we got to SMU, Niiko was a business major, and SWAE was a sociology major, but we constantly met up and produced or DJ’ed together after classes. We both were playing gigs and different parties and finally decided to do everything together, taking both of our strengths and forming Niiko x SWAE
How did you decide on your sound?
Deciding on our sound was tough and still has been something we are working on, but it’s been a trial and error process for sure. We’ve found now that certain sounds/tempos we experiment with work much better in our sets than others, so that has helped us to determine our direction. Overall, our sound has come from our influence in ‘80s/’90s jams but with a modern, electronic twist stemming from our love of EDM.
Tell us about your new track, “Keep on Calling.” What was your inspiration?
The inspiration for “Keep On Calling” was to make a fun, vibey track that was dancey for the clubs but groovy for the at-home listener. We took our future saws and created a sick four-to-the-floor house beat underneath, and the result was epic. Once we linked up with Olaf in the studio to record his amazing vocals, we knew we had a fun house song on our hands. For “Keep on Calling,” one of the big influences instrumentally was Phantoms track Designs For You.
How did you end up working with singer Olaf Blackwood?
Our brother Ian Fletcher from the Royalty Network set it up. He’s been working with Olaf for years and had heard the instrumental for “Keep On Calling” with the rough demo vocals we recorded from Niiko singing into the computer. Right when he heard the demo, he knew Olaf would crush it. We were stoked because the song Olaf did with Armin Van Buuren is insanely good, so to have Olaf as a feature on this song was an honor!
You also had a contest going in conjunction with this track. What inspired you to start up this contest?
The contest was so epic and we were really happy with how it turned out. The winner had the most classic submission, and we are excited to hear more about it this weekend in Vegas with him/her (anonymous). We wanted to make a contest with a sweet reward to get people fired up on the song. We had people submit their craziest texts/calls/DMs/tinder from exes or ex interactions, and the results were hilarious. The contest was a hit, too, for the people who didn’t have anything to submit.
In general, who or what influences you musically?
One thing that influences us tremendously in our production and songwriting is the beach and where we grew up. Growing up in Southern California, the beach and the beach community vibes have become a big influence, especially in some of our more mellow tunes. Right now, we are really into just house music in general and all of its subgenres.
We’ve always loved Tiesto, Calvin Harris, Aoki, Shaun Frank, Martin Garrix, and also the newer bassier house artists like Jauz, Brohug, Matroda, Tujamo, and more. We could sit here and name influences all day, because we legitimately listen to so much different music it’s crazy.
You’ve performed with Steve Aoki and Zedd. Tell us about your experience working with these EDM heavyweights.
We’re blessed to have had some crazy opening opportunities for some of the biggest acts in the world, for sure. Especially with our Hakkasan residency, we have gotten some amazing direct support gigs. Playing for Steve Aoki is always super fun, because he is the nicest guy in the world and is also from Newport Beach.
He usually comes up a bit before his set and catches the end of ours, which is unique for some of the bigger headliners. One of our favorite direct support opportunities was opening for Marshmello in Newport Beach for a festival in our hometown. Another epic one was RL Grime at Liv Miami.
This year, too, you made your Coachella debut. How did that go?
Coachella was insane! We’ve been going as fans for four years, so to play it was a dream come true. We met some of our favorite artists and got to play both weekends at the Heineken House, which is one of our favorite tents at any fest. The whole experience was for real a dream come true.
Beyond performing in Las Vegas, what other plans do you have for the summer?
Other plans for us are releasing some more tunes that we’ve been working so hard on. The next single is “Summer Love,” coming August 9th, and we really think it’s a banger, so we are excited for that to drop. We also have more gigs and will be continuing to grind out more songs in the studio. Keep on the lookout for more remixes coming soon, too! But, our main focus besides the shows we have this summer is to really hone in our sound and continue to pump out solid songs. Lately, we feel like we’ve been making some of our best tracks yet.
What’s next for you in your career?
Next, we really are focused on putting out our first EP and continuing to grow and engage with as many people as possible. One of our biggest goals for 2020 is to get onto the festival circuit, so we’ve been hitting remixes and new tracks super hard lately, constantly producing and creating new things to try out in our sets this year. We also are looking forward to getting back to Mexico again this year to play at Omnia in Cabo. For now, though, our heads are down and we will never stop grinding.