French-Swiss artist and producer, Niels is one smooth operator when it comes to making music. Evoking just the right amount of nostalgia with a well-travelled palette of influences, Niels is a cinematic R&B artist you need to keep your eye on. GUAP spoke to him about his upcoming project Bandoleros, his obsession with Batman and more.
Kat: Tell us about your latest single, ‘Hide N Seek’?
Niels: Hide and Seek was a beat that Ken Samson sent me a year and a half ago. I started recording a chorus and a very demo-ish verse then rediscovered the song in the car with my friends, just going through unreleased music. This came on and all of the guys in the car were like “Yo, what is this?” “This is crazy. The bounce is crazy.”, it really aligned with the music I’m working on and the project that I’m working on right now, which will be a big mixtape with 15 songs – ‘Hide N Seek’ is part of that mixtape. My flatmate Atea and I rewrote it a few times – we wanted to have an approach to a topic that was a bit more superficial and a bit less deep, less about feelings, less sentimental. We just wanted to write about parties, how it feels being a man at a party – and how these superficial things stand out: having money, having assets, living a crazy lifestyle, for some reason, people are attracted to that especially in the world of the night. Nothing’s black and white, but it was just interesting to write about something a bit more light and make it kind of funny. Obviously, these are all metaphors and it’s topics that we all take very lightly and and we’re just having fun. When we write those things it’s no disrespect to anyone, but it is part of the truth and we wanted to approach that topic in a funny, fun and relaxed way, ’cause the beat is very relaxing and it’s very chill and smooth, but still bouncy.
Kat: Who did you listen to growing up that has really had an impact on the music you’re making today?
Niels: The music that I’m making today – the one person that has the most impact on my music overall is probably Michael Jackson. Dr. Dre definitely influenced me as a producer, Timbaland as well. And Pharrell, I really just love the – I guess we all do – the simplicity of their production, but it’s still so rich. It’s still so present and it makes you want to dance and makes you feel a thousand types of ways, but it’s often very simple. Vocally, I think Michael Jackson has influenced me in ways that I don’t even understand because I listened to him so much when I was a kid that I can feel that he’s influenced me a lot – he’s the main guy.
Kat: Speaking of producing, how has producing for other artists impacted your own artistry?
Niels: I think it has definitely impacted the way I write and the way I approach songs, because everyone has a way of approaching a song – you get used to your creative process. Seeing other artists doing things differently, approaching a track in a different way: writing their lyrics first, or recording directly on the beat, or changing the production around, has definitely also influenced me when working with my own stuff – “I saw him do that. I should maybe try to do that, let’s see how that influences me.”
Kat: From Switzerland to Paris to London, what was the effect of having a multi-cultural upbringing, on your music?
Niels: I think it gave me a chance to be able to listen to other markets. Having friends back home that maybe weren’t even from Switzerland, but were from the Middle East, or friends that were from Nigeria, or even Germany and South America, it gave me the ability to hear different flows, different rhythms, different markets, different sounds, and obviously that has influenced my music in crazy ways, because sometimes I think my subconscious chases those sounds without really knowing when they’ve inspired me, but it’s obviously during my upbringing.
Kat: Earlier this year you dropped a tape called InMyBatmobile V2. Talk us through your Batman obsession and how that comes through in your music?
Niels: Everyone has a role model and I guess I use Batman as my role model – obviously I don’t fight the crime in London at night, but I think it’s all about being able to inspire other people and making other people feel good. I feel like Batman, he saves people and he represents this very cool, masculine “I’m a strong person with no superpowers, but I’m still able to save the city.” The comics have influenced me a lot, the villains as well. I really enjoy the villains of Batman and I guess In My Batmobile really came to from “Where would I enjoy listening to my music music the most?” and it was always in a car. I always loved coming out of a session, and blasting the song in a car. I just love any type of moment where I get to be in a car and listen to loud music. I love listening to my own music in a car and going fast on the highway – that always gave me Batman vibes. Especially moving to London, because London was the closest thing to me that felt like Gotham – a very big city with dark lights. Batman was always this kind of escape as well, to just be like, “Yo, I’m Batman. I’m Bruce Wayne. I’ll be okay in this city.” I guess it’s also like fanboy-ing, as well.
Kat: I can see that you’re really into movies – which movies inspire your music and what aspects of them do you translate into your songs?
Niels: What I’ve always enjoyed in movies, in thrillers, is the suspense, the tension and release. You really have a parallel in music, you’re trying to bring people on board and make them feel a lot of emotions. Watching some scenes, I could draw a parallel between building up here, then there’s an action scene and then there’s an ending of the scene where everyone’s okay, or maybe leads to another part. That has influenced my music in a structure perspective. The vibes of the movies that I watch like the Dark Knight Trilogy from Christopher Nolan, I love that because obviously that’s Batman, but I also love 90s movies. I’ve always found joy creating music thinking about one of those movies or having reference pictures around, it always put me in a certain mood to create.
Kat: Talk us through your recent summer releases: ‘Bad Habits’, ‘Casino’, ‘Passive’ and ‘One Night Only’
Niels: I’ve been releasing music quite consistently since ‘Bad Habits’, and from there ‘Bad Habits’, ‘Casino’, ‘Passive’, ‘One Night Only’, they all belong to a project called Bandoleros. Those songs are about feeling confident. Lyrically they’re not very deep, they’re about girls and lifestyle, but I think the energy of the songs are really important because it’s a bad boy, smooth sound. what’s nice is that the beats are quite aggressive, but the way I sang on them [and] wrote on them was very smooth. I call it classy R&B with a Latin influence – that was really my goal for this project. Some songs are very like, “Okay, this is for this kind of setting. This is for that kind of setting,” but I just wanted to create this universal project with a theme linked to it. The theme is the Latin influence, even if there’s no Spanish in it, you can hear the Reggaeton and also the Afrobeats influence in it. There is warmth [within] the project.
Kat: What was it that inspired the Latin influence?
Niels: I have a lot of friends from back home that are from South America and they’ve put me on a lot of Reggaeton. I just thought it was such an interesting sound. As a kid, I grew up watching Fast and Furious and there’s this one song called ‘Bandoleros’ from Don Omar and Tego Calderón – as a kid, it was such a special song to me and it always stayed such a special song to me, that I guess I wanted to pay homage to that song by creating this project that was influenced by like Latin guitars and everything, but that song is definitely the seed.
Kat: What are your highlights of 2023?
Niels: One of them is definitely performing a Cloud X, feeling part of a festival was was really dope. Obviously, as an artist, you always want more so the devil’s advocate in me will be like, “No, there wasn’t enough people. I need more listeners. I need more fans,” I want more fans, but that was definitely a highlight for me. Starting to release this Bandoleros project, from ‘Bad Habits’ to now the last song that dropped from that project is ‘One Night Only’, has definitely been a highlight for me because I’ve been picturing it in my head for so long. I’ve we’ve had this plan for so long, so it’s nice to actually seeing it happen.
Kat: Knowing that you’ve achieved all of this now, if there was something that you could say to yourself as an artist when you first started, what would you say to yourself?
Niels: Well, first I would say do not give a f**k about what anyone thinks. Another one is whenever your gut is saying that it feels good, trust your gut. Don’t start having conversations with your gut and don’t let doubt creep in at night because doubt is the enemy.
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