San Holo definitely knows how to uplift moods through music. His critically acclaimed debut record 'album1' impressed many with its hybrid organic-electronic sound which led him to with awards such as the International Dance Music Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year and the Edison Pop Award (Dutch equivalent of the GRAMMYs) for Best Dance Album. His fans, over 1.5 million followers across social platforms, can't be wrong too.
For studio album number 2 bb u ok?, San Holo tapped into his 'stay vibrant’ philosophy—a concept which encourages people to be in touch with their own thoughts and feelings including check in with each other by rating their vibrancy with a percentage—to deliver a vulnerable record that expresses his inner feelings while stirring moods still.
Going beyond his comfort zone of EDM and dance, he explored the indie-alternative spectrum this time with collaborators with rock band American Football, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and his friend, artist/producer Chet Porter.
“I wrote this during a new chapter of my life, after that relationship ended. I was learning how to deal with what happens after love,” he commented. “I just started writing and writing, trying to express everything I had been feeling for the last few months. The change in scenery definitely helped, going back to LA brought back some good memories of that previous chapter.”
We hit up San Holo to discuss the sonics he created for bb u ok? and finding success in Asia.
ESQ: Tell us who San Holo is from Sander van Dijck and how did you get your moniker.
San Holo: Growing up everybody always called me San so I’ve always been used to that name. When I first started making beats somebody told me I should just go by ‘San Holo’ which I thought was funny at the time but it ended up sticking.
ESQ: Describe your creative songwriting process and why a particular interest in Trap, Future Bass, and ambient genre. Also, who are your inspirations?
San Holo: I’ve always been interested in trying to create things that I haven’t heard before. Once I learned you could make music on a laptop by yourself and upload it on the internet it just felt natural to move into producing songs. There were a lot of other producers also doing this back and making sounds nobody had heard before in the early SoundCloud days, it was an amazing movement to be a part of.
I’m inspired by other artists who have their own distinct sounds and don’t conform to rules. Kanye West. Bon Iver. Explosions In The Sky. American Football. Sufjan Stevens. Frank Ocean. And then a lot more.
ESQ: What are you trying to convey with bb you ok?
San Holo: bb u ok? is probably the most honest material I’ve ever put out. It was written at a later chapter in my life and it’s about the realities of dealing with being in a ‘post-relationship’ situation. I don’t want to say it’s a ‘break-up’ album because it’s more than just that, but that’s a part of it. I think there’s a clear contrast with album1 which I wrote when I was in love which is reflected in the music.
ESQ: Why did you follow up and chose ‘IT HURTS!’ as the second single of bb you ok? after ‘find your way’?
San Holo: 'IT HURTS!' is just a song I’m incredibly proud of and that I thought was sonically very unique. Going into this album I was experimenting a lot with the idea of doing an indie-band-EDM type project and I think this is one of those songs where I felt I was able to do that. There’s guitars, a melodic EDM drop, but at the same time, it still feels kind of raw and singer-songwriter to me.
ESQ: What do you miss about presenting your compositions and sounds live to an audience?
San Holo: I definitely miss touring more than I can put in words. The connection with all the people at a venue, living for weeks on the road with your best friends waking up in a different city every night…there’s nothing like it. Through quarantine, I experimented with doing Twitch for a bit last year just to get that direct connection with my listeners but streaming’s not really for me. I also started doing a live mix series called ‘mixed feelings’ which has been really fun to work on and I’ll definitely be doing more of those soon too.
ESQ: What do you think contributed to your success and popularity especially in Asia with your music releases as you’ve performed in the region physically before?
San Holo: When I first started out, my music was much more popular abroad than at home so I’ve always approached this project with the idea of just going where the listeners are, wherever they may be. I’ve played in Asia every year since 2016 (except last year lol) and I think my listeners there really do appreciate me coming all the way out there when I can. My listeners are more or less the same everywhere. They’re here because they love the music and I’m forever grateful for that.
ESQ: What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far in life?
San Holo: This job is definitely demanding and it’s the most important thing in my life. But, sometimes it’s important to just slow down and just live in the moment and enjoy it with the people around you. I definitely don’t take all of this for granted and I don’t know how long this will last so it’s a good reminder for me to enjoy it while it does.
ESQ: What have you been up to lately besides releasing bb you ok?
San Holo: I’ve been really focused on bb u ok? for sure. In addition to creating content and all of the promo and marketing stuff, I’ve also been refining the live show. It’s tough because I’m not sure when I’ll be able to actually perform it but I’m very much looking forward to that. Otherwise, it’s just been experimenting in the studio and trying to figure out what I want to do with my next project.
bb u ok? is now available to purchase and stream at all good music sites including Apple Music.
“Lately I've been trying to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier so something chill to start the day with is perfect. I’m not necessarily a morning person, but once I get that first cup of coffee I usually feel pretty good and ready to start my day."
1. 'Kyle (I Found You)' — Fred Again…
"This song is awesome. Fred again… is an artist I started listening to last year but he has a really cool approach to his music which involves 'real life' samples from real conversations. It’s a really cool approach and I think the perfect kind of chill song to start the day with."
2. 'Reflections' — TWO LANES
"This is a song from these two French producers TWO LANES who are signed to my label bitbird. They make really beautiful and melodic chill house music. It makes me think of waking up somewhere beautiful, like on a beach somewhere, with the sun shining down on me."
3. 'We Stayed Up All Night' (feat. Ardyn) — Tourist
"So this is a pretty funny pick actually just because of the name of the song but to me this is the perfect morning song. I love the way the song develops and builds before it just hits you like that first cup of coffee."
"Daytime is all work for me. I’m in the middle of an album roll-out right now so my days are packed with a bunch of different things from making videos, building out a new show, brainstorming marketing ideas, or doing promo (like this!) so something more upbeat is usually perfect to keep me going."
1. 'POWER' — Kanye West
"My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy isn’t my favourite Kanye album, but there’s a ton of gems on this album like this one. It’s just the perfect mid-day anthem to get you going and encourage you to ‘power’ through whatever it is you’re doing."
2. 'Hall' — Bath
"This song is super quirky and has so much personality which I just love. I’m really inspired by unique sounds that I haven’t heard before and Baths is just such a forward-thinking producer."
3. 'There Will Be Tears' — Mr Hudson
"I love Mr Hudson! His first album is definitely a big inspiration of mine and this is probably one of my favourite songs from it. It just sounds so ahead of its time for me. It’s a little more downtempo than the other ‘day’ picks which makes it the perfect transition to ‘Night.’"
"My nighttimes are usually spent trying to unwind after a long day. I don’t really have a set evening routine beyond taking a nice long bath which I try to do every night. Otherwise, I’ll go for a nice long walk or just relax at home. Plus, nighttime is the best time to get super sad and nostalgic as well.."
1. 'Uncomfortably Numb' (feat. Hayley Williams) — American Football
"This song is by two incredible artists that I really respect. Getting to work with American Football for the album was just an incredible experience. Mike Kinsella is such a nuanced and unique writer and his lyrics always stand out. The perfect song to get really sad too."
2. 'White Ferrari' — Frank Ocean
"This is definitely one of my favourite songs from an incredible artist. It’s the perfect kind of song to play on a night drive, or in my case a nice bath. It’s just the right amount of sad and wistful and nostalgic which really speaks to me."
3. 'Same Time' — Shlomo
"This is a beautiful nostalgic night-time song. I have a lot of special memories associated with this song which makes it the perfect thing to listen to at night. Lately, I’ve been really inspired by more ambient/downtempo stuff and this is the perfect example."
Enjoyed the tracks? Check out our other ‘Dawn to Dusk’ playlists curated by guest artists each week and follow our Apple Music profile to access our playlist first when it's out.