After finally unveiling their collaborative album, The Light, Vintage & Morelli and Arielle Maren had a candid chat with me regarding their body of work, what traveling taught them, the choice between creating dark or hopeful music in times of turmoil, artistic authenticity, and commercialism.
In terms of the album itself, the spectrum of moving through both good and dark times is explored within the music. Their sounds tastefully fuse trance and progressive house to create an introspective and passionate body of work. While contemplating and discussing earnest and vulnerable topics, they’re navigated with care, all while retaining an upbeat and dance-driven style of production. Within The Light, both artists get the chance to highlight their artistic capabilities to their fullest extent given how well they adhere.
You can read through our interview below!
Hey Marko and Arielle, nice to chat with the both of you. I wanted to kick things off by nodding to Marko’s name alluding to his desire to be a part of a duo drawing from artists that have inspired him. So with this project, is that goal somewhat fulfilled in one manner?
V&M: In some way I guess, yeah. When I was a kid making music, all my favorite artists were duos. Just think Blank & Jones or Gabriel & Dresden, all these old-school trance duos. I always felt like I needed another part of me just to do that. With Arielle, it’s always fun. She’s so talented, and this was definitely a collaborative project. All of the tracks on the album we both worked on, including the tracks in which she did not sing, but helped me in other ways to finish the project.
What would you say is your favorite thing about each other that allows you to creatively mesh well?
AM: Most times when you work with producers, they’re like “ok let me get back to you,” but with Marko it’s instantaneous. When I give him an idea, he’s able to take it and implement it immediately. I’m like “wow, he knows how to make music so well!” I’m not blowing smoke here, but it’s true! I’ve worked with a lot of producers in the past, but with him, he can really capture the feeling we’re going after whenever we’re having a creative session.
V&M: For me, Arielle is very talented. She gets the vocals from the first run, leaving only a few finesses here and there in the end. She’s amazing with lyrics and delivery without having had any training, which to me is pretty awesome.
Is there something, in particular, you’re trying to say or get across with your album, The Light? What are you hoping listeners take away from it?
AM: Well, The Light is talking about the transcendence of life experience. While it includes songs talking about darker aspects of life like depression or loss, on the other hand, it also covers lighter themes of love, hope and inspiration. You can’t have the light without the dark, and vice versa, so I feel like this album is a journey through this spectrum.
Down to the title, The Light is brimming with bright tones and hopeful narratives, whether in the lyrics or overall sound. Many artists during this time have been debating the nature and meaning of choosing to release something dark, functioning within our current time as a sort of comforting and relatable tone to many around the world, while others look to make sunnier music that counteracts that notion, bringing a positive touch. What’s your take on that, and did your instinct immediately take you toward making something hopeful?
V&M: Yeah I guess. We’re all human and you can’t be positive all the time. There are certain things beyond our control, but we can somewhat control how we react to them, and the world of music is one worth living in. For us, it’s always been about the way we feel at that particular moment. If it’s a dark, sad song, that’s how we felt and had the urge to express it. However, we also wanted to express the happier parts of Arielle and myself as well. That mix between dark and light is important. When you’re in your head, that’s the worst and I hope people reach out to somebody during those difficult times.
AM: All the songs that we wrote about actually come from personal experience. They come from something we’ve lived through, and we hope that other people relate to it as well as feel like they’re not so alone. Especially this last year, I know a lot of people suffering from depression and it’s actually quite a normal thing nowadays. We can be better at talking about it so people don’t feel so lost and isolated. It’s kind of taboo and we’re really not talking about it openly as much as we should. We hoped that maybe making a song about it and featuring some of these darker topics can give some individuals the chance to discuss these themes more openly, and not feel as alone.
As artists, do you think other artists are given and allowed more space to feature something sad and express it as opposed to regular day-to-day people, and do you think that maybe in terms of art, sadness might be over-glorified as an artistic concept to the point in which listeners gravitate to it? Sort of akin to the image of the “suffering artist.”
AM: I actually think there’s a lot of artists out there that have a lot of pressure to be a certain way, and maybe aren’t given as much creative freedom to express themselves entirely. Even though they may feel a different way, they might be afraid that their fan base will reject them if they change because they’re so used to hearing a particular kind of sound. I’m grateful that we’re able to be authentically ourselves and we want to stay that way.
In today’s day and age, who are some artists you would say you look up to, being really authentic with themselves, presenting interesting projects and sounds?
AM: I’ve always been a fan of Sarah McLachlan. I just love her soulful voice, and she’s one of the reasons I got into dance music in the first place when she worked with Delerium on ‘Silence’. I always admired her genuine sound. It’s just her voice, it’s not touched or heavily auto-tuned. When you hear her live or on record, she sounds authentic all the time.
V&M: For me, it’s definitely Deep Forest but also Enigma. Oh my god yes! We both grew up with that. It’s just organic and beautiful music. I also get my inspiration and signature sound from them because it’s what I grew up with.
Has travelling around the world shaped your perspective around music in any specific way, or influenced you in a manner that affected you creatively?
AM: I would say yes because wherever you live, you start to realize that people think in different ways depending on their culture. Living in different countries as I have, opens your mind to thinking in different ways too. When it comes to music, you’re able to take that knowledge and apply it by communicating your music through alternative filtrations. As people, we’re dynamic, and that’s why I don’t want to be put in a pigeonhole to a particular sound.
V&M: I always like to bring a part of the soul of the city back home with me. When you travel and meet different people within different cultures, it’s inspiring to see how people think and live. You realize how we’re incredibly connected, but ultimately the same and part of a bigger picture. At the end of the day, we’re all different, but that’s what makes us awesome. We’re all connected, and part of this bubble that we live in. I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way, and it’s very inspiring. It allows me to mature personally and spiritually. I was talking to A.M.R about this at ADE like two years ago, that when I was a teenager, I used to listen to all the Eurodance from Europe and would feel like I was the only one. I didn’t know anyone else who knew this kind of music back then. While I was talking to him, he felt the same sentiment because well…we didn’t have the internet back then so I had no idea there were others like me! It feels so amazing to connect over this with somebody.
To what extent do you think branding and music should go hand-in-hand, and do you think that branding is a facet of limitation, or something to get people further immersed in an artist’s world?
V&M: Branding is very important in the sense that you’re representing your brand as your brain in terms of music.
AM: I think if you really know who you are as a person and artist, you can define what sort of music you love to create and wrap yourself in a brand bubble. Sort of like saying, “if you’re interested in that kind of sound, this is what I represent.” It could have some limits, but then again, some people love breaking boundaries.
V&M: In the span of my career, I’ve been aware of my listeners who have been following me for a while. I know I lost a lot of followers yet gained new ones, specifically at the time I did Drum and Bass. When someone said “I miss the old Vintage & Morelli” I thought, “It’s still me”. I love making music and simply wanted to make a D&B track. This is just a little part of me. I just wanted to show that I’m very diverse and can create just about any sound I set my mind to. Branding is very important, but for me, it’s difficult in a sense. While people know me for my progressive house style (like my signature sounds), it’s a bit of a challenge when I release something else like deeper tracks, D&B, or Chill-Out, as people don’t expect that. Therefore, it’s difficult for me to brand myself as a certain “type” of producer, as I don’t want to limit myself within any genre. I just love making music!
I would say I used to make music for the people, but I’ve been doing this now for the past 20 years. As I’ve matured and progressed, I’ve realized I needed to make music for myself first. People that love it are going to follow me and others that do not are going to move on, and that’s just fine!
AM: You can’t make everybody happy, so you gotta do it for yourself! Someone is eventually going to come up and say “this is complete s***!” So I think, “thanks for your opinion, come again or don’t, I really don’t care!” I’m happy with it and other people seem to like it. That’s just how the industry goes and you’re always going to get some “trolls” along the way. It doesn’t really bother me, but when trolls criticize, they just have so much negative energy. They should take that energy and do something productive with it instead! Go make your own ‘improved track’ instead of channeling all your negative garbage onto others! I call them ‘big babies sitting in their own little mess’. They simply like complaining to complain. Please just change your dirty nappy, put on some new pants, and do something productive about it instead of spewing hate. Yes, I’m very passionate and vocal about certain things!
Taking that into consideration, what’s another thing you’re very passionate about in terms of music and creativity?
AM: I think some bigger artists get this pressure to make music that’s for the people, instead of staying true to themselves and making what they really love. Regardless of what you create, you’re always going to have people that love it or hate it. If you stay true to yourself, you just walk away happy. I know some artists that are ‘up there’ who feel this pressure, and I think to myself… “Why can’t you change it?” I get that there’s a team of people and big machines pumping behind them, and that it’s what they sometimes feel they have to do. The question then becomes, “Why can’t you just continue doing what you did to get to where you are today, by doing what you love to do?”
As an artist, I promised myself that I’ll continue to create music for as long as I’m loving it. If I’m not feeling it anymore, maybe it’s time to step back. If I’m doing it for someone else as opposed to my own passion and love of the craft, then I’m not doing it for the right reasons anymore.
V&M: What she said.
Relating to what you said about certain artists having done this for a long time and having reached a point; If you climb a mountain high enough, once you get to a certain point, you might realize that you stopped enjoying the climb itself (making music). When you stop enjoying the process of making music and have nothing to filter through and want to say, yet you’re halfway up the mountain, you might realize that going back down renders you helpless and broke, having to re-evaluate and reshape your life. How much do you think that affects certain artists which is why the pressure exists, as in, they’re too afraid to go back down and go through a terrifying process? On the other hand, do you think that notion is misguided, and that the whole point to success is questioning yourself in which the answer is where you go next?
V&M: A part of it is about enjoying the small things in life. Money is not going to make you happy, and it seems like some artists think that if you make it, that’s it. A lot of people just get to the top and think, “well ok…now what? I’m not happy, this is not how I imagined this would be.” I think it’s all about the journey and small things in life. Genuine people, good friends, and family. Money is simply a necessity that allows me to have a quality life these days.
AM: The pressure some people feel once they reach that destination, is a sense of fear. What’s next? You can’t keep going up forever and you’ll eventually have to come back down at some point. I think that’s what people forget to realize. It can be a beautiful journey and feel like ‘coming home’, as long as you have a clear intention of what you’re doing. I know some producers who shifted focus in their career, because they wanted to do something new that they really liked, despite losing some of their original fanbases. Yet I know other artists who are too scared to try something new and innovative. They’re in this frozen box and don’t know how to break that mold, so they feel the pressure to reproduce the same thing over and over again because they know it works.
V&M: It’s very easy for people to forget about you if you’re not pumping out hits time after time. For me, it’s just impossible, unless you have a team of people helping you make them. Arielle and I are solely responsible for creating our own productions. They might be beautiful tracks, but they’re not always going to be hits. Some people are like goldfish and have such a short memory span. If you’re not actively pumping out music, they tend to forget about you. That’s where the internal pressure comes in.
What would you be telling yourself once that sort of internal pressure comes in?
V&M: That I want to do music for myself. Whatever I create, this is the best I can create at that given moment. I keep progressing with my music and I’m happy with that.
AM: If you hear some painters talk, they’ll often ask; “when is the artwork finished?” In reality, it’s never truly complete, you just have to learn to step away at a certain point. If I look back at my previous work now, there are definitely some things that I would change knowing what I know now. At some point, self-analysis is no longer productive and you simply have to learn to let go.
V&M: With all of my previous albums, I now know I can make better tracks. I’ve learned to accept my older tracks and that at some point, I have to let all the changes I would make now, go. It is what it is and 10 years from now, when I go back to what I’ve created, I’ll probably think it sounds funny. It was the best that I could do at the time, so it’s fine.
I’d like to thank both Vintage & Morelli and Arielle Maren for taking the time to have an open and honest conversation with me. Their collaborative album, The Light, is out now through Monstercat Silk, and you can stream it below!