Watching them pogo, fist-pump and otherwise wild out in festival booths across the globe, one might not think of Max Vangeli and AN21 as old souls. But when talk turns to classic house music and the dancefloor experience, they sound like old-school club DJs.
"We've always been into a more melodic, soulful, progressive type of a vibe," says Vangeli, 26. "We're more interested in that versus necessarily always rave crazy."
"We want to put a feeling into a club, emotions, to feel something," adds AN21, aka Antoine Josefsson, 22, "not just a crazy sound that's so fun, and five minutes later people don't remember it."
The two DJ/producers are out to change that, and with the right connections, they just might: Josefsson is Swedish House Mafia kingpin Steve Angello's younger brother. Angello is releasing the duo's debut album, "People of the Night," on his Size imprint on Aug. 6. It will be the label's first release to arrive in a physical format (all prior releases have been digital only). The first single, "H8RS" with Angello, satisfies the current demand for adrenalized drops and honking synths. (The track hit No. 1 on Beatport day of release and remained in the top 10 for nearly two weeks.) But according to Josefsson and Vangeli, the full collection is as much a throwback as it is festival candy.
"We got a little bit tired of where the music was going the last two years - more hard, with pop and rock on the vocals," Josefsson says. "We want to take it back to what house music was all about, with a soulful, strong voice."
The second single and title track, a collaboration with Tiesto, makes good on this promise. The anthem, arriving June 25, features Eleanor Bodenham, lead singer of Brit synth-pop band Lover Lover, who sounds like a folksier Annie Lennox. And Josefsson and Vangeli are giddy over a recent recording session with Julie McKnight, a soulful alto known within classic house circles but otherwise obscure. "Our dream when we started working together was to make a record with her," Josefsson says. The resulting track will be on the album.
As is common in electronic dance music (EDM), the pair isn't waiting to tour to support the upcoming record: Touring is a way of life, a constant. Centered around Ibiza for the White Isle's peak season, the duo's summer tour also hits far-flung places like London, Poland, Taiwan and Lithuania. The pair played Insomniac Events' Beyond Wonderland in San Bernardino, Calif., in March and Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas in early June (on a Size-dedicated stage called Size Matters); Sensation parties in Amsterdam and Prague; and even an early set on the main stage at last year's Electric Zoo in New York. These big dates are interspersed with regular club gigs, often under the Size Matters banner.
"[Size has] been huge for their development," says the act's booking agent, Steve Goodgold of the Windish Agency. "These kids gravitate to a specific sound, and Size Records has it. With these Size Matters stages, people have become in tune with what Size means. The artists grow, the record label grows, the brand grows."
Vangeli and Josefsson met in 2009 as fledgling producers through Myspace. "We sent a few ideas back and forth. We were beginners, so obviously it was complete crap," Vangeli says with a laugh. After more experimenting, they asked Angello if they could remix one of his Size tracks, "Monday."
"We both thought we would completely screw it up and he would laugh in our faces," Vangeli recalls, "but it ended up pretty good. That's what opened the door."
After more remixes for acts like Gorillaz and Ellie Goulding, the pair decided to focus on its own music, and what many EDM acts consider a dead format: the album.
"Everybody was telling us it was a bad idea," Josefsson says. "But we did it more for us than for the fans, to be honest. It sounds selfish, but it's our dream. We want a physical copy in our hands that we can look at it in 10 years and say, 'We made an album.'"