About four years ago, Sander Van Dijck hung up his trusty guitar on its stand and turned his attention to his laptop. He’d stopped feeling inspired because he could not innovate on its sound, but here was this portable computer, capable of making and twisting all manner of noise. He found that if he used melody just right against the lofty builds and heavy drops of the electronic dance era, he could capture a feeling that was fresh and new.
Inside this future bass sound, San Holo was born. In November 2016, he released “Light.” It was bombastic and crisp, hard with 808 edges but soft at its soulful core. The dynamics catapulted Van Dijck to No. 13 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. He had another hit with “The Future,” opened up with the self-sung “I Still See Your Face,” and brought his friends up alongside him on his label bitbird. It’s been a good run, but already, Van Dijck is “on a quest for a new sound.”
“Most of the music industry that you hear on the radio is based on people trying to sound like each other to have commercial success,” he says, “and it works, because what you hear on the radio is very homogenized. I don’t want to be that. That doesn’t move me.”
Van Djick spent the first half of this year holed up in a Los Angeles Airbnb exploring a sonic frontier. He rejected the “plastic,” “polished” sound of commercial dance and turned back to his guitar. He bought some toy keyboards at local garage sales for $10, started feeding melodies into a cassette recorder, then fed those recordings into his laptop, background hiss and all. He started writing an album, album1, and now, he shares the first singles from that process.
“My main goal for music is to give people an opportunity to expand their taste, and not just give them something they know already,” Van Dijck says. “I just hope people listen to this stuff and think ‘wow, this is something refreshing, I needed that.’”
The first single “worthy” was actually the first song Van Dijck wrote that made any sonic sense. It unlocked the key to this folksy-electronic blend. It’s soulful and vulnerable, but balanced with abrasive percussion and punchy production twists. It’s breezy, then it’s majestic, then it’s rough. At one point, the music cuts out entirely, leaving the lyric “do you even feel me” to ring loudly in listeners’ ears.
“It was very personal,” Van Dijck says. “I was seeing this girl, and one time we were walking and she said, ‘Do you even need me?’ The whole song is spoken from her perspective … The answer is no, I don’t need you to be happy, because I don’t think you should need another person for yourself to be happy.”
Van Dijck decided to release “worthy” alongside “lift me from the ground” to showcase the full range of where his sound exists today. Where “Worthy” represents a gentler sonic approach, “lift me from the ground” plays dexterously with hard and soft. One moment, it’s intimate with Sofie Winterson’s whispery vocals, then it’s in your face with color.
“It’s about meeting someone that makes you feel like you’re floating,” Van Dijck says. “I wanted it to be a very simple song; very simple lyrics and easy to sing along. I wrote it pretty quickly. Some songs, they just happen, and this song just happened.”
Six months of intensive writing therapy later, and San Holo’s album1 is pretty much in the can. “worthy” and “lift me from the ground” are just the beginning, but Van Dijck hopes it’s a path his fans will see as an adventure. The producer invites them all to catch him on the road in support of album1. He’ll be joined by bitbird family Taska Black, as well as Said the Sky, Slow Magic, Baynk, Chet Porter and others on select dates. You can catch the full list of fall tour dates below, and you can get a first listen to “worthy” and “lift me from the ground” a day ahead of their official release, exclusively on Billboard Dance.