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Check the cool immersive projects of acts Hiigo, De Toegift and Julia Sabaté

Written by Guido Segers and Roeline Machiels | 16 jan 2024
Effenaar Lab Hiigo
Picture: Willem Wouterse | Hiigo demo DDW 2023

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What is the future of music experience? This is the question that the Effenaar Lab programme Hybrid Music Vibes examines. Within the Hybrid Music Vibes programme, artists are given the opportunity to learn about new technologies and look for innovative ideas, new sounds, and groundbreaking experiences. What technical possibilities are there and how can these enhance their art? 

The second edition of Hybrid Music Vibes started in March 2023. Through inspiring knowledge sessions with experts, the group of talents explored the future of music and experience. With the knowledge they have gained, they have developed their own concept, of which six acts have ultimately been chosen to actually realize their concept; Hiigo, Julia Sabaté, Max Frimout, RHIANNIN, De Toegift and PXRPLE JAZZ. 

Together with Effenaar Lab and its partners, they have worked on the further development of their ideas. The result is a variety of technological applications: from artwork that offers the audience access to a virtual world, to discovering the possibilities of AI during a liveshow. Curious? Check out the three cool immersive projects of acts Hiigo, De Toegift and Julia Sabaté below.

hiigo Hybrid Music Vibes
Picture: Willem Wouterse | Hiigo demo DDW 2023

Visit Hiigo's home through AR

Things are going fast for the Dutch indie pop band Hiigo. In 2021, the band gets a kick-start when the quintet participates in Hit The North, a coaching program for talented Northern Dutch pop acts. After completing the process, the acts will have the opportunity to present themselves during the showcase festival Eurosonic Noorderslag. Initially, singer and guitarist Hans van der Werf was supposed to participate as a solo artist, but before the start of the trajectory he changed course. "The five of us participated as a band, and that eventually got us a show at Eurosonic in 2022. After that, we also participated in the Popronde and became the 'beursband' of Hedon in Zwolle." And they are still going strong, as the single 'Tankstation' is on fire on the ether.

Getting lost in possibilities

Last spring, the band jumped into the program Hybrid Music Vibes without expectations. During the program they wanted to explore how they can highlight the depth in the music and lyrics. "Hiigo stands for a group of friends and feeling at home with us. We want to give people depth through our own stories, and we have the idea that that can be given an extra push," says bass guitarist Aart de Gier. The band came in with an idea to create a live performance with interactive artwork, with VR/AR glasses for the audience. Van der Werf: "But that was unfeasible in terms of costs and organisation. Next, we were immersed in the world of holograms and metaverse. What I quickly learned is that a huge budget allows you to do all kinds of things, but that there are also suitable solutions that you can make for your band. The most important thing is to choose what suits you."

Home as a concept

In the end, the band chose to develop a virtual house. "Our central concept is togetherness, the feeling of being at home. We wanted to create an environment where our fans can experience that too, see how we do things. We want to show authenticity. That's why we're looking for opportunities for depth and connection with our fans in our project."

With the virtual house, the band invites you into their 'home', where you can discover different rooms and the bandmembers can show more aspects of themselves. You can also find them in the virtual space, as holograms developed by Dutch Rose Media. You can explore drummer Koen's office and listen to music there, you'll find bassist Aart in the kitchen and pianist Peter has a little moment to himself on the toilet. The house is a voyage of discovery full of surprises, which you really have to experience for yourself. "It's going to be very special. Hopefully we can offer even more in the future." You'll have to wait a little longer, but mark April 19 on your calendar. Then, Hiigo's new EP will be released and you can finally set foot in their AR experience through the artwork on the record cover. 

hiigo Hybrid Music Vibes
hiigo Hybrid Music Vibes
Effenaar Lab Hiigo
Picture: Willem Wouterse | Hiigo demo DDW 2023

A virtual letter to De Toegift

De Toegift combines the worlds of idiosyncratic poetry and contemporary indie music, supplemented with influences from jazz. In her work, the Zeeland band plays with themes such as time and nostalgia, and pays tribute to the coast in several songs. And that's a hit! At the beginning of 2023, the band scored points with its performance at Noorderslag. In the Top 25 of the music platform 3voor12, De Toegift ended up at number #1, and OOR and Parool also named the band as one of their highlights.  

Given De Toegift's vintage feel, participating in Hybrid Music Vibes is a remarkable adventure, guitarist Tom Gudde confesses. "We're actually an old-fashioned band, so exploring what kind of possibilities technology offers with Hybrid Music Vibes is special. There were a lot of things that I liked. I'm also very curious to see where this will be in ten years' time. It's all still very experimental, but it was great to see where this is going."

The power of contact

Although the many aspects and angles that technology offers inspires the band, he does not see De Toegift using LED screens or VR/AR applications anytime soon, which he believes disrupt the intimate experience between them and the audience. The band therefore decides to focus on an aspect in which technology can strengthen them: the contact with their fans. "People hear our music, like it and come to shows, but then comes the point where fans want to interact with you. Our music touches people and we see that they often stick around to talk to us, but that time is limited. So our idea was to start a project in which we solve that."

To solve this, De Toegift has developed an interaction environment in collaboration with Dutch Rose Media. Through 'De gedachtenwolk', which has already been launched on their website, fans can ask questions, share emotions or experiences. Gudde hopes that this environment will help to strengthen the relationship with fans, by the means of qualitative one-on-one interactions with fans. "With this project, we are creating a safe environment, where we can take all the time we need for that contact, a day or week later. We notice after shows that people really want to talk longer and this way we can, and we are accessible to everyone." The band opted for a text-based interaction, because the romance attached to letters fits with the feel of De Toegift. The band continues that romance with the visual aspect; A dreamy environment that relates to sky and sea.

De Toegift ESNS
De Toegift ESNS
De Toegift ESNS
Visual: screenshot question 'De Gedachtenwolk'

A different kind of atmosphere

Throughout the tour during fall 2023, the band gently launched the platform. "We told people by the merch stand to ask their questions there as well. This also allowed me to keep an eye on how much interest there really was." The band has been able to do that for about six shows now. Of course, fans can already get in touch through DMs via social media. "But it has really turned out that they like this way better. The messages we receive are also very different. On social media, it's often more superficial. You notice that you take them to a world where there is a different atmosphere. Of course, fans can also see what others are sending. This makes it more in-depth." 

Gudde does notice, however, that you have to be ready PR-wise. It does require an extra step. "We really have to look at each other to keep doing this. It's an ongoing project in that area." Technically it's ready, but now the challenge lays with the band members. 'De gedachtenwolk' is already online, but Gudde is especially curious about what it will offer when they tour less and see fans less. "Then I want to launch it properly."

Julia Sabaté's hybrid liveset

Julia Sabaté is not so much a band. It is a project by Julia Sabaté, Ruben Sieben and Koen Hermans, of which Sabaté is the face. From day one, technology has been part of how the trio operates, drummer and producer Sieben explains. "We have a hybrid live set, in which a lot is automated with sequencers and live control via Ableton. That means that I play live drums, but trigger different effects and sounds by means of an SPDSX Pro and trigger modules that I connect to my entire acoustic kit with dual triggers. In this way, it becomes possible to be on stage with three people, but still produce that diverse sound. Technology makes it possible for us to focus on one thing on stage; performing." 

As musicians, the trio is very future-oriented. They see technology as a tool to strengthen their (live) act. The paradox is, Sabaté is a classically trained violinist, composer and singer. Maybe that's the reason, she says while laughing. "As a kid, I loved listening to electronic music and hip-hop, but that wasn't always appreciated at home, so maybe it's some kind of rebellion? I do know that what I'm doing now feels very natural and good."

Connection two cultures

Sabaté has Spanish roots and often sings in Spanish. In her opinion, this creates a distance between her and the Dutch concertgoers. "It makes it more difficult to convey the story, although listeners can often feel and experience the emotion. Our idea is to use visuals for that." The group joined forces with Bureau Moeilijke Dingen to further develop this. The first ideas varied a lot, but in the end it was decided to use generative artificial intelligence for the creation of the visuals. The audience can submit images, which are fed to the algorithm, making the audience co-creator of the show. Sieben explains this would not be applied to the whole show: "You can't have people sent pictures for a whole show, that's going to be way too much work. The most important thing is that what we're doing now is something we can do well and strengthen our act."

Reality check

The group has a strong pro-technological stance, which they say is part of how Julia Sabaté operates and approaches the artistry. Still, Hybrid Music Vibes opened new doors and possibilities. Sabaté: "It is bizarre if you look back ten years in time, and you see how much has changed. As an artists it's important to keep up with that. Hybrid Music Vibes was a reality check for us regarding the future. So much is possible. You have to want to understand what's coming and be able to place that within your profession and what opportunities it offers you as an artist." 

But making your own music is and remains the most important thing, that has not changed for Sieben and Sabaté. On stage, it's still about playing the songs well and delivering a strong performance. Technology helps with this, and especially enriches the toolkit that you have as an artist. "As an artist, you want to keep up with the times. That's sometimes in your style, but also in terms of technology. Right now, artificial intelligence is a hot topic and offers many opportunities, but you have to know what it can do. Technology can take a lot of work off your hands, like in our live set, but as an artist you're still in control. You make the choices in terms of corporate identity, colors, message and how you deliver your performance. Innovations like these give you more opportunities to enrich yourself or make things easier. At the end of the day, you still make all the choices yourself, but then you have to know what options you have", Sieben concludes. 

This year Julia Sabaté will perform at Eurosonic Noorderslag. Don't want to miss it? Check here for more information about the shows.

This edition of Eurosonic Noorderslag, Effenaar Lab will dive into the world of tech & music with you during two interesting panels. See you there?

The importance of building a European music & tech ecosystem

Meer succes met immersive technologieën? (Dutch spoken)

Meer information about Effenaar Lab and it's programmes


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