After a whirlwind, two-week tour in Asia with stops in Seoul, Bali, Goa and Dubai, Lucas de Wert, one half of acclaimed Dutch DJ duo Lucas & Steve, could finally relax at home—for one day, at least. De Wert, the Maastricht University (UM) School of Business and Economics (SBE) alum-turned-DJ, has a schedule packed with studio time and meetings for the pair’s upcoming music video featuring their newest track, “Calling on You”.
The track, released on 6 January, is the latest in a string of hits since de Wert and Steven Jansen joined forces in 2010. It follows the summer success “Summer on You,” a collaboration with fellow Dutch DJ Sam Feldt that spent 21 weeks on the Dutch Top 40 charts in 2016, peaking at 2. The song has been nominated as Hit of the Year for the 100% NL Awards, which will be held on 7 February. Lucas & Steve themselves are up for the Breakthrough of the Year award—fittingly against “Summer on You” collaborator Feldt.
Dutch music TV channel Xite, with whom Lucas & Steve are collaborating on the “Calling on You” video, has also named Lucas & Steve one of the artists to watch for 2017—but there is really no missing them.
A growing crowd
Since signing with Dutch record label Spinnin’ Records in 2014, Lucas & Steve have performed at some of the largest electronic music festivals around the globe, including Electrobeach in France, Tomorrowland in Belgium, Creamfields in the UK, RFM Somnii in Portugal and Sunburn in India.
De Wert has been DJing in front of large crowds since he was young—on a stage for 2,000 at Complex in Maastricht at age 15—but now, seeing a crowd explode when they play a popular song like “Summer on You” is “the best feeling ever,” de Wert says.
“With stages with 50,000 people, you’re that excited that it obviously does something to your body, and I think it can translate into being really energetic,” he says. “We always get a high after we get off stage, really hyped.”
But the feeling is especially potent when it’s a new song that the audience doesn’t know yet, as is the case with “Calling on You.” That, he says, is truly exciting.
“If people dance, it will be because of the music, not because the song is famous. If people can’t know the song is yours but they still go crazy for it, then you’ve knocked it out of the park. That’s what was happening with our new track, ‘Calling on You,’ so we’re really excited.”
The business of music
Having become used to such large crowds, there are no longer any nerves before performing, he says. The pair simply run through their set and gauge the crowd, making adjustments based on mood and energy level. It is perhaps an indication of de Wert’s background in human decision science, a field for which he earned his master’s just two years ago, coincidentally coinciding with his record deal.
Though de Wert was already seeing success before completing his degree, he still pursued his master’s in business as a way to develop talents outside of music as well as to have security should Lucas & Steve not succeed—but also, he says, to gain experience for his burgeoning music career.
“I figured it would be really great to have some more experience and a lot of knowledge about business,” de Wert explains. “A lot of people don’t realise that working in the music industry as a DJ or producer also includes being an entrepreneur and working. I mean, we’re really running a business. Sometimes we don’t even realize it ourselves, but there are moments where about 14 people are working with us and for us,” he says.
De Wert also credits his experience in his position on the board at UniPartners, the UM-backed consultancy firm run by students. The work he did with companies on consultancy projects, de Wert says, has helped him navigate negotiations and networking as a DJ.
“As soon as we get to a festival, people think, ‘Yeah, a DJ is always drinking.’ But you’re networking, all the time,” he says.
A chance (re)encounter
Though de Wert says he was once unsure whether he would be able to “make it in music,” he’s always dreamt of being a DJ (or a professional judo practitioner, which may not have been so far off as he was once a threefold champion in Limburg).
“I always had the feeling that this was what I was going to be doing one day,” he says, “but knowing that a big part of what’s happening is being at the right place at the right time. I really believe that if you’re working towards a point and you’re really going for it that you will pull the right places, the right times and the right people towards you. I’m not sure if it works that way, but I like to think so because that’s what happened to us.”
Having started DJing at the age of 12 and becoming a resident DJ at Il Cavo in Maastricht by the age of 14, de Wert has been “going for it” for years. But music’s in his blood: his mother, a professional pianist, taught him the piano, and he learned to play the drums by the age of 5.
Still, everything seems serendipitous. Jansen and de Wert actually attended the same primary school and knew of each other but “actually never talked,” de Wert says. That changed after Il Cavo held a contest to find a new DJ; Jansen joined, and he and de Wert began collaborating for fun. They quickly noticed that “when we made [music] together, it was better than when we made it on our own.”
The music industry has taken notice. Lucas & Steve will break new ground and attend the Winter Music Conference, an annual electronic music conference in March held in Miami, Florida, and perform for the first time in the US—but not before performing a few more times in the Netherlands, the UK and Switzerland in February and March, keeping up their breakneck race towards fame.