Firebeatz, producers Tim Benjamin Smulders and Jurre van Doeselaar, have come a long way since their journey together started way back when, as childhood classmates. With huge hits like “No Heroes” with KSHMR and vocalist Luciana, “Max Ammo,” and “Home” with Jay Hardway, Firebeatz have truly paved their own path to success. The Dutch duo have traveled the world to perform their captivating music and mainstage anthems to festival crowds galore and collaborated with a handful of the top DJs in the game on massive tunes, including Chocolate Puma (“Lullaby”), Sander van Doorn (“Guitar Track”), and Martin Garrix (“Helicopter”).
With 2016 coming to a quick close, Firebeatz is now ready to embark on newer and bigger projects for the New Year. Ahead of their performance at Countdown 2016, we caught up with the creative pair to talk about their past year and their journey ahead.
I understand you two met while attending school together. Do you remember the first time you performed together as Firebeatz and how that came to be?
Jurre: It was actually on assignment in production school; we had an assignment to work together on tracks, and it was like a project. I think the first time [we performed together] was in 2008 at Club Musk. We [performed using] our two different names, not as Firebeatz, but we were performing together already.
We saw that boxing (Tim) and soccer (Jurre) are a big part of your lives. Any thoughts on switching careers for sport?
Tim: No, I’m too late! I’m 31, so I don’t think it’ll work as a professional career. We do it just to keep fit.
What are some of the biggest challenges you come across during your creative process?
Tim: You have to make decisions, of course. The further you get into your career, the more you tend to feel like you have to do something or make something the people expect from you, and that’s hard at times. I think that can create a block sometimes, but the only thing you need to do is to make what you like, which can be hard as well.
When you’re in the studio, do you feel like you’re making music for yourself or for your fans?
Jurre: Like Tim said, sometimes it’s difficult, but every track we release we fully support. We’re not gonna make something we don’t stand by, and we just follow our hearts. Sometimes we have some records that the label tells us will not be a commercial hit, but we want to push them out anyway. We actually want to push it further right now, because we are going to start our own label so we can release everything we want.
What can you tell us about the new label?
Tim: We have a project right now, which [includes] a couple of tracks. It’s gonna be like an EP of eight tracks of totally different stuff, [as well as releases] with other singer-songwriters and other artists.
Is there a name and launch date for the label?
Jurre: That’s a secret! We want to finish everything first, but we’re aiming to launch as soon as possible.
You’ve been featured in the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll several times now. Does that ranking matter to you? Or is it all a popularity contest, like many people say?
Jurre: Exactly that, actually. Before we ranked in DJ Mag, it was a dream of ours. It’s recognition; everybody talks about it. And when we [were listed], we were very happy, but already our agent was like, “Congrats guys, but we’re not going to use it.” We were a bit confused at the time, but now we really see it that way—it’s just a popularity thing.
Tim: Yeah, but it also doesn’t hurt to be on it! [We’ve been included] a few years in a row, and I’m very proud of it, but it doesn’t say you’re a good DJ. We’re good DJs, I think, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at what you do.
You created a docuseries to allow your fans to get to know you better. How has that helped you build a relationship with them? Do you feel like they understand you better, and vice versa?
Jurre: The reactions on that were overwhelming. We were positively shocked, so we’re definitely planning on [continuing the docuseries]. Fans really see what we do in our daily life, and it’s really a good thing. It’s not only about the music, and they love to see that.
You’re also performing at Countdown this month. Looking back at the year, what has been your favorite moment from 2016 thus far?
Tim: That’s tough; we’ve had a few. Tomorrowland was cool this year.
Jurre: Our own show in Miami was also good.
Tim: ADE was fucking great! We did Firebeatz and Friends at Jimmy Woo.
Jurre: Music-wise, another highlight is when we went to L.A. with songwriters and had two-week sessions, which were very creative and definitely a highlight.
What are some trends you noticed in 2016? Any you want to continue or stop from happening in the future?
Jurre: [Thinking] out of the box. I think it’s a more open-format kind of style… Everybody is just searching for a new sound, and I like that. It’s a creative process. I think it’s better than putting everyone in a box.
Tim: I don’t know, the ripped jeans—I’m over it.
Any big plans for next year?
Jurre: We don’t have a real tour planned yet, but we already have dates and festivals [confirmed] for next summer, and we want to do a big tour again with Firebeatz and Friends.
Tim: We’re talking to several artists to find a way or do something like we did with the Canada bus tour with Sander van Doorn and Julian Jordan, but from Firebeatz.
Are you looking at anyone yet to sign to your new label, or is it going to be your own music at first?
Jurre: First our own music, but of course we’re always searching for new music. We’ve got a lot of good friends that might release. Schella is a very talented producer [whom we’ve worked with in the past], so I assume we will have some releases [with him] as well. There is a lot of young talent out there, and we’re always searching for that.
What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2017?
Tim: Finish all the goddamn music we have!
Catch Firebeatz at Countdown 2016 Friday, December 30, at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA. For more information, visit the official website.
Sharon Hinojosa knows a thing or two about fire beats. Follow her on Twitter.