Bakermat on the Rise of Tropical House

Lodewijk Fluttert didn’t set out to become a DJ. Indeed, the young Dutch producer who records and performs internationally as Bakermat (including an upcoming set this Thursday night at LIV) didn’t set out to do anything beyond finding himself. “I was a psychology student in Holland. I took a semester off because I wanted to see what else I could [do] besides just studying and going to university. So I took a semester off and I did all kinds of stuff, like stand-up comedy and writing. And I also made a track for the first time in my life and put it on YouTube.” 

“I don’t particularly see myself as ‘tropical’ but if people see it as that, it’s cool for me — I don’t really care”

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Among the few tracks he posted online in that time was the soulful, Martin Luther King-sampling “One Day (Vandaag),” which quickly went viral, cracking the top ten in countries across Europe and eventually achieving platinum status in Germany.

But Fluttert didn’t just find accidental success with his early Bakermat tracks — he inadvertently played a foundational role in launching a new style of electronic music that’s been dubbed “tropical house.” The subgenre borrows the soulful and jazzy elements of deep house (along with its heavy four-on-the-floor pulse) and leavens them with brighter instrumentation like marimbas, steel drums and, in Bakermat’s case, lots of saxophone and violins.
“It’s pretty cool to see how it grew,” says Fluttert. “I started this thing in 2012 with [Austrian production duo] Klangkarussell and [German DJ] Wankelmut, we were the first three to do it in Europe. People really had to get used to that kind of sound, but then the records that we made actually charted, and charted high. Then it broke open, and a lot of new kids started doing it.”

“Broke open” might be underselling it — the tropical house aesthetic rose from the clubland underground to the top of the worldwide pop charts this summer, fueling tracks like Felix Jaehn’s blockbuster remix of OMI’s “Cheerleader” and “What Do You Mean,” the recently released lead single to Justin Bieber’s upcoming Purpose album. Norwegian DJ Kygo, one of those aforementioned “new kids,” has headlined festivals from the dance-heavy TomorrowWorld to Chicago’s Lollapalooza with his own take on the trop house sound.

For his part, Fluttert is nonplussed by the label (“I don’t particularly see myself as ‘tropical’ but if people see it as that, it’s cool for me — I don’t really care”) and doesn’t cotton to being boxed in by any particular genre.

He becomes audibly animated when the topic of conversation shifts to his upcoming debut LP, Bon Voyage, and the range of influences it will showcase. “I can’t just release a hip-hop track out of nowhere, or a ballad,” he notes. “People will think, ‘Whoa, that’s a weird new record for Bakermat.’ On the album, you have room to put that in, to show a different side of yourself. I don’t always want to do the same kind of thing. I think of myself as a pretty broad producer, and I want people to know that so I have more freedom to produce after the album.”
In Europe, he’s had a chance to showcase that range of influences and inspirations, putting on a series of shows with something he dubbed the “Bakermat Live Band,” a six-piece ensemble that accompanied his live electronic mixes with organic instrumentation. “I love electronic music, but I always missed the human touch,” he says. “I love imperfections in music, because it makes it human and cooler and more exciting. I see a lot of DJs all do the same thing; it’s all beats and it’s pre-programmed. It’s all in this format, and there’s no room for imperfection or improvisation. So then I started thinking: why not an electronic band, with a DJ but also six musicians on a stage, where there’s room for improvisation and also mistakes? It makes it more exciting and it makes it way more human.”

Fluttert won’t have a full band in tow at LIV (the realities of international touring make that a non-starter for the moment) but it won’t be a standard DJ set either. He will be accompanied by his saxophonist Ben Rodenburg.

“I’ve been playing with Ben for two-and-a-half years now,” he says. “We have a really good chemistry on stage, so there might be a lot of improvisation. It’s going to be a bit eclectic.” For Fluttert, it’s all a bit like musical alchemy, a series of experiments in search of that elusive golden feeling. “It’s an unexplainable kind of thing, when you hear a track or an emotion in a vocal. I really love that. That’s the stuff that can give you actual, pure happiness.”

Just Dance Presents: Bakermat. Thursday, November 5 at LIV Fontainebleau, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-4680; Tickets cost $30.00 plus fees via
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Jesse Richman