Introducing: ColynMay 25, 2022
In 2019, just two years into the Colyn project, his relationship with the beloved melodic techno label officially began, when his track “Amor” was released as part of their Realm Of Consciousness Pt. IV compilation album. His moody and propulsive four-track Resolve EP followed that same year on Afterlife, and helped put him on the map beyond his hometown of Amsterdam.
Not long after “Amor” got love from the likes of Mind Against, Mathame and Joris Voorn; while the EPs second track, “Eriador,” a flute-tinged journey to Middle-earth, saw heavy rotation by Tale Of Us that year. Since then, the Italian duo has released two more of Colyn’s EPs: Patterns in 2020, and most recently, Oxygen Levels Low, which dropped on April 29.
“The Afterlife family has really been a home for me from the start,” Colyn says over Zoom from his Miami Airbnb. The rising melodic techno artist recently made his US debut at Miami’s Sound.
“Obviously, when you come into it, you kind of need to prove yourself, just as any group that you roll into. But once you establish yourself and show that you’re serious and you can pull your weight, they fully support you and make sure to put you in the right environment to grow as an artist.”
The first time he met Tale of Us was in Amsterdam after they played his track—which took him by surprise since he hadn’t sent them any music yet.
“I was in Amsterdam at a festival and they played a track of mine. I had nerves up to my ears and I tried to talk to them. I told Matteo, ‘Hey, you played a track of mine.’ He’s like, ‘I didn’t play it, Carmine played it. You should ask him.’ I was like oof. So I asked Carmine and he said, ‘Ohh, you’re that guy. That’s cool man, but we need to catch a helicopter to go to our next show.’ I was like, ‘Holy fuck, these guys.’ I asked how we can stay in touch and he gave me his phone number.”
From there, Colyn started sending more and more music — up to 35 tracks he reckons, including “Amor.” And he thinks having all that music ready to go helped Tale Of Us begin to trust him as an artist.
“At this point, I’m really good friends with all the guys, which is amazing,” Colyn says. “At the start, it’s a bit scarier because they’re helping you make your first steps in your career, so you feel like you’re walking a bit more on eggshells. Now, it’s a good friendship and we can talk about everything. It’s all open for discussion, which is super cool position [to be in].”
Scary as it was, that first meeting led to the pivotal Resolve release, and plenty more support of his tracks in their sets. “A lot has changed. The EP was definitely a pivotal moment in my career. ‘Amor’ was my debut release on Afterlife, which did really well. But if you put out a debut and there’s no follow up, it’s going to be difficult to keep your momentum going. Resolve perfectly followed up ‘Amor’ and I guess it’s also a bit of luck and timing that everything comes together. We had the right music ready to follow up and Tale Of Us also thought so. We got a massive response from that EP, which really launched my career and pushed me from upcoming local DJ to starting international DJ.”
Colyn’slatest Afterlife release, Oxygen Levels Low, demonstrates his versatility and creativity within the world of melodic. The first two tracks are perfectly weird left-field peak time dance floor heaters, followed by two somewhat more chilled and deep melodic gems, which are closer to the sound he’s known for.
“‘Oxygen Levels Low‘ is definitely a song where I tried to push the boundaries a little bit. Every new work I put out, I want to try to raise the bar, personally. And I think what’s fun about it is it’s a bit more of a rough, clubby track than people are used to for me. That’s why the whole package works really well, because the other tracks have a bit more of the melodic sound that I’m more known for,” Colyn explains.
As he explains, the EP also reflects his headspace at different points over the last year or so and represents how he translates his feelings into his tracks.
“’Oxygen Levels Low’ has been done for about 10 months, and ‘Lightyears‘ has only been done for three months, so they all come from a different timestamp. All of them have different influences from where my head was at that point in time. In general, I try to transform emotions and experiences that happen in my daily life to my music.”
Colyn has also built a relationship with RÜFÜS DU SOL, who’ve released two of Colyn’s EPs on their Rose Avenue record label: Bridges In The Sky in 2021, and Concepts of Love in 2020. Both of these two-trackers are led by emotive songs featuring the deep, warm vocals of Maurtis Colijn, Colyn’s older brother — an audio engineer who writes music in his free time and started DJing back in his early teens, before the younger Colyn. His love for dance music and DJing rubbed off on Colyn, who eventually became the only DJ in the family.
“First of all, he’s an awesome guy — it’s super fun to work together,” Colyn says about his older brother. “It’s always difficult to find the right vocalist for a track. Sometimes we look around and try to get someone else involved, and then I sit in one session in the studio with my brother and we end up with the whole song. And we’re like, ‘Wow, it’s that easy.’ I think because we’re brothers we can be very honest with each other. So if we don’t like it, or if we’re moving out of the direction we should be going in, then we just say it to each other.
We don’t really have that awkwardness where you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s kind of cool,’ even if you don’t like it. I think that helps the process a lot, and he has a beautiful voice, which helps too. Usually, we write it together, so it’s him and me in the studio writing, then he sings it and I record it. And then we go back and write some more, and usually, after two or three hours, we have a first version of what is a song. It’s been super cool to release a few tracks with him already.”
Just last month, Colyn ticked another item off the DJ bucket list when he played for Cercle at the stunning Jatayu Earth’s Center in Kerala, India. This — along with his first trip to play in the U.S. — is one of the life experiences that left him feeling super inspired in the studio. “That was mad,” he says, chuckling. “The whole trip was an adventure. I have two people in my management team and we all went there because we felt like this was such a big moment,” he said of his Cercle trip.
“We arrived and I saw the DJ setup and I was like, ‘What the fuck, I’m actually gonna play a DJ set here.’ The guys from Cercle are super pros, they know what they’re doing, so I could really focus on getting the music part right… I was really nervous because it’s live live, so you cannot fuck up or make any big mistakes. So the first half hour was a bit itchy, but in the end it all went well. After the first half hour I started to come into a rhythm and got a bit more relaxed.”
Before he got the chance to play spine-tingling venues like that, he spent years cutting his teeth in the Amsterdam scene, playing pretty much every club while making a name for himself locally. By the time he connected with Tale Of Us, he was pretty well known in Amsterdam, and had enough DJing and producing hours logged to roll with them.
“I started producing before I started DJing. It’s been 11 years ago now; I was 16 when I started producing music,” Colyn reflects. “After five, six years of producing, I started to realize my music was actually good, and my friends were like, ‘This is actually awesome. We would listen to this even without having the bias that you’re my friend.’ I started to realize that maybe I could actually sign on a label and start something of a career. At that point, I was also DJing already and playing every possible room in Amsterdam that would have me,” Colyn says.
Reflecting further on his success, Colyn thinks aspiring DJs should play as many gigs as possible for the experience — even the bad ones.
“That’s what’s going to make you a better DJ when things blow up. You need those hours in rooms with three people in it where one is enjoying it, the other one is sleeping and the other is smoking in the back. That’s what you take with you when you’re touring and you’re getting all these kinds of challenges and different crowds thrown at you.”
Like many older siblings, his brother played an important role in his early musical taste, bringing him into the world of electronic music at a young age. And the first dance sounds that entranced him were trance, which feels like a natural progression towards melodic techno.
“As a kid, it’s all phases, of course. I had my phase of punk rock. Then I moved into trance, like old school Tiësto, Ferry Corsten, those big Dutch DJs when trance was mega, in 2001 or so. And from there I slowly moved on to progressive, more like Eric Prydz, which I still love as well. From there on, I went on a darker path. The music I made before the Colyn project was melodic techno but a bit more on the dark side. My sound is similar now, but it’s a bit cheerier, not too dark. It’s a bit more uplifting, hopeful.”
He affirms that those early influences still impact him to this day, along with his fellow Afterlife family, of course. “The old trance guys have something on me; Tiësto, Armin [van Buuren], Ferry Corsten. Also, Eric Prydz heavily influences me, I’m a big fan. He’s an amazing producer; over the years he’s made so much music that’s so high level. Those are the people that were the most influential when I started producing. And when I started to become a bit of a better producer, people like Tale Of Us, Mind Against and Recondite were also very inspiring for me to listen to. And now they’re friends of mine, which is super funny and crazy, but really cool.”
You can expect more emotive bangers from Colyn in the near future. “Musically, I want to try and build something new. I want to work on the next thing, for me that’s a timeline of six, seven, eight months and, obviously, there’s already some contenders in the field that I feel could be cool projects for the next thing. Always, when something comes out, it leaves kind of a void like, ‘Okay, what now?’ So that’s where I’m at now, but usually that’s a very healthy feeling where I’m like ‘Okay, I need to push again and we need to find the next big thing where my sound should develop,’ which is always interesting.”
Ana Monroy Yglesias is a Staff Writer for GRAMMY.com and a freelance music journalist based out of Los Angeles. Find her on Twitter.