At the end of 2015, Nouveaux uploaded their first mix onto their SoundCloud page. This would become the base off which their almost two-year long journey would spring.
The euphonious vibrancy of the music selection, as well as the smooth transitions and mixing between each song garnered attention to the duo and a steady incline in their stream numbers began, upload after upload, with some mixes currently approaching the thousand mark.
Neo and Thube, the two halves of the DJ duo NouveAux, are gradually building a following for their online mixes and live sets, all laced with the kind of refreshing soulful beats, and modern hip-hop anthems that leave listeners absorbed, and later revisiting some of their favourite artists and albums – new or old, underground or commercial – that the captivating mixes may have teased them with.
As their friendship grew through Neo and Thube’s shared interests in football, music, and anime, they found themselves curating music for events – initially mixed my Neo – which led to more of a demand for live performances from the two. Their audience’s desire to have them live in their spaces rapidly grew. They speak of this, owing the realization that NouveAux’s attractive playfulness should exist within Gauteng’s entertainment industry to a series of Woke Arts events. “I did poetry for an organisation called Woke. I love music, I’m a huge fan of music,” says Thube, who goes on to speak of the prominent role relying on each other’s strengths played both at the beginning of their journey and now as they continue to grow. “Stylez (Woke organizer) always saw me posting music and asked me to come up with a mix for Woke. I picked the songs, but I couldn’t mix them properly and Neo could.” The process evolved to where both were selecting and mixing the songs and eventually getting asked to play more live sets as a duo. “[Thube] played the mix at Woke Arts,” explains Neo. “People really respond well to the stuff. I think it was at that point where we kind of realised: ‘OK, maybe this is something we can do.’”
The live entertainment and music industries’ heavy fixation on DJs sticking to the current booming trap sound has often found itself presenting some challenges for NouveAux and the diverse range of uncommon music that they prefer to play, as they navigate their way through live gigs and spaces where the sounds aren’t as warmly received as more commercial music. “There was a time when winging it worked for us,” Thube admits, as he thinks of the journey which NouveAux has embarked on thus far, learning and growing at each turn, and continuing their voyage, despite being based kilometers apart. While the reality of being in completely different cities may be daunting for any emerging duo in a bubbly entertainment industry, NouveAux continue to firmly maintain their persistence in succeeding, both online and live, and their need to keep to their consistency in producing the kind of mixes that they do.
NouveAux’s journey in the Johannesburg entertainment and music industries is only just beginning, and the duo’s positive energy towards their future is inspiring. Though they’re planning on booking more live gigs and releasing more mixes online, more control over the sounds which they play and in which spaces seems to be a priority as well, as throwing their own events is in the pipelines too….
Much of the creative scene in SA is beginning to find more prominence online. For you guys, is the online space a more effective way of sharing your mixes, or do you prefer physical spaces with live interaction?
NEO I think it’s a mix of the two. With dropping the mixes online, it’s more about curating songs and picking a really dope group of songs for a mix.
“Through the mixes, we can dig for gems that maybe don’t get as much traction as they should be getting.”
The live side, on the other hand, is a lot more about an experience and creating an energetic vibe live in the moment. I personally prefer the online side with the mixes, because it exposes me to a lot of music out there and I’m all about uncovering new stuff to listen to. As for the local creative scene, within the online space I definitely feel like a lot has improved in the last couple of years. More people are using SoundCloud, more artists are getting their content onto platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, and there are platforms like Slikouronline, The Plug, Zkhiphani and the like pushing artists on the rise. So I definitely feel like we are in a good space right now.
THUBE With us, we’re huge on our SoundCloud page. We’ve used around four accounts to post our mixes and the responses make us believe that we can do it live. I know that there are quite a lot of good live DJs but, when it comes to the internet, they don’t have as many streams compared to us. I think the internet is more of a benefit to those who can’t hear our live sets, like for the DEAD Tour. The internet is huge, especially SoundCloud. When people said that SoundCloud might close, we were like: “Where are we gonna put our mixes, bro?” We don’t just reach people in Joburg, because the type of music that we play isn’t necessarily always played in certain places here. The internet is more of a way to show people “This is what we’ve done. We’re sure that people want to listen to what we doing. We’re sure that there is a demand for NouveAux.”
“The internet is more of an extension to who we are – without it, I don’t even think NouveAux would exist.”
How do you guys feel about the direction that South Africa’s music scene seems to be going in at the moment?
THUBE Trap has a huge influence in South Africa because the kids love trap. What we’ve noticed is that there are people who have been open-minded to music like Soulection. Something I’ve seen is that when I’m out and people are drinking, they’re not always trying to hear something that they don’t know, so a lot of the times, many DJs play it safe. You’ll find that DJs listen to a plethora of genres but, because you know you need to play music that people know, they play the typical music. It also depends on the places. Joburg is huge and there are so many different personalities.
NEO I think there’s a lot of dope music in the mainstream space, but the mainstream suffers from over-saturation. I think that’s why movements like Woke Arts and Under Pressure Sundays are a must within the creative space, just to add that diversity. And I’m all for the evolution that kind of diversity can bring.
You have mixes which cover a range of different genres. How does being a duo affect the kinds of songs you choose and the mixes overall?
THUBE In the beginning, we would start with a theme and Neo would come with his songs and I would come with my songs. I think there is a huge benefit in that because there are two minds, so he’s digging on SoundCloud and I’m digging on SoundCloud. Sometimes there are disagreements but, because there are two of us, there’s more music to choose from. There are also times when we pick the same songs, so there is a certain amount of frequency that we do have. It’s just more-or-less about trusting the person that you’re with.
Being relatively new in this industry, what kind of things are you beginning to learn that you’d like to share with other people who are considering branching into DJing?
NEO Don’t do it unless it’s something you love and it’s something you want to add to. There are too many DJs conforming to what’s already out there and not enough people really trying to shift the culture. So yeah, just that: be unique.
In which ways is NouveAux hoping to bring something new to the entertainment scenes in the city’s that you have an audience in?
NEO More than anything, just diversifying ourselves from what is out there, because there are a lot of DJs who also want a piece of the pie.
“Creating an experience whenever we are at a show that you can say that was an experience that is unique to these guys.”
A big part of that is staying true to the sound we started with, the whole mantra of digging for music.
THUBE The main reason why we started DJing is because we got tired of hearing the same type of music. I remember at Authentic once, I think I heard the same song six times, and that’s part of the reason why I stopped going out.
“I think, for us, we want people to be aware of what is out there. So many people limit themselves – so many DJ’s limit themselves.”
There are people complaining that there’s the same kind of music and that DJ’s aren’t being open. So, for us, we’re trying to have an influence on what’s being played, especially in the club scene. Anywhere else you might find variety, but the club scene is one that’s just stagnant, so we’re trying to penetrate that….
Stream NouveAux’s most recent mix below. For more from the duo and to keep up with their future gigs and online drops, follow Thube and Neo as well as the official NouveAux account on SoundCloud and Twitter.