The current Swedish electronica scene is rather flamboyant. Gathering international attention, there exists a blend of talents who range from techno and pop, to hip-hop and more experimental music, thus endorsing the well-known Swedish standing achievement from many years back – this time with a noteworthy contribution of female artists within the scene. To top such moment off, since 2017, contemporary music festival Department works as a springboard for local artists whilst offering an exciting selection of international ones.
That includes, for instance, Underworld, Planningtorock, Princess Nokia, and Tale of Us. On May 26, about two thousand five hundred people will take over Stockholm’s Meatpacking district aka Slakthusområdet. The festival presents new Swedish acts of the likes of Baba Stiltz and DJ Clea combined with other artists such as Jon Hopkins, Todd Terje, Recondite and DJ Hell, among others. In addition, Department’s solid mindset provides equal opportunities to perform to men and women. We sat down with founders Fanny Larsson and Calle Dernulf to dig into this quite exciting point.
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How and when did the idea of Department begin?
It started with a simple idea to create a classic block party in the Meatpacking district of Stockholm. We got the chance to use this great space and didn’t hesitate a second, although we just had about three months to pull it off. I think we did pretty ok.
How often does the festival run per year?
Last year, it was a two-day festival; this one, we split it with a club night in April and a full-day festival (fourteen hours) on May 26. Department doesn’t necessarily have to be a definite format but rather have several expressions. We want to grow organically and adapt ourselves by looking at the latest year, every year.
Although Department’s trajectory is short, I bet the list of artists involved so far makes you proud.
Oh, a lot of things make us proud! Obviously, Underworld to headline our first year was amazing. Tale of Us, Dixon, Peggy Gou, Axel Boman, Princess Nokia, Survive, Planningtorock and Stefflon Don. We continued to do a few selected nights as well with Maceo Plex and there’s more to come.
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How important is it to count with both international and local artists for you?
Very. We wanted to add something to the already established tech scene that has grown strong in Stockholm. At the same time, we wanted to offer international artists and combine them with some of our best Swedish acts – all under the same roof of Department.
The festival’s line-up is quite techno-oriented. Yet contemporary and electronic-oriented, are there any other genres or crossover towards pop, rock or hip-hop possible to be seen at Department in the future?
Last year, we had a mix of hip-hop, house and techno but this year we chose to focus completely on electronic music. But the same applies here – we haven’t decided on next year’s content yet.
In fact, looking at the line-up, the presence of men and women artists is equal. Is that a coincidence or a mindset?
It is for sure a conscious choice. We want to offer equal parts of men and women at Department.
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How do you see the electronic music scene in Stockholm at this very moment?
I would say it’s really good since we do have a lot of brilliant local acts and for sure a growing amount of clubbers that support this kind of events. There are as well a number of DJs and promoters that do amazing underground parties and their passion also makes the scene vibrate and grow.
Do you embrace the idea of the so-called Swedish ‘svartklubbar’ or do you appeal for a different model of entertainment within the electronic scene?
We embrace everything that makes the culture grow. We don’t think that one excludes the other, rather the opposite.
Scandinavia is well-known for promoting different forms of arts and music and culture in general. Curiously, for some years, Stockholm has lacked a good festival of contemporary music. Promoter companies such as Luger and FKP Scorpio have deceased further impetus for this matter in this city. What is your take on that?
Ultimately, it comes down to if you’re creating something that’s attractive to a specific crowd. If you’re in touch with what’s happening sound-wise and know what’s hyped at the moment, it creates an interest but that’s just part of it. It gets more interesting if you tell your story and help the audience experience something they didn’t know they wanted. If you are doing things that are too way ahead of your time, on the other hand, then you need a lot of time and some financial stamina.
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Does any governmental institution help to make things easier for you or is it the other way around?
We’re not supported nor helped by the government but we’re in good talks with the Stockholm Council and love their vision of creating interesting cultural events in the Meatpacking district, Slakthusområdet.
As a matter of fact, generally, music festivals are branded to add economic muscle. Nevertheless, the lack of marketing makes the festival somewhat genuine, or at least at this stage. Please unpack this in your own words.
First and foremost, it’s a love thing, doing a festival. Everyone who’s trying to create events – including music – can attest to that. It needs to be driven by passion! The branding usually comes down to the fact that you want to cover the costs and to make a festival happening you need to invest not just a lot of time but also money. Our take on this is that we want to do it somewhat intimate and genuine by having a great location, finding the right type of artists and then spread the word. Sure, sponsors can help but you need to know why you want them and make sure it’s a natural progression and partnership.
This time around, Department will take place at the Slakthuset area, which is one of the newest neighbourhoods of Stockholm – if I am right, they are building new households, stores, bars and restaurants to hang out. Please let us know your opinion about this and how beneficial is for Department to be located in this area.
The area was built in the early 20th century and Department is located in a building from 1912 that has twenty-meters-high ceilings, which is an optimal venue for this kind of event. With a strong industrial’s character, it contributes to the overall experience. We don’t consider that the constructions in the area affect Department in any way – not yet.
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Is Department an itinerant festival where each edition takes place in a different venue so to speak?
Department is primarily a festival that takes place in Slakthusområdet.
How do you see the festival for this year, achievements and things that you are happy about, any improvements regarding previous years and so forth?
We always want to improve and evaluate what we do. How did this turn out? Could we twist it to make it better? It’s also an interaction between the ones who attended last year’s edition and getting their take on it. So, it’s a lot of things, which means it’s hard to even talk about a specific blueprint for a festival because each time there are different things that make every event or festival unique.
About how many people will be able to enjoy the festival this time?
We accommodate about two thousand five hundred people and it looks like we’re selling out this year!
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In order to establish itself, please let us know what is your plan for Department’s future editions: type of venue, music genres, capacity, etc.
We’ve already started planning next year and hope to be able to present our first artists really soon. Music-wise, we will continue to focus on exciting electronic music but we don’t limit ourselves when it comes to venues or capacity. We create things that we want to attend ourselves and that perhaps present the artists in a new but suitable environment.
Please feel free to add any other kind of relevant information.
Get in time with an open mind.
Department will take place on Saturday, May 26, in Stockholm, Sweden.
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