If you missed your chance to see electronic dance music sensation Avicii at the mid-size Ocean Club at Marina Bay last summer, you might be waiting a long time for him to play another venue of that intimacy. The Swedish producer and DJ has leapfrogged to the upper stratosphere of the dance scene over the past year, placing at the top of many industry magazines’ best DJs lists, performing for massive crowds, and scoring a recent Grammy nomination with collaborator and fellow crossover pop electronic star David Guetta for their track “Sunshine.’’
Not a bad start for a 22-year-old who only began producing music four or five years ago. Speaking on the road from the Texas leg of his current “House for Hunger’’ tour, Avicii (a.k.a. Tim Bergling) credits his quick start to the deft, guiding hand of manager Ash Pournouri, and a strong support team. Still, he says, he’s been taken aback.
“I would never have assumed it would get this far,’’ he says. “I would say about when I met my manager, when I was 19, that was when I kind of realized everything started taking off. I started doing remixes for big DJs and stuff like that and started getting some recognition.’’
It was a remix he’d done for taste-making DJ Bob Sinclair’s track “New New New’’ in 2009 that made him realize he might actually have something here. “I remember it got a couple hundred thousand views on YouTube. That started generating some buzz; it was the first track I got recognition from.’’ It’s over 1.3 million views now. Still, that pales in comparison to the nearly 25 million who’ve clicked this year’s club staple “Levels.’’
To get to this point “never would have been possible a couple years back,’’ he says of the current electronic resurgence. “Especially in America. It keeps on building as well. I don’t think it’s reached its peak. It’s kind of changing the way all genres are made now, rock bands are working with Skrillex, all the top pop bands and rappers are all morphing into house. It’s not just a trend, it’s a whole genre coming up, the same way as punk and rock and stuff like that did.’’
Being aware of his good fortune in that regard has inspired Bergling and Pournouri to pledge $1 million of their personal fees from the tour to Feeding America, a hunger relief charity.
“Ash came up with the idea of doing something for America, kind of our way of giving back to a country that’s given both of us so much. It made total sense since the fans here have supported me so much.’’
He says that coming from Sweden, the extent of the need for hunger relief charities was shocking. “We found out how big the hunger problem actually is here. It’s something I haven’t gotten to see when I’ve traveled there. I was baffled. It’s ‘the land of prosperity,’ I didn’t know how big the problem was.’’
A pledge of that amount wouldn’t be possible if not for the success of tracks like “Levels.’’ The song’s framework goes most of the way toward capturing Avicii’s signature style, which relies on arpeggiated piano chords, escalating trance-like synth stabs, insistent house beats, washes of ethereal static, and, on other hits like “Fade Into Darkness’’ and “Seek Bromance’’ (his breakthrough track, released under the name Tim Berg), big, crowd-pleasing, soulful vocals that satisfy contemporary dance music’s insatiable demand for pulsing euphoria.
It’s not hard to see why tracks like those have struck such a popular chord, even if he may have graduated to the level where early adopters and genre-aficionados have begun jumping ship. Quite simply, Avicii’s music sounds like fun itself, with bright, glowing, rainbow veins pushing candy-colored blood into the nervous system of a dance floor. In this way, it stands in stark contrast to dubstep - the other prevailing electronic movement of the moment, which has a darker, more ominous sound.
Bergling agrees with the positivity assessment, although, he says, after some 200-plus tracks, there is a lot of variation in his style. “But those tracks are the ones I definitely think my fans have taken to the most.’’
Not that he doesn’t appreciate the darkness from time to time himself.
“Tim Berg is kind of my outlet where I can experiment a bit more, I can do a little more what I want, while Avicii is more my signature melodic thing. With Tim Berg I can do a little bit more darker stuff. I can appreciate almost all sides of the genre.’’