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The bitbird Family Returns with Fan-Made Compilation Album ‘create together vol.2’ [Interview]

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For the second year in a row, The Nocturnal Times is excited to share bitbird’s fan-made compilation album, create together vol.2. Last year, we heard the first volume which was one of the most unique albums to hit the scene in a while. As a result, bitbird not only brought attention to rising artists, but built a strong community when we needed it most.

Since bitbird’s inception in 2014, San Holo, his longtime friend/co-founder Thorwald van den Akker, his manager Budi Voogt, and the bitbird team always believed in the mission to run a label that promotes creative freedom while encouraging the larger community to “create forever.” The label was thrilled when members of their community reached out seeking feedback on a collection of songs they worked on in a one-month, self-run beat-making competition on Discord.

The nineteen breathtaking tunes on create together vol.2 were created by artists worldwide who joined together on Discord. The “create together” project took place throughout March and even included masterclasses on the platform with bitbird artists and creative staff. Through the endless inspiration, fans had the chance to learn about melodies and chords with Duskus, sound design and song-structure with Rome in Silver, mixing and mastering with ILIVEHERE., and sound design and song identity with San Holo. In addition, this year’s volume introduced the opportunity for visual artists to get involved by creating album artwork. The chosen cover art features a bird called the “sociable weaver.” The designers, Jisca & Sven kept the essence of bitbird in mind and emphasized how powerful the bitbird family can be.

To celebrate this release, we had the chance to chat with Thorwald van den Akker, bitbird’s creative director and co-founder to learn more about how this project came to be.

Read the full Q&A with Thorwald below:

The Nocturnal Times: Congratulations on delivering yet another game-changing, fan-made compilation album! Tell us a little bit about your role as creative director and co-founder for bitbird. Did you ever anticipate it would grow and build into this involved of a community?

Thorwald: It’s been a while since I started bitbird with San Holo. He came up to me one day with an idea of creating ‘something/place where he could do his thing,’ that could also be bigger than just a project, but can become a creative space in any way that it seemed fit to us. The idea was always to create something where we could express ourselves freely. Of course, what this exactly means has changed throughout the years, but that core idea is still very much in our hearts today. At first, cool artists started to reach out to us to see what we were up to, but it’s most amazing to see how almost organically that idea transferred unto our community. And they really get each other excited about creating too! I always knew that enthusiasm about creating is very infectious, but I am very happy to see that people are starting to do creative projects within our community, whether it is something together, by themselves or inspired by. When we started touring there were so many people that handcrafted bitbird themed merchandise and accessories and I think that’s when I really started to realize that what we were doing impacted people more than I could’ve ever imagined. 

The Nocturnal Times: Discord seems to be one of the most powerful platforms to connect labels, artists, fans, and more. What unique initiatives did you take to grow the bitbird Discord, and how do you think that impacted the ways rising artists and fans were able to contribute to a fan-made album?

Thorwald: In all honesty, I really believe that communities work best if you identify the people that live the community through and through. Those are voices you want to amplify. Then you try to build a space around an idea, so it has room to expand beyond just the love for what has happened already. There have been a lot of small initiatives where we put the community in touch with artists. I don’t know if they were unique in itself, but our relationship with the community is. Our community foundation beside online also lies in the ‘real’ world. We’ve spent a lot of time meeting up with our bitbird fam all over the world. The very peaceful and friendly vibe of those meet-ups really got picked up by the online community. I think looking at what is happening in the community and engaging in that is what grows it the most. And through that growth and creation of a positive space things like the ‘create together’ came to be.

I feel like it is important to address that a lot of these initiatives come from the community themselves, they pitch their ideas to us and see if we want to support them. Obviously with a project as great as create together vol.1 I couldn’t do otherwise than to give it our full support and really adopt it as a part of our philosophy. Discord as a platform really allowed us to do these kinds of things. It also really allows the community to self-organize while giving key community leaders direct access to the bitbird team

The Nocturnal Times: When you and the bitbird team set on a mission to inspire others to “create forever” is a compilation album a kind of project you envisioned would take place from the start?

Thorwald: No! I always wanted people (no matter their experience) to just start creating. In all honesty, such a big collaborative project was the last thing I expected. I definitely expected to see collaborative tracks come to life, but create together vol.1 really blew my mind and exceeded all my expectations, and this year’s is really exciting as well. So good. It makes me really proud, and in some way, feels like a very strong validation of the work we have done ourselves. For example, we always worked hard on our Gouldian Finch compilations so we know the effort that goes into these things, and to see that your community can do these same things collectively on a scale that is insane is beautiful and inspiring to see. A beautiful symbiose.

The Nocturnal Times:  Last year’s volume put a handful of rising artists on the forefront of the scene. How does it feel to give a voice to budding artists who would otherwise not have as powerful of a platform?

Thorwald: Feels amazing and even more amazing is that it couldn’t be closer to the reason why we started bitbird in the first place. Amplifying creatives.

The Nocturnal Times: This year’s volume introduced visual art into the compilation album as well. What was it like to have another creative medium introduced, and do you hope to continue adding on more in the future?

Thorwald: I think adding the artwork submissions to the ‘create together’ month has been a logical step. You don’t release a track without an artwork; it goes hand in hand. I know there are some great visual artists in our community, but what was most interesting to me was that there was a lot of participation from people that have little to no experience in visual arts. Even the winning artwork (created by Jisca & Sven) comes from the hands of two microbiologists who have been very engaged with what we do since the start. The thought that goes into the project due to the love for the community is insane. Just reading the explanation on why they chose this bird gives me goosebumps. We are constantly looking for what other fields of art to dive into. We have a lot of ideas about this 🙂

“For create together vol.2, we decided to create an artwork together, containing a proposal. Well known is the gouldian finch, representing the beautiful music on the compilations. So, we would like to propose the sociable weaver to represent the ‘create together’ compilations. The sociable weaver is a bird that lives in southern Africa. Together, these birds create large community nests that can house over 100 pairs of birds, just like how this server houses all of us, the bitbird community. Being biologists, we present you this bird in the way that fits us best, no 3D model, but a classic drawing, a way in which biologists have studied species all over the world, throughout history. We hope you agree that the sociable weaver is the ideal bird to represent a community-project such as ‘create together’ and we hope you like our artwork!” -Jisca & Sven

The Nocturnal Times:  Most labels typically curate all music and artist discovery independently. What do you think are the benefits of giving opportunities like this to the community to get involved with the label?

Thorwald: You get surprised! There are a lot of benefits, one of the most important ones is that it really builds a bond. The tracks are absolutely great. Every participant hopefully gets to learn something new along the way. We definitely have. It’s incredibly motivating to work on this project. I feel like in an industry that is so ruthless as the music industry, these projects are really a beacon of light to me.

The Nocturnal Times: Between both compilation albums and all bitbird releases, it seems the label promotes genre diversity, unique creativity, and authenticity. What are some key qualities you look for in artists that indicate they could be a great addition to the bitbird family?

Thorwald: We want an artist to have a voice (sound)! The music landscape is very saturated and tech makes it easier than ever to create music. There is such a huge amount of music uploaded every day, but not a large variety of unique sounding artists. So, what we mostly look for is someone with a distinct vision for their project. I think a good example of someone who is building this is Former Hero. Amazing music that is really pushing boundaries of what we have heard before, made a real sound for himself, and then within that he is already looking for his own sonic boundaries. It’s a journey that is really cool to follow. Basically, what it boils down to is, if you inspire us, we want to work with you. Also, you have to be a nice person to work with, very important!

The Nocturnal Times: If there is one key take-away that you want readers to know about bitbird and its mission, what would you tell them?

Thorwald: That we are on a journey to create forever. We want to be doing this for a long time, a good time, and we want to create something larger than just us. The more people we can get to explore their own creativity, the better the world will be, that is the main ethos that drives everything. We believe music is a universal language that everyone speaks and the easiest way to get creative and to create connections with other people, is to involve music in it!

Rising DJ, producer, and content creator, Ciara Graves, has been a dedicated Writer & Editor for The Nocturnal Times while simultaneously crafting her most electrifying projects yet. Having originally produced under the alias, Graveheart for a few years, Ciara is working towards taking a more sophisticated approach with her music by focusing on the meaningful connection between the visual and auditory realms. She studied Music Production & Recording Arts at Elon University '20 and completed Icon Collective's online music production program in Spring '21.

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