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Vivrant Camp
Photography Jonas Dyrsmeds

Inside a Swedish techno retreat taking bedroom producers to the woods

Looking to take producers out of solitary studios and give them a community and support, Vivrant is a writer’s camp – only with more kickdrums

The journey north from Luleå Airport takes around one hour, the scenery growing wilder with each mile the minibus clocks. Swedish Lapland is a breathtaking wilderness, whether it’s midwinter’s frozen lakes and Arctic tundra or the green blanket of summer. Our destination: a 1930s retirement home that’s been converted into a guesthouse, a remote, award-winning design masterpiece.

Alongside five other electronic musicians, Dazed is attending the inaugural Vivrant Camp, led by label bossmen, DJ and producer Jeremy Olander and his longtime friend and manager Alex Drewniak. Taking its name from Olander’s progressive house and techno imprint, it’s the dance music equivalent of a five-day writer’s retreat. For the first edition, Spanish melodic master Marino Canal and a quartet of domestic talent have been drafted: Viggo Dyst, Rebecca Scheja, Oliver Storgords, and Moa Lönnå, aka MOLØ.

The electronic music camp attendees stay together in the site’s old farmhouse long-since converted into a B&B, all wooden fixtures and fittings with retro trinkets lining walls and shelves. From there, it’s a short hike through the thick pine forest to Dragonfly, one of seven striking treehouses, now a pop-up studio. Three rooms offer mesmerising views across the vast Swedish emptiness as well as pack synths, drum machines, and more. A communal central area breaks up the workspaces with a table, bench seating, and fully stocked bar.

“We were really clear in terms of our communication to the artists that our only concern is that you spend the time with each other and actually make your way into the studio every day,” says Drewniak, explaining they aimed to avoid any element of forced creativity. “We just wanted people to have fun, and enjoy each other’s company, and maybe learn a thing or two from one another. And then if something comes out of it, that’s amazing.”

The approach pays off. Storgords tells us how the process helps him develop technically, citing a bespoke drum creation plug-in both Olander and Dyst used that he’d never seen before as one tangible example. Lönnå is quick to point out how much more connected the Vivrant roster now feels. “We learnt so much about each other,” Canal adds. Strong bonds are forged over meatballs, fish stew, and plenty of French wine – sandwiched between hours spent honing track ideas together.

“Now I don't feel worried at all about having someone next to me while I’m working. Which is quite amazing, actually” – Jeremy Olander

For others, it’s about becoming comfortable working in face-to-face settings. “I was actually very scared going into this, you know – sitting next to someone,” says Olander. “Because when I write music it could take a while to find a melody, you maybe play a little bit wrong or whatever. But now I don't feel worried at all about having someone next to me while I'm working. Which is quite amazing, actually.”

“Me and Viggo started a new project together because of this,” reveals Scheja. The as-yet-unnamed duo now have an eight-track mini-album almost ready, based on plans spawned in the wilds. She also makes it clear that, while intense, Vivrant Camp offered a respite from the demands of daily life in music. “People rely on you to always be online and answer emails or calls. And you have all these deadlines. Here you have a reason to tell people, ‘I’m away working’... That’s such a relief for the creative mind. It’s nice for your brain to just stay in that mindset for a couple of days and not think about a release plan, your relationship, blah blah, blah.”

The impact a change of scenery can have on mental health, productivity, and fresh thinking can’t be understated. The Camp model has also resulted in a decision to find a permanent location for impromptu collaborative work. “I think the main thing that needs to be done is having a location where everyone can meet and work together,” Olander says, explaining that the crew are now looking for a space in Vivrant’s home city, Stockholm, to create a hub where artists can drop in, work, and learn from one another.

“The term ‘label family’ can be really misused and watered down at times. Like, people make out it’s all about being part of a community but at the end of the day, often it doesn't really do that much for you. People don't really check up on what you're working on. They don't really offer their feedback. I feel this initiative really brought people together in a way that we couldn't have imagined,” says Drewniak, before confirming the trip will now be an ongoing fixture for label acts. “We're very committed to having the Camp be a recurring thing. Basically taking that concept of putting creative people in a very inspiring location, that’s sort of exotic and different, which can energise them.” 

In many ways the experience is paradoxical – bringing like-minded heads closer by decamping to one of Europe’s most isolated corners. But the success makes sense, especially in an era when many of us have seen new social connections almost entirely vanish, and travel – once an integral part of the dance music industry – all-but written off. Providing a bug-out spot to hide from the pandemic cycle and focus, the experiment offers a workable blueprint for something that can foster a different approach to the stereotype of solitary production, in turn helping spread knowledge. In contrast to lone endeavours and long-distance collaborations, it’s about a unifying and supportive atmosphere, ripe for delivering unexpected things.