Held in 2010, the final iteration of the Electric Daisy Carnival in Los Angeles — considered by many to be the incendiary spark that kickstarted the popularity of electronic dance music in the US — marked the EDC debut of a then-relatively unknown act: Dada Life. The duo swiftly went on to set themselves apart from the rest by delivering incomprehensibly energetic sets and generating some the most enthusiastic crowds you’d ever see at a dance music festival with a little help from their calling cards, bananas and champagne.
Four years later, we come to the debut of Dada Land: The Voyage, one of Dada Life’s biggest undertakings yet, a festival featuring the likes of mashup prodigy Madeon and Morgan Page, a progressive house star in his own right, among others. High winds put a damper on the planned arrival-via-hot-air-balloon for Stokholmers Stefan Engblom and Olle Cornéer, but it’s hard to be too disappointed when Dada Life’s throwing down their old-school tracks for their first (yes, first) set of the night all while a sea of banana suit-clad guys and gals fervently bounce around.
In between sets, I caught up with the duo backstage to chat about the conception of Dada Land: The Voyage and got to the bottom of just how many bananas they go through in an average set.
Dada Land: The Voyage has been built up as one of the biggest headlining shows you guys have ever put together. What was the inspiration behind an event of this scale?
STEFAN ENGBLOM: It started with us being on tour around the world and wondering if we could do a hot air balloon tour before it evolved into this. We had hoped to do our entrance going over the crowd, onto the stage, and into the DJ booth, but the winds were a bit naughty today, though we did get to go up and down afterward. We started off with a 1-hour classic set with lots of stuff we don’t play anymore as well as stuff that we grew up with that inspired our sound now. We called it Dada Land: The Voyage because we wanted it to be a real musical voyage.
There’s an online meme circulating saying that you guys were originally the actors from Bananas in Pajamas. Have you guys seen this?
ENGBLOM: Yeah, we’ve seen it! If it’s on the internet, it’s true. Everything on the internet is always true. That’s our comment.
What’s the production process like for a Dada Life record?
ENGBLOM: Inspiration often comes from when we play a show and we just look out at the crowd and see all these happy faces — just pure happiness. We try to capture that moment and then go back to the studio and make a full track out of it.
OLLE CORNÉER: We’ll often start with one sound that we’ll work on for maybe a few hours until we get something going. Then it’s kinda funny — a lot of the time at the end it’s not even there because the original sound has just evolved so much. We were just talking about this with “One Smile” the other day. Remembering how it started and listening to it now, that original sound isn’t even there anymore.
Are there things that either of you specialize in during the process or is it pretty collaborative?
ENGBLOM: We have two studios, so we can work on one track at the same time separately and then we sit together. It’s a continuous process.
CORNÉER: We both do everything, but are different in our attitudes. I want stuff to be done quickly and Stefan wants to work a longer time with a little more detail. We meet in the middle somewhere.
You guys are known for your rowdy sets rife with bananas and copious amounts of champagne. How do you guys stave off the post-champagne hangover?
ENGBLOM: Bananas, all the way! If you combine the two, it’s crazy. People should try it now. I think it’s legal in maybe 15 states in the US.
CORNÉER: It’s still legal in Colorado. [LAUGHS] You have to remember, we don’t drink that much; we spray a lot. A lot of the champagne doesn’t go into our stomachs.
ENGBLOM: Sharing is caring!
About how many bananas do you go through in an average set?
CORNÉER: We have around 10 kilos in our rider. That’s about, what, 20 pounds?
Let’s say there’s a tragic worldwide banana shortage. What’s your backup fruit of choice?
ENGBLOM: We actually had something like this happen to us on one of our tour stops in Australia. They can’t import bananas into Australia and there was a flood, so the bananas cost SO much.
CORNÉER: Like $10 for one or two bananas.
ENGBLOM: Yeah, it was insane. We didn’t realize, and they gave us about a pound of bananas like [HOLDS OUT BOTH PALMS TOGETHER]. We were like “What the fuck is this? We need 10 kilos!” They were like “No way! There’s not 10 kilos of bananas in all of Australia!” [LAUGHS] But we managed with that.
So even if it comes down to the last bananas in the world…
ENGBLOM: We’re going to have them!
Dance music has been hugely popular in Europe for some time now but has only recently begun gaining traction in the US. This is obviously a very broad question, but in general, how would you say the dance music scenes in Europe and North America differ?
CORNÉER: If you had asked this question like 3-4 years ago, we would have answered that they’re very different, but now it seems like the European scene is almost copying the American vibe. Before it seemed like the Americans were more crazy, partying harder and Europeans were more jaded. Now it seems like the younger crowd in Europe has seen footage from America, and they’re copying it.
ENGBLOM: They rage so hard now. It’s really fun for us to be a part of it and to have seen how it’s evolved from “hmm…dance music is fun” just last year to total madness.
CORNÉER: Germany, for example. A few years back the scene used to be more mellow and techno-heavy, but we recently played at a huge festival in Frankfurt and it was one of the craziest shows we’ve seen.
Favorite event you’ve played thus far?
CORNÉER: Probably Dada Land: The Voyage, but we haven’t played our second set yet. [LAUGHS] Unless the stage breaks apart and I fall down and break a leg…
ENGBLOM: …the balloon ends up on stage, catches fire, goes into the crowd…
Even then it’d be pretty memorable!
ENGBLOM and CORNÉER: [LAUGHS] Yeah!
As it turns out, Dada Life didn’t need any freak onstage accidents to create an unforgettable second set. Between a pyromaniac’s dream of an opening to the various inflatables that kept springing to life on stage throughout the set, no expense was spared on the production side. Fireworks? Check. Seemingly bottomless confetti canons? Check. A shit ton of lasers during “This Machine Kills Ravers”? Check.
The duo’s newer tracks took center stage in round two. It’s hard to tell who was going crazier during “Happy Violence,” the crowd or Engblom and Cornéer. Dozens of inflatable bananas and champagne bottles were thrown into the frenzied crowd and bobbed up and down in time to “Boing Clash Boom.” The excitement in the air was unmistakably palpable, and though I could probably say this about any of the previous sets I’ve caught from Dada Life, there’s no question that their Dada Land: The Voyage set possessed a certain je ne sais quoi.
If you’re looking for raw, unadulterated fun filled with astronomical amounts of energy, look no further than a Dada Life set. Check those pesky inhibitions at the door and get lost in the utter ridiculousness of it all. You’ll be glad you did.
For more info: Dada Life