Meet WATEVA: Estonia's Hottest Electronic Music Duo (Interview and Track-by-Track Breakdown)
Estonian power duo WATEVA released their debut studio album Disposable Society on August 6. Based in Tallinn, Estonia, Hugo Martin Maasikas and Kris Evan Säde put their unique dystopian spin on various EDM subgenres, bringing artivism (activist artists and creatives) to the global electronic music scene.
WATEVA's debut single, My Love 2 U," was released in January of 2018 and rapidly rose in the Spotify Viral Charts in the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and more. The group releases music through Armada Music, Big Beat Records, Future House Music & NCS, and more, and have received support from electronic icons such as The Chainsmokers, Don Diablo, and Oliver Heldens. WATEVA's "Until We Die" (ft. Next to Neon) charted, reaching #1 on iTunes's Dance chart, and #3 on Apple Music in Estonia.
The infectiously danceable beats and melodies of Disposable Society are only a fraction of what makes the album a stand-out release. WATEVA speaks out against human consumerism and environmental issues through their unforgettably dynamic concept album, in which each song transitions flawlessly into the next. Not only does Disposable Society address one overarching theme, but it also tells a full story, complete with an introduction, interlude sections, and a powerful conclusion–it's both literally and conceptually cohesive.
In addition to serving as a warning about the potentially dark future of our shared planet, Disposable Society is a celebration of Estonian talent and culture, with numerous collaborations with Estonian artists and producers interwoven throughout the album.
Disposable Society opens with "Mckd Symphty (Prelude)," a track that makes the listener feel as if they're being teleported to a haunting, apocalyptic future. At the beat drop, the album's title track, "Disposable Society," begins. This upbeat anthem features Estonian singer-songwriter Manna, and introduces listeners to WATEVA's alternate universe. "Meds" is the third track of the release, featuring NOËP, and boasts some of the strongest electronic rhythm beats of 2021. The blend of synthesizers, backing vocals, uptempo midi beats, and other naturalistic sound effects is a harmonious demonstration of WATEVA's endless potential and dynamic range as producers. The syncopated synths and beat drop of "Marabú" certainly deserve mention as a highlight of the album; "Boiling Point (Interlude)" builds anticipation for "Burn Out," as well as brings a shift in energy to the listening experience. "Burn Out," which was WATEVA's first ever techno track, is yet another moment worth spotlighting in Disposable Society. The song is equal parts eerie, striking, and catchy, with vocals by collaborator Asena. Toward the end of the album, "So High" acts as a climactic bop–perfect for any club or party.
We spoke with WATEVA about the Estonian EDM scene, the future of planet Earth, Disposable Society, and more. Check out the full interview, album, as well as a complete track-by-track breakdown of the release below. Let us know what you think.
Where in Estonia are you based?
We’re based in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Rap music has really taken over here in the past few years. Electronic music also has a strong scene–especially house music.
How has the electronic music scene been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We didn’t have any live events happening, so all the producers were just in the studio working on some music. That helped give us the time to finish our album. We were all shut down during the winter, but this summer, everyone was so hungry for live music. People are just craving entertainment and gigs now–it’s crazy.
Who are your biggest musical influences as a duo?
Lately and for the album, it’s been a lot of artists like Flume and Tourist (a UK-based artist). It’s a lot of really mellow, organic house electronic music. We get influenced by random things all the time, though; we’ve been inspired by my cat meowing or birds singing before.
How did you develop your “look” as artists?
Truthfully, LA has the best edibles in the world... and at Kris’s school, he was told that an artist should have some kind of visual hook in addition to their music. We saw this trailer for a movie called Mute, and there were these guys that had the lower halves of their faces painted black and their eyeballs were white. We thought it was really cool; we wanted to look kind of like ghouls and the aesthetic just fit really well with the music we were making. We went to a wig store on Hollywood Boulevard and bought a bunch of wigs and white contact lenses.
"We wanted to look kind of like ghouls and the aesthetic just fit really well with the music we were making."
Can you see with your contact lenses in?
Yes, we can. There are two types of contact lenses; there are some that are completely white, and you can’t see anything at all, and there are some that you can see through. We had this video shoot and we had to use the ones we couldn’t see through because the other ones were expired. The ones we usually use are white contact lenses with mesh in the middle, so it’s white-filtered but you can kind of see through them.
Tell us about your latest album, Disposable Society.
The album started with the song “Disposable Society.” The term (“Disposable Society”) was coined from Joe Rogan’s podcast… somebody was speaking about society and how we consume and toss things away. I wrote it all down and when it was time to songwrite, I pulled out my notes again and went from there. “Disposable Society” was co-written by Manna, who cares a lot about the environment and wants to protect the Earth. We wrote most of the lyrics before we even wrote the melodies. We had over 600 vocal takes of different ideas for the song by the end. The main theme was what the hell we’re doing right now as a society. It ended up being a topic that we could carry throughout all the songs on the album. It comes through a bit more in some than others, as there are a few that needed to be very radio-friendly, but it’s all up for interpretation in the end. The main concept of the album is that the listener is 1000 years in the future, looking back at how they felt about what happened in these past few years.
"The main concept of the album is that the listener is 1000 years in the future, looking back at how they felt about what happened in these past few years."
What do you think is the biggest issue in the world right now?
The hottest topic in the world right now is probably climate change. Even Greece is burning right now; there are floods in Germany. Even one degree celsius can be problematic to our planet, which is absolutely crazy. Everything we do–eating meat, CO2 emissions of cars, human greed–it’s this vicious and never-ending cycle.
What do you think we, as humans, can do to prevent the dark future laid out in Disposable Society?
We need to face the problem before it gets worse than it already is. In the aftermath of the floods in Germany, everything will be regulated more and new ideas will come really quickly: electric cars, sustainable farming… Hopefully people will put more focus and awareness into this issue.
Based on the dystopian theme of the release, what do you think the future looks like? Will we be living in a post-apocalyptic world?
At the rate things have been going in these past few years, things are pretty alarming. There are new strains of COVID and the Ebola Virus, LA and the Amazon have been burning for years now–it isn’t just one event, it’s a culmination of everything that is going on in the world right now. In just 150 years the world could be pretty much unlivable.
"There are new strains of COVID and the Ebola Virus, LA and the Amazon have been burning for years now–it isn’t just one event, it’s a culmination of everything that is going on in the world right now.
What was your writing process like while you were creating the album?
A lot of the rough ideas in 2019 at the Icon Collective in LA. It’s a school for music producers, songwriters, and performers. We got back to Estonia in 2020 and Hugo started writing vocals for most of the ideas created in LA. He got together with Manna, Daniel Levi, and other Estonian singers on the album. We weren’t originally sure if we wanted to make an album, but at some point all the ideas started to pile up and make sense together. We had fifteen songs that really fit well with each other under the same big concept. It’s a continuous album; the songs all transition smoothly into one another from start to finish.
Share a little bit about the collaborations on the album.
The outro track is pretty fun because it was the only song done by an outside producer. I found Donkong on soundcloud when they had around 500 followers and only one song out. Two years later, I found their song “Take Me” on my SoundCloud discovery page. It was so good that we wanted to include it in the album as an outro track. We hit the guys up and they were down to collaborate.
What’s next for WATEVA?
Vacation for two years… just kidding. We actually have this really cool song we’re working on in French. We also have both old ideas and new ideas that we want to develop; we want to keep taking our sound a little bit deeper. On this album, we didn’t want to compromise songs for the radio–we wanted to express our artistic ideas fully.
Track-by-Track Breakdown of Disposable Society:
"Mckd Smpthy (Prelude)" - The melody for this track came from a “game” we play in our studio called the "10-hour-challenge." The point of this game is that everyone who participates has to create 10 songs in 10 hours. As soon as the 60-minute timer rings, you’ll have to export whatever you had finished in that time and start another one from scratch. It’s unbelievable how many great ideas can come from a single night in the studio. “Mckd Smphty'' was one of those ideas created during our last 10-hour-challenge.
"Disposable Society" - The rough version of this track was created in 2019–Autumn in LA. I (Kris) was experimenting with a lot of different basslines and midtempo grooves while I stumbled upon this particular one. This was during the time when I was studying in a school for electronic music producers in LA called Icon Collective. I remember playing this track to a couple of teachers and fellow students and some of them came to me afterwards telling me that I had something special. It was an inspiring year to me — studying in a school that had given birth to artists like Jauz, NGHTMRE etc, and being surrounded by a lot of like minded people and mentors.
After graduating I came back to Estonia and Hugo started writing the vocal for this song with the singer called manna. This is when it all came together. The concept of the lyrics was unique enough for us to decide that we wanted to create a whole album within this theme.
"Meds" - I had the intro melody sitting in the drawer for quite some time. It was a late night in the studio where I played around with it again and tried to come up with a conclusion or drop for it. Hugo walked in and instantly hummed the bassline that came to be the climax of this song. It wasn’t a classical conclusion you would expect but we loved that it took a completely different turn after the first, more melodical part. This particular twist made this song one of our personal favorites of the album. We had four or five different singers write on it; we wanted to get this one just right. In the end we decided to go with NOEP, one of our favorite artists from Estonia.
"Cold Fumes (In Mid-June)" - We work in a multi-roomed studio facility and there are times when one of us is working on the production side of a track and the other one is in another room writing a vocal part with the singer for a different song. I remember when Hugo wrote the vocals with Karl Killing for "Cold Fumes" and asked me to come and listen to give my feedback for it. It was an instant jam. I was walking back to my studio room humming the melody. This track for me is the perfect balance of pop music and the deeper, more intelligent stuff we prefer to listen to in our free time.
"Marabù" - "Marabù" was written in Autumn 2019 and it took about six months to finish. It captured our emotions during the first Coronavirus breakout and lockdown period–thus the melancholy. I personally fell in love with the vibe and sincerity of this song and because of that it set the mood for the second half of the tracks written for the album.
(Hugo) That's why we named it after the healing plant of South Americas, because for me it encapsulates the rollercoaster of sickness and healing; it's weird for me to describe, but it starts out melancholic and then turns into this turmoil of high fever–a bone-aching cruncher–and then it heals itself again.
"Boiling Point (Interlude)" - This was the last track from the album that was finished. We decided to add this one later on after we had come to a decision that we wanted to create a continuous piece of art where all the songs would transition and compliment each other. ‘boiling point’ is meant to act as an intro track for ‘Burn Out’ to set the vibe for our favorite piece of music from the LP.
"Burn Out" - This was our first attempt at the techno genre and also our absolute favorite track on the album. I (Kris) had written the intro melody on the piano a while ago and it was saved to my iPhone voice memos. I accidentally stumbled upon this one in the studio and decided to give it an unexpected twist. I still remember Hugo’s reaction to it when he heard the rough idea of the intro and drop I had put together. When it comes to our music, we’re always trying to put things together that shouldn’t usually work and emphasise on the contrasts. This creates a lot of emotion in the listener and shocks them (hopefully in a good way).
"Burn Out" gave us inspiration to produce more in the techno genre. An interesting fact about the singer is that she had never worked on any house or techno genre before, so this project was uncharted territory for her, as well.
(Hugo) The singer was quite baffled when she arrived in the studio, and it actually took us two full day sessions to write the simple vocals because it was a new hurdle for both of us. But I absolutely loved tackling a new perspective.
"Good Intentions" - I'm (Kris) super happy about the dystopian vibes we captured with "Good Intentions". We got inspiration from Asian culture and listened to a lot of artists like Flume, who had already experimented with this fusion. We wanted this album to have an earthen vibe to it, so we found inspiration in African tribal culture for "Burn Out" and in Eastern-Asian culture for "Good Intentions". Hugo went through a lot of different youtube videos and series to find unique samples. Eventually, he found Alan Watts’ speech on scientology. We went through this hour-long video and found a part that resonated with both of us. This is the sample in the intro sequence, which sets the tone for the rest of the song.
(Hugo) I have this tendency to dig through the dark corners of youtube and sample random stuff that sounds interesting to use later. That's something I found Jamie xx doing and I thought it was a really good secret weapon to make a playlist on youtube of what to sample, and then later, on your day off, just go and grab everything that sounds dope.
"Y.L." - This one wasn’t the easiest to finish and the mix for the granulated lead sound was a proper nightmare for me (Hugo). Working with Daniel, however, was bliss. I have written stuff with him before; melody and lyric-wise it's just a breeze. Mixing it all together afterwards... well, that's another story. The story behind the track actually came from us reminiscing about times when we were younger and everything seemed more carefree. In the context of the album, it means that when we were kids, our home–the earth–was in a much better state. Now, most of the big cats are in danger of dying out. When you hear the line, “when we were young lions,” it's got a double meaning. On one side you have the childhood, but on the other side, we are destroying our home and our cohabitants on this planet.
"Headlights" - This was the hardest song to finish. We had over 20 different versions made for it and we were still arguing which one to put out just a few weeks before the release. We're quite happy with how it turned out in the end. We felt that the vocal track was catchy and that it had a lot of potential, yet we didn’t want to make any compromises. We had versions that were more radio-friendly, but I (Kris) think it fits well within the album as it is now.
"So High" - This was our first attempt at producing something more aesthetic and deep. We were quite proud of it when it came together and thinking back now, this song set a vibe reference for most of our songs to come in the future. "So High" is a cool infusion of the styles of both of our favorite artists; what if Flume and Camelphat made a song together?
(Hugo) I'm still proud... But yeah, this is something that does have a special place in our hearts currently. This track sets a tone of what to expect in the future. At the same time, you never know with us–if we feel like we wanna pivot, we will.
"Take Me" - I (Kris) found this artist called Cop Dickie from Soundcloud a couple of years ago. He had only uploaded a couple of tracks and had a few hundred followers, but somehow his music got to my discovery. I remember giving him a follow and honestly forgetting about it later on. He made a reappearance by uploading a rough version of “Take Me” which is basically the first half of our collaboration. It was magnificent! I showed it to Hugo as well, and we contacted him the next day. It was only afterwards when it came out that Cop Dickie is ½ of Donkong who we had also been following.