How to Make Magic: with Potbelleez frontman Ilan Kidron

The Potbelleez celebrate new single ‘Magic Number’. Image: Warp Magazine

The boys who brought us epic hits ‘Don’t Hold Back’ and ‘Are You With Me’ will spread their trouble, trouble around the country as they head out on tour to promote newest single ‘Magic Number’. Ahead of their Tassie gig, Potbelleez frontman Ilan Kidron tells us what it takes to make it big.

Although the band have produced Australia’s biggest dance tracks since breaking onto the scene in 2003, Ilan says the band doesn’t plan or anticipate the success of their songs. For The Potbelleez, song writing means simply getting down to business.

“We don’t just write when we feel like writing. We go to work and we write,” Ilan says.

“It’s born out of reaching within. Sometimes when we’re feeling lazy is when some of the greatest stuff happens, because we take ourselves into an area where we probably wouldn’t have otherwise gone.”

Ilan also knows the importance of collaborating with other great artists, and attributes the popularity of their songs to the band members’ abilities to bounce ideas off each other. Occasionally, the more outrageous the idea, the better.

“The important part of song writing is to not be a slave to your learning. To be able to always let go and feel free, especially when you’re in a room with other people and you have to be daring.”

“You have to suggest really stupid stuff to get to good stuff.”

While it’d be reasonable to assume a lot of time is taken to craft the perfect hit, Ilan admits the songs that have made it big time are the ones done in just a day.

“They’re not slaved over for months and rewritten and rewritten. Usually the ones that really connect are the ones that just come out of pure energy, and essentially out of a jam.”

“For the most part, I’ll write the songs and the guys will produce it. Songs like ‘Saved in a Bottle’ I wrote with a friend and then took it to the guys and we produced it up. The guys in the band are very good at putting my songs on steroids.”

For newest hit ‘Magic Number’, which was performed live at the 2013 ARIAs (where they were also nominated for Best Dance Release with ‘Saved in a Bottle’), The Potbelleez looked outside their own group to bring on board one of the hottest rappers in America.

Six times Grammy nominated rapper B.o.B has sold 28 million records and was keen to put his words to the Aussie DJs’ song. The result is mind blowing to a level that even Ilan did not expect, as the rapper twisted the song’s meaning to meet his own vibe.

“With ‘Magic Number’, I was sitting out in the surf and bobbing up and down and it just came to me, this whole idea of two people becoming one,” Ilan explains.

“The most amazing part of that song process for us was having B.o.B come along. What began as a beautiful love song, he transformed into this incredible metaphor of chaos and darkness and light and tension and release.”

“That’s a true collaborative effort, where someone takes an idea and flips it, puts it on its head.”

The Potbelleez are no stranger to innovation and are pioneers of electronic dance music in Australia. Ilan says the country still lags behind Europe on the dance scene, but his band helps to bring us into the present.

“We’ve been part of the dance music landscape for eight years, and you could say we gave birth to a sort of style in Australia with big male vocals, high energy and big beats.”

“I think the Europeans tend to take more risks. Dance music started there and dance music is constantly evolving there. Unfortunately what you get in Australia is people following a lot of trends that come out of Europe.”

“It’s exciting where dance music is heading. To bring hip hop into the dance music is a natural progression, it’s something we’re really passionate about. It’s a way to create more tension in the music.”

The Potbelleez are continuing to experiment as they are working on some new EPs for the New Year. Admitting the band has always been known for its singles rather than albums, Ilan says the choice to release an EP over an LP was a tactical one.

“I think it’s just a bite sized way of getting songs on there where there are no fillers, it’s just all exciting, big songs.”

EPs, LPs or singles, Ilan says The Potbelleez have no intention of leaving the dance music landscape.

“People often ask me, ‘what are you going to do later on in life?’ and I say, ‘I’m going to write music’.”

“The further down the tunnel you go, the more you realise the longer and wider and more exciting it is. With music, it’s just a never ending book of love.”

The Potbelleez will hit The Observatory in Tassie on December 20.


This article featured in Warp Magazine, December 2013.

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