Grids, triangles and a whole lot of neon – I’ve been regularly encountering these emblems of yesteryears ever since I started listening to “Timecop1983” – currently one of the most sensational synthwave acts out there. “Synthwave”, also known as retrowave, is a musical style that emerged in the mid-2000s in America with the aim of capturing and celebrating the wild and vibrant vibes of the 1980s. Synthwavers derive inspiration from a wide range of audio-visual material – film, videogames, cartoons, TV shows, advertisements – and tap into several narrative categories – romance, science fiction, horror, action.
Timecop1983 – the brainchild of Dutch musician Jordy Leenaerts (born 1983) – largely produces romantic synthwave numbers that sound urban, hypnotic and of course, elicit a great deal of nostalgia. The project, as of now, features vocalists from both Europe and North America and has, in quite a short period of time, garnered a very devoted fan following online – with many tracks generating tens of thousands of views on YouTube – all with negligible thumbs-downs. Listeners constantly comment on how the songs bring smiles on their faces (and often tears in their eyes) after the end of a sad or boring day. “Timecop, you know just how it felt, back then, and you’ve put it in sound,” one fan has said. “Times were simpler, souls were lighter, slates were cleaner, love was purer. Keep taking us back.”
Firstly, is Timecop1983 your solo project? Do you have any permanent musicians/singers? How do you work? How do you find collaborators? Who writes the songs?
Yeah, Timecop1983 is my solo project. I do all the instrumentals myself, which are all either made digitally or with my hardware synthesizers. I write the music and the collaborators write the lyrics and do the recordings.
The project has no permanent singers/musicians, but some of them (like Dana Jean Phoenix and Femmepop) have done more than one song. I always give them total freedom to write the lyrics they think fit best to the song. I just give them a general theme and let them do their thing. So it’s a true collaboration.
I am very, very lucky most of them sent me messages if I was interested in them singing on my music. I’m always on the lookout for new people to work with, so it’s absolutely great when people just present themselves to me. When people send me messages asking if they can sing on my music I always check them out and if I think their style fits mine, I keep them in mind for future projects and send them ideas to pick the one(s) they best like. Works really great for me this way!
When was Timecop1983 launched? How did you get an audience?
I have been making music since the age of 12, but never finished anything before. By 2013, I had literally hundreds of unfinished ideas for songs in all genres, from heavy metal to classical music and from hardstyle to deephouse. So that’s when I decided I needed to focus on one kind of music and see if anybody would like it.
After seeing the movie Drive [American, 2011] in 2013 I fell in love with the soundtrack. I became a huge fan of Electric Youth [Canadian] and Kavinsky [French] and I decided to fully focus on Synthwave. I decided to give it a try and if people wouldn’t like it, I was going to further focus on my other hobby: mountain biking.
So the first single I created was “Childhood Memories” which I posted on SoundCloud (back when it was good) and once it was picked up by the NewRetroWave Youtube channel things got rolling. Now, 3 albums and 3 EPs later I’m still surprised so many people like my music!
Tell me a little about your musical journey. What kind of music were you exposed to as a child and teenager?
My parents listen to a lot of radio, always have been, so I kinda grew up with music that was popular at that time. Other than that they listen a lot of 60s and early 70s music, which I hated when I was young but grew to love now. I was born in 1983 (hence the name), so I’m more of a 90s kid. But I listened to a lot of 80s music when I was young. My parents always had the radio on, so although I couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest because of my age, I still remember a lot of music from back then.
Did you study music formally?
Not really. I grew up in a small town near Eindhoven in southern Netherlands (where the cassette tape was invented by the Philips company). I studied event management at university. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a job in that field, but I’ve learned a lot of useful things which are handy in the “music world”.
What “genres” would you say you operate in?
I always prefer to call it Dreamwave, which I see as a sub-genre of Synthwave.
Who/what are your inspirations and influences?
I take my inspiration from anywhere: a piece of melody I hear on the radio or moments in my life, but music-wise I get a lot of inspiration from people like FM-84 [American], The Midnight [American] and Electric Youth [as mentioned above, Canadian]. And lately, I have been into movie soundtracks a lot. I absolutely love the works of Johnny Jewel (Chromatics/Glass Candy/SYMMETRY) [American] and the soundtrack of film Ex Machina [British, 2015].
Which themes, emotions and ideas do you most like covering in your music?
Well, most of my work is based on Nostalgia and/or Romance. For my Timecop1983 project, I tend to stick to that theme, which I like a lot! For my new side-project Division (2083 EP released in June), I’m trying to experiment with a darker style, which I also like a lot but feel that I cannot release with Timecop1983.
Do you enjoy performing live? If yes, where all have you travelled to till now?
I started doing live shows this year and so far have done three gigs: two in the Netherlands – in my “hometown” Eindhoven, another in The Hague. The one in Belgium – in Antwerp. Later this year, I have some other gigs planned which is great and I even get to go abroad. I’m doing a show in Poland in September and a show in Budapest, Hungary in November.
Finally, what is the best thing about being a musician?
The absolute best thing is to see how many people appreciate my music and send me (sometimes heart touching) stories on how they experience my music. This always gives me a lot of inspiration to continue what I’m doing.
And now seven Timecop1983 tracks. Most are entertaining montages of 80s movie clips and commercials. All songs are A1!
Lost in Your Eyes by Timecop1983 from the album Journeys (2014). Vocals: Per Rinaldo