Since storming onto the scene in 2014, Amelie Lens has soared to the top of the techno ladder. On her way, she’s established a distinctive, relentless high-energy sound recognisable from a mile off and built a dedicated fanbase.
Now in its third year, the multi-faceted EXHALE, a record label, radio show, event series and general communal space for techno fans, is Lens’ way of giving back to those who have supported her journey. Made up of residents Pan-Pot, 999999999, Airod, Farrago, Milo Spykers, Ahl Iver and Regal, it’s an inclusive collective that sees its followers not simply as ravers or listeners, but as a family.
We speak to label manager Max, artist & brand manager Liz and Amelie Lens about how EXHALE supports underground artists, what’s in store for its DC-10 parties, what it means for fans to have this sense of belonging in a community, and their vision for the future.
EXHALE crew, hello! What’s the ethos behind EXHALE? It’s clearly not just about the music. What can you tell us about the sense of community you evoke through the project?
Liz: It’s really touching to us that you ask this, and so powerful that you see this. EXHALE has is about championing the underground, giving artists and producers a chance and, most importantly, providing a community where old friends meet and new friends come together.
How many times have you gone to a rave alone? Would you feel comfortable to? Amelie was always going out by herself in the early days, which is a big inspiration for us. It’s safe to say our team is a bunch of dedicated ravers who have all done the same.
Max: During the lockdown, many talented young producers had a lot of time to spend in the studio, which resulted in EXHALE receiving a huge amount of incredible music within just a few months in 2020. We’ve always been keen on pushing fresh talents at our events but as clubs had to shut down, we thought that starting a label and showcasing what these artists are capable of would be a great way to give something back to the community.
What’s changed since 2020 when you launched the label?
Liz: We started EXHALE Records in 2020 but EXHALE as an event series started in 2016. The events were hosted in Belgium until going international in 2018 at Fabric in London.
Like any being that grows, your voice, personality, and awareness grow with it. If you compare EXHALE to a person, we would say we are at the late-teenage stage. Where you’re out of the house of your parents and ready to explore the world; when you know what you like but are still open to change.
What’s changed since 2020 is that we learned how to move with what (unexpected) changes can come, and to be flexible without wavering in what we believe in.
Max: The label has grown a lot, and on top of the [various artist compilations] that we keep releasing to push fresh talent, we also started releasing singles and EPs from artists who share our vision of techno – and there’s definitely more to come in the next months.
Tell us about the sense of community you’ve built up through EXHALE. Do you feel there’s a duty today to be more than artists, more than label owners and to connect with fans on a deeper level?
Liz: It’s not our duty, it’s who we are. Amelie, Farrago and our team thrive on connections.
We don’t want to just ‘know our audience,’ we want our audience to know us. We want to shape our audience and let our audience shape us. It’s some sort of symbiosis; the very definition of a strong community that we’re all part of. We don’t even feel comfortable using the word ‘audience’ [laughs]!
People’s openness to connect through EXHALE isn’t something you’ll find everywhere. When we say ‘people’ we mean all people: DJs, artists, producers, dancers, ravers, bartenders at our events… This sense of community evoked a new mission: we aim to break the barrier between the DJ booth and the dance floor as much as possible.
The best way to understand our sense of community is to join us somewhere. It’s a feeling, more than anything.
How do EXHALE residents inspire and support one another? And how do you support new artists joining the roster?
Liz: Our EXHALE residents are our extended family. We’ve watched them grow by supporting their sound and who they are as artists. We watched and heard as they supported each other not only at EXHALE gigs but anywhere in the world. It’s incredible to watch their journeys, like Ahl Iver and Milo Spykers and AIROD.
For new artists, we support them by offering press and content on our channels. It’s always fun getting to know them all, hearing their stories and how Amelie or EXHALE reached them (or vice versa).
Amelie offers support on a personal level as advice to artists and producers, and on a global level through her channels.
EXHALE is bringing techno to DC-10 this summer. What can punters expect from these nights?
Liz: We aren’t the first, by any means, to bring techno to the island. But the sound and pace of techno sure has changed since Cocoon and Minus in the hay day. Yes, it’s darker and heavier but with a smiling DJ usually.
We welcome all ‘punters’, as you said, to come down to DC-10, forget about the VIP tables, get lost in the rhythms and allow themselves to feel rather than be seen.
If you are new or curious about the techno scene and haven’t been to a party like EXHALE yet, our residency at DC-10 is the perfect place to dive in and explore.
You also ran a DJ competition recently. How did it go?
Liz: The DJ competition was so good! We received over 500 mixes. The idea came from Amelie. It is really important that there is always a local DJ on the line-up, which is where the vision started and then evolved to give a chance to the greater community.
MØSENGGE, the winner, is an Ibizan born and raised. It’s fun for us to imagine what it is like grow up in Ibiza. He was part of our EXHALE Ibiza ambassador group last year; he attended every community meet-up we had with open decks as well as every EXHALE event at DC-10. But that’s not why he won. The opening set is the most difficult one and MØSENGGE nailed it. He understood the task at hand, and we were really excited when we listened to it.
Max: We are very happy to have MØSENGGE on board and we always try to give fresh talent a stage to showcase their skills, no matter if it’s for our event series or for the label. EXHALE is always on the lookout for young talented producers and DJs. We want EXHALE to help pushing new trends and supporting young artists who will be the future of Techno.
Amelie, your third release of 2023, Feel It, has elements of trance embedded. Is there a crossover between industrial techno and trance music today?
Amelie: I have never really been a fan of labelling anything creative, especially not music. It’s always been about good or bad music for me, personally. I’ve always played some trance or trance-influenced tracks in my sets, and I just think it’s all about having a balance and if the music fits for the moment and vibe, or not.
There is definitely a huge crossover of different music genres – especially with BPMs going up that allows DJs to play many kinds of different styles now.
It’s been three years since you started. Where do you see the project in three years’ time?
Liz: If you really want to know… EXHALE Antwerp 2-Day Festival. That’s the dream; check in with us in three years (or sooner) to see if we made it.
Find out more about EXHALE at exhalemusic.net. Want to be a part of the community? Drop an email to email@example.com.
Get the latest news, reviews and tutorials to your inbox.Subscribe