Monday July 22nd, 2024
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Artist Spotlight: Rolbac - Preserving the Pulse of Lebanese Nightlife

Rolbac is the Lebanese electronic trailblazer whose sounds strive to preserve the country’s musical heritage and scene.

Nour Massoud

Artist Spotlight: Rolbac - Preserving the Pulse of Lebanese Nightlife

A virtuoso within the Lebanese electronic underground scene, Roland Bachour, known as Rolbac, has embarked on a musical production journey woven with familial rhythms. Raised alongside a drummer father and a DJ uncle, his formative years immersed in beats and melodies served as the bedrock for a deep connection with music, ultimately leading him to carve out a niche in electronic music production.

Championing Lebanon's creative community, Rolbac’s work emphasises the endurance and inspiration derived from the city of Beirut. Serving as a guardian and promoter of Lebanon's electronic scene, Rolbac dedicates himself to preserving Beirut's nightlife, utilising his unique sounds and performances to uphold the city's essence, culture, and enduring spirit in the face of challenges.

In this exclusive SceneNoise interview, Rolbac delves into his creative process, elucidates the distinctive elements that characterise his musical signature, and explores the impact of his home country, Lebanon, on his musical identity. From pivotal releases that marked milestones in his career, culminating into his latest EP drop, ‘Mystical’ released on Einmusika Recordings, to sharing stages with industry giants such as Adriatique, Tale of Us, and Maceo Plex, Rolbac guides us through the inspirations that have shaped his trajectory.

Can you share some insights into your background and what led you to producing and mixing music?

My journey into music has always been a deeply personal one. I grew up surrounded by rhythm and beats in the culturally rich mountains of Zahle. This upbringing led me to have a deep connection with music, leading me to explore and create, finding my true calling in music production, enriched by my experiences as a live performer and a passionate vinyl collector.

What is your creative process like during a production session?

My creative process is deeply introspective and detailed. It starts with a concept or an emotion I want to convey. This idea then transforms into a melody or a beat, setting the foundation for the track. I spend a lot of time refining and adding layers, ensuring each element complements the others. I do a lot of brainstorming with my team, especially Lara Kays, my manager. She's been with me from the start and brings her perspective, helping to refine the lyrics and the overall direction of the track. Not to forget her beautiful voice which is present in a lot of our music and in many unreleased tracks. I also always like to throw in one element of surprise somewhere in the track, to keep each production interesting and unique.

How would you describe your musical trademark? Any software synths, plugins, effects that you can’t live without?

Creating a musical trademark that embodies a deep, sexy and danceable vibe, while also being emotionally rich and detailed in production. Over the years, I've used various machines, but ultimately, even with just the basics, a strong idea and dedication can lead to the creation of anything. Regarding the plugins, my favourites include Serum, Soundtoys and Valhalla, among others.

My approach to playing music is simple: keep people dancing and take them on a journey. Diversifying sounds within the same set is my signature, and I strive to connect with as many people as possible in every set I play.

A virtuoso in the Lebanese underground scene, how does your home country nurture and receive your talent/sounds?

Beirut, a city that pulsates with life and resilience, is a constant source of inspiration. Its ability to remain a powerhouse in the electronic scene, despite all odds, resonates deeply with my music. This city has nurtured us to be bold, to dream big, and to channel our struggles into creativity. My number one support system has been the Lebanese audience that now follows me wherever I go.

Dive into the electronic music landscape in Lebanon. How would you describe it, and do you believe Lebanon plays a significant role in shaping your position in the electronic music industry? If so, how?

Lebanon's electronic music scene is a vibrant tapestry of sounds and influences. It's a scene that consistently punches above its weight, setting trends and standards on a global scale. Being a part of this dynamic environment has profoundly shaped my musical identity and approach.

Which release do you believe was the most impactful?

Reflecting on my career, the release of “Elements” eight years ago, was a turning point for me. When it made it to #1 in Beatport’s melodic techno category, I knew I was on to something. My first track post-COVID also holds a special place as it symbolised hope and resurgence after a period where the whole world was feeling down. Recently, Mystical EP is set to mark another milestone in my career.

Describe your experiences sharing the stage with industry giants such as Adriatique, Tale of Us, Maceo Plex and more… How do you think regional talent gains traction usually?

Sharing the stage with industry greats has been a journey of growth and learning. Each interaction, each performance with such icons, has been a stepping stone in my career, showcasing the strength and potential of regional talent in the global electronic music sphere. What has been more inspirational is playing b2b with some artists like Innellea, Mind Against and Colyn. On a personal level, I’ve built great relationships and some of them have become really good friends.

How do you organise your sets depending on whether you are headlining, the opener or closer? How do you keep the audience engaged throughout your sets?

My sets are not carefully crafted stories. They are inspired and improvised on the spot by the energy and the story I want to relay; be it a headliner, opener, or closer. Each set is an emotional narrative, designed to keep the audience engaged and connected. Reading the crowd, adapting to the energy, and delivering a Rolbac experience is key.

You’ve played in various music festivals across the world, from Grand Factory, to Soho Garden to Caprices in the Alps - what remains your favourite music festival experience and where to next? What are the elements that make a great festival experience as a performer?

Every festival is a unique story, but playing at Caprices in the Alps was an emotionally charged experience. The combination of breathtaking nature and the energy of the crowd created an unforgettable atmosphere. A great festival experience for me is about connection with the audience, the environment, and the music. Also playing XP on a regional level was super inspiring.

You’ve organised numerous concert fundraisers for Beirut - how do you and other artists strive to preserve the city’s nightlife as it is continuously threatened?

We, as Lebanese DJs and musicians, strive to keep the heart of Beirut's nightlife beating. These efforts go beyond music; they're about holding onto the city's soul, its vibrant culture, and its undying spirit in the face of adversity. As Lebanese we feel we are the guardians of the electronic scene in the region and you see this when you go see the biggest festivals and parties in the region.

Looking ahead, what upcoming projects are you particularly excited about in your musical journey?

I'm excited about new collaborations and experimenting with fresh sounds. These upcoming projects are not just about music. They're about pushing emotional and creative boundaries, exploring new realms, and continuing the journey of self-expression through sound. The upcoming months I’ll be touring around France, Spain, Germany, India and others, along with festivals in Egypt like Sandbox, and Switzerland like Caprices Festival. And going back to where it all started, I hope to share a brand new live set in 2024, which I am super excited about.