Visiting Lola Haro: the art of taking Small Steps while conquering the international scene

Lola Haro emerged onto the Belgian music scene in 2018, rapidly establishing herself as a prolific DJ, both locally and internationally. Regular trips to destinations like London, Berlin, Amsterdam or Lisbon have become part of her routine, transforming her weekends into whirlwind tours. Despite her hectic schedule, Lola finds tranquility in her shared apartment nestled in the lively Saint-Gilles district of Brussels. It's here, in this serene haven, where I had the chance to sit down with her for an unhurried chat.

The flat, shared with fellow artists who spend weekdays crafting their art in local ateliers, stands as a peaceful retreat amidst the bustling cityscape. Its spacious design, augmented by broad windows, bathes the interior in natural light, ensuring even the cloudiest days feel radiant.

Our conversation naturally drifts to a recent Instagram post, capturing a moment with Marcel Dettmann, a revered figure in the global clubbing circuit. I'm curious to uncover the story behind this intriguing snapshot, a blend of Lola's fresh energy and Dettmann's legendary status.

So how did you end up playing with Marcel Dettmann, Lola?

That's actually a funny story. In the summer of 2022, after a gig in Albany, I woke up late and missed the ferry back to the airport. Amid the stress of trying to book a new ticket and failing to do so, I lost my composure and started crying. Someone walked up to me and assisted, which later turned out to be the tour manager of Marcel Dettmann. So not much later, I found myself in the company of Marcel, his tour manager and Dasha Rush, all traveling back to Berlin. In true Murphy’s law fashion, I even got seasick on the boat. Despite that, everyone was incredibly kind to me. 

Once back in Berlin, we went our separate ways and life resumed its usual pace. Not too long ago, my agent received a booking request for two showcases at Marcel Dettmann’s residencies. I felt a bit nervous, but everything turned out well. Marcel even took the time to listen to my set and expressed his admiration for my sound, describing it as deep and emotional, a style he hadn't encountered in some time. He then suggested we DJ together that same night. That's the backstory to the photo of us together. And the story continues. At Paradise City this summer, Marcel and I will be playing back to back again. 

Dettmann is a Berliner, you used to live in Berlin until a few months ago. Why did you move back to Belgium, to Brussels?

I love Berlin; it's an amazing city. I had visited the city on numerous occasions before moving there and really fell in love with its relaxed vibe. However, my current lifestyle requires me to travel every weekend, so I'm usually not around to participate in social activities with friends. I've experienced Berlin as a city that is rather party oriented, making it difficult to integrate into its social fabric when you’re not around while others are going out. Suddenly, I realized that I was striving too hard to live up to an idealized version of life I had envisioned, which, in reality, wasn't working out. I have a wonderful group of friends and a boyfriend in Belgium whom I want to stay close to, while still having the opportunity to frequently visit Berlin for DJ bookings. 

When did the young Lola Haro first get in touch with electronic music?

From a very young age! My parents were avid party-goers. Before I was born, they were part of the legendary Café d’Anvers scene in the nineties, revolving around the now-closed club in Antwerp. This scene featured DJs like Koenie, Geoffroy, Pirres, Jef K, Smos, and Baby Bee. Born in 1997, I have vivid memories of meeting these individuals at home or around town. Baby Bee, for instance, was like extended family to me, always present and supportive. At home, my father often played Ricardo Villalobos’ Fabric CD or Cadenza CDs at high volume while vacuuming. My mother has also worked as a dancer at the legendary Pasha club in Ibiza. Electronic music and club culture were ever-present in our household.

How did you relate to this as a child?

It seemed somewhat odd to me, especially since I was the only one among my school friends with parents leading such a lifestyle. Their nocturnal adventures weren't a secret; their culture and music were an indirect yet integral part of our lives. We always enjoyed having their friends over at our home on a Sunday afternoon, unwinding together in the garden after a night out. It wasn’t a weekly occurrence, but it happened often enough that we were accustomed to it. At school, though, my peers didn’t quite understand this. What really struck me was the realization that we were seemingly the only family immersed in this type of music.

By the age of eight, I was taking drum lessons, which I continued until I was sixteen. I fell in love with The Cure and other rock bands, dreaming of a career in one. My father, with his broad taste in music, often took me to the library to discover new sounds. When I was old enough to go into town by myself — we lived just outside of Antwerp — I often hung out at Wally’s Groove World, Koenie’s record shop. After telling him about my ambition to become a DJ, he handed me a bunch of affordable tech house records and encouraged me to practice. He promised more records once I had mastered beatmatching.

And did you practice a lot?

Not instantly. (laughs)

It took a few more years, until I began going out by myself. I got acquainted with the crew behind the Paradise City Festival. Antoine, one of the founders, often praised my knowledge of electronic music. For my birthday, he gifted me a DJ controller to connect to my computer, and I started experimenting with it. Soon after, he booked me for the opening slot at a party he hosted at the MAS in Antwerp during Full Circle, an annual city festival. Though I played early in a museum setting with bright lights, far from a typical club vibe, sixty of my friends showed up and danced enthusiastically. That experience left me feeling incredibly inspired. It was then that I decided to revisit the pile of vinyl records I had accumulated. 

How do your parents look at your career today?

My mother passed away two years ago after a prolonged battle with an illness. During her time in the hospital, coinciding with my first Boiler Room session and Kiosk radio shows, she listened to every broadcast live on the internet. Her pride in my achievements was immense, just as my father's. He continues to actively follow my career, regularly checking my Resident Advisor agenda listings and sending me texts to inquire about my gigs. During my residency at national radio Studio Brussel, he would tune in every week on an old transistor radio. Our conversations often delve deeply into the music I play, much of which he recalls from his youth.

You named your label and club nights ‘Small Steps’. On your profile page on the website of your booking agency Temporary Secretary you share the quote ‘Don’t Overthink This’. Are you deliberately taking the pressure off?

Both are utterly personal statements indeed. I’m in a good state of mind right now, but this hasn’t always been the case. I had to overcome some obstacles to arrive at this point and deal with many things happening out of my control. In various moments of my life so far, I had to battle a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty. For instance, when I first entered the DJ scene, rapidly receiving many DJ bookings and gaining a huge following on my social media, I was often reduced to being labeled as 'just a young woman booked as a token or ‘due to personal connections with promoters', and so on. No one seemed to believe that I was being booked for my skills as a DJ. This left me with enormous imposter syndrome, feeling as if I didn’t belong there. I was overthinking everything, and it drove me crazy, erasing all the fun. When my booking agency asked for a quote for their website, this simple truth felt just right: I’m only a DJ playing someone else’s records for a crowd – nothing more, nothing less. 

And all taking small steps, one step at a time?

The instant success I was lucky to experience left me with a certain feeling of guilt towards other DJs or producers who, for some reason, didn’t receive the same attention. So I wanted to turn this into something positive, by creating a label and club night to promote and push forward other people’s creativity, allowing them to take small steps. The first release happened in October 2022, and the next one is set for early 2024. In the meantime, I did three club nights in Brussels, Ghent, and Amsterdam. For the latter, I’m not yet sure how to proceed and need some time to set my ideas straight. I find hosting club nights very exciting and I have a clear vision about it, but it simultaneously adds a layer of responsibility to the job. I have so many friends who are promoting parties, and I want to do it as well as they do. The bar is high, you know. (laughs)

It seems to me that you have also taken many small steps yourself to reach a point where you have found more peace of mind?

Definitely. My life has been very turbulent for a long time, being involved in many situations where I was worried about my dearest. Nowadays, and for the first time ever, I can fully focus on myself, which was also quite scary to witness. All eyes on myself, you know. But it forced me to take good care of myself and to conquer some of my demons. And to also realize that every creative path goes with ups and downs. Living here in this flat among other creative souls in various fields, helps me remember that I’m not the only one struggling.

What’s up for 2024 for Lola Haro?

Many things, among others some exciting news to share about a special gig at a Belgian festival in the summer of 2024. I'll be playing at Horst, Dimensions, KALA, and a Finland debut at Helsiniki's Post Bar, which I'm very excited about. And I'm starting a monthly residency at Kiosk Radio, looking forward to sharing music that I can't play in a club. Oh, and I'll be playing in Tokyo for the first time. I can't wait!

Well all the best, Lola! See you soon.

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