By: Jennifer Mott
Mark Manchester and Nikolaus Becker seem like normal guys, aside from their nonchalant rock star flair. Both young men are 22, residing from Newport Beach, an hour south of Los Angeles. Both are studying business, set to graduate this May, and both are a part of Niiko X Swae, a budding DJ-ing group climbing their way to the top, literally. In a matter of 18 months, they have already crossed off many milestones that most artists take years to achieve. Mark goes by SWAE and Nikolaus goes by Niiko- together, along with Mark’s twin and their manager, Kevin, they have created a unique brand with their music.
From playing beats for friends in their SMU dorm room to playing for 5,000 people in Monterrey, Mexico, Niiko x SWAE isn’t slowing down anytime soon. I got the chance to sit down with the DJ-ing group and their manager, Kevin Manchester, to ask them all about their cool lives as DJ’s and SMU students.
SMU Look: How did y’all meet?
Swae: We’re twins actually, Kevin and I are. We’ve known Becker (Niiko) our whole life, we went to preschool together. We knew each other growing up, and we didn’t plan on going to SMU together, but once we got to SMU we both realized we had the same passions and inspirations with music. Kevin was the one who kind of set it up. He had a class with Niiko. Sophomore year, I finally met up with Becker one day, and from then on it was all work.
SL: How old were you when you knew you had musical talent?
Niiko: Before DJ-ing, I played guitar and that started when I was in sixth grade and it kind of transitioned into the whole electronic stuff when I moved to college. The EDM scene was pretty big, so everything that I learned from guitar kind of transitioned nicely into production.
Swae: I used to play guitar, nothing like him though. He [Niiko] is a savage on the guitar. I always grew up taking piano lessons and guitar lessons, which never really influenced me with what we’re doing now but I’d say about six years ago I started getting into the electronic scene and house music. That’s when I started DJ-ing and getting into electronic production.
SL: Has growing up near Los Angeles influenced your musical upbringing or style of music?
Swae: Yeah, for sure. The music scene is L.A. is a lot deeper, and kind of base oriented which is how I like to describe our music. A lot of the artists that have been coming out of Southern California are a lot of the artists that we look up to like AC Slater, Jauz, and Marshmello.
SL: How would you say your sound is different from other popular DJ’s?
Niiko: We are definitely bringing more of an underground flair to our music. We are trying to take our production one step further and cover more ground artistically.
Swae: In electronic music right now, there’s “above ground,” which is the music you’re gonna hear on the radio or at the club, and then there’s the “underground.” We kind of have a foot in each. When we can combine both of those influences. We really create something different and something new and fresh.
SL: Who are your music inspirations?
Niiko: We both have an ‘80s influence on us, just because our parents were of that generation. All of the music during that time was created electronically with synthesizers, and that really carried over nicely to EDM.
Swae: We love the newer artists, but we also love and have respect for the old and recycled artists.
SL: How do you juggle music and school?
Niiko: I don’t think either one of us has tried anymore or any less than when we started doing music. We’ve been still putting the same work ethic into school that we always have. And the reason we’re able to do that is because music is something we love to do, no matter what. We’re always gonna be putting in that time towards our creative passion.
Kevin: It is still really difficult. They do have a passion for music, but these are hours of the night they are working when most people are asleep. During the day, they’re either traveling for their work, sitting in class, or studying for a test. They are putting in a respectable amount of work.
Swae: And we’re lucky to have people like Kevin and our team that we’ve built, because we could not do this without them.
SL: What a day in the life like for Niiko x Swae?
Niiko: During the week it’s pretty much just school and a lot of music. On the weekends we’re usually gone at a lot of shows and festivals, but also meetings. It’s not all just play.
SL: What’s your most favorite and least favorite part about being a DJ?
Swae: The favorite part is honestly performing live and just seeing the crowd go crazy to one of our songs is one of the best feelings in the world. And the least favorite part is flying out at 6 a.m the next day trying to make it back to school for a test. We get used to it, but at times it’s hard, especially early in the morning.
SL: Miami has a big EDM scene. Do y’all travel there frequently?
Niiko: Yeah, we’ve played at LIV Miami a few times now and we love playing there. We almost look at Miami as a second home. We shot our music video there for “Run This Town.” A lot of our team is based in Miami, so we go down there for business.
SL: Dream Music Collaboration?
Swae: It would be sick to work with Demi Lovato. She has such a strong vocal. As far as rappers go, it would be dope to work with Quavo.
Niiko: As far as producers, probably someone like Nghtmre or Jauz.
SL: Are your family and friends supportive?
Swae: They couldn’t be more supportive honestly. We’re very blessed to have our family behind us. We have amazing friends too. They’re always traveling to come see us.
Niiko: Even though we are all getting business degrees and didn’t have the intention of coming out as musicians, they want us to pursue our passion right now in life while we are still young and still can.
Swae: Our parents are so into it too now.
Niiko: Yeah both of our dads are in the crowd at every show!
SL: Do you have any advice for your peers trying to do what y’all are doing?
Niiko: Don’t listen to anyone but yourself.
Swae: Follow your dreams, put your head down, and go to work, because it’s crazy how fast this can happen. And when it does happen, you want to make sure you’re ready for it.
SL: What is y’all’s biggest accomplishment so far?
Niiko: One million streams on our latest single, “Run This Town” on Spotify. That was huge for us.
Kevin: Especially since it’s their first release.
SL: At what point, do you think y’all would be able to say, “We made it.”
Swae: We could say that we’ve made it with the Spotify listens and the Billboard Chart, but we don’t want to say that we’ve made it yet because we have so much work to do. We know what we can accomplish, and we know what we have to do to get to where we want to be.
And Niiko x SWAE isn’t stopping anytime soon. Their latest single, “Run This Town,” has jumped from the 21st spot to the 20th spot in just one week on Billboard’s Top Dance Music Chart. They fall right behind Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” featuring Cardi B, and just before Zedd’s new smash, The Middle.
Niiko x SWAE will be dropping their second single, “Flavor”, featuring Alicia Madison, in May. The perfect song and the perfect way to cap off their recent success alongside an SMU degree.
You can catch up with Niiko x SWAE on the social media platforms below. Merchandise is also available on their website.