An Interview with Electric Castle

Photo credit: Bereczky Sandor

Electric Castle will host its sixth edition this July, returning to the fifteenth century Transylvanian monument from which it derives its namesake with a characteristically eclectic cast of international talent. Amongst other auspicious factors, the festival’s unique and historic location, wealth of ancillary offerings, and collaborative spirit have resulted in an especially loyal fanbase that returns year-on-year.

Insights spoke with Andi Vanca, Electric Castle’s Head of Communications, about the festival’s unique backdrop, the eclecticism of its line-up and more.

Festival Insights: Seeing as the festival is part-named after the historic monument that serves as its backdrop, it seems that the setting is perhaps the defining feature of Electric Castle’s identity. Had the festival been conceptualised before finding the venue, or did the site itself inspire the idea to build an event around it?

Andi Vanca: A little bit of both. For sure we wanted a space far away from ‘civilisation’ because at that time, almost all music festivals in Romania had been organised in urban areas. There were some jazz events set in more secluded villages, but all major festivals had been set in concrete arenas. We knew about the Bánffy Castle nearby our town, predominantly a ruin at the time. So, there it was, a bunch of friends with no experience in large-scale events deciding to hold a festival in an unexpected location. 

The first impression we had is still the same for every newcomer. This unexpected association between a very old castle and the modern set of the festival sticks out in one’s mind but in a fantastic way. We always treat our castle like our main headliner; we respect it and make it stand.

FI: The Electric Castle line-up is very eclectic, from the house & techno of Richie Hawtin to the hardcore punk of Cancer Bats and the reggae of its headliner, Damian Marley. What would you say is the guiding principle when you’re programming your line-up?

AV: We respect that ‘everyone chooses a headliner’, and for that, we must provide a sufficiently diverse line-up for people to let them experience and make their own choices.

Romania still has a limited offering when it comes to music events, so if we only stick to the so-called ‘big names’, the public’s opportunity to listen to an exciting upcoming artist will drop significantly, particularly if they’ve never had a video on TV or a big hitter on heavy rotation on national radio.

We hope that at the end of each Electric Castle edition, people delete their playlists and make a new one with artists they discovered during the festival.

It’s a risk we take by putting a newcomer on a co-headliner position, but at the end of the day, people will discover that artist and say “Man, what a show that was!” Most of the artists that we first promoted in Romania are now booked by most of the major events and clubs in Romania.

FI: The Hangar stage will host an Elrow party as well as a showcase from the drum and bass label Hospitality this year. What is it about these two partners that make them such a good fit for Electric Castle?

AV: Last year we invited over Ministry Of Sound’s Paradise Garage to take over The Hangar for an evening. We didn’t know exactly what to expect and if people were ready for it.

The reaction was huge and now we’re taking it to another level. When we made the announcement the feedback was impressive. So many people just couldn’t believe that Elrow would ever come to a Romanian festival. Some of them have seen them in Ibiza, so the news spread very quickly.

Hospitality is possibly the most important drum and bass label in the world right now, and we wanted to stay true to this field of music as it has always been a highlight for our audience. Also, we’ve never had a Hospitality takeover in Romania before.

FI: The festival’s Tech World allows attendees to interact and engage with all manner of futuristic ideas. What can they expect to see and hear about this year?

AV: We’re always trying to showcase digital innovations and installations that will take the festival experience to another level. This year will be no different as we aim to collaborate with the most prestigious brands on the market and Tech World remains a predominant part of the Electric Castle journey.

We’re also trying to support entrepreneurs and tech start-ups, so people have a chance to check out never-before-seen live experiences.

FI: In addition to the music, Electric Castle boasts a film programme, wellness activities and food & drink. How important do you think these elements are to festival-goers when deciding which festival to attend, and how integral are they to the appeal of Electric Castle?

AV: It is a major win that our community keep returning, with over 35% of people attending every year of the festival and 50% attending at least one previous edition.

So when you’re coming for the sixth time in a row and temporarily leaving your ordinary life behind you want to be entertained, challenged with a new activity, able to discover and experience things you haven’t done before, try food & drink you haven’t tried before and much more.

I think our major achievement during all these years is this dedicated audience that continue to buy tickets on first release, knowing that no matter what our line-up might be there’s going to be plenty that’s fun, special and exciting.

FI: 2018’s edition of the festival promises to have its ‘most elaborate production’ yet. Could you specify what this will entail?

AV: Last year we had a brand new main stage. This year we’re working on integrating it further into the surrounding landscape and making the most out of the over 70m wide screen with new, interactive and immersive content. Visual and sound system related updates will be implemented to all other stages, plus we have a few surprises up our sleeves that we’ll only reveal at the festival – like we did with last year’s Beach stage. Yeah, we actually built a beach on the Castle’s domain, lifeguards included.

FI: Is there anything else we should know about Electric Castle?

AV: We’ll cite one British journalist that came over last year: ”I’ve never felt safer and cosier at a festival like I did in this anonymous village that I hardly can pin on a map”. So, why don’t you give it a try?

Electric Castle