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With experimental bands like Silver Apples or Suicide, it might have been a rather rough start for electronic music duos to get recognized by a wider audience, but the 80s at the latest - especially with UK acts like Eurythmics, OMD or Yazoo - proved that mechanized pairs that didn’t shy away from getting rid of the rather dark elements New/No Wave was offering in favor of a much more pleasant pop appeal, could get easily embraced by the mainstream big time. These days some of the most exciting, forward-thinking (and borderless) electronic music is produced by musical duos once again. Think Rocketnumbernine. Think Pachanga Boys. Think Fuck Buttons. And the latest addition to this illustrious circle goes by the name of Weval.
The Amsterdam-based duo - consisting of film school dropouts Harm Coolen and Merijn Schotte Albers - managed to create an instantly recognizable musical universe within a period of three years only, warm and analog sounding, emotive journeys that consciously cross manifold genres with the kind of relentless implicitness that lets them so easily shine above the rest of their peers. The remixes and two EPs for Kompakt already made the crowd dance, dream and cry at the very same time, but it’s their forthcoming debut album, which delivers a cohesive and fully accomplished vision of their craft. Time for Lodown to investigate a lil’ further.
For us there are only two stadia in the process of making a track: stadium one is being in complete focus without breaks, without eating, exactly knowing what you're doing. Stadium two is desperately trying to get back into stadium one.
Guys, to start with a rather annoying one, what does Weval stand for? Is it simply a phonetic thing or is there an actual meaning behind your band name? ⇶ Yes, it's phonetic... well, actually we thought it looked nice. We worked three years on our first EP without having a name, so in the end choosing one became quite a thing. After considering many options we shuffled with some letters, and in the end Weval came up.
You met while you were studying film, but then switched to making music instead... what was the main reason for calling it quits? Did you figure out that the involvement of so many people in the actual process is a rather frustrating affair instead of being a fruitful collaborative effort? ⇶ Music is super direct and immediate, which is a big advantage in comparison to film. But both art forms have their charms. For us, film is more about story and music is more about an abstract feeling. Stepping away from film was never really a choice though, the music got a little bit out of hand and takes the most of our time now. And Merijn recently made a short film so technically we didn't really quit ;)
Because of your background in film, I was wondering how much “thinking cinematically“ was influencing your process of making music... and how did it change over the last years? ⇶ Most of the time we just make music from a sound, rhythmic or melodic perspective. Maybe the textures and experimental sounds combined with the song structure is one of the reasons it can be experienced as cinematic. But music and film are always very connected so it's a bit vague what those cinematic elements actually mean. We guess it's a cool thing if it's being experienced as that though.
For me, one of the key elements of what makes your music so outstanding is how you use vocals - it’s basically an extra layer, the icing on the cake, especially since you use them very creatively. What’s the reason you’re rather neglecting this side when playing live? ⇶ We still use vocals, but only more as a delayed effect, as builders in the set. The main reason for this is that we would like the audience to have more of a trip experience instead of playing song after song. The other reason is that the vocals are sampled most of the time. It’s from a friend’s old band.
Another great aspect of your music is that it’s actually not too easy to pigeonhole... was that a conscious decision or did it evolve into something that’s flirting with many different genres? Is it a matter of the musical backgrounds you’re bringing o the table? Or is it your take on contemporary pop? ⇶ While making a track we never feel limited in doing whatever works for the track itself. Maybe afterwards we can decide if we want to release it or not. It also helps that we have a different background and a slightly different focus on making music. For example, Harm started with the track “Madness“, which basically was one long atmospheric build up. When Merijn came in, the first thing he did was pitching down a brutal rap vocal and made a huge drop out of it. So this kind of interaction brings the track into a total different spectrum.
Speaking of conscious decisions: your musical palette seems to be a decidedly limited one... as if you’re looking for the challenge to create something significant through limitation... ⇶ We just focused on the things that fascinated us... that in combination with what we can afford ; ) In this case it was mainly analog synthesizers and sampled old school 60s and 70s drums. Especially the hardware side of synthesizers is still quite new for us. It all evolved organically, and it was not that much of a conscious choice, but like you said, this limited palette really works, either it's a conscious decision or not.
Please tell me a bit about the actual recording process... was it a scary thought for you to have to spin your mind around actually recording an album? You know, EPs seem to be a much more welcome (and forgiving) format for most electronic artists. ⇶ It definitely was a thing, a feeling like 'this must be it'. But with this in mind you get cramped and cannot work. After we just started working on music we forgot it quick enough. The whole process in the studio is a different universe, and doesn't feel that connected with the moment we're in now, releasing it. Maybe it would be different if you would put a track online the very same night.
You took a break from reality in order to lock yourself away in the attic of an old house to record the album... was it as intense as I imagine this experience to be? And did this environment actually support the idea of embracing a more human sound with all these lil’ imperfect moments it implies? ⇶ It was definitely intense! For us there are only two stadia in the process of making a track: stadium one is being in complete focus without breaks, without eating, exactly knowing what you're doing. Till the track is done or till you loose that moment. It’s this state of mind that every step and every idea feels awesome. Stadium two is trying to get back into stadium one. In this phase you're not feeling it at all, trying out tons of ideas, doubting a lot and having no idea what you're doing.
The last few years we got more into psychedelic music, we thought it could be interesting to search for this kind of elements. So the ‘human sound’ aspect had more to do with taste then the actual place were we made it.
Weval / s/t / Kompakt / out on June 10