Regular readers of the Janglepophub blog and our various social media sites, may well remember the embarrassing spectacle of this middle aged Editor waxing lyrical and becoming acutely fanboy about 2017's The Downer EP from Rotterdam band Lewsberg (see review HERE).
After hunting them down via the world reducing wonders of social media I was delighted to be granted an interview with the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Arie Van Vliet, who talks 'soggy supergroups', Rotterdam's appeal to hipsters. our last visiting rights to the Vicar and his wife in the upcoming Vicars Cross Pt 2, abstract views of emotions and the will to avoid the 'charming Rotterdammers' tag.
Hello Arie thanks for agreeing to an interview...Lewsberg been referred to as a ‘Rotterdam super group’. What is the history of the band and its members?
The first venue we played described us as ‘the soggiest supergroup of Rotterdam’. Which I think was a pretty spot-on characterisation. A couple of other venues then copied this phrase, but omitted the word ‘soggiest’. It would have been better if they would have skipped the word ‘super’.
The ‘Vicars Cross (pt1)’ is the greatest track in the history of mankind ever (see below) and I will fight anyone who says otherwise (my ‘fanboy’ instinct has overcome me)…Is there a part 2 (please) and if so when?
Well… I think I have to agree with that, because I’ve never been much of a fighter.
There is a part 2, it will be the closing track of our upcoming album. It’s the last chance to see the vicar and his wife together.
Vicars Cross (pt.1)
Lewsberg utilize an intriguing half spoken word vocal style delivered in English with a heavy Dutch accent…could the same delivery work if delivered in your mother tongue?
I’ve thought about that quite a lot. I think my accent actually is more like a Rotterdam accent than it is a Dutch accent.
Now if I would write my songs in Dutch, I’d deliver them with this same Rotterdam accent. But I’m doubtful people outside of Rotterdam would call this intriguing. They would probably embrace it as ‘charming’. Because that’s what people do with everything from Rotterdam nowadays. And I’d hate that. Rotterdam & Rotterdams & Rotterdammers aren’t meant to be charming.
The lyrics to tracks such The Downer, Chances and The Vicars Cross (Part 1) all have something relevant to say, but a comedic essence is never far away. What is the song writing process that leads to such unique lyricism?
Most songs in the history of songwriting are about emotions.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with emotions. I find them very interesting, but in a reflective, analytical way. Not to use them in day-to-day life. Most of our songs are about depressing(ly) ordinary situations, but from a distant point of view, without too much drama.
In the end, I think every experience is as valuable as any other experience. Happiness isn’t any better than sadness. Beauty isn’t worth more than ugliness. That’s what I’m trying to display in these songs. And it’s what we, as a band, are trying to display on a musical level as well.
What is the typical Lewsberg recording process?
Capture a song on tape three times: first time too fast, second time too slow, last time pretty close to what we have in mind. Don’t be too satisfied with the result, but live with it.
I worked in Rotterdam 25 years ago and it has a superb independent music scene even then. Why do you think it’s scene has suddenly started to get widespread international recognition?
In the age of artificiality, everybody’s looking for people, places and experiences that are real, that aren’t engineered. Sooner or later, this search will bring you to Rotterdam.
What are the last three albums you downloaded or purchased?
Bridge of Flowers – Bridge of Flowers
Ghost Music – I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here
Yung Wu – Shore Leave
What were the last three gigs you attended?
Circuit des Yeux @ WORM, Rotterdam
Tim Koh @ Herman, Rotterdam
Bonne Aparte @ V11, Rotterdam
Donald Trump? Madman or talisman?
Thinking about Trump and his followers makes me furious.
But we have nationalist, fascist, alt-right, racist sentiments to deal with here on our side of the ocean as well, and they make me even more angry. And though we can’t do anything about what’s going on in the US, I think it’s important to stay alert and to fight these feelings and the people who fuel them any way we can. Even though I’m not much of a fighter.
We give you the famous janglepophub time machine…if you go back to any musical decade and be successful which decade would it be and what would success mean to you?
I don’t know what being successful means?
I think you could use a notion of success as an abstract goal for the future, so you can keep yourself busy trying to achieve something. But when you’re successful, the challenge to become unsuccessful again might be even more interesting.
Your output so far has been self-released. Do you want to sign for a label? What would you look for in a label?
At the moment we’re operating at a scale where we can easily manage everything without a label. We copy and fold the artwork ourselves. Walk to the post office around the corner with packages to be shipped all around the globe. These are nice things to do, wouldn’t want to share that joy nor the responsibility with a record label. As long as it’s doable.
You released your EP on cassette. Much has been made of the resurgence of the ‘cassette culture’. Is this justified or is it just a poor mans vinyl?
It’s a smart mans vinyl!
It’s so much easier to put out a cassette than to put out a 12''. You can record your songs one day and release it on tape the next day. If you want to release your stuff on vinyl, you have to wait for two or three months before you can hold it in your hands. Plus: you can play cassettes in your car.
You gigged in the UK in spring 2017 a country with a fine history of post-punk / indie bands. How were Lewsberg received over there?
We missed our flight to Manchester, decided to take the boat to Hull and then nearly missed it as well, because we went to the wrong dock. So we were pretty stressed out when we finally set foot on the island. But people didn’t seem to notice, because they’d already had a few.
What is the difference between playing to a UK audience and a Dutch one?
People start drinking earlier in the UK.
Is there a new release in the pipeline? When will it be out?
Yes, there is! We’re going to release a full-length album on April 13th. On vinyl, indeed.