by Viola Karsten
The light was dark and the crowd still chatting when a spherical sound slowly filled the room. It created a new atmosphere. The audience began to draw their attention to Harm and Merijn, who are the heart of Weval, accompanied by a drummer. Their sound composition invited the audience to entirely lean into a fascinating mix of trippy electronic dance music, spiced up with dreamy, often epic melodies.
The music of the talented producer duo Harm Coolen and Merijn Scholte Albers is enforced with live drums, bass guitar, and a vocalist, that gave the performance an indie edge. The drummer, who played along the performance for the entire time, added a lot to the jam feeling. Whereas the bass guitar player, who previously played with the Dutch Afrobeat heroes Jungle By Night, sounded tight and funky and every time his music kicked in, it made people dance harder. The vocalist and the guitar player in the back were a bit hidden from the eye but added dreamy vocals which occasionally lay over the composition. One song floated into another whilst the music got more and more upbeat. Techno sequences got the crowd going, as well as their popular song “Gimme Some”. Some bands seem to get annoyed by their hits, as they have to play it over and over again, not Weval. While playing their popular songs, they were breaking free from their pure focus which they kept during the whole concert and seemingly started to relax. All in all, it was a great concert which totally drew you in. It is a musical journey of electronic music that not even Merijn, who Mosaiek met for an interview, was able to find a specific name for.
If you want to know more about Weval’s story, their development in sound and as a band, or how a French or German audience responds to their music differently, read our interview.
Tell me a bit about your journey as a band, how did you start making music together?
This is quite a funny story. I met Harm during a mutual friend’s birthday. At that time, he was making a music video for the band Woost and asked me if I wanted to help him, as we were both in film school. So, we did the video, and it turned out to be a music video for the band that is now part of Weval. We are five people on stage and two of us used to play in Woost. It was never our dream so it is crazy that now we can make money from music and make it our job. Some of the songs from our first LP are actually samples from Woost, although they were much more like a rock band. When Harm and I started to make music, simply on a laptop, they were quitting the band, and so we used their vocal tracks from their previous projects and cut and sampled them on our album. Now after years, they are singing those vocals again but now in a totally different song.
What is your individual musical background?
We are not trained musicians and were just making films before we started Weval. Music was only a hobby next to film projects. After a while, it became more and more our job. I still can’t name the chords, but the people who we play with, like the bass player and the drummer, are all educated musicians so we can learn a lot from them. But they can also learn a lot from us because in film school we learned how to create emotions. When the others focus on complex music and complicated chords, we know how simple music can create emotions as well. We don’t exactly bring in the experience from the film education, but we have a good gut feeling, that’s a thing that can’t be trained through school experience.
Are there any current projects you are working on?
We are starting to make a full-length album, which is our second album. Our first album “Weval” was released a year ago. But as we are playing more and more with the full band now, it will sound different from the first. I don’t know how long it will take – when it is finished, it is finished. We will also play at festivals next year, but for now, we are focused on our studio work. This album will reflect our live sound, more but it is not finished yet so it might change completely in the next couple month. We are now in the beginning, so I don’t know what it will be like.
I found it difficult to describe your music or put it in a genre, how would you describe your music?
That is what I find hard as well, but maybe if you can’t name it, it is something new and can be something original. But that is not something for me to judge. We started as something electronic, but now with the drums, the bass player, and the vocals, I don’t know that it is anymore.
How and by whom have you been influenced?
There have been many musicians that influenced us, but we are listening more and more to the 70s Krautrock area like Kent and Harmonia. Psychedelic stuff. But also, more trancy. Not what trance is now but more the beginning of trance. But there is also pop music that inspired us, harmonies that we were listening to when we were 12 years old, like Queens of the Stoneage and Michael Jackson. So, it can be pop music but also these weird Krautrock tracks.
Where is your musical base now? Do you have your own studio?
We have our own studio in Amsterdam but not in the center which is really lovely. For our tour, we are in big cities every week. Like last week we were in Athens, and the week before that in Barcelona and the week before that in Berlin. After that, you don’t want to be in a big city anymore.
Does the city itself, in your case Amsterdam, have an impact on your music?
For me, it is rather the people that we work with who influence my music and not the city. Those people are mostly people from Limburg. We are not from here, but we like to live here. I don’t know the scene in Amsterdam actually, but we are just a couple of friends who make music together. Where we play ranges from big cities, like Los Angeles, to small places, like the small village where my parents live. So, I don’t believe the city you are living in is reflected in your music, or that you can hear the city you are performing in right now, in your music.
You play in very different locations, do those audiences respond to your music differently?
Yes, there is a big difference between an audience in The States and an audience in Germany, for example. And in France, for instance, the people who go to clubs and concerts are much younger. They are much more energetic and dance a bit crazy. But in Berlin, for example, it is totally acceptable if you are 45 years old and go to a club. Nobody will look at you and think, “what are you doing here, you old guy?”, so the crowd is really different in terms age. I’m 28, and I don’t dance as crazy as when I was 19. The audience in Germany is generally much more focused and less wild.
When you play live on stage, do you have the freedom to adjust your music? How much is being created in the moment?
A year ago, Harm and I got very tired of the way we played. We had some improvisation parts, but for most of it, we played the songs in the way people knew them from the album. After a while, we thought we totally have to change the way we play. Now we still have song structure, but in between, we have the freedom to jam for even 15 minutes. That is really exciting for us because it changes the energy of the crowd. You can feel the tension because they feel that somebody improvises on the stage. If I go to a live performance, I don’t want to simply listen to the record – otherwise, I could just put my headphones in and listen to Spotify. But in a live performance, I want to hear something different. This is maybe not the same for everyone, but I personally want the excitement of a live concert and experience something that is created in that moment. Our performance at one concert, one particular night, will never sound the same at another concert. We wouldn’t know how to get it back, but I believe this is very nice because you create something in the present and don’t perform something that you have played for ages. That keeps it fresh for us and for the audience as well.
My last question, what would be your advice for young musicians who want to make a name in music?
This is always a difficult thing to answer because it is different for everyone. But one thing that strikes my mind and is very important for how we work is gut-feeling. We can talk about music for days or weeks, but in the end, music is a sound which, can give you a particular emotion. It is simple as that. This is a fundamental question for us when we work in the studio: does this chord make me feel something in a positive way? Does it give me a good energy? A track doesn’t necessarily need to be produced perfectly – simple things can be really nice as well.