Interview with HAEVN
photos by Eveline Vroonland
When singer-songwriter and film score composer combine, it’s magical - as shown by Amsterdam band HAEVN. “It’s like a chemical experiment where you put two things together and you get something new,” they describe. Consisting of vocalist Marijn van der Meer and producer/instrumentalist Jorrit Kleijnen, the duo creates “cinematic, unctuous synthpop.” They established themselves with a series of singles beginning in 2015 before releasing their debut album ‘Eyes Closed’ in May.
Their music originated through a chance encounter via film, too. “Jorrit was asked to make music for a video about a blind skater,” Marijn reveals. “The producer of the movie said: ‘This is great music, but we should try to make a song out of it.’ The producer knew me and asked if I could help out. I watched the video with the music, was inspired immediately and rushed to my home studio to record the first thing that came up in my mind. That was the start of our song ‘Where the Heart Is’.”
“So Jorrit and I met each other musically at first,” the singer continues. “After that moment we started working together. We share a strong similar taste in music. Jorrit focuses more on production and structure. I focus more on songwriting and lyrics.” Their music, gentle and fluid, illustrates melodic landscapes like a watercolor painting. And this blend doesn’t lack variety, either, with guitars, keys, synths, and elegant strings all featuring in highlighted moments.
“We tend to start with a sound,” the band explains. “This can be a filmic sound that sets a mood. For instance, we wrote the song ‘We Are’ late at night. The first sound of the track sets the mood for the melody and the lyrics. We try to feed our subconscious with a nice starting sound.” The mentioned track is just one example of the familiar atmosphere of their album, submerging the listener into the experience with a haunting string palette and the sound of a car passing on the street. It’s like you can’t tell where the song begins and the space in which they made it ends.
These echoes in space are meant to be listened to closely; absorbed as part of a whole. The band chose the album title ‘Eyes Closed’ with this in mind. “We hope that people will listen to our album with their eyes closed and form their own images with every song. Of course all our songs have a meaning for us, but we think it’s great that you can have your own interpretation and images. It’s what we do as well when we listen to music.”
In all of HAEVN’s songs there’s something so intimate about Marijn’s vocals, as if he’s in conversation. Fused with expressive, stirring production, it’s hard to listen without a pull at your heartstrings. “The songs on our album are emotional but also hopeful,” the singer shares. We like to see light at the end of the tunnel. The song ‘Back In the Water’ is about waiting for a friend/lover to come out of a difficult period. You know you just have to wait patiently for them to get out of the dark. For me the bridge lifts it up and brings back hope.”
One element of their music that is evident from a single listen to the album is the abundance of water imagery. “That’s right," Marijn confirms. “It was never conscious, but we embraced it and used water in our artwork and in our visuals during performances. For us the ocean can work as a good metaphor for many things.” And in opening album track “The Sea” in particular, the metaphor is ever-present, wrapping the listener up in comforting, peaceful sonic waves.
Besides their lyrical imagery, their songs are paired with stunning images as well, including oceans, cityscapes, and soft abstract patterns. “It’s a very long process,” the duo explains of how they choose these visuals. “The same with finding our name. We think a band name and artwork can determine the way you listen to the music. We think about what the song means to us and what images come to mind. Then we search for days to find the right one.” This careful reflection has clearly paid off - each cover has a distinctly soothing texture that matches the music beautifully.
Their most recent release, a single version and an alternative version of “Mind Games”, reimagines the pulsing track in two different ways. “During our live shows we like to play the songs on the album in a different way. We did the same with the production of ‘Mind Games’. The production can sometimes change they way you listen to the song.” In this case, the alternate version “embodies the despair you can feel when you’re in love with someone that will always keep a distance to you”, whereas in the single version “it’s more about enjoying to chase someone knowing you will never be together.”
The band is directing their focus throughout the coming months on touring. “At the moment we are working hard to prepare our 2 shows in Carré Amsterdam, a beautiful venue in the Netherlands. Our goal is to tour in the Netherlands after that and of course outside of the Netherlands. US is a dream!” they say. When asked why they choose to sing in English despite being Dutch, they answer, “It’s because we almost always listen to music outside of the Netherlands. When we get e-mails from Dutch people in that are written in English, it’s a compliment for us. They haven’t heard or figured out we are from the Netherlands. Not that we are ashamed of being Dutch, not at all, but we are happy that our sound is international.”
It’s apparent that HAEVN will continue to be international - their music, appealing to universal human emotions, has the potential to touch many people. It seems to have a unity unlike many other bands; a more definite purpose. “We think it’s hope,” the duo says. “We don’t know how it is with other bands, but we get messages from all over the world from people that tell us the music helped them during a difficult period in their lives.”
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