Exclusive Interview: Weval [Kompakt]

Go behind the scenes with the Dutch power-duo and their latest album
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Kompakt Records is one of the leading labels in electronic music, and for a good reason. They've singlehandedly created the "adult techno" genre, and their wide-ranging releases have become nothing short of legendary. One of their finest live acts, Weval, have just released their second album with the label, The Weight. Their first self-titled album Weval was one of our favorites from 2016, so it's safe to say we are big fans. Below, you'll read our extensive interview, in which we dive headfirst into the process of creation behind The Weight, taking the studio to the stage, as well as many other facets of their day to day lives. 

Weval_ by Max Hartmann- cg

Hey guys, before we get going I want to say a massive thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. We've been big fans for a long time. In fact, your first album was one of my favorites of 2016. Tell us, how has life been since then, both musically and personally?

Thank you too! In the first year after the record, we toured a lot and found out we were feeling a lot better in the studio. Not that we don’t like touring, but we really like making new music and therefore we needed some time to breathe. So in the last two years, we took it slow on the touring side and worked more or less nonstop on the record. During writing our previous record we felt more creative boundaries, which kind of work to get somewhere but it was perhaps a bit too intense. The opposite happened in the last two years, we felt that total freedom again to do whatever we like. Making a melody, for example, felt way easier than the years before.

If you don't mind providing a bit of backstory, how did Weval even come to be? At what point, if you can remember, did you decide Weval was the way forward?

It started before we really knew it. After sitting together to work on a music video we started producing music, funny enough, we sampled the singer from that music video and he plays in our band now, same for the drummer. We worked three years on the first EP (not full time of course), and it was all just fun. After we made a lot of half-finished tracks we thought, let’s finish these instead of making new ones. From that moment o,n we took it a bit more serious I guess. Still not really a plan but it sort of happened because of the fun we’ve had with the demos.

It may come as a surprise to some that you both actually met whilst working in the film industry. Were there any lessons or habits you learned back then that you've carried with you today?

Music is such a free format compared to film. The creative process is so immediate and accessible in terms of production. So, for us, music was always a sort of release from film. I think that’s the thing we keep in mind as much as possible if we get stuck in our heads.

Your sound is very unique compared to a lot of today's more club-orientated electronic music. How would you, if possible, describe your music?

Thanks! We have no idea to describe it and we also want that it’s hard to describe haha. Labels aren’t really our thing, but we really won’t mind if people put it in a certain kind of category, or make one up ;)

It has also stayed fairly consistent over the years while continuing to evolve. How do you walk the line between experimentation and maintaining the sound you've become known for?

I think we have some musical elements that we really like but all the rest is just constantly experimenting with new ways of making music. We don’t think about what would be in the line of what we already did. You can think of that after you made something. But during the process of making music our rational minds go to the background (hopefully) and then we’ll see what happens and what leads to the music we like to listen again and again.

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The new album is called The Weight. Is there a specific meaning to this? What, if at all, is the overarching theme or message you want to convey with this new album?

This title became sort of a theme for us. In two years a lot of different things came by; it’s almost impossible to stay in one state. The fact that we had so much joy, more than ever, making this record and at the same time we’ve dealt with just a different kind of feeling that life can give, which is obviously not always really easy ; )

Don't want to step in detail about that, but the contrast between the joy we’ve had and the intense moments outside the studio-life was a nice contrast, and I think you can hear that in the whole record. If not that’s OK too. Hopefully, the album is a different kind of experience for everyone.

What was your writing process like for The Weight? Did it differ from your first album? Were there any lessons you learned from the first one that made this one a smoother process?

The writing itself was way smoother. We came up with way more ideas than before, and it just went. Finishing was harder this time. It’s always hard but this time even more. We wanted to push ourselves in terms of concept and the way it sounds and at some point, we lost it a bit. We are satisfied now but all those hundreds of (sometimes pointless) tweaking hours made us better producers, we hope.

My favorite tracks on the album have to be Silence On The Wall and Look Around. I love how they transition and that they seem to be a "call and answer" to each other. The vocals on Silence are haunting and gorgeous. What are some of your criteria for deciding on who to work with on music? Does it change depending on whether the track is for an album or an EP?

The singer on Silence On The Wall is Romy Day, a friend of ours. We didn’t plan this, she came by in the studio and it just happened. Also for the drums, they were really the backbone of these two tracks (from drummer Nicky Hustinx). It was just one continuous jam, one a click track. And we build two tracks around it.

Here's something a bit different. How did you decide on choosing Are You Even Real, and Heaven Listen as the first two singles to release? What was it about these two tracks that you thought would be the best way to preview what the new album was all about?

It was difficult to choose which songs we would come out with. It’s hard to define the record with one or two songs. But the main thing was that we’ve wanted something that was energetic, and something that was more easy to listen to.

We are big gear heads over here. What were some of the tools you used in the creation of this album? Any returning bits from the first album? Anything new?

A cheap FM synth, the Korg 707 became our best friend. Super simple synth, almost a toy, with presets that blew our mind and a lot of times opened up a track. Especially on Doesn’t Do Anything. It mostly runs through a guitar amp, which makes it a bit less plastic.

Speaking of tools, these days there are a seemingly endless amount at one's disposal. How do you set limitations and not get caught up in the frenzy of new gear overload?

Every new piece of gear can be a distraction from just making music or can be a complete inspiration for new tracks. Being together in the studio brings perhaps more focus because you want to get somewhere together. If you’re alone you can nerd around for hours. Which is also good haha. Besides from the studio we both have a set up in our bedroom with one synth lying around, that’s a natural way of limitation.

Continuing with the limitation them, when focusing on the live performance element of your music, what is your process for vetting what to take from the studio to the stage? What are the key elements of your live setup?

We just redesigned it. And it will change even more I think. The biggest difference is that we’ll play some tracks with two drummers (in band mode that is) and we sampled a lot of synths from our studio to give the show more variation in sound than before. But the Juno sound will always be there, the 106, for example, is one of our favorite synths for playing live.

Weval by Latoya van der Meeren - cg-merijn

On top of you two playing live, you occasionally have a full band with you as well. How did this idea come about? Does the band comprise of old friends, or are they studio musicians?

Musically and socially it’s an interesting process. We think our music can go both ways, more electronic but also more acoustic. So with the band, we explore that side and that gives us inspiration for the electronic side as well. We couldn’t do just one of the two worlds alone.

A live setup can be stressful enough. I'm curious, how do you manage the potential added stress of a full band to your performances? How do you keep your cool when things go wrong?

We learn more and more. Sometimes it’s a matter of downgrading a part of the show because of technical issues. But mostly it’s just spending countless hours programming midi and rehearsing. And drink too much coffee. But I’ll have to be honest, I have a huge headache at the moment from all this stuff. I will be really glad when we’re on stage and everything works as it supposed to.

Working with a partner, or partners, on music can be a double-edged sword. Where does each of your strengths lie? Weaknesses?

Harm can be more patient, and he hears things Merijn won’t hear at all. Merijn’s focus lies more on the concept of tracks and isn’t scared to go a little big sometimes.

The music industry can be brutal both physically and mentally. When things get tough, or you both are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or just really unfocused, how do you get back on your feet and get things going again?

A big reason to do this is is just making music. On stage, or in the studio. If you have to travel too much, you won't make new stuff anymore, so we try to balance a little, when possible. But also to learn a lot and develop new skills.

We never thought we would play in a 5 piece band and do everything live, we even sing now, or play guitar on stage. If you told us this five years ago we would laugh at you, really hard.

Again, thank you both so much for chatting with us today. Before you go, I have one last question. In all of your experience in both music and film, what is the single most important piece of advice you could give to a new artist trying to make something of themselves in the industry?

I think the most important thing we’ve learned is not to overthink every bit while making the first sketches. Just go, and only stop when there are no creative juices flowing. You’ll never be in that moment again if you fall asleep. Analyze the next days, not the day itself. That worked for us but can be different for everyone. And have fun while it lasts ;)

Stream The Weight by Weval below, and grab your copy now. 

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