Arie van Vliet (Lewsberg): 'We like to break down songs when they start to sound too nice'
- Arusa Qureshi
- 19 September 2019
credit: Tommy Ventevogel
Singer and guitarist of the Rotterdam quartet chats to us about the band, the re-release of their debut album and their upcoming UK dates
Rotterdam four-piece Lewsberg made the journey over to Brighton earlier this year for The Great Escape, where they were met with enthusiastic crowds at the UK's biggest showcase festival, who clearly embraced their simple yet intriguing brand of lo-fi rock. Having released their self-titled debut back in 2018 in the Netherlands, Lewsberg re-released the record worldwide in January this year, a move which was prompted thanks to the growing demand from fans outside of their home country.
'When we first released the album in 2018, we didn't really know what to expect,' frontman Arie van Vliet explains. 'We put it out ourselves, without any kind of promo campaign, so we didn't know who or what our audience was going to be. Would people outside Rotterdam listen to it? Would the record cross borders? It was a pleasant surprise when we found out that there appeared to be a worldwide audience for our music. That's when we decided to arrange this re-release, so people across the globe could buy the record in their local record shop.'
At nine tracks, the album is a concise and brilliant blend of fuzzy guitar lines and sardonic spoken-word vocals, with shades of Velvet Underground and Talking Heads throughout.
'We weren't trying to make a record that would sound too good,' van Vliet says of their general approach. 'We're not here to please people, it's good to disturb people at times. If there has to be some kind of concept, I think that is it: that we're doing things the way we want to do it, without taking other people's opinions into account. I believe you can hear that in the music, in the lyrics, in the way the record sounds and maybe it's even in the way we released the album.'
Of their hometown of Rotterdam, van Vliet is keen to highlight how much is currently happening in the Dutch city as far as music goes, whether it be behind the scenes or out front in new releases and projects. 'Not only are people starting new bands all the time, and playing in each other's bands,' he says, 'but there's also a lot of people putting on shows in Rotterdam. In small places, most of the time not even in proper venues. And these places disappear as soon as they pop up. That keeps things fresh and sharp, and makes the music scene pretty lively.
'The most interesting part of the music scene in Rotterdam is the experimental part,' he continues, 'made by musicians who don't seem to care about their audience at all, let alone expanding their audience. I've learned a lot from this attitude. But even more important is the fact that the music they make is quite interesting. For example, I really like the record that Red Brut put out last year, using cassettes and day-to-day sounds as the main instruments for her sound collages.'
The band's upcoming UK tour will see them play in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as Brighton, Leeds and Oxford, before they head back to mainland Europe. So for anyone new to Lewsberg and their mellow, mid-tempo nonchalance, what can be expected from their live set-up?
'When we started Lewsberg, our idea was to be a rock band with really good songs, played very badly. I think we failed, as we actually perform the songs quite decently. Our original idea is still present, though: we like to break down songs when they start to sound too nice, to slow things down when you start to feel the rhythm, to be out of tune during a crucial guitar solo.'
Lewsberg play Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, Wed 9 Oct; The Hug and Pint, Glasgow, Thu 10 Oct.
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Four-piece rock group from Rotterdam.