This year’s very first mixtape featured a track from Amsterdam artist Luwten, a song we stumbled across at random and immediately fell in love with. We recently reached out to the band to find out more about them and their music, taking some time for a quick interview with Luwten founder, song-writer, and front woman Tessa Doustra. Read on and listen to more below.
raven + crow: Alright, apologies, Tessa, but we know very little about the band—can you tell us about Luwten? Did it start off as a solo project or has it been a full band from the beginning?
Tessa Douwstra: No problem at all. Luwten started in my mind only but I always wanted to play this music with a band. There’re a couple of musicians I’ve been working with for years now and I don’t feel like I can do this without them.
I feel like many of the bands I love—especially electronic ones—are ones that are built out from solo endeavors. I think I’d read that you were in a couple bands previously—how does what you’re doing in Luwten differ from what you did in those bands?
I think that in my former bands the writing or arranging was more of a joint effort. For Luwten I did almost all of the writing and arranging myself. Also I wanted to start anew, without dealing with genres or music I made before.
Now, I did manage to figure out that “luwten” seems to translate from Dutch as “lied”—is that correct?
That’s not true actually. Where can I find that translating machine?!
WHAT‽ Damn you, Google Translate! You were so good to us in Japan! Or were you…? Alright then, what does “luwten” mean then?
Luwten is a Dutch word for “places without wind”. Similar to “under the lee” I think?
Oh, yeah, I like that much more than “lied”.
So, the first track we heard from you all was “Go Honey”, which, again, we really love. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for that song?
It was inspired by a friend of mine who was about to move abroad. I wrote the chorus on a little goodbye card when she left and later it turned into this song that’s also about a lot of other things. But this event planted the seed for the song, I guess.
I feel like that speaks to the bittersweet mood of the song. Both that song and “Indifference” pair your softer vocals with equally subtle-but-beautiful rhythms and instrumentation. Is most of that electronic-based or analog or both?
Both! I love both! I like the iciness and steadiness of electronics and the more human touch of analog instruments. I love guitars but I also like playing with the way it sounds so that it’s not even recognizable anymore.
Totally agree. I feel like strictly electronic music sounds somewhat…flat or one-dimensional or cold to me most times, especially when it’s lacking analog percussion. So what’s your song-writing process like? Are you the type that usually writes vocal + single instrument and then builds from there?
A lot of times the song-writing starts with a sentence or an idea. I think I start with lyrics more often than I start with music. After that I like to create a vibe by building a loop out of instruments and vocals and start singing over them. When I feel like the songs needs an extra bit, I make a new part for the song. Sometimes the writing of a song can also start with just guitar and vocals. It depends.
Cool. Word on the street is that you’ll be releasing a full album some time this spring—can you tell us anything more at this point? Track listings, when to expect it this spring, maybe how some of the other songs might differ from or expand on what we’ve heard to date?
Yes, that was the plan but it’s been quite difficult to decide what would be the best way to release it so we had to postpone it. It will be soon though! I think there’re going to be a lot of sounds on the album you’ve already heard with the first two songs we released, but some songs and sounds are a bit more electronic, some a bit more experimental, some a bit more traditional. But they all have the same cautiousness and consciousness over them, I think.
Can’t wait to hear more.
We really love that image of you that you’ve been using for PR, where you seem to be floating above an upside-down ceiling. Can you tell us how that was created and who did it? It’s really striking. Does it tie into the band/album name and translation at all?
Thanks! I love how it turned out. I worked together with two friends of mine Sonja van Hamel (graphic designer) and Eddo Hartmann (photographer). They have been doing stuff together for years and I love the things they come up with. It always looks a bit out of this world, in both the literal and figurative sense. The three of us worked on the idea for the photo together. We wanted it to be something you have to look at a couple of times in order to see what’s really going on. The floating creates a sense of stillness I really like. In that way it ties to the idea of the album: to take time to look at things from different sides and also to not be afraid to take time to work in the “luwten”.
Nice. What’s the music scene like in Amsterdam right now? I hear your noise + indie scenes are strong, but, other than Klangstof and (yeeeeears back) Bettie Serveert, I can’t say that I know many bands from your neck of the woods. Who are some artists you like?
Wow, good question! Bettie Serveert is still going strong by the way. And the band members live just around the corner here! There are a couple of bands and artists I really like. Pitou is someone I really look forward to releasing more music. Her voice, ideas, and vocal arrangements I really like. I’m also looking forward to Nana Adjoa and Sofie Winterson‘s new stuff. I can make you a list of songs by Dutch bands and artists you could listen to if you like!
Oh, man, I’d actually love that!
I’ve never visited Amsterdam but hear great things—what are some things you love about the city or places you love or things you’d recommend doing for anyone planning to visit?
I never really get attached to the place where I live. I think I like the idea of always being able to go somewhere else. But of course I love lots of things about this city. I love being able to go everywhere by bike, I love the museums we have here and the diversity of the city. But what I would recommend most is just to sit on a café’s terrace (like Festina Lente or L’Affiche), order a coffee and just look at people. It’s a great place to go to just look at people.
That sounds lovely.
Apologies for veering to politics and the state of the world, but I’m curious about the Dutch perspective of what’s been going on here over the past few months?
I think most of us were pretty shocked when Trump got elected as president. It didn’t feel like it was possible and still it did happen. I like that you brought it up. I think it’s good to talk about this and to keep each other posted on what’s going on and how to best deal with it. Even when there’s an ocean in between.
Are you all pretty left-leaning over there or do you have similar experiences to this whole conservative, fear-of-the-other trend that we seem to be experiencing here and in places like France, Germany…honestly way too many places lately?
We do have similar experiences over here. Last March the most right-winged party became the second largest party of our country. I’m afraid it’s everywhere but I’ve been trying to remind myself that the number of people looking for a connection is way bigger than the number of people trying to create this division.
Beautiful point and definitely something we all need to remember.
I know from speaking with other artists over the years that it can be tough to get to the states and make touring profitable, but, nonetheless, any plans to make the trek to the US?
We’d love to come to the US! No concrete plans yet but I’ll keep you posted!
Please do! And thanks again for taking the time to talk.