It’s hard to believe that critically acclaimed electronic duo Weval had no musical background before creating Half Age, their 2013 debut EP, in Harm’s living room. First meeting as film school students, Harm Coolen and Merijn Scholte Albers both found themselves drawn to the freeing creative process of music – and they haven’t stopped chasing that feeling since.
Time Goes, their latest four-track EP, indulges listeners in a sense of nostalgic euphoria. Finding themselves oft revisiting early memories with music over the last two years while also craving the buzz of performing for live audiences, the resulting Time Goes feels excitingly fresh and comforting at the same time.
“Still surprised” that their emotive mix of bold and beautifully composed melodies has garnered the success that it has, Weval are still immersing themselves in the journey. And we’re here for it.
So sit back, lean into this exclusive mixtape by Weval and discover their story.
First of all, how has 2022 been for you guys so far?
Can’t believe we’re almost halfway! Made a lot of music, developed a new show, just released an EP, and started touring again. It’s been amazing to be honest. It’s fine to have more quiet times, but we really like the pressure as well, less thinking, just creating a lot and seeing how it lands.
Care to share your early memories with music? Is there a song that changed the way you look at things?
Merijn: It's a different story for us both, but for me, a lot changed hearing big beat/triphop songs in ‘90s movies. When I was 12, I watched The Matrix for the first time hearing Propellerheads and discovered the Dust Brothers soundtrack in Fight Club. I was obsessed with finding more and more of that kind of music and spent hours behind my computer getting all these songs since there was no Shazam or anything like that. It was a great treasure hunt back in the days!
To take it back to the beginning - how did the two of you meet and decide to make music together?
Harm: Koen and Nicky, who play in our live band and are long time collaborators, had their own band project. They asked me to make a music video. I didn’t know Merijn, but I got in touch with him and asked him to think along. During the brainstorming for the video, we started making music ourselves. We didn’t know anything, but we had so much fun making those little music ideas. We basically never quit after that. Fully surprised we were even able to make something, let alone that the project took off. Still surprised to this day.
Where did you find inspiration for your latest EP, Time Goes?
We went on a big nostalgia tour over the last two years. We took this quieter time just to enjoy old music memories like sitting in the back of the car on our way to spend a holiday with parents, going wild on discovering a whole new musical world. No judgments, just feeling the energy of the music and seeing a landscape passing by. That’s a great feeling that every music lover can lose if you don’t watch out. So, we channelled that feeling as much as we could in this EP.
How would you say this EP is different from your previous releases?
This one was a bit more focused on ‘would these songs be fun to play out for a crowd?’ It’s maybe a logical question but for us it never was. We’re totally obsessed with making music and the feeling it can give while making it. So, we tend not to think of anything else other than just chasing that feeling of excitement. Some of those ideas are not for the live show at all, but now we kept that world a bit in mind, more than before.
What has been the most challenging and gratifying part of creating Time Goes?
It’s insane how every release is a big challenge to really make it work. It never gets easy and that’s why we also really like it. And it’s actually really nice to have a release deadline. There is a timeline and a purpose for this selection of songs. That really forces us to move forward and make decisions that feel right in the moment. But we also spend a lot of time just simply tracking drums and getting that sound we liked so much as a kid, and still do now. “Time Goes” and “March On” are big examples of that.
Has the pandemic changed the way you see or create music?
I think it’s mainly how we see music and its role in our lives and others. We’re more grateful to be able to play and experience music together with a crowd.
After working together for so long, what would you say each other’s strengths are?
Merijn: Without Harm, we wouldn’t have a studio like we have now. He’s way better at getting proper gear to work with, and really wants to learn everything and zoom in on every detail. Not only technical stuff though. Five years ago, we didn’t think one of our voices would turn out to be on some tracks. Now he’s singing sometimes in front of 8000 people, which is crazy if you think about the experience he had before, which was zero.
Harm: Merijn is a bit more conceptual and is a fast editor. He can start or finish songs in a short amount of time. A bit more focused on the big picture of a song maybe, and more focused on melody and harmonics.
What do you remember about creating your first Half Age EP in 2013?
We worked on this EP for 3 years while we were still studying. We literally learned how to make music with this EP. Before that, we didn’t have a musical background. It was made in my living room at a place with housemates. Merijn stayed over each week because we had no money to take the train back to Amsterdam. My roommates Nicky and Koen (who are now in the band) walked in and gave us some feedback now and then. They also thought, “what are they doing? This sounds weird.”
It was without any expectation and just fell organically into place. Also, the name of the EP. I read on a Quest agenda in that room that the Earth has only 3 billion years left before it collapses. Merijn stated “oh then we’re halfway”, since it’s existed for more than 3 billion years now. So we thought “ok let’s call this Half Age.” We photoshopped the moon in the moon image and had a cover. Not a lot of time was spent on the concept. We had fun though!
How does living in Amsterdam affect the way you view music?
You always live in a certain context, and you can’t even see in what ways it influences. We both haven’t lived anywhere else for the last 10 years so it's hard to say something specific. It’s a blind spot because we can’t compare it with living in New York or a random little town somewhere. In the last few years, we became more surrounded by people who are also in music, which is great and really helps us to learn a lot and find inspiration.
What Weval track would you recommend people discover first and why?
It would depend on who you’re recommending it for. For my aunt, I would choose a different track than for you for example. One track that I really like but didn’t get a lot of attention is “It’ll Be Just Fine”. But maybe “Changed for the Better” will do fine as an introduction, which is also up to date!
Music festivals are finally back. What are some of your favourite moments playing at these events?
Both Lowlands shows were amazing to play. Primavera was tense, also really loved Nuit Sonores. So many memories, I don't know where to start. But to name one moment: Rock en Seine, the summer before the pandemic. Because of the heat, everything melted, and it was a big nightmare to fix this on stage. But we had some working synths still, so we just improvised a little and after ten minutes of hassle we could continue with all our gear and had tons of fun. Luckily the crowd was still there and dancing! It was a great feeling to solve a problem with the whole team. Felt a bit like dismantling a bomb, but I also don’t have an actual experience with that (laughs).
Who would be your dream collaboration and why?
It would be fun to make something with Brian Eno or Thom Yorke, or both.
If Weval were a movie, what would it be and why?
That’s for others to decide. We both love (dark) comedy stuff though, like Fargo or Force Majeure.
You are back on the road for a European and US tour. What can fans expect from your show this time?
The previous tour, we sometimes wanted to go as quiet as possible within our music, almost contradictory, but that was the fun and challenging part. Now, we’re going a bit more energetic. The few shows we had last week felt so good. It really suits our music to go a bit more dance-y at some points, feels like we found a nice blend between the quieter pieces of the last tour into the more dance-y stuff. Really enjoying this!
Cover Credit: Pasqual Amade