Interview by Miriam C.
The Netherlands’s Habitants isn’t a mere side project by one of the founders of the legendary rock band The Gathering, Réne Rutten but it’s an authentic band who has already set their goals for the international market. Their début “One Self” released through a crowdfunding campaign with the support of the fans, totally recalls big names from the darkwave scene such as Slowdive and Cocteau Twins. Even though, a few months passed since I collected this interview during their gig in Amsterdam at the Paradiso now it’s time to dive into with us in this exciting interview!
Hi Anne, Gema and Mirte, how are you? How this national tour is treating you?
Anne: We are doing fine! [laughs] It’s nice to end here in the upstairs hall of Paradiso. It’s really a nice venue. We’re doing really well and we had a good tour, we tried all our songs since it was our first tour and the first shows we played. We are really enjoying these because the audience was every time really quiet and very interested in our music. Although we play in small venues, the atmosphere was really warm and nice. So, for us was a really good tour.
Mirte: [laughs] Yeah, I think also for a band is important to go on tour because you can get to know each other better even on stage…
Mirte: Yes, exactly. For me, it was really good to do that because it’s different when you are in the rehearsal room from the gig itself. It’s nice to feel the energy between us and the audience. So, [laughs] I had a really good time, yeah.
Gema: Well, this is was our first tour ever, so that makes it extra special. You don’t know how people are going to react. As Anne, said, people were really quiet during the shows, which is not something the Dutch audience is known for it haha, so that’s probably for me the highlight of this tour: when people really listen, it just makes the whole live experience and the connection with the audience something very special.
Do you have any project to tour outside The Netherlands or is it supposed to be limited to national borders only?
Gema: I think the band has international potential, the crowdfunding clearly showed that most of our backers were from outside The Netherlands. For instance, in Chile, where I come from, we already have a small fan base. I think the ambition and the possibilities to play abroad are there, but we have to be patient and work hard too. As our manager once told me “Sometimes you have to say no to things, sometimes you have to wait for the right moment to take a certain step” and I think he’s so right about that.
So, as Gema said Habitants is a pretty new band and I wanted to ask you a bit about the band history, how you got together to whoever is still not familiar with the band…
Anne: Actually, René [Rutten], the guitarist and Gema started it. As you well know, René plays in The Gathering also and this year, it marks their 30th anniversary and naturally, Gema has been with then on the tours and they started to think about creating new music that inspired them both…
Gema:… Hans Rutten (René‘s brother) was also part of Habitants at the very beginning of the band.
Anne: … they collected some ideas and they did try to search for a vocalist and that’s when they called me [laughs]. It was really nice and I just came along. We tried and we did some rehearsal, luckily went everything good. Of course, we had to know each other. For me, it was really a different genre that I used to be singing in and it’s an interesting combination. I think everyone in the band adds something of themselves into it and we called you [pointing at Mirte] you were a friend of…
Mirte: We did know each other for a long time and they asked me to come to a rehearsal and check out if it was something for me
Something new for you, a new experience, so…
Anne: She also played in another band and Jerome [Miedendorp de Bie] too.
So, when I say that all the past musical experiences from each of view can conglobate together, do you agree in a way?
Anne: Yeah, I think everyone’s place shows who they are.
Mirte: Our strongest virtue is that we gave each other some space to play the instruments and sometimes, I don’t play because the guitars need to be louder and I take a step back. Also, I think that everyone does that…
Everyone respects its position, at the end of the day and this is the main outcome…
Mirte: Sometimes all musicians in a band would like to play loud and then what it follows is only misunderstandings that can generate the only disharmony in the band. So, what’s why I think that sometimes is better to take a step back and get each other some space and also, that’s why we have such different dynamics in our music.
So, about this, almost one year ago was released your debut album “One Self”. As right now, which is the feedback that you did receive and do you mind share more about its general composition process?
Anne: Well, we took quite some time to figure out what our signature sounds would be. So, we just started rehearsing for almost one year, one year and a half to know each other, get the right feeling and find the right kind of music that was our signature
Something that was pretty much distinguishable from everything else…
Anne: Yeah, exactly. And the time we wrote “Meraki” at the time, this was the song that came out for our ‘research’ in just playing around free and everyone adding something to it that felt honest. “Meraki” was also the first song that we published and we did just for letting the world know about it.
Gema: It was like our visiting card…
Anne: Yeah, I agree. But also, it means that you put parts of your soul in what you create and what you do, that’s why it was called “Meraki”. Consequently to our first single, we got so much positive feedback from it on the crowdfunding we have just started at the time that we began to write an album and try to find the right songs, connected them together and examine what was missing lyrically and soundwise speaking. It has been almost 2 years since we wrote “One Self” and we did a lot of things on our own, including the writing and the recording. Though, we have found someone else to mix the album.
Do you think until now, that “One Self” still represents Habitants in the right way or do you think there is already musical development underway?
Gema: I think that development is a very natural thing and is not something we should fight against. However, it’s not a process in which we are involved in a very conscious way. for me, “One Self” is the result of intuitive creativity and of very good chemistry between each of us. Fortunately, this hasn’t changed, so in this sense, I can say that “One Self” is still very representative of who Habitants is. Each song on “One Self” is very different from the other and I think that’s also something very distinguish of Habitants. When we are creating a new song in the rehearsal room, most of the time, we talk first about a topic that serves as a source of inspiration and them we let the song itself to guide us… so there is so little rationalization in what we are doing.
Anne: By now, we know that you always want to do something new, that’s more grown-up.
Mirte: And we took some time to know who we are, our identity and finally, we found it out. We thought in colors, season, art in our music to create and to try to express our music through a full palette. It’s good to know before we go further with the songs.
Gema: When we are in the rehearsal room, I have always the idea that we speak about music as a feeling. It doesn’t matter the tempo, it doesn’t matter the quantity guitar I play. If this is a good feeling for everyone than it’s the right one.
Earlier, Mirte was speaking about colors, I saw the cover album…
Mirte: You know what I mean? Do you know what I mean? It’s like we want to…
… being more openminded? Keep that open-mindedness in your sound? I listened to the album, I really enjoyed it and I can perceive the feelings that you spoke about before because I sincerely felt that “One Self” is an honest album that really represents Habitants.
[both Anne, Mirte, and Gema] Thank you, it’s nice to hear it!
Anne: I think, we really wisely tried to produce an honest album. Like I said before, we write using our intuition. We aren’t shy people on the other side we are introvert. On top of all, I think music can break out a lot of nice emotions that reflect onto it. So, if we just try to find those emotions together and it can really calm you. Also, make you feel stronger.
As you previously mentioned before, “Meraki” was the first single released back in 2016. How do you think the musical band perspective has changed since 2016?
Anne: We started to play these songs live and that’s also how they have grown. For us, it’s different now that we are also playing the new songs, first in a live setting and then, we recorded them. So, if we look back on what we recorded and created in a rehearsal room, naturally, thanks to the connection with the audience, these songs have an added value. They have a bigger impression now that we are playing live and accompany them with some visuals and there are some certain ways to add some more details. We didn’t change so much in an artistic way but we enjoy adding more in a live situation.
So, Anne, this is just for you because I’m also aware that you play with the folk duo Rosemary & Garlic. Musically speaking, how much differ your approach from Rosemary & Garlic and Habitants?
Anne: For Habitants, most of the times there’s always a base, an idea that comes out from René and I just add the vocals layers and I try to tell a story and find the right colors in the vocals while for Rosemary & Garlic, which is much more folk, I just start writing with the guitar and vocals. So, it’s more crafted, I think. And Habitants, it’s much more intuitive…
Maybe, it’s much more essential?
Anne: It feels like it’s from my intuition but then Rosemary & Garlic has a lot of details. But I’m trying to think a lot because these are like small paintings where you add small more things during both production and composition. The approach is much more fixed and detailed while Habitants is giving me more space to explore something new and it did allow me to understand the boundaries.
Out of your debut album “One Self” as representative singles, you chose “Winter” and “Runners”. Do you mind to share some details about these two particular songs?
Anne: The main themes in our songs is someone so old that he is a little bit troubled and he’s wandering around in strange worlds and seeking out something to trust or hope and I think in “Winter”, he pictures himself a scenery where everything is in white and cold. So, it’s pretty much about a situation of isolation and someone to search something warm and familiar. Whereas in “Runners”, I pictured him as much older, more reflective and more crazy about everything it did happen to him. At the end of the song, everything becomes bigger and stranger and, he’s trying to escape may be from his own delusions because it’s a big, strange world where he falls into. Into the end, it’s about a psychological way of trying to survive by escaping and struggle with his imagination and attempt to get a grip on his feelings.
Which are the next Habitants plans?
Mirte: I think that write more songs, of course, so we’ll go back to the rehearsal room and compose. We would like to play more live gigs but we don’t know yet when and how much.
We have to consider the fact that The Gathering is recently back on activity for celebrating their 30th anniversary with their Autoreverse tour…
Mirte: For now, the most important thing now is to write new songs and play too however we don’t know how much gigs we can arrange. For sure, we want to write a new album.
So, this was my last question and first of all, I really thank you for your availability, please be free to greet our readers and your fans as you prefer. This is your space now.
Anne: Thank you for reading this interview [laughs].
Gema: And for listening to our music and we hope we get the opportunity to play in each of your countries. Hopefully next year we can prepare a little European tour!