Interview: Van Houten

Submersive, swirling dream-pop meets anecdotes of loss, destruction and heartbreak under the guise of new Leeds fivesome, Van Houten. Nieve O’Donnell pinned down the promising youngsters for a chat about Clue Records, Covid chaos, and the burgeoning West Yorkshire music scene.

“Slacker-pop with a cherry on top” is the expression that Van Houten use to self-describe their individual sub-genre of woozy pop music. IDK is the first release from Van Houten’s next, upcoming EP Home Alone Part 2. The single has experienced quite a lively reception, having been picked up by the likes of BBC Introducing West Yorkshire’s Em Pilbeam.

Thematically, it’s clear that the new release touches on the emotional tumult many young people experienced as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. Louis stated that the idea of Home Alone was based on those experiences of being by yourself when most of the world is in a lockdown. Described as “lockdown EPs,” the band noted that pandemic restrictions have made an impact, stating that “it definitely has had an influence on every artist at the minute.” Their own song-writing process was affected as, Louis explained, that “some thoughts become a little bit harder to avoid when you’re sat inside all day.” He continues thoughtfully: “Even without going out into the world, you can take inspiration from new things but it is more difficult to get out of your own head.”

“We wouldn’t have got our foot in the door if it wasn’t for other bands in Leeds – it’d be quite different if we were elsewhere.”

Louis, frontman of the band, explained that they “weren’t expecting the single to do that well at all really.” The single is also part of a Flying Vinyl release, a subscription service which offers a monthly delivery of five fresh 7”s from the “best indie talent” every month. Being a part of Flying Vinyl’s monthly releases is almost a legacy with many upcoming artists featured going on to great things. “I was pretty excited because I got one when I was sixteen that had the Magic Gang in and Wolf Alice,” Henry gushes, with Louis adding more nonchalantly that “when they asked us, I thought it was pretty cool. There’s quite a lot of bands we’d heard of before so it’s quite flattering for us.”

Van Houten proudly originated in Leeds but today’s band looks vastly different from its early roots. “The band was originally me and Henry,” Louis chuckles, “we’re actually the only current members that started the band, just us two.” “We were in Dry Dock pub and decided to start a band, basically,” with Henry adding “it might as well be Dry Dock,” a pub in the middle of Leeds that is strangely shaped like an old ship. Furthering the discussion about how the band started, Louis noted that “we just started jamming but the band’s taken on a lot of different forms since.” However, the band say that they’re at their final form, stating that “we’ve been going strong like this for over a year now” before humorously adding “actually, no, but don’t tell any of the others.”

The band have been signed to Leeds’ own Clue Records for a little while now having been Leeds based for so long. Henry explained that “without Clue, I don’t think anyone would have paid us any attention. They saw something in us and helped us to push out our first record. We’re great friends with the other bands on the label too.” In terms of the local music scene, Louis stated that there are “so many amazing bands and amazing venues – it’s got everything.” While they admit Leeds is “quite small,” its size has its benefits; “you bump into everyone – Covid’s been a bit of an exception but, usually, you go out playing gigs and you meet everyone that’s doing the same thing as you, eventually.” In fact, they went as far to state that “we wouldn’t have got our foot in the door if it wasn’t for other bands in Leeds – it would be quite different if we were elsewhere I think.”

Van Houten’s next gig will take place on August 6th at Leeds’ Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen which, admittedly, has been “moved about thirty times” due to pandemic restrictions. Louis mentioned that “it’s been over a year since it was supposedly meant to happen.” “We’ve only played one gig since the beginning of lockdown and even though it was socially distanced, it was so good to be back.” It’ll be brilliant for the band to get their new music out to a live audience again, saying that “we’ve got a lot of new material that nobody’s seen yet so it’ll be good to take it on the road and see how everyone feels about it.”

‘Van Houten’s new release is an exciting cornerstone of what’s to expect from their upcoming EP.’

Undeniably, live audiences and their responses to music have different meanings for different artists: “I’d absolutely say live gigs solidify material,” Louis shares. The last gig they played was in February, for Nice Magazine’s launch, at Hyde Park Book Club so it’s been a while. Finally, the band noted that “you’ve got to take the music to people to gauge whether or not it’s hitting them the way you might’ve thought it would.” Van Houten’s new release is an exciting cornerstone of what’s to expect from their upcoming EP. If you don’t get a chance to see them in Leeds, there’s no doubt their music will be making its way out of West Yorkshire and across the country very soon.

Written by: Nieve O’Donnell

Edited by: Olivia Stock

Featured and in-article image courtesy of Van Houten via Facebook.