AALSMEER – Easily Embarrassed is a psybient group from Aalsmeer, The Netherlands. It consists of Peter Spaargaren (26) and the brothers Jeffrey (33) and Nick van der Schilden (28). In Jeffreys neat apartment I discuss their musical baby with him and Peter. Unfortunately, Nick couldn’t join us. It’s the first time the musicians are being interviewed face to face and it quickly occurs to me that they are just as eager to know more about the psybient scene as me. “It kinda feels like it doesn’t exist at all. In Holland we barely know a handful of people who organize something in this style”, Peter shrugs.
Two times they held ‘Sleepless in Aalsmeer’, a party with music ranging from ambient to dubstep. Jeffrey: “But there simply wasn’t enough demand, a real bummer.” Peter explains: “We get the reason why. The music is more complex, less danceable. You have to listen a few times to our tracks before you really get into it. Psytrance is straight in your face, with that continuous beat. That’s what people are looking for when they go out: dancing. That’s also why our music is evolving to more energetic and danceable sounds so that we can focus on performing a lot more. Currently the live aspect is neglectable; we do about 7 or 8 gigs a year”
That’s why Easily Embarrassed’s newest project is a three cd album: one ambient, one more or less the traditional style (left YouTube video, Aurora and Storm – Planet Discovery, 2009) and the last one more danceable (right YouTube video, Marble Shower – Different Dimensions, 2012 ) “When it’s finished? No idea yet, when we’re all satisfied. No need to put a date on it”, says Jeffrey relaxed.
EE’s drawing artist already finished the artwork for the cover. In the future the musicians want to work with a VJ for the visual story of the music. “We still don’t have enough performances to really invest in that. For now it’s still a hobby that got a bit out of hand. We all have a job and do our music on the side. (Peter is a soundtechnician, Jeffrey a webdeveloper and Nick an electrician) We can’t live off selling albums; we’re happy if we sell 2 physical albums a month”, The oldest brother grins. “Spotify and iTunes, that’s the way nowadays for artists to make money.” Through these media they are assured of at least a 200 dollar income a month. Maximum is about a $ 1.000, when they just released some new material. All this goes directly into buying new synths and equipment.
It all started though with a plain and simple MS-DOS program: Impulse Tracker 2.14. In the late nineties Peter used to play with the younger brother of Jeffrey and Nick. In the Van der Schilden household he heard the experimental sounds coming from the attic. Completely hooked the 12-year old Peter downloaded the program in 2000 to make his own music. A big fan of hardcore-house, he wanted nothing more than making his own tracks. Soon, this genre didn’t provide the young producer with enough challenge. Then Infected Mushroom came on his path: Wow, I had never heard something like that. Multi-layered dance music.
Around that time Jeffrey also made some shocking musical discoveries, with a break from producing as a result. “Shpongle, Ultimea Records, Brian Eno and Jean Michelle Jarre. These artists totally blew me away. No way I could ever match this, so I gave it up for a while.”
Both Peter and Nick kept composing behind their computers. By pure coincidence they ran into each other at work, which was one of the local flowerbreeders in the area. In no time the conversation led to producing and Impulse Tracker. In 2003 they started a psytrance project called Plantbane. After a couple of EP’s their style slowly shifted to psybient. When Jeffrey found out about this development, he got inspired to give it another go.
The oldest brother downloaded new software and started to shape the influence of his musical heroes into his own creation. In 2006 the trio went into the studio to make something sweet together. In a flash the tracks for From Sunset Last Night To Sunrise This Morning where finished. All that was still missing was a bandname. One beery night, this problem was solved. The guys used to watch loads of anime (Japanese animation movies), which brought them to Easily Embarrassed. All those big-eyed girls blush all the time. In EE’s old work there’s plenty of samples to be found originating from Jeffrey’s anime collection.
The dudes got a fixed roles in the production process, more or less. Peter: “Nick mostly does the melodies and guitar work, I do the rhythms and Jeffrey the atmospheric aspect and final mixing. But sometimes one member takes the lead and everyone follows. Somebody has a vision or idea and the rest adds to that: the best part of making music I think. Play together, let the track grow and try some nice weird shit.”
A good example of this weird stuff is Jeffrey playing with his recorder: “I’d love to record atmospheric sounds at a graveyard one time! Just to taste the mood. These unique soundscapes make the music really feel yours. After all, you’re using complete new sounds. Think about the sweeping of curtains with a lot of delay, sweetly weird stuff. With psybient you’re completely free to use any instrument, sound, rhythm or melody. Psytrance is more tied to the steady rules of the genre.”
A look at their website reveals that their sounds are internationally loved. Japan, Colombia, Poland, Egypt: Not one post in Dutch on EE’s guestbookpage. The deepness of these expressions of gratitude makes the Dutch musicians feel humble and honored. Jeffrey: “That’s still: wow… No better motivation then seeing your music has a profound impact on the audience.” Peter adds: “Barely imaginable these are just the fans that make an effort to post a message, cause that’s a big step already.”
“People at shows often step up and ask: ‘Damn, what did you guys take to make this heavenly music? Well, nothing… Do we have to then? The music itself is the drug for me. For some fans that’s impossible to understand”, Jeffrey explains. His co-producer does think some psychedelics are a good addition.”It opens doors, that otherwise would remain shut. A stamp gives the different layers in the music a whole new dimension and meaning. Same for the way you look at things. A hash join does wonders for the creativity, but laziness is always around the corner hehe.” Jeffrey: “Does beer count as well? The rest I doesn’t appeal to me, but it’s fine by me when others do it.”
At first sight, the duo doesn’t appear to look anything like most visitors of psyparties. No dreads or long hair and no baggy clothes with exploding colors. How do they fit in? Peter: “My first goa-party wasn’t quite like I expected. I wore a G-Star Raw shirt and right after entering I got some nasty looks. Those people are the fakes I realized later. Totally preposterous being judged on your clothes by ‘hippies’. Even weirder: the moment you get on stage, all of a sudden it doesn’t matter to them that you don’t have dreads. Jeffrey: “I feel like the scene is their thing, I’m beside it as a musician. For me it’s beautiful to see and in the end we love the same music.”
Website Easily Embarrassed: http://www.embarrassed.nl/