Earwurms – Interview

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Despite the absolute disaster 2020 has presented to the live music scene, Amsterdam has seen a renaissance of live show ideas and emerging new bands. The scene keeps growing and the new cool kids are not giving up on their music dreams just yet.

The other day I came across a band called Earwurms. Formed by Paloma Jet Plantenga, on bass and vocals, Carmen Jasmijn Mellema, on guitar and vocals, and Inez Reintjes, on drums and vocals, these born and raised Amsterdammers, with an American background and Spanish names, started their band in 2016 when its members were still in high school.

I thrive off of their DIY sound and uncommon no no-sense style combined with their powerful thoughts on a society that has long been devoted to a different, yet common, male background. Their sound is still undefined, with a lot of DIY and underground influences. They have huge potential and I can’t wait to see how they evolve.

Earwurms first rehearsal

Heatwave: How did you all meet?

Earwurms: We met in high school. Inez and Carmen met when they where 12. Then Paloma in the fourth year of high school (16-years-old). We gravitated towards each other because we had a shared an interest in art (we had drawing class together) and music, particularly from the 60s and 70s. We started playing together because Inez and Paloma had music class at school and the three of us decided with two other girls to create a humoristic heavy metal band called, ‘de dode rebellen’ – Dutch for dead rebels,
We were angry about the talent show, which didn’t have a lot of variety in the kinds of performances. For instance, no girls really played instruments and the only bands at school were whiny boys with guitars, just being boring… No offence.
We felt like we could add something. We never really played with the five of us. Instead the three of us started to practice the only song we knew, The Ramones ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, in Inez’s dads workspace where there was a drum-kit. Carmen and Paloma played their guitars, because we didn’t have a bass yet.
For ear protection we used old headphones, scarves and construction worker ear protection. Alongside that, we practiced during every lunch break at school in the music room. We had to fight for a space because a lot of other kids wanted to play, so we always ended up running to claim “het hok.” 
We had an interest in music, but we didn’t really pursue it before we started playing together. So when we decided to start a band we suddenly had to play instruments we didn’t really know yet. So, we basically learned how to play together.
The next talent show at our school was our first performance, where we played ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away.’ It was a show filled with technical difficulties and scared faces from the audience. We actually only started playing gigs when we left high school. We all had a gap year and the most happened in 2019.

Heatwave: Who composes the music, is this a joint effort? What is your songwriting process?

Earwurms: It is a collaboration between the three of us, but we all have our own ways of adding to a song. Usually Paloma or Carmen have a riff of some sorts and work on that together. The three of us then jam on that riff and a song starts to appear.
Then there are a lot of conversations about the makeup of the song, which usually has to do with the lyrics. The lyrics are written mainly by Paloma, which usually start as poems. Then we just play the song over and over again, to find out what sounds good and feels natural to play.
In the end we add some weird stuff for fun, humour and a better show.

Heatwave: Have you released some tracks? Any plans on releasing a full EP soon?

Earwurms: We have one song on Spotify,  ‘Sex in het Maisveld’,  and we are planning to release a new track that was made in quarantine. We are now saving our money from gigs to be able to record semi-professionally for an EP. But because of coronavirus, we haven’t had a lot of income and practice opportunities. We do have a lot of ideas for the EP, but the recordings we have are just not good enough, since they were done very DIY.

Heatwave: What is behind the artwork on your first release Corn?

Earwurms: The single cover for ‘Sex in het Maisveld’, (Dutch for sex in the cornfield), is us PhotoShopped in front of a very nice cornfield. The photo is from our music video. We wanted to make a video clip for the song and had the idea to buy as much canned corn as possible from the money we earned from our first paid gigs. It turned out that we could buy 80 cans of corn, and so we did. 
We really enjoy putting images with our music. We all study something related to art, and are very visually oriented because of that. So, creating images with our music is very important to us. We have a lot of amazing and creative friends, who always manage to capture lovely images of our performances. We try to make our promotion, videos and merch as original and as personal as possible.

Heatwave: What is the scene like in the Netherlands? Is there any support to your music?

Earwurms: In general, we have had a lot of nice people supporting us and helping us get gigs, great people that dance with us while we play every time. We have found that many bands within the underground Amsterdam music scene are very supportive and active. The anarchist initiatives have also been helpful.
We have also come across ongoing prejudice because of our gender, and we have felt like outsiders. We didn’t feel like we belonged in any of the genres created by other, mostly male, bands. We feel like we are judged harsher than our fellow male musicians.
There is a network of boys and men that really help each other out and getting opportunities is a lot harder when you don’t fit in.

This harsher judgement is something internalised and is just a small example of the way women are treated differently, as a whole.
For instance, within ourselves we have noticed an inferiority complex, which causes us to be insecure about our abilities. This is enforced by the different standards held for women. When a boy makes a mistake it’s fun and edgy, but when a girl does it, it is a mistake and she is seen as less.
We have noticed this way of thinking within ourselves, we also judge other women unfairly, for we often assume men know what they are doing. We noticed this thinking pattern and have made an effort into changing this by starting conversations about it and placing ourselves in other people’s shoes. We hope others will also do this or at least try to understand.

Little things others say to us in the context of playing that often sounds degrading:

  • People always assume we are the singers when we say we are in the band. They are surprised when we say that we actually play instruments.
  • When strangers see us play instead of saying anything about our music after a gig the comments are mainly focussed on our appearance (pretty, cute, etc.) and us being girls.
  • We try to incorporate humour, but we have noticed that even when we try to be serious we are not treated as such. 
  • People often laugh at us for not knowing stuff. This is our experience, so this could also be the case for guys if we talk about toxic masculinity, etc.

Also an important aspect of the music scene in Amsterdam is the dsopm, which is the precourse for the conservatory of Amsterdam. This is a place where a lot of bands are formed. There is an obvious division between bands that come from dsopm and bands that are more DIY.

Within the scenes, everybody knows each other. The different groups have different intentions and standards with music. Where most of the dsopm usually have a a lot of connections through their parents and their school, and go through a more commercial route to fame. The more ‘underground’ or DIY groups have to (and want to) use different ways of spreading their music. There are also differences within the music.

We noticed that we can identify more with female bands, because they are more like us and talk about issues we can relate to, so they really inspire us. That’s why we hope to see more female bands in Amsterdam, so more girls and women can be inspired.

Right now the female to male representation is very unbalanced. It’s also pretty white, there isn’t a lot of ethnic diversity. So there is a lot to be thankful for, but we still have goals of changing the music industry to make it that much more interesting and diverse. 

A few bands that Earwurms recommend from the scene are:

Lange niezel: poetic punk band 

Rumble in the barn: a rockabilly band party experience 

Noys: postpunk situation

Luka schuurman: cinema in music form

Bernince aloyse: heartfelt singersong writter grunge band

Klittens: indie grungy cats

Mezus chistus: art rap

The estate: broken up, but alive in our hearts

Earwurms just posted a new music video called, ‘Little Boys.’ Another quarantine creation, it tackles the idea of “little boys who don’t know of responsibility and how girls will take back the power. 

Show your support and have a look at the links below.

LITTLE BOYS

SEX IN HET MAISVELD

On Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/4ocBQG8qAPaTy3OJM3EaMp?si=bGaNjNJYSGWL8DQfiVjJfQ

Instagram: @the_earwurms

Facebook: the earwurms

– Neus Ruiz

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