Mazey Haze once described Always Dancing, a song from her debut EP of the same name, as a song “about some of the errors in my life”. In that itself, there’s nothing special – many songwriters might set their subject matter in roughly the same territory. But what makes Mazey Haze, the project of Dutch musician Nadine Appeldoorn, stand out is the sheer vibrant quality of her work. Mazey Haze songs, whether they’re taking on the guise of spacey, kaleidoscopic psych-pop or lush, orchestral 60s-influenced rock, all sweep out of the speakers in a burst of life and colour. We caught up with her in mid-February, in the middle of her European tour, supporting Aussie rockers Spacey Jane, to talk about how she got here, as well as her new EP Back To The Start.
Back to the start for Mazey Haze, in career terms, means back to the town of Assen in the Netherlands, where Appeldoorn grew up. Music was a part of her life from an early age – she got into Michael Jackson after watching his funeral on the television, and started playing guitar at eleven years old, learning the tricks of the trade from YouTube tutorials. After that, she went to study at a music conservatory in Amsterdam, which is where she started Mazey Haze. “[I worked on] developing my own sound”, she says, “trying creative stuff, failing, and getting better. I mainly focused on writing and producing”. She got a couple of schoolfriends to make up her band, and started making music, inspired by references old and new-er. “When I was very little, it was mainly the music my mom listened to, so like Fleetwood Mac, Abba, Talk Talk, all that kind of late 70s, 80s stuff. When I got older, I got into Michael Jackson, who really influenced me. Later on, I started listening to the War On Drugs and that put me onto the reverb-y, bigger sound”. Friends from the groove-pop Dutch duo Feng Suave put her music in front of the label LUSTRE, who promptly gave her a deal.
That resulted in her debut EP, Always Dancing, an introduction to the possibilities of Mazey Haze, a record that first got the music world’s heads to snap in Appeldoorn’s direction. The EP was an intriguing sampler of just what she could do, ranging from the airy, floating pop of Sad Lonely Groove to the tight, breezy, self-assured indie rock of Don’t Care. It, in short, shone a light on the kind of talent that makes you sit up and pay attention to a new artist (we even had a quick chat with her about it at the time). Her new EP, Back To The Start, however, takes her onto a whole new level. It’s packed with pristine, lush, orchestral pop songs, that hark back to the best music of the sweeping and elegant 60s, while having enough presence and personality to stand on their own two feet. Songs like the tumbling title track, Back To The Start, and the shadowy A Turn In Berlin show an artist bluffed and buffeted by the uncertainties of life and the world, and turning it into irresistible music. Appeldoorn says she aimed to indulge her love of classic instrumentation on the new EP: “In my head, I think I have gotten looser on the second EP. But less spacey, less produced too. I wanted to get things drier. Because I’m listening to more 60s and 70s stuff, rather than the The War On Drugs, so there are different sounds, different drum sounds, higher snares, more organic instruments. Less synthesisers, more guitars. More acoustic guitar. That was really what I was aiming at in the production and arrangement”.
“I remember with the first EP, I was like ‘No acoustic guitar!’. People really had to convince me to use one. Now I want to play live with one. Spinets, I really love that instrument, wurlitzer, way more organic instrumentation is in there now, which is something I really love”.
That sound takes a while to sculpt, and that can mean a long time in the studio. “[That] can be something that counts against me”, she says, “that it can sometimes be too perfectionist, too neurotic. I’m still trying to find the easiest way of going through the process of really producing it, and fully arranging it. I can get very neurotic about a certain hit on the hi-hat on the second verse. Most people would say who cares, but I think ‘it needs to sound like this’. But I think if you have one person leading a process, you get more of an authentic sound. I like bands that work together, like the Beatles, they have amazing songs, but…”
For you it’s better for it to be your vision?
Mainly yeah, I like that the most. But I need to learn better how to let things go sometimes.
The songs, as she said, centre around her life, and provide a release for her emotionally. She says “When I’m feeling very emotional, when I’m having a real breakdown, or when a trauma has been triggered, that’s when the songs come in. Because I feel I need to write a song to make sense of it, but also to document it, and to feel calm again. It’s a very deep feeling, when I make a song at that stage. I feel that the emotion is very important to a song, that when you’re listening to it, you can really feel it. It can be a really weird genre, that you might not necessarily like, but when there’s a feeling and an emotion in there, that you recognise, and you really believe what the person is saying – that’s what’s important, I really like that. For me it’s about processing my emotions, that’s a big part. Sometimes in that way, a full song can come out in one day, a full song with production and arrangements and everything. And afterwards I think ‘how did this happen? How the hell did I make this?’. But it feels very pure and real to have it be that way”. On the new EP, the subject matter has been a little bit more self-reflective.
“I would say it’s themed around me digging into myself. Digging into childhood. How I connect to others, instead of how others connect to me. A few more layers in, into myself as a person. Slowly starting to take myself a bit more seriously as a person, or at least trying to. In a good way”.
Appeldoorn also has plenty of influences outside of music. As one might be able to tell, from the detailed, conceptual videos for the singles Don’t Care and Kill Me I Got You, she’s a bit of a film buff, citing Italian and French classical film in particular. It’s a little bit about the speed of media consumption, the taking time to really observe something significantly: “I really love old movies. I really like the slowness of them, they go much more slowly than films nowadays, although there are still nice modern art house films that go a bit more slowly. But yeah, the conceptual vibe, the look of it, the feel of it, and just shooting on film, I think looks beautiful. Also, the idea of a world without smartphones and social media really attracts me. In my head, back in those days people were less distracted by those things, so perhaps there was more space and time for thinking profoundly and being present. I can also spend a lot of time looking at trains. There’s a programme in Holland called ‘Rail Away’, which is just 30-minute episodes of train rides, through Austria, Switzerland, Germany. I really love to watch that kind of stuff as well. It really gives me inspiration, because I get caught up in it, and all these beautiful sights. Classical music can also be very inspiring, or just people, or trees, or animals. All that stuff is very important”.
With the tour out of the way and the new EP about to drop, Appeldoorn is plotting where to go next, hinting at her next release being a longer one. “I have a lot of new inspiration from this tour”, she says. “I love playing abroad, it’s really inspiring. Also, sitting in the tour van with five guys for four days straight. You learn a lot about others, and also yourself. And discovering new songs and artists. Yesterday in Hamburg, we were in a very nice vinyl shop, and I impulsively bought an album by a singer called Alí Primera, without knowing him, but my feeling said I had to get it! I think it’s a nice way to discover new artists and musical worlds. Just exploring basically, figuring out where I want to go next. No more EPs, probably, maybe something bigger”. The new record may be Back To The Start, but it feels like the start is only the beginning for Mazey Haze.
Mazey Haze’s new EP Back To The Start is out on April 7 on LUSTRE.
Every Monday, the NBHAP staff brings an exciting new artist to your attention alongside a 30-track-strong Introducing Playlist on Spotify. Feel invited to follow the playlist and give these talents a spin. Along with tracks from Mazey Haze‘s new EP, this week’s update includes songs from Spacey Jane, Pip Blom, Feng Suave and more. Tune in below.