An interview with Mariska Baars – an artist I’ve been thinking about recently – from late 2007.
There are countless artists and bands that I’ve lost touch with over the years. Whether life simply got in the way or because they moved on to different interests. It’s simply the nature of things. Mariska Baars aka soccer Committee is one of those artists, but she’s been fresh on my mind recently as I’ve been finding different Digitalis releases to feature in a piece the Tulsa Noise Journal is doing on the label. I released three different collaborations she did with Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) and, on two of those occasions, Wouter van Veldhoven and they’ve been lovely soundtracks during the depth of winter. She and Zuydervelt have a recent collaboration, eau, that I need to check out and also play together in the quartet, Piiptsjilling. Anyhow, this interview was conducted in the last quarter of 2007. Enjoy.
soccer Committee is the solo project of Dutch artist, Mariska Baars. She grew up in the countryside of The Netherlands listening to the magical sounds of the river near her childhood home. These peaceful, organic sounds have made their way into her music, if only figuratively. Her songs are delicate, feeling as though they could break into a million pieces at any moment. But in their fragility is their strength. Baars soft-spoken voice and quiet music are thing of absolute beauty. Her debut album, sC, on the wonderful Morc imprint is one of the year’s finest releases.
First, can you tell us how long you’ve been playing music and what was your inspiration to start doing solo music under the name soccer Committee? Also, what is the story behind the name?
I always used to sing myself asleep, as long as I remember…songs like little prayers to end the day. But just voice. Some 12 years ago I started making songs with other people who played instruments, which I did not do myself. I started playing guitar five years ago and the first attempts were the first songs…. I wanted to tell little stories of what mattered to me, so I quickly had to find a way of playing to be able to do that. Each exciting discovery on the guitar became a new song. It was magic to discover the guitar tones and to hear my voice being part of the same thing, sound. At first, I played with another girl who played bass, which was great, but I wanted to make more and more quiet songs (or can I say quieter and quieter songs) and she didn’t, so I went on doing what I do. I like the combination of the signs together; I don’t look at them as having a literal meaning, I just love the look of all the signs together. My friend Suzanne, who was the bass player, and I saw a movie in a park and she and I agreed this movie would bring our name. We looked at each other when it was spoken.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by moments which make me forget time, when my eyes see something or my ears hear something that captures my attention and I experience deeply, in focus. It can be as if the air trembles at such a moment and I like to make a space like this in sound, so I can see and/or listen to it happening again. I experience sound very much as shape, I like to “see” the tones find their way in the space where I am. Meeting another person can inspire me and animals, fish; birds, and water and the lines of a ship … also words, their rhythm, sounds and their meaning, are a source of inspiration. And dreams.
You’ve got your first CD out now on the lovely Morc Tapes label. How did you get involved with Wim Lecluyse’s label?
In 2005 I released a CDR with some songs and some people told me my music made them think of the music made by Annelies Monsere. Wim and Annelies are a couple and I contacted them after listening to her music which I loved (still do). Half a year ago Wim asked me about my new songs, and I gave him the recordings which were all finished and he said he would love to release them…. In less than two months it happened….
How do you feel like growing up in the Netherlands has influenced you and your music?
Growing up in the Netherlands…. Until my seventeenth year, I lived in a small village. My parents had greenhouses, growing mainly roses. In front of the house ran a river and behind the greenhouses there was water as well. I had a lot of space to play and we had cats, birds, and a dog. I loved to run and I trained daily. We lived kind of isolated, so this is what growing up in the Netherlands is to me, looking at the first years. It influences me in a way that I feel drawn to nature and the stillness and excitement I found there and the sounds. When you live surrounded by water, you’ll dream about fish, I guess. As the surface of the water was dark, anything could come out of it in and there’s a lot to imagine.
You talk about how you wanted to make quieter and quieter songs, and about singing yourself to sleep at night… For me, on this album, there is a certain feeling to the songs that remind me of lullabies – the music makes me feel very peaceful. Is music something that really relaxes you and puts you at ease?
Yes, this is what music can do for me; I like it when it happens. But music can be unsettling too and I’ve been enjoying this also recently, because it’s freeing (and maybe easing as well) in another way…. I think the music has to make me willing to go where it goes, so in a way there needs to be an easing aspect.
You’ve recently collaborated with Wouter van Veldhoven and Machinefabriek…. Has playing with musicians like them, and others, helped give you a new perspective on your music? What is your favorite aspect of working with them? For me, this is music that truly makes time stand still… it is enchanting.
I’m not sure yet what playing with them has done for my perspective on my music. It is very recent still; it will take me awhile to see that. What I really like, working with them, is the relaxed atmosphere and that somehow everything just fits together so well. For me personally, making Zeeg with Wouter and Rutger was a wonderful experience ‘cause while we were playing the room had the kind of tremble like I sometimes experience when I’m completely alone at night, but there were three of us and we were so together!
So, you’re living in the city now, yes? Has this had any impact on you artistically? The place where you grew up sounds quite lovely though. Do you miss it?
Yes, I’ve been living in the city since 1997. Since that time, I have often longed for nature and stillness and playing music often felt like being in such a place, so I guess living in the city has had its impact. And also, because I met people whose thought-world I loved and/or could learn from, and still of course. I think some people I’ve met helped me see that my thoughts about music and the way I experienced things had its worth. It is so important to meet people and to recognize each other in person and creativity. This is something that I didn’t know in the place where I grew up, apart from one lucky exception: my youngest brother (who is three years older than I am) started writing poems when he was 17 and he was always very passionate when he told me about his writing. Sometimes I showed him some of my own words and he always thought it was too cryptic. These first little discussions helped me, though we hardly ever agreed!
Yes, in a way I miss the place where I grew up, even though I don’t think I’d want to go back and live there. But I dream of a little house by a running river and lots of trees.
Do you have any other creative outlets besides soccer Committee? How do these different things affect each other?
I also make little drawings and here my approach is the same as with making sounds and expressing by words. I like to get into a thing, so this is what I try to do. While drawing I do not look at my paper, but only at the object, so that my pencil closely follows my eye and I really see the object. I make choices of course of what I want to draw, what lines and what spaces are the essence of what I see to me. And this, for me, is a connection to my music, where I hope to see the essence of what is here in a certain moment.
What is up next for you and for soccer Committee?
Go on drawing, making sounds, trying to see.
What are some of your favorite records of 2007 so far?
I must say that I’m not up to date…. In the last year I have been collecting old folk records and among my favorites are Hamza El Din’s “The Waterwheel” and records with Indian music performed by Dagar Brothers and Pandit Prannath. Jean Ritchie I’ve also discovered, and her solo albums are so very lovely…. Recently I’ve heard something very beautiful, “The Hymn of the North Star” by Loren Connors. And a few months ago I saw a live performance by Heather Leigh in de Huishoudschool in Den Haag that really impressed me.
Any closing comments?
Thank you for your interest.