By: Shayla Lee
If you’ve ever spent an afternoon in a coffee shop listening to the cafe’s playlist, chances are you heard a song or two by the Scandinavian duo Tuvaband. Composed of Norwegian songwriter Tuva Hellum Marschhäuser and British musician Simon Would, Tuvaband has been a rising force on Spotify; gathering over 15 million plays to date.
The duo recently released their EP ‘Mess” which they composed, recorded, and self-produced themselves. Upon first listen, their music sounds ethereal and haunting but if you take a closer look at their lyrics you will quickly realize that their music addresses important issues including overcoming trauma, the negative impact humans are having on the planet, and the impact society has on young women.
We chatted with Tuva about how Tuvaband came to be, their latest EP ‘Mess’, and what we can expect from them in 2018.
FEMME RIOT: How would you describe your music in three words?
Tuvaband: Naked, dark and calm.
Tuva you are Norwegian and Simon you are British. How was Tuvaband formed? Would you say your music has been influenced based on where you grew up?
During the two years I had been doing music in my room I was dreaming about having a band, and called myself Tuvaband amongst friends as a joke. I didn’t like to play guitar that much, but played it to create songs.
After I moved to Oslo I met Simon at a bar in Oslo. Simon’s friend, the vocalist from I See Horses/Misha Non Penguin had been looking for a female singer to a call & response song. So then we all decided to go home to Simon for a jam. I didn’t dare to sing for two hours before most of the people in the couch had fallen asleep. But eventually I did, and then some months later I asked if Simon would join me.
Your EP ‘Mess’ was composed, recorded, and self-produced by the two of you in Oslo. What was this process like for you?
‘Mess’ basically consists of old songs we’ve been trying to re-record. We really liked the demo versions, but they didn’t have a good enough sound quality. We felt like the songs lost its charm when recording them with better equipment. We spent a lot of time figuring out how to make them sound like the demos, keeping the raw and crisp sound. We also got help from Jonas Kjølstad to mix the songs and add some of the sound we ended up with.
The first song of the EP, ‘Mess’, was written during your first practice together in 2014. Did you initially know the EP would be built around the same theme or did it naturally progress into the same theme?
I think the reason why the songs fit so well together when it comes to the theme, is because of the order and period it was written in. The order is not 100% the way it was written, but very close.
You described the lyrics of ‘Mess’ as “capturing the contradiction of breaking the cycle of long-term trauma”. The following lyrics show the struggle of the trauma. “When I see me I see them, eating me / I’m the observer and I cannot make a sound”. However, hope is shown in the following; “When the skies burst I will find my own way, on my own”, Can you tell us more about this song?
The lyrics are reflecting the contradictions that one can experience while being in a traumatic situation. For people on the outside watching it’s obvious that this is dangerous and damaging. The period or moment one is in the situation, I think the body and mind is in a state where one doesn’t necessarily realize just how much harm it is doing because the body and mind is so activated and on the alert. And when a trauma is kind of predictable over time, the unpredictable and unknown of breaking out could seem almost as scary. Well, I will not say that this is how it is like for everyone, but this is the angle I have written about.
The story continues in the second song ‘Eventually Silence’. The disconnect from past trauma can be seen in the lyrics “Under the illusion of a body amor there is marks from everyday”. Can you talk about the transition of the story from ‘Mess’ to ‘Eventually Silence’?
‘Eventually Silence’ is the follow-up song for ‘Mess’. It tells the story of how the experiences can feel more real and terrifying when it is finally over, when one get the experience on a distance. When it is eventually silence, it is actually not that peaceful as one could imagine. And the images of the past can be harder to deal with than what it felt like when being in it.
‘She’s Nothing Like a Child’ is my favourite song on the EP. As a young woman, the lyrics of this song resonate deeply to me. They describe the huge effect media and others can have on an individual’s self-image. In today’s world, real events are often glossed over in the media (as referenced to the Middle East in the song). What inspired you to create this song? How do we think we can help stop this issue from happening?
I remember when I became a teenager and a lot of the girls around me suddenly didn’t want to join doing fun activities anymore, because it could ruin both make-up and hair. The boys kept on doing fun stuff. Suddenly I felt like a lot of girls around me were more about the looks and attention from boys than having fun, and was disappointed. Getting older some of them got out of it, but I see that many girls just stayed in that mode. I think it’s very sad. That’s what I wrote about.
I can’t think of just one big thing to make it better, but I think there is a lot of different factors that could help. And yes, media is definitely one of them. I think that it could help if there was more focus on complementing other sides of a girl than how she looks and dress. I have a feeling that a girl’s knowledge and attention about what’s going on in the world is not being complemented close to how much a girl’s look is being complemented. I wish parents would also tell their teenage girls to not spend too much time focusing on looks and clothes, making more time for hobbies, figuring out what they really like to do, and their knowledge. Then growing up they could take that with them. Of course this varies from girl to girl, but I wish there was more focus on the above.
I have a feeling that a girl’s knowledge and attention about what’s going on in the world is not being complemented close to how much a girl’s look is being complemented.
The more documentaries I watch, the sadder I get about the negative impact humans have on our earth. From the environmental damage of meat production to the impacts of fast fashion, I too have reached a point where I didn’t know what to do. ‘Everything We Do’ describes how I feel exactly. Was there a specific event that inspired you to create this song or was it issues that had accumulated over time?
I’m glad you feel that way about the song. And the world. As you mentioned too, I had been watching too many documentaries and news about our negative impact on the world. Over time all of this info, and my thoughts about it, accumulated into me feeling totally overwhelmed, and felt like there was almost nothing I was doing that wasn’t wrong. It came to a point where I guess I was going a little bit crazy, not knowing how to act anymore. Writing the song actually helped a lot. And typically, watching ‘Cowspiracy’, I learnt that I could individually actually make a change by stop eating meat. Then I could calm down a little about the other daily stuff we all do which is not great.
What can we expect from you in the future? Hopefully we will see you in Vancouver soon!
We have recorded a new EP which we will release in 2018. We will also do a tour in Europe. And yeah, we definitely have to go to Vancouver one day too. That’s also what’s so great about being a musician; to travel. Except when I think about what flying does, haha.
What songs are you currently listening to?
If you’re interested in following Tuvaband on their musical journey, check them out on Spotify, Facebook, and Instagram. All photos were provided by Tuva and were taken by Jonas Kjølstad. Check out their music video for ‘Eventually Silence’ below!