What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
AWKWARD i is the more song-oriented pseudonym of Dutch musician and composer Djurre de Haan. De Haan has released three full-length albums as AWKWARD i. I Really Should Whisper was an intricate but lo-fi affair, sophomore album Everything On Wheels applied a more ornate, studio-oriented approach. His third upcoming album KYD reconciles the two methods to a degree, engaging the listener with his distinct self-effacing sense of humor, offbeat-but-poignant reflections and a dense proclivity for conflating sonorous pop with lo-fi quirks.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
AWKWARD i, aka Dutch songwriter Djurre de Haan, has announced a new album: KYD. De Haan found the word “Kyd” in a magazine article about off-the-grid communities. “A woman had the idealistic idea of allowing her son to choose his own name. She waited until he was old enough to decide for himself. When she finally asked him, he told her his name was “Kyd”. Because, up to this point, people had always been referring to him as such.”
De Haan was instantly smitten by the name KYD; right off the bat, it became obvious to name the new AWKWARD i record after it. “I wanted to use a metaphorical language in which I could deal with plain banal events at a more universal level. KYD was just the word for it: it seems to both contain and defy a sense of meaning.” Something maybe a little less tangible and pronounced than records De Haan made in the past. The title of his previous album Everything On Wheels, for instance, translated literally as the Dutch phrase “alles op rolletjes”, meaning: being content and in the driver’s seat for the most part, and being flexible enough to steer clear of any obstacle you encounter. There’s always some kind of thematic cohesion palpable in AWKWARD i’s work: KYD, however, partly resigns to the notion that some things just happen beyond one’s control.
About five years ago, De Haan had a firm grip on the road he paved for himself. He was able to swerve across many facets of life – both personal and professional – pretty much with playful abandon. Next to his deft songwriting acumen, De Haan carved himself a new niche as a composer for film and theatre. He flourished into a versatile, inter-disciplinary artist, earning him two award nominations in the process. Long story short, the future was looking fruitful and creative.
Then, out of the blue, De Haan found out he had– involuntarily – fathered a child. As a result, his day-to-day life fell somewhat into a tailspin. Just as De Haan got used to the idea of parenthood, he almost lost his mother to a stroke. “I was stuck in limbo, I felt I had lost my carefree existence. Just as I had grown somewhat accustomed to it, this thing with mom happened and upset everything once again. Two events – over which I had no control – shook my world. ‘Kyd’ was the magnetic term that clung to both.” KYD documents De Haan’s quest to preserve control over his own identity: the initial shock, the struggles he faced and ensuing redemption. And most importantly, all the wisdoms accumulated along the way. He engages the listener with his usual self-effacing sense of humor, his knack for offbeat-but-poignant reflections and that dense proclivity for conflating sonorous pop with lo-fi quirks
On KYD, De Haan reflects on his newly acquired role as a caretaker and tender, whilst secretly nourishing an inner wish to preserve his own childlike whims. “I was afraid, that with all these adult responsibilities, I was going to lose my own sense of playfulness. That, as a result, I wasn’t going to make a good record anymore. It kept me awake at night.” De Haan’s daughter actually helped him maintain that distinct frolicsome counterbalance to the weightier concerns; the very thing that made the AWKWARD i project so compelling to begin with.
KYD, like its predecessors, often summons a chuckle, even in moments when De
Haan reaches his psychological lows. Silent Disco, taking sonic cues from Randy Newman’s ‘Sail Away’, finds him fighting his own sanity amidst the carousing partygoers. Haul Away combines the drone of an Indian Surbahar with a tinge of grunge nostalgia. A Boat Beneath A Sunny Sky is a near literal citation of a Lewis Carroll poem, with De Haan channeling his own wholesome soul search for untainted beauty. The idea manifested when he worked on music for a theatre-adaptation of Carroll’s famous novel Alice In Wonderland.
Both sonically and conceptually, KYD antes up in both size, depth and scope. Opening cut Milkshakes Funnelcakes serves as a noble microcosm of the album’s main narrative. Starting with a downward spiral at his daughter’s first birthday party, the song claws its way upwards, ascending into this rousing existential crusade, unabashed of its magnanimous objective. A song that puts an assured hand on the listener’s shoulder: whatever obstacles and heartbreaks KYD will haul at you, they have since been framed and conquered.
In hindsight, Milkshake Funnelcakes leaves a pleasant enough aftertaste to explore these innermost feelings: sometimes compassionate, sometimes confused – sometimes really really dark – but in doing so, the album never wallows in these sentiments. De Haan simply can’t help but to put his quick-witted and wry lyrical stamp on these songs. KYD has become a celebration and a victory, ticking all the boxes of what makes a great AWKWARD i record and then some.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
My influences tend to change over the years , but notable affairs have been with Elliott Smith, Randy Newman, SMOG (Bill Callahan) and Van Dyke Parks.
Non music-wise I suppose I’d like to say that I’ve been fascinated with Robert Bresson’s movies, Cormac McCarthy’s novels, and in theatre I’d like to mention the American theatre group “Nature Theatre of Oklahoma,” just saw them last night performing their play “No President” in Dusseldorf (Germany)Anna Jensen is a painter (currently residing in Atlanta, GA) whose work I found to be very inspirational. Because of this I was able to use her piece “do you like me vulnerable?” as the cover of my last album “KYD.”
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
That’s tough. I hope you’ll allow me to deviate a bit from the question:
I love the apparent simplicity of folk songs as well as baroque arrangements, but I have a soft spot for quirky lo-fi elements.
I (unconsciously) try to combine all those if I can, but in general, what I always try to look for (and what I admire in other people’s work) is the feeling of making something that has to some degree some kind of new beauty to it.
I realise that one is always and inevitably working in some tradition, but the music that I want to put out, at least to me, must have that new appeal to me.
Like I’ll know I like something, but I won’t understand why and because of that I experience all the more beauty.
Like for example when I heard Elliott Smith’s “S/T” album for the first time or Van Dyke Park’s “Song Cycle” or more specifically Judee Sill’s song “Emerald River Dance.”
If you’re interested in any of this, I guess you should listen to my music…
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Elliott Smith – S/T
Blonde Redhead – Melodies of Certain Damaged Lemons
Randy Newman – Sail Away
SMOG – Supper
Van Dyke Parks – Song Cycle
Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian
Ernest Hemingway – A Moveable Feast
Tommy Orange – There There
Peter Bogdanovich – The Last Picture Show
Robert Bresson – Au Hazard Balthazar
Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
Although I wouldn’t like to be in the position of really having to choose, I’d have to go with studio recording. I’m a control freak, and there’s very little of that on tour (though probably too much of it in the studio).
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
On the first AWKWARD i record I Really Should Whisper, there’s a song called “Cytheria Squirts.”
In this song I tried to employ “squirting” as a poetic metaphor (the song is not really about porn), referring in the process to a particular somebody that had made her career from it (i.e. Cytheria).
I had just performed the song on Dutch national television (on an educational programme about sex and drugs) when I afterwards received a message through my Myspace account from somebody who identified herself as the (porn-) actress known as Cytheria.
I thought it to be a joke, thought my friends had made a fake account or something to mess with me, but when I looked at the pictures in the account that had sent me the message, I found all kinds of family pictures of her and her children on some Mediterranean holdiday.
So I thought then: it must be for real, and replied. Apparently, she had quit working in the “industry” and was a mom now.
In her message, she explained to me that she was a well-known porn actress from L.A. known for her squirting abilities, and was using the moniker “Cytherea” (a subtle reminder that I had misspelled her name in the title I guess).
She’d heard the song I did on television somewhere on the world wide web and was wondering if the song was maybe about her. It was wonderful.
It was a most unexpected but satisfactory realisation knowing that the song had come full-circle, as it were.
I told her yes the song was (in a way) about her, and didn’t really know what to do with the phone number that I was then given.
I guess it was enough to know that against the odds the song had reached its L.A. inspirator, and shied away from further contact.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
I’d have to say my strangest composition so far must be “Milkshakes Funnelcakes”.
For some reason, I don’t quite know how it happened, it goes through 4 or 5 key changes but nevertheless to me sounds completely natural.
The song mirrors melodically what I’d been through personally, initially spiralling downward in minor, then exploding in major in the chorusses, next changing key again in a baroque bridge that takes the song to an almost Motown feel-good coda in yet another key. Again, I wasn’t looking to do that to be sophisticated or anything but the song just sort of intuitively turned itself out like that.
Later, to my great delight, we found NY performance artist Matthew Silver willing to star in the video that director Michiel ten Horn made for the song; you can see it below.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
I’m very excited about working with Antifragile Music on this record. I really hope we can do well together in getting this record heard outside of Europe, and I can’t wait to play the U.S. again.
In addition, I’ll be touring Germany this November because the record will be released there on November 2nd. We’ll go back there again in march, after which there’ll be some shows in Belgium.
Next, there’s a Netflix production that’s coming out in 2019 for which I’ll be composing the score together with Danish composer Jesper Ankarfeldt.
After that we’re doing a theatre tour with AWKWARD i here in the Netherlands, as well as writing another score for a music theatre piece for children called “Lampje”.
It’s going to be hectic I suppose, but after all this is done I’d like to start recording the next record in 2020.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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