Music is always a very personal space for the artist who created it and it’s not always easy to deal with all the feelings. The following essay by Sven, the head of the Alternative-Grunge band Liotta Seoul, is a little look inside his thoughts towards this topic.
My name is Sven Int-Veen, I am twenty-six years old and in a band called ‘Liotta Seoul’ were I play guitar, sing and write lyrics. I have been playing in bands for the last thirteen years and my current project is by far my most personal.
The nature of my being in said band is quite ambivalent, since in an everyday environment I strongly hesitate to communicate my emotional state, whereas the lyrics that accompany the songs that I write, can be very revealing. Evidently there has to be some kind of exhibitionistic force that urges me to express my state of mind that only appears when I write music.
I feel that disclosing my mental problems in a stale conversation could overwhelm or even shock my conversational counterpart, whereas when I express my worries, views and ideas in a song, a melody and the generated atmosphere might soften the blow. At the same time, since I am strongly incapable of communicating freely with others, it can be frustrating to know that people do not understand or hear what I am singing about. Whether it is people that are close to me, people in a live audience, listeners on the internet, or my own band members, I never really feel like anyone truly cares about what a song is about which is super frustrating, but at the same time I find security in knowing that I won’t be confronted over what I chose to sing about.
“I am disappointed that people prove to be uninterested in what I have to say”
There basically is a dichotomy between not wanting to bother others with my problems and the need to be heard. That being said, getting reactions to our music or more specifically my lyrics never really has a pleasing result. Either I am disappointed that people prove to be uninterested in what I have to say, or when somebody actually comes up to me and tries to console me (this rarely ever happens) I try to dodge the conversation by changing the subject or speak about certain phrases I used, as opposed to talking about actual lyrical content.
In all honesty, I prefer writing, rehearsing and recording songs over performing them live. When constructing a song I get to choose when to do it and how to do it. I can perform and record whenever I feel like I am closest to the song. I like my performance to embody the ideas and feelings that are expressed, rather than just playing an instrument on queue. If a song is entirely finished it sometimes feels like it is detached from me and I can partially get rid of whatever the song is about, but then performing it can bring that back up.
Live performances are scheduled events, you have to get into your car, pick everyone up, have a nice chat, load up your gear, find the venue, engage in nice smalltalk with total strangers, and – at some point – put on a live show. For me personally, the most important thing during a concert is to be as good as I possibly can. I want to hit all of the notes, play as accurately as possible and not leave my bandmates hanging. In an ideal world my body and mind would mechanically play a whole set with no worry in the whole world and at the end of the set, hopefully some audience members will have enjoyed themselves. In reality, I get overwhelmed ever so often and get confronted with the state of mind I was in when writing a particular song.
“Staring at Light Bulbs”
For example, there is a song on our record called “Staring at Light Bulbs” which is about me wanting to get out of a hazardous relationship I was in. I was very dependent, both emotionally drained and attached and it cost me a lot of strength and courage to get out. I always wished I could just get out of that situation, the same way our bodies get rid of dust by simply sneezing. If you look into the light, you are prone to sneeze, hence the title “Staring at Light Bulbs”.
When we play that song – more often than not – I get overwhelmed by that feeling of nausea and impotence, my body keeps on playing and singing that song, but my minds trails off, to the point where I do not enjoy our live performance, but start wondering about what could have been and if I had made the right choices. Often after playing a whole set I feel exhausted and desperately need some time on my own without having to deal with other people, but then on the other hand my band mates, people in the audience, another band, or venue staff feel the need to engage, and because I don’t want to seem rude, or arrogant, I keep talking.
If you have kept on reading to this point you might wonder: “Well, if this is so hard on you, why do it?”. The answer is: I love it. I enjoy our songs, I like hearing them. I am extremely proud of the fact, that after putting in a lot of effort, I can sing and play the guitar at the same time. I am extremely proud of the songs I write, and although I never feel like I will ever be good enough, or that what I do really matters, I like doing it. I love when people tell me, they like our music, I like to talk about our songs, I don’t actually, full-heartedly believe that anybody thinks I am good at what I do, but I like trying. If I talk about a song, I’m not talking about me. The song becomes a placeholder for a part of myself that I’m addressing. Music and poetry are ways for me to openly communicate without the anxious tension of an actual conversation. I get all the time I need to make sure I express myself as accurately as possible, whereas in an ongoing conversation I always feel misunderstood.
A lot of artists tend to overuse the old cliché of ‘art being a substitute for therapy’, and I really beg to differ. But for a person like me who often feels like being trapped in my own head and has strong problems appreciating myself, the sense of accomplishment I get from finishing a song or writing a really good line is a temporary escape that is worth pursuing.
Thank you Sven for these honest words. If you want to see and hear more from him, make sure to check out the Liotta Seoul page and watch their latest video below.
Sven & I also prepared a special giveaway for you, so head over to my Instagram to win 2×1 of the collab Liotta Seoul x Candywasteland enamel pins.