Song-by-Song: ‘Tales Of Adolescence’ by Maida Rose’s Roos Meijer
One half of Dutch dream-pop band Maida Rose takes us through each song off their intimate and ruminative debut album
Like seeds that need the seasons to grow, great music can take time to develop. That’s certainly the case with the songs off of Maida Rose’s recently released debut album, The Tales Of Adolescence. Having met in The Hague music scene, the collaborative partnership between Roos Meijer and Javiér den Leeuw has taken the best part of a decade to truly blossom. That time has allowed them to gain valuable life experience and develop a dream-pop style that provides both space for rumination and a sound palette for emotional expression.
Wanting to know more about a record the band describe as, ‘Like a photo album of our past that we can look into to have a melancholic revisit of a previous life,’ we recently asked Meijer to take us through each of its songs…
HARMONY OF HEARTACHE
Harmony Of Heartache is one of the very first songs we wrote together for Maida Rose, about six years ago. In those years we were still very much searching for our sound, so the arrangement and production of the song has taken many different forms over the years, but the essence of the song has always remained the same.
We planned to record this song as our first single in spring 2020. When Covid hit and the world went into quarantine, we had to think out of the box. In the end, we decided to record the entire track ourselves. Everyone recorded their parts at home (the drums were even recorded in the attic of Javièr’s parents’ house, where the album was written), and we decided to keep the production within our group of friends.
Since all the parts were recorded separately, the mixing itself was a creative process as well; essential decisions were still being made about which parts would be used or not. It was a bit of a challenge in the beginning but in the end, we were so happy with the process and the end result that we decided to record our entire album this way.
WHERE DO WE GO
Where Do We Go takes place at the end of a relationship. It’s a song that is formed around feelings of denial; about not wanting to admit that the relationship is over. The music supports the lyrics by creating a calm, safe atmosphere in the verse, but suddenly takes an unexpected harmonious turn in the pre-chorus. When a long-term relationship ends, it can feel as if your whole world collapses, as if everything you’ve considered “normal” up until now suddenly doesn’t match reality anymore. We wanted to capture this feeling in both the lyrics and the music.
The song doesn’t actually have a chorus either; there are two pre-choruses, where it feels like it’s moving towards something, but that desire is never fulfilled – the first time we go back to the verse, and the second time we end up in a different atmosphere, the bridge. This is also symbolic of that last, dead-end phase in a relationship, where you so badly want to work towards something together, but you just can’t do it anymore. We also chose to use musical metaphors in this song (the rhythm changed, our song has changed, the album doesn’t end by starting something new, you’re always on delay), to give the lyrics an overarching symbolic theme.
One fun fact about the recording of this song; we tried incredibly hard to recreate the lead guitar (of the intro and outro) from the original demo, but no matter what we tried, we couldn’t get the same vibe. So, we decided to use the track from the original demo, which is me on an electric guitar, using a beer bottle as a slide. It was a classic example of “demo fever”, where the atmosphere of the first recording moment cannot be recreated.
Initially, we thought that Fallen was going to be one of the first songs of our second album, but in the end, we decided that it was the final puzzle piece that was needed to finish our debut album Tales Of Adolescence. It’s a song about reminiscing a previous relationship and wondering about why it ended. It was written in London, while I lived there, and was inspired by William Blake’s poem The Little Girl Lost. When I couldn’t find the right words, I read this poem and decided to start each verse with a sentence from this poem. This made it a lyrical puzzle and immediately gave me inspiration for the whole song. Fallen questions the final moments before a breakup and takes you on to a reminiscent dream-pop journey.
EVERY DAY IS BLUE
Every Day Is Blue originated in Sweden, when I was traveling by myself. I spent 10 days in the middle of nowhere in Lapland, surrounded by a white landscape of snow (and aurora borealis!) and did nothing but walk, read and write. In this oasis of calm, many new ideas arose, and when I got home Javièr and I immediately started working on them in his attic room.
It’s about the desire to disappear when going through depression. You may have a tendency not to get out of bed and completely shut yourself off from the world, even though this will only make the situation worse. In my own experiences with depression, I can remember that I found it very unpleasant when people asked me how I was doing, so I started avoiding social contact more and more. There was an almost adolescent feeling of, ‘Let me just be and waste away in my room.’
Once I got out of the depression, I knew that this behavior was not helpful in recovery. Hence, we chose a playful character in the song to reflect the duality of the situation. Somewhere deep down you know that you are working against yourself, but because of the depression you don’t have the strength to fight this.
When I was a kid, my mum volunteered at a foundation called The Rainbow Tree, a non-profit that focusses on children who are going through a difficult time. The idea for this foundation arose when Holly, a five-year-old girl with leukaemia, told her parents that she had found a way to deal with her illness and all the horrible treatments and experiences in the hospital; Holly discovered that she could always go to another place in her mind. The place that she created in her mind to escape into regularly, was the Rainbow Forest. This was a place where she felt completely safe and happy, and could decorate it any way she wanted.
After Holly passed away, her parents made sure that her final dream was turned into reality: that all children who needed it would learn about the Rainbow Forest. Thus was born the Rainbow Tree Foundation, which visits children in hospitals and other places, to tell them about this place and teach the children how they can go there too. I heard this story a lot during my childhood, and somehow it came back to me a few years ago.
Since I liked the idea of this rainbow forest so much, I decided to write about it. The song is sung from a parent’s perspective, sung to her child who will pass away. That’s why we chose an atmosphere of a kind of lullaby, where the child can slowly dream away and live on into rainbow forest.
This song is set right after the end of a relationship. Your love has just left the house, you’re lying on your bed and you realize how loud the silence is. A short, sweet song to convey to a previous partner how valuable your time together was, even if it was finite. These are the words you will never say to him/her again, and that live on in your mind.
This song was also created in the Swedish silence. Walking through the crisp snow, I relived the moments right after my breakup, from six months earlier.
WITHIN & WITHIN II
Within is an ode to my girlfriend, and the love I feel for her. It is the only song we have that is happy and about love. Although we normally like to explore all our dark feelings, it felt ignorant not to pay attention to this strong feeling of love, which is such a big part of adolescence.
Funnily enough, the slow version, Within II (which is the last track on the album), was born first. This song I wrote from a very intense, romantic and tender feeling. But when I was feeling really jumpy-happy in love, this song didn’t capture the essence of my feelings. That’s why we decided to make another version of Within, but more upbeat and energetic. I feel that love has many shades and forms, and although the melody and lyrics of Within fit well with these different forms, the energy and mood of being in love can vary from moment to moment. That’s why it’s so nice that we now have a version for both ends of the spectrum.
I was reading Patti Smith’s Devotion and I drew textual inspiration from that for the first verse. Furthermore, I can remember writing the pre-chorus while sitting on the balcony of my girlfriend’s apartment. She was sitting inside and was playing and singing a song of hers. I felt so incredibly safe and content at that moment, so I decided to turn that feeling into a little poem. Furthermore, “She is within me” is about the fact that you don’t always have to be together if you really love each other.
The funny thing is, when I took my first version of Within to Javièr, he didn’t yet know that I was in love. My (now) girlfriend was a very good friend of the both of us and although Javièr was my best friend I didn’t dare to share my love for her in the early stages. So we spent a whole weekend working on a song in which I clearly make a declaration of love to a woman (although until then I had only had relationships with men), and Javièr didn’t have a clue! A month or two later, Javièr was the first person I shared my secret with.
MURAKAMI IN HIS MIND
This song was written for my father’s 60th birthday. It is an ode to who he is, and how he has inspired me throughout my life. Murakami is his favorite writer, so this will always remind me of him. Meanwhile, he has also done a good job of infecting me with this love. Since we both really love reading and have an interest in the same books, I’ve included some of our favorites: Ocean Sea by Alessandro Baricco, Demian by Hermann Hesse, and Murakami of course. The song was written on an acoustic guitar, and further developed with Javièr in the attic where all songs of the album were born.
WHEREVER I AM
Wherever I Am is one of our very oldest songs, and is about the desire and urge to discover new places, not to repeat yourself too much and to see life as an adventure. If I’m in the same place or living the same life for too long, I slowly feel an itch developing. I don’t like too much recognition and want to be stimulated as much as possible. The world is so big, there is so much to explore, and we live relatively short lives, so I like to seek out new experiences.
WE BOTH KNOW
This song was the birth of Maida Rose, without even realizing it. It was written when I was 21 years old, as a farewell song, but oddly enough it became the beginning of Maida Rose. The inspiration came from the moment when it’s just been pronounced that you and your partner are breaking up, but he/she isn’t out the door yet. You both know that this is the last time that you will see each other in this intimate way. It’s kind of a strange “in-between”; you were still in a relationship half an hour ago, have now decided that’s no longer the case, but it doesn’t feel final until the moment one of you walks out of the door and you’re no longer in the same room with each other.
This final moment of being together carries a collection of such deep emotions and can be a collection of sadness, gratitude and love. We tried to capture that feeling in We Both Know. It’s also the first Maida Rose song that Javièr sings on. Singing together brings another level of intimacy, that adds a new layer to the album, and is another beautiful symbol of our intimate friendship.