On performing with your audience

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Maya Mertens, alias Vieze Meisje, is an amplified version of herself when she’s on stage. If you find yourself at one of her performances, you might consider buying one of her self-made T-shirts with the slogan ‘Life Is A Vieze Cirkel’ that will give you immediate access to the prestigious club the ‘Vieze Cirkel’ that hides behind it. The club has no rules—or maybe just one—that there are no rules and that it means ‘exclusivity for everyone’. It’s a space where you’ll feel safe, where you’re allowed to show all your sides—the good and the bad ones—and where you might even feel satisfied with yourself if you haven’t felt that yet. Vieze Meisje’s performance will carry you away, illuminate you and make you dance very hard.

How did you get to where you are now?

I grew up in Amsterdam and lived there until I was 19. After that I moved to Antwerp to study at the conservatoire—I wanted to see what’s out there and experience new things. Although Antwerp was just two hours away it was still a culture shock. After my studies, I decided to move even more south and ended up in Brussels. I think Amsterdam is an amazing place to grow up and even though you get all kinds of people and good impulses there, the city became a sort of ‘cappuccino town’ to me— you can drink great coffee and there are some good clubs, but everything besides from that is so pricey and gentrified. I think Brussels is taking a more interesting direction compared to Amsterdam and the variety it has to offer feels more appealing to me.

What did you study at the conservatoire?

I studied acting. Kleinkunst to be more specific, but I don’t like specifying it too often since people tend to easily put you in a ‘box’. What I liked about being at school is that everything you showed to the teachers had to be made and performed by yourself. This is still in line with what I do now: I sometimes work as an actress for other people, but the projects that I create with my body and voice are the ones closest to my heart.

You create music with Azertyklavierwerke. Is the two of you also Vieze Meisje?

I am the initiator of Vieze Meisje, however, I would never perform live without Azertyklavierwerke. We chose to mention both our names because he’s also a musician with his own vision and input. We’ve known each other for four years now and it’s a nice feeling when you can develop a sort of trust—it brings more freedom and the process becomes more organic.

Even though my lyrics are moving in a more poetic direction, we will always share a love for eclecticism and rave. Together, our goal is to find how we can stretch those extremes during a performance, carry the audience away with it... and wham! [makes an explosive gesture with hands] smack them with a straight-on beat. So yeah, Vieze Meisje would not be Vieze Meisje without Azertyklavierwerke.

Would you call yourself a musician?

I’m sure the people around me would agree that I am primarily a performer. Being on stage is a thing I’m way more used to than, for example, creating recorded music—that feels like developing a new language. A lot of our music is created when we play it live and how it unfolds relies on the vibe in the venue. Recording an EP involves other parameters. We tried to create something that was bombastic and minimalistic at the same time.

People started filling in for themselves what Vieze Meisje could be

Playing in the middle of the room also changes a lot: I see it as being some sort of energy conductor. It doesn’t only come from one side (us), but you create something together with your audience... that’s what I really like about performing.

‘Life Is A Vieze Cirkel.’ How did you come to that conclusion?

I would prefer calling it a proposition, a starting point or an invitation rather than a conclusion. My former band In Een Discotheek and different other things in my life came to an end. I always carry a notebook with me in which I write continuously and this was the one sentence that really stuck with me so I started writing it on T-shirts.

The music didn’t exist yet back then and people started filling in for themselves what Vieze Meisje could be. I thought it was a funny way to see what people’s expectations were and what they would project onto the concept as if it was some kind of common good. I would rather not explain it for the rest, you have to feel it...or something.

A bio I wrote a while ago: ‘Vieze Meisje establishes arbitrary collectivity in a world that is constantly circling around itself.’ Arbitrary collectivity, that’s what the world is like to me. We’re all here, stuck with each other. The place is bursting with life and variety and yet we all try to come up with some kind of storyline to calm ourselves down...and everyone has their own storyline... I don’t know where this is exactly heading but it keeps me thinking. [laughs]

On November 10 you’ll be hosting LIFE IS A VIEZE CIRKEL. - RELEASE NIGHT at Het Bos, in Antwerp. What can we expect?

At this event, we will release our debut EP LIFE IS A VIEZE CIRKEL. on vinyl at Rotkat Records. Het Bos is a place that I love and I’ve worked many times together with them. The evening will start with a circle-themed Boskeuken, followed by the first official membership meeting of The Vieze Cirkel. Live acts, DJs and more will keep the circular rave going until the next day.

There will also be a physical stand where I will write out memberships; I want to keep the members of the club very central and I would like them to feel like they are in charge of the momentum. After all the Vieze Cirkel’s has no rules yet. It would be nice if the members come up with some rules they like at the first membership meeting that evening.

Another very important aspect is that there will be a lot of dancing because I think it’s important to let go of your thoughts from time to time and become your body.

The shouting and singing almost work as some kind of exorcism

A lot of songs are about the ugly side of my mind that keeps me running and these are also allowed to be there. I hope people can recognize themselves in these words and accept their imperfections for a moment... The shouting and singing almost work as some kind of exorcism.

Later that month we will also play two shows in Brussels and do a Christmas special at De Koer in Ghent to promote our EP.

Do you have expectations for yourself?

I think I just want to let it be what is.

Can it go wrong?

It can’t really go wrong, even if there are only ten people standing there... Although questioning yourself or your work is often an unavoidable consequence of creating art. You obviously always hope the effort and love you put into it resonates with the audience. If I see that I can move people physically, even if it’s forward or backward... It’s a success for me.

Why do you do what you do?

[laughs] There’s no way back man! Every day has led to this moment. I sometimes wonder what I’m doing here but I think there’s nothing else you can do than try to be satisfied...I think I’m in the right place.


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