My new cd – polaroid – the stories behind the songs

Finally Finished, the new cd: Polaroid is a snappy 6 track Jazz a cappella EP about streetlamps, fireflys, endings and beginnings. Recorded in 2 short weeks in Leiden, Vivienne Aerts (Netherlands) teamed up with Australian electronic producer Geoff Baker. Using her voice to the limits, Vivienne layers 40 vocals on a single song, mimicking basses, trumpets, strings and whole choirs. Swinging along the rhythm are finger clicks, hand claps, foot stomps and matchbox snaps. The vivacious energy and beauty of the songs leaps out from the first moment of this work.

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Here a couple of the stories behind the songs… more to come. Click on the title to listen to the tracks, or go to


V: When I met Geoff, we were both at a curious point in our lives where there was big change. We ended up in long conversations and this resulted in this beautiful project. Though the compromise was that I would record with Geoff, if we would doing my songs, jazzy… The memories, the songs and lyrics were there but how were we to record this, in such a way that it was most close to the heart, most authentic and honest. Therefore we spend long hours discussing about the arrangements, the recording techniques and the different feelings in our lives. The first song we recorded was Firefly. Its a song about knowing where to go, even when it’s dark. It’s a happy song, sounding all around you, snappy, and twingling… It reminds me of Leiden, my city, when traveling around the world…

G: So there I was, couchsurfing around Europe, with my backpack, a laptop and a microphone. I was doing a jam session here and there. I had known Vivienne since March, seeing her sing at De Twee Spieghals in Leiden. Straight away there was a musical connection. But we had nothing musically in common. Nothing. No musical style, no musical influences, we didn’t even have the same technical language. Months later we had a spare few days on my next pass through Holland, and we mucked around with different things. And the less I did to the music the better it got. I pulled back my electronic sounds, the drums, the keyboards, until there was nothing left except her voice. And then, with Firefly, it began to come together. Over 24 hours we turned her voice into a big swing band. Basses, trumpets, clicks, claps, all spilling out into the microphone set up in her tiny apartment. But in my head I’m thinking ‘synths, drones, drum machines, hooks and samples’, layering sounds like Daft Punk or Air, but with the sound of jazz. And then, the next day, it was posted onto Bandcamp, and we knew we had something.


V: Melody is probably the saddest song, and the last line of the song still resonates in my head: “I should forget you and you melody, from now on…” Its a song about how we aren’t always in perfect harmony, even though we wish to be…. I wrote this song during the Berklee Umbria Jazz clinic in the summer of 2011, and was chosen to perform it on big stage with a band. To translate this song to an all vocal arrangement was a challenge, but when we finally started recording this track it came natural…

G: Vivienne had been performing this song with jazz quartets for a while, so the music and lyrics were pretty settled when we started working on it. But then we started uncovering the true depths of the track. The sudden breaking from jazz into Bach. The secret of the matchbox snare. And the heart breaking end. I know enough about Vief’s personal life to know who and what she was singing about, and every now and again during recording we would get stuck on a moment from this past.


V: Streetlamps I wrote in 2003, never recorded it. So when I found it in one of the corners of my little notebooks, I realized that the lyrics really fitted to my state of mind. Its about thinking of the future, the past and just enjoying the ‘now’. And  – of course – how streetlamps play an important role in that.

G: After Firefly we dug through Vivienne’s collection of half finished songs and pulled out a dozen maybes. We did some rough recordings, ate pancakes, drank beer, and thought about what to do. This song was so obvious. Beautiful simple melody, and the other parts just fell into place. Our constant discussion was how long the song should be. Should they all have a solo? Should they all fall into scat? Vief likes the big insane jazz solo, I like short and sweet songs that captures a moment. I love the way these two creative urges came together in the wistful little melodies between verses.


V: Its the only song that has one vocal part, with a keyboard accompaniment… we decided that it was perfect on his own…

G: But we discovered it also has a retro twin sister.  We couldn’t throw her away either.  See below.

Breakfast with Bebop

V: Breakfast with Bebop is containing a lot layers of vocals about a special Hamster named Bebop… he would always run around in it’s wheel when I listened to jazz… such a happy animal, just like the song. The cat, Eleonora, was always fascinated by this little moving snack, but because Bebops house was in a bookshelf it was impossible to reach it…

G: I’m not a bebop person. But when Vivienne sang this vocal line to me it just slid down my brain. It had to be recorded. But it was the hardest, rudely defying our attempts to capture is bouncy audacity. The final version has 50 layers of vocals and percussion. The foot stomp was the most fun, as we auditioned different wooden floor boards, comparing them for the right kind of deep resonant thump. We finished the recording a few hours before my flight back to Australia.


V: Maybe is a really sweet song, about caring for the other person, but finding it hard to loose yourself in it, so sometimes maybe is the closest word to certainty my heart lets me…

G: My favourite moment in this track is when Vief’s voice is joined by the harmonies, at around 40 seconds. It still melts me.

Smile, the bonus track.

V: If he had only smiled, it could have been a different song…

G: I didn’t even know you could do a ten part vocal harmony, but Vief popped one out for the 4th word of the song. The old record sound is courtesy of Lorne Darnell, an American friend from Detroit, and his amazing collection of 30’s, 40’s and 50’s records.


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