Interview with How Town

How Town are a five-piece band with roots in lots of different countries. The group have some great songs to their name and two fantastic albums, but the band are at their best when they take to the stage. Lennart Heyndels (double bass), Sarah Klenes (voice), Elina Silova (voice), Laura Polence (voice) and Matiss Cudars (guitar) are all talented performers, and as an ensemble they put on a brilliant live show. The band have a characterful and progressive sound which is accessible and immediate, but also playful and inventive. The song-writing leaves lots of room for improvisation, and the songs are structured to give all five personalities a chance to shine.

How would you describe the How Town sound?

LH: We’ve got a good answer for this one. We made up a description of our style – we like to call it ‘contemporary multi-style post-pop music’.


How did the band come to be, and how did you meet?

LH: We first performed together when I wrote a suite of music for four singers, guitar and bass. We have since gone down to three singers, but in the beginning we were more. The music was all written around the poems of EE Cummings, and that’s how we got our name, ‘Anyone lived in a pretty how town’.

Most of us met when we were students in Amsterdam, although we met Sarah at a workshop in Canada (even though she is actually from Belgium). These days we are based in different cities – we are spread across Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Berlin, but the band continues all the same. We like the fact that we all come from different places, it has become part of our identity.



What is the writing process, and how have the songs developed?

ES: Usually Lennart has the initial idea, and then things happen to that idea when we work on it together.

LH: I think the music used to be quite strictly composed, but these days everyone is contributing more and more.

MC: The process has changed as we have developed as individuals. We have all been getting into free and improvised music, and that has definitely had an influence on the music and the way it is structured.

LH: I think that the more we play together the more we know what we are aiming for as a group. We don’t need to set things as much as we used to, and that means that there is more room for improvisation and variation. We are also more familiar with the material and so we can be a bit braver and take it in new directions.

LP: These days there is more freedom to do things in the moment, and you know that the rest of the band will follow. If someone chooses to do something which is not in the composition or the arrangement we will go with it and see where it takes us. It keeps the music fresh.


Where do you think vocal music is headed next?

MC: I think vocal music is moving in the same direction as all popular music. There is a giant melting pot of genres, styles and techniques. The parameters are being broken down, and people are borrowing ideas from lots of different sources. Death-metal is meeting medieval choral music, fused with Egyptian rhythms and 90s drum sounds.


Do you all have similar musical interests? And how does that play out in the music that you perform?

SK: We have all studied jazz at some point, but apart from that our stories are very different. We all grew up in different countries, and with different cultures.

So, naturally, we have different interests.

ES: Three of us are from Latvia where there is a really strong choral tradition. We have grown up with a lot of group singing, and in Latvia there are huge song festivals to share and sing together. I’m sure that growing up in that environment has had an influence on the way in which we make music.

LH: We don’t want to replicate the sound of another band or tread the same path as a band that we all follow, and so we don’t concentrate too much on what we listen to as individuals. Sometimes we talk about sounds or ideas which we can experiment with or reference in our own way. For example, I heard this American work-song which was sung by the slaves back in the 30s, and I sent it round to everyone thinking that we might be able to take something from it. For us it is more about drawing from specific sounds rather than genres or styles.


What’s next for How Town? 

LH: We are working on our new CD, and this will be our third studio album. It is due to be released early in the summer, hopefully for the end of May. Then we want to follow the CD release with a tour all over Europe, and maybe even do another show here in the UK.