Q+A: 5 Minutes with GIVVEN
While the rest of the world was unsuspectingly slumbering, GIVVEN were collaborating on an audio-visual EP that would be a game-changer. Our first hint of what is to come was ‘Taking On Water’ with its blue-tinted video, followed by the EP’s title track – ‘Losing Colours’ which has just been paired with a grey-tinted video that you can find below. All three of the videos for the EP will be shot in the beautiful landscapes of Iceland while the first two videos were directed by the award-winning Rupert Höller.
GIVVEN is the collective effort of Adrian Held (one half of the renowned Klangkarussell duo), Jordan Haller and Nikodem Milewski, responsible for the mixing and mastering of the upcoming EP. Despite all living in different parts of the globe, the trio have been able to overcome the difficulties of creating remotely, presenting a new level of chilled pop to the world. Find out how they were able to do so in the exclusive interview below.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
Our process changes every time depending on who is working on the songs. Sometimes Jordan will start a track and send it to Adrian for changes, sometimes Adrian starts an instrumental, and sometimes all three are in a room together working on songs.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Our debut single “Ghostkeeper” was a collaboration with Klangkarussell and has gone on to receive over 30 million streams
What’s on your current playlist?
SG Lewis, Elderbrook, Daniel Caesar, Majid Jordan, Overmono, Caribou
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
We released our first song a month before the pandemic started, so we’re in a unique situation of having a continuously growing and evolving artist project without being able to play a single show yet. We interact with our fans a lot on Instagram though, so we’re looking forward to carrying that connection through to the live shows!
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
There is no “GIVVEN formula” that we follow. We tend to just try weird things out and see if they sound cool. The feeling we’re always looking to achieve in our music is a bit nebulous and hard to pin down, but we know it when we hear it. One of our favourite plugins is Little Alter Boy for formant shifting. We use that extensively on every song we make. It’s such a fun plugin to turn ordinary sounds (or vocal layers) instantly weird and captivating!
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
Since we all live in different countries, the process changes completely based on where we’re working. Our first sessions were all together in Nikodem’s studio in Vienna surrounded by fancy gear and expensive microphones. That was where we all kind of got to know each other and played around with some initial ideas, and where our first single Ghostkeeper came from. Then a few months later we were in Adrian’s home studio in Berlin doing a bunch of experimental stuff and trying to find the GIVVEN sound. And now with the pandemic for the last couple of years, we’ve been mainly just sending music back and forth on the internet. Still working collaboratively, but in a very different form than before.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
We each have a different story here, but the common element we all share is that none of us ever had a “Plan B”. It wasn’t even really a question, it was just a fact that we were each going to make music in some way, somehow.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
We’ve never played a live show before because we were born in the pandemic, but Jordan really loves water so we imagine he’ll be surrounded by water bottles for every show
Any emerging artists on your radar?
What gets your creative juices flowing?
This may sound a bit backwards, but making music inspires us to make music. When you come up with a new song idea or a little synth melody or something, it just makes you want to make more and more!
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
Nikodem has a room full of outboard gear for mixing and mastering, Adrian has a room full of classic synths and hardware, and Jordan records in his parents’ basement with a microphone and an acoustic guitar. Together it somehow makes the perfect blend of messy and clean, polished and raw.
We tried out dozens of microphones in the beginning of this project, and found that the Neumann U67 was the best fit for Jordan’s voice. But we had a funny moment since Niko was out of town when Adrian and Jordan made the first Ghostkeeper demo, so we did the vocals on the cheap SM58 because we didn’t want to break any of the fancy studio gear. When we went back into the studio later to record proper vocals, we realized that the sound just felt way better for this track on the SM58, so our biggest song so far has vocals recorded on a $100 microphone.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Adrian has his main project Klangkarussell, and Nikodem is a prolific mix/master engineer in Vienna
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
We’ve all gotten better at working with each other and kind of refined the workflow and how we approach making music. Especially with navigating the hurdles of time zones and the pandemic and having to do everything online for a while. We’ve gotten quite good at collaborating just through sporadic messages and sending demos and stems back and forth
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
An EP with three brand new tracks accompanied by a cinematic universe of music videos shot in Iceland for each song. And then we’re going to start playing live shows around Europe. Probably starting in Vienna and branching out from there. But the secret underground type of shows. So stay tuned for invites to those.
Famous last words? *
Go stream ‘Ghostkeeper’.
Image credit: GIVVEN
By Sarah Britton