Checking out profiles on Instagram we stumbled across one that catched out attention. We discovered Stef Heesakkers, guitarist from the Dutch doom metal band Treurwilg, a massive two-guitar attack of deep sadness, with haunting soundscapes and rumbling vocals, destined to drag even the happiest soul down to hell. Their music are for fans of Amenra, Ahab, Swallow The Sun and (early) Katatonia. Their sound is cold and slow. Rarely you will encounter an up tempo song on their new album "Departure", which makes the vibe on the record dark and gloomy.
OBNUBIL: Could you give us a bit of background about you, your education and your work? What originally made you want to become a guitarist?
STEF: My name is Stef. I live in Sint-Oedenrode (a small town near Eindhoven) and play guitar in the doom metal band named Treurwilg. Writing music is my biggest passion. It is the most beautiful and honest way of art in my eyes. When I was in middle school I bought my first guitar. It was a starter pack with a small amp. After having taken guitar lessons (for like 3 years) I started to write my own songs. I have always been fascinated by the way you can create your own sound and let other people "hear" how you feel without telling them what you feel. Playing the guitar is like therapy to me, it’s my way of expressing my feelings.
OBNUBIL: How would you describe your band Treurwilg? Where does the name came from? As far as we know the Treurwilg is is a species of willow native to dry areas of northern China.
STEF: Treurwilg is the name for ‘Weeping Willow’ written in our native language. I think that the name suits us very well because of our dark atmospheric and melancholic sound. Our music can be described as atmospheric doom metal, but has many elements of different genres, like black metal, death metal and post-/sludge metal.
OBNUBIL: You guys are from Tilburg, a landlocked municipality and a city in the Netherlands, located in the southern province of Noord-Brabant. How would you describe your city and the music scene over there?
STEF: Tilburg is a nice city! It’s well known in the doom metal scene for its famous Roadburn festival. We have a pretty cool metal scene over here with some big influential doom/post-metal bands like FAAL, Ggu:ll and Izah. Our singer and the drummer live in Tilburg. Me and the bassist live nearby, but we call Tilburg the place of birth for Treurwilg. It all started here for us in the well-known bar the Little Devil.
OBNUBIL: Who or what has been so far the biggest single influence on your way of thinking and creating?
STEF: My emotions are my biggest influence. The way I write songs is like getting rid of the burdens on my shoulders. When words are not enough, music speaks. It’s my way of telling you the personal stories of my life. We all go through hard times and this is my way of dealing with the things that really bother me sometimes. When I feel bad I pick up my guitar and start writing songs.
OBNUBIL: What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your compositions?
STEF: The personal things in life, both good and bad things. I’m a pretty sensitive person and I love to express my feelings with the music that I create. I think we all should embrace the small things in life (even the bad things), because you can create something beautiful of the things that you feel inside.
OBNUBIL: Last month you released your newest album “Departure". Can you tell us a little about the album? The recording process, mastering...
STEF: Departure is our first studio album. At first it was planned to be an EP, but when we went recording it, it all went so smooth and fast, so we added 2 more songs (which gave the EP the length of a full-length album). We went to the Double Noise studio of Gerben van der Aa in Treurwilg's hometown Tilburg. He recorded and mastered the songs on the Departure album. He did a great job!
OBNUBIL: The album has got 5 songs, lasting between 5:36 and 11:18 minutes each. What can you tell us about the story behind each song?
STEF: The songs on Departure are inspired by negative things in life. They’re songs about grief, loss, anger and death. Our songs are personal in such a way that we don’t like to explain them. Explaining them would be rejecting interpretation. If a song means something else to someone, we should let them feel that way.
OBNUBIL: How would you describe the evolution of the band since the first EP?
STEF: I don't think we changed that much between the EP and the album. We’ve always taken influences from outside of doom metal, like post- and black metal, and even post-rock. I do think we got even better at blending our influences together and creating our own sound in the process. The title track Departure for example, contains riffs reminiscent of My Dying Bride and Candlemass, but also Amenra and Alcest, without breaking the atmosphere of the song. Of course we also got better live.
OBNUBIL: What is your current gear?
STEF: I have like 5 electric guitars and 2 acoustic ones. For Treurwilg I use my seven-string Ibanez guitars (the RG7321 and the RGA7) both customized with Seymour Duncan Pickups. My other guitars are a blood-red PRS Torero (my personal favorite guitar), an ESP Ltd 401 Eclipse (Les Paul model) and my first Ibanez guitar (customized with EMG pickups). My acoustic guitars are a black Fender western guitar and an Ibanez 12-string western guitar. The amp I use is a Blackstar Stage 100 (head) and an Orange 2x12 OB (cabinet). The pedals I use are a Boss Chorus pedal, a TC electronic Flashback Delay and the TC electronic T3 Reverb.
OBNUBIL: Your sound is cold and slow. Is there anything special you use to layer sounds and create darker atmospheres?
STEF: B standard tuned 7-string guitars are great for a low and chunky drone kind of sound. Add some overdrive and that will do the trick! We combine big-sounding chords for the rhythm parts with nice layers of atmospheric lead guitar parts. For the lead guitar parts I use different reverbs (my TC Electronic T3 Reverb and the reverb channel from my Blackstar Stage 100 head) and a delay pedal (the TC Electronic Flashback Delay).
OBNUBIL: When you are not playing, what do you enjoy doing besides playing guitar? Have you got any special hobbies? We know you are very fascinated by occultism!
STEF: Yes, that's right! I have a few occult symbols tattooed on my body, like the ankh, ouroboros and the crescent moon. Every symbol has its own story, which tells a lot about me in person. I feel really attracted to them, because of their special meaning. Old symbols and stories really fascinate me. In my spare time I love to hang around with friends and go to concerts or festivals. I also love to collect vinyl and like to play video games sometimes, haha.
OBNUBIL: What’s the best piece of advice you have heard? And, what’s your personal motto or quote?
STEF: Just follow your dreams! Don't let anyone take them from you. Life is like a writing a book, make a special story of it.
OBNUBIL: Thank you so much for taking your time answering our questions and for giving us more information about you! Is there anything that you would like to say to the readers of The Covenant and to your fans?
STEF: You’re welcome. It’s an honor to be a part of The Covenant! Follow your heart, work hard and never give up on the things you want to achieve in your life!
Photo taken by Vincent Naus.
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