Indie pick of the week: The Black Atlantic

Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

With acoustic guitars and a floating feel, listening to The Black Atlantic is an escape. But behind the seemingly light sound are strong lyrics, with very emotional themes. The stage name belongs to Geert van der Velde, a folksy alternative rock singer-songwriter from the Netherlands.

Geert van der Velde is The Black Atlantic. Courtesy Photo

Geert van der Velde is The Black Atlantic. Courtesy Photo

“For as long as I can remember, music has played an integral part in my life,” Geert said.

Geert’s music as The Black Atlantic is similar toSufjan Stevens and Fleet Foxes, but his sound hasn’t always been so relaxed.

At 18, Geert left the Netherlands for the United States, to be the screamer for one of his favorite American hardcore punk groups, Shai Hulud until 2004.

The following year, he relocated back to the Netherlands to study psychology. Shortly after, Geert recorded his first EP as The Black Atlantic, and began playing shows in 2007. Since then, The Black Atlantic has performed around Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and China.

“I’ve spent the past 16 years of my life being almost continuously involved in some music-related project or another, on an almost full-time basis,” Geert said. “To be honest, I still don’t really know why (music is) important to me. There’s just nothing else I’d rather do. Music has a transcendent quality to me. It’s transportive in a way that I’ve never experienced anything else to be.”

Inspiration for Geert’s music can be found everywhere, from others’ music to films, books and everyday life. He covers universal ideas in his music, including the idea of facing death.

He directs listeners to face the ideas of tragedy and mortality, with his track “Haul,” released in September 2013.

With the lines “I’ve lived through no great tragedy, I can’t imagine that would make me a better man,” Geert talks about the worries he has for him and his wife to be able to see their two children grow up.

“When I sing that song I stare death in the face to remind myself that it could all end. I’m agnostic. I don’t believe there is a meaning to life other than that it was all accidental that I am here now. But, although life is accidental it’s not meaningless, it’s meaningful because we give it meaning, and we give it meaning simply because we can. We have a certain freedom in shaping our lives that way, barring geographical location, social status,” Geert said. “But, tragedy has a way of mocking that freedom. Of taking it away.”

The three tracks on his album “Enshrine” were recorded live with solo

“Enshrine” was recorded in a church in the Netherlands, with no edits made to the music. Courtesy Photo

“Enshrine” was recorded in a church in the Netherlands, with no edits made to the music. Courtesy Photo

guitar in a church, and mixed to an analog tape, creating what Geert calls an “honest recording” with no polish or editing, just picking up the reverb from the building.

The songs lyrically talk about when previous members of The Black Atlantic left the group in the summer of 2012, a time that left him feeling somewhat uncertain.

“I went through a period of doubt and came out on the other end none the wiser, but with the realization that there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than play music, and that if I want to look back 20 years from now I better start being more productive and pro-active about writing and releasing more music,” Geert said.

This week, Geert wrote and recorded songs with I am Oak, for a four-song collaborative EP with new and covered songs with friends from Wooded Saints.  The EP will be released in six to seven weeks.

He will be recording The Black Atlantic’s second album in March, in addition to working on more collaborative EP’s throughout the year. The Black Atlantic will also tour in Germany and Switzerland with I am Oak, as well as solo tours in the Baltic countries, Scandinavia, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States later this year.

For more of The Black Atlantic, follow him on Twitter @blackatlantic or like him onFacebook.

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