Roosevelt brings the (wistful) sound of summer

Between euphoria and melancholia.


Roosevelt, the alias of rising German artist Marius Lauber, could very well be described as our summer-of-16-crush. Releasing his sun-kissed debut single Sea back in 2012, the young artist got signed to Joe Goddard’s respected Greco-Roman label, which brings out his self-titled debut album this week. Coming from an electronic music environment as well as a more conventional indie rock background, the singer, songwriter and producer now merges the concert and the club—finding connections and breaking barriers at the same time.

Your sound often contains a combination of light and dark, it’s melancholic but also happy and dreamy. Does this mix reflect your personal taste or perhaps your character?

I can’t really speak about it metaphorically—as in light and dark—as that’s stuff the people that consume or hear the music will say. But I can say that the contrast of euphoric dance beats with melancholic melodies is something that I really like, the clashing of two elements. I think on the album I tried to achieve that by taking music that you want to dance to but at the same time taking a vocal melody, or some synthy sounds that clash with this euphoric feel. I’ve never liked music that is too positive or that goes straight in one direction, and I’ve never really liked obvious sad music either.

Is that a piece of your German roots, the melancholia?

I was influenced by a lot of German Krautrock things, including Kraftwerk, but I don’t see my music as German and I’m not really connected to any German roots. In Germany you have this kind of mentality that things work in Germany but everything else out there is the big world, and you can’t enter it, in terms of music. I see myself more like a European artist. The way I live in my city is quite functional as well. As long as I have a studio and a good environment to work in, I’m happy. I’m based in quite a small city in West Germany and people think that’s a big deal that influences my music in a way, but it doesn’t really. It’s just the place where I live—my music is there to tell a different story.

What story would you like to express?

I don’t have a message in my music in a political way, but what I try to achieve, especially on the album, is to merge the club and concert world. I came from both of those worlds and they were quite separated. I played in an indie band, and there was this moment where I was playing drums and also started DJ’ing—to me these worlds were so far away from each other. I wanted to merge them, creating a concert situation in which people feel like they are partying. Breaking barriers. For me that’s quite natural. I got into music and it’s not a new thing to merge elements, it was just new for me. Talking Heads did the same; they took a disco beat and turned it into pop songs, and in a sense that’s what I’m trying to do.

How did you come up with the name Roosevelt?

The true answer to that is that I don’t remember. It happened four, maybe five years ago, that’s the true answer. But I do know that I liked the sound of it, no political connections. I checked if it’s okay; there are some political figures that you can’t name yourself after…

Such as George W. Bush?

Yeah, although there’s a band called Bush, but they’ve made it pretty clear what point they have. It’s not a political thing; I just really like the name. It comes from the Dutch language, actually.

On stage you always seem to be multitasking. How did you gain experience to do that? Do you still get nervous?

I still get quite excited, not nervous but excited, and it doesn’t feel like a routine at all, even if it’s just 20 people in the audience. I try to force myself to give the best and whenever I feel like some kind of routine comes in, I bring in stuff that makes it more exciting, like changes in the live set, changing the set list, the arrangement of a track, how we play it live. I don’t like the feeling of getting too confident in the live situation. I actually like being a bit scared before playing live; that’s quite motivating to me. I think the minute you’re not getting scared to go in front of people anymore you’re probably not an inspiring artist.

How do you go about creating your visuals?

We have a light show, the whole live set is triggered in Ableton; some of the melodies that we play are visualised on LED bars. I realise when I see other bands that the visual component is so important. I instantly think a concept is so much better when the visual is fitting to the things we hear.

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Are you a club kid? What’s going on in Cologne?

Yeah of course, the good thing about Cologne is that it’s still small enough to know the people. You feel like you know everyone and you have an overview on the city, which I like. In Berlin I feel like every month it becomes a new city, because so many people just move. When you’re travelling a lot and not participating in the city that can be quite stressful because you don’t even know in which city you live. For me it’s always good to have an idea of the people that surround you in your city, that’s what I like about Cologne. It’s big enough to have some kind of relevance, a lot of bands play in Cologne and it’s close to Benelux so the route makes sense for a lot of bands.

I don’t really go out in a hedonistic way much, just sometimes when we’re playing somewhere and going out afterwards, but when I’m in Cologne it’s normally just for a DJ I want to see. I go there, see what he plays and then I go home. [Laughs]

Can you share any crazy clubbing experiences?

Actually, I’ve just been to Glastonbury. We were going out on Sunday after I played at the Beat Hotel and afterwards Job Jobse asked me to join him to a stage, which was like one and a half hours away, but once we were there it was insane. I’ve never seen something like it. There was fire, and it was a small arena almost like a Roman amphitheatre. There was a knob next to the DJ booth, which you could press and then there was fire over the crowd. It was completely insane. That whole night I stayed with the fire knob. That was my job. It felt almost ancient, almost like a ritual thing…

Which DJ do you really like, is there someone you look up to?

Right now there are a lot of DJ’s playing the same festivals. I like Job Jobse, I like Young Marco, who’s also from the Netherlands. I quite like John Talabot. DJ Koze is always a good experience too. It’s just really good to have DJ’s with good taste that can lead you into the night.

Is there a DJ you’d like to collaborate with?

I like to sing on a track of DJ Koze, maybe he’ll read this… I really like his albums, I thought of asking him, but that’s just one crazy idea. Young Marco actually did a remix for me, which is coming out next month. He did it about two years ago and we never found the time to release it.

One last question! What’s the best track for the summer of 2016?

Can I name one of my tracks? No, that’s too egoistic. My next single, Fever, is probably a good summer track. It’s a very obvious summer track. And then also Dreams by Fleetwood Mac, that’s my favourite summer song. Absolutely.

Words by Michelle Hèlena Janssen

Photography: Brian Vu

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