This is Toronto-based Jeremy van Leeuwen’s electro-pop project under the name Witte Beer. In his work, futuristic sounds wrap around warm vintage tones while simultaneously looking both forward and backward at the development of synth pop. Bright bubblegum vocals create catchy earworms that glide smoothly on top of the energetic foundation.
Fairlight is a three song EP by “Witte Beer” which was inspired by the sounds of the Fairlight CMI, which is a vintage sampler known as “the first sampler.”
Witte Beer had a lot to say about his childhood and musical growth in a recent interview with Mister Styx of musicarenagh.
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What is your stage name and Is there a story behind your stage name?
Witte Beer is Dutch for White Bear. My family immigrated to Canada after WWII. One of the most vivid stories I have heard from them time and time again is when they were camping in the white shell as kids and new immigrants. They looked out at the water at night and saw a white figure in the low light.
They tell me that they thought it was a white bear and they all started yelling “Witte Beer” and chased it away. It turns out it was actually just a guy skinny-dipping. He was definitely shocked, and ran off pretty quickly from what I can remember of the story. I really also liked the 80’s German group Grauzone’s single Eisbar – which is polar bear. It has pop sensibility and fierce sound design – which is a pillar of Witte Beer.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find a lot of inspiration in existing bands. I listened to a lot of electronic music when I was a teen and when it was going crazy 2008-2012. I became obsessed with sound design and synths and still am to this day.
When it comes down the writing I’m more inspired by older poppy acts, new-wave, post-punk, and whoever I think is pushing sound design. You can pull from so many areas then all of a sudden, you have your own thing.
What was the role of music in the early years of your life?
Not huge actually. I took piano lessons and my Dad had a few decent CDs, but besides The Cars and Moby I didn’t hear much that caught my attention until I was at least a teen.
Are you from a musical or artistic family?
My dad is an architect, which is pretty creative I suppose. My younger sister is an artist and does photography. It wasn’t a hugely musical family despite us all taking piano lessons at some point. I think I’m the only one who stuck them out.
Who inspired you to be a part of the music industry?
Probably my late piano teacher Merv, He was a gigging musician in the city I grew up in and introduced me to a lot of cool stuff like fusion jazz, synthesizers, improvising, and writing music.
How did you learn to sing/write/to play?
I took piano lessons through my youth and drum lessons for a few year (bless my parents souls) I learned a lot about producing from the internet, then Precursor Productions in Winnipeg, then OIART once I decided I wanted to get a foot in the door in a professional sense.
Singing is more of a recent thing actually. I realized that to create the music I wanted to create its going to need some vocals, I realized I was pretty behind and started taking lessons a year ago and Its been very helpful to have new confidence in my own voice.
What was the first concert that you ever went to and who did you see perform?
Haha, like a Christian music festival on a family road trip. I liked a band called Silverline, cant remember if their any good, but I thought their drummer was cool.
How could you describe your music?
Bubblegum electro, futuristic, and fun.
Describe your creative process.
It changes all the time. It was pretty jammy for a while, just letting myself play until I find something I like of an synth I designed seems to form a voice of its own.
Other songs started off as a vocal riff that just drifts into my head and I record it as fast as possible. I get these a lot in the shower which is a little inconvenient cus I don’t want to get my gear wet. I’m thinking about installing a shower microphone…
What musician do you admire most and why?
Felix Da House Cat, Prince, James Murphy – anyone who does the whole thing themselves. It’s hard work to be able to play write and produce. So many different skills.
Did your style evolve since the beginning of your
I moved away from putting shitty house music on SoundCloud and DJing to writing pop songs and singing.
Who do you see as your main competitor?
What are your interests outside of music?
I’m pretty simple not gonna lie. Cycling, cooking,
If it wasn’t a music career, what would you be doing?
I currently record dialogue for cartoons. Its honest work.
What is the biggest problem you have encountered in
the journey of music?
Why’s everybody always tryna make a buck off of amature musicians?
If you could change one thing in the music industry, what would it be?
Better pay out for streaming – $10 a month is tooooo cheap for unlimited music.
What are your plans for the coming months?
A spooky single in October of course!
That and figuring out a live gig..
Do you have any artistic collaboration plans
yesss I’m going to be working with my friend Aztec 1988 for a single song on his forthcoming album.
What message would you like to give to your fans?
Better out than in, that’s what I always say