Dauw is a Ghent-based label that draws its main inspirations from nature and imperfection. This seeps in through the music as well as the visual elements of the label — forming a strong marriage between different art forms. The result: unique handmade pieces of art that flatter both the ear and the eye.
After an inspiring chat with r beny who’s one of the cornerstone artists of Dauw, we spoke with Pieter Dudal and Maarten De Naeyer to hear their side of the story. Pieter Dudal is the mover & shaker behind Dauw and Maarten De Naeyer from Skrew Studio is the visual artist behind the latest releases.
For this mood talk, we talk about broken sounds, risograph printing and textures in nature. And most importantly, we talk about what lies ahead for Dauw.
Let’s start with something abstract. What are your favourite sounds?
Maarten: I really like the sound of thunderstorms. There have been a few recently and I like how it sounds in my veranda. I also like the anticipation of it as it comes. It’s quite soothing.
Pieter: I like all kinds of nature sounds in general. Recently, I have really grown fond of the rooster in my neighborhood. It’s such a pleasant sound to wake up to. I also never wear headphones when I am on my bicycle. It’s a good opportunity to take in the environment around me. Other than that, I also really like broken sounds: the sound of an old tape or of a gramophone. Anything old that has a history to it. This sound is very central to the label.
Dauw is mostly a tape label but recently you decided to reissue four albums of r beny as a vinyl box set. The lo-fi sound aesthetic of r beny’s work really leans towards tape. What sparked the decision to go for vinyl?
Pieter: I really like the music of Austin and had already been contemplating for a while now to reissue some of his earlier self-released work. I could have easily reissued it on tape, but I felt like I wanted to do something more special this time.
As an ode to his work, I thought it would be really cool to make a nice vinyl box set.
It took quite some convincing, but Austin eventually agreed. It turned out to be a larger project than we anticipated, especially for a small label like us.
We did a total of 300 vinyl box sets. There were 4 LPs in every set. We also made 200 separate editions of each LP. All the original tapes were totally re-mastered for vinyl. The first 50 box sets contained a riso print of the artwork.
It was a big investment and there’s been quite some delay in completing the release, but the response has been super positive and a lot of people were happy to have r beny’s music on vinyl. Really like how it turned out and would definitely do it all over again!
The artwork of the vinyl box set is your first collaboration together. What made you decide to work with each other?
Pieter: I chose to work with Maarten just because his work really lent itself to the label.
Maarten: I play a lot with textures and nature elements in my work. The music released by Dauw is also very textural, so it’s a quite inspiring starting point.
Pieter: Indeed, the music we release often has a lot of textures. Especially the music of r beny. He often makes music by using multi-layered tape loops, so there’s always so much things hidden in his music.
Maarten: I also very much resonate with the music released by the label. I discovered nice new artists as well.
Why did you choose to go for riso print for the vinyl box set?
Pieter: I’ve always been intrigued by the technique and Maarten is very skilled with it. His designs really lean to it and it’s almost as if he designs for this type of printing.
Maarten: When designing for riso print, you’re limited in the amount of colors you can use. That’s a very liberating thought to me, so it’s a printing method I am really fond of using.
Pieter: Riso printing is also quite an imperfect process. There’s a big margin of error and I’m really amazed by the subtle differences of every print. It gave almost a unique character to every release. It’s again the broken aspect of it that really fits with the label. Maybe that’s also something that scares people away from using this method more, but I really like it. We’ve already started integrating the technique for tape releases as well.
“I’m really amazed by the subtle differences of every print. It gave almost a unique character to every release.”
Are you a big music fan as well, Maarten?
Maarten: Oh yes, I listen to all types of music. In my cabinet you’ll encounter records such as the harder Amenra, the soulful Anderson Paak, the minimalistic Nils Frahm, the electronic Moderat or even the old school Beatles. If I were to choose an all-time favorite band, it would be Sigur Rós. I even used to play the bass guitar in a few bands when I was younger. Music also plays an important role in my design process. I always play music in the background when I work. It sets the mood of what I want to start working on.
How did you get into designing vinyl artworks?
Maarten: It’s really natural for me to work for music artists, as music is often the starting point anyway. I’m currently doing artwork design next to my job at the graphic studio, but I aim to go more into this direction. It’s something I really want to do and I hope it becomes a full-time engagement one day.
Who would be your ideal artist to design something for?
Maarten: Hard to pinpoint exactly. I really like music with texture, so that’s generally what I would be looking for. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a big artist, but it just needs to be someone with interesting music. Recently I did the merch for Whispering Sons, a post-punk band currently residing in Brussels. It’s one of my favorite Belgian bands and it would be really fun to design the cover of their second album.
How much are the musicians involved in the cover design process for Dauw?
Pieter: Dauw has a certain visual identity. By now, the musicians I work with know what to expect from the artwork of the label. The artists mostly finish their work first. At that point, the music gets shared with the designer. From there, the designer comes up with a few possible designs. The artist then makes the final choice. So far, these collaborations go quite smoothly. The artists sometimes comment on color choices, but that’s mostly it.
Maarten: For the r beny vinyl box set, Pieter sent me the music and I started the design process by just listening to the music attentively. This way, I could really immerse myself in the atmosphere of the music. It’s quite an intuitive process from there. I just make a design based on how the music makes me feel and the design comes naturally out of it.
By talking with r beny, we found out that he’s really inspired by nature and doesn’t like to confine his music to a specific grid. This theme really comes back in all five cover designs. Is this on purpose?
Maarten: No, not at all. I didn’t get any briefing from the artist about his music. The result is purely based on what I instinctively felt fit with the music. I incorporated natural textures such as rocky surfaces or tree trunks because the music really reminded me of those elements.
Pieter, do you steer the direction of the music or the cover design from the label’s perspective?
Pieter: I see myself as a facilitator between the different parties. I personally don’t want to influence the process too much. There’s already a lot of ideas floating around from different sides. I really trust the artists and the designers in what they do and I give them a lot of freedom to express themselves.
How do you choose the artists you work with?
Pieter: I get sent a lot of demos, but I’m not so interested in that. I mostly prefer reaching out to artists I believe in and want to work with. That’s the most fun part about it: looking for music and then connecting with the people behind the music.
What music or labels are you currently listening to?
Pieter: I’m a big fan of the label Erased Tapes. I like everything they do. The releases and reissues from Jan Jelinek‘s label Faitiche are also super interesting. Within Ghent, I also really like the solo work of MATTIASDECRAENE. It would be really nice to collaborate with Mattias for Dauw at some point.
Maarten: At the moment I listen to some bands on repeat such as Heisa, Hanni El Khatib, bdrmm, Rival Consoles, LA Jungle and 65daysofstatic. As far as labels go, I really like Ekster, B.A.A.D.M, Smaltown Supersound, Erased Tapes, Geographic North, Stroom, RVNG Intl., Tri Angle and Gondwana Records. All of these have a very strong visual style.
What’s the best way to listen to a Dauw release?
Pieter: On good speakers and with your full attention.
Last question. What’s next for Dauw?
Pieter: There’s a whole lot more vinyl coming in the near future. Including two artists who have released music on one of the labels I mentioned. Stay tuned.