A Minor Problem – Good Grief

It’s nearly 15 years ago that Heerlen was hailed as the Seattle of The Netherlands. In a few years’ time, dozens of rock bands spawned from the city. The hype didn’t last. Although pop culture in the city definitely got a boost by De Nieuwe Nor.

The pop venue, only a few hundred meters away from our office in Heerlen, gave pop music underground in Heerlen the meeting place it longed for. Currently, De Nieuwe Nor is expanded with a bigger concert hall.

Rock music and Heerlen has been a strong combination since the early nineties. Influenced by New York hardcore and indie from the United States, a new scene emerged. Hardcore acts like Feeding the Fire and, later, Born from Pain became icons in the international hardcore scene. A few kilometers to the west, a similar scene emerged in Maastricht, that adopted the name M-Town Rebels. Acts like Right Direction and Backfire! would also become international icons.

Last year, a square in Maastricht was named after Richard Bruinen, a key figure in the scene that committed suicide in 1999. Journalist and drummer Niena Bocken recently made a fantastic podcast series about the M-Town Rebel scene. It is in Dutch and there are still a few episodes to be released. See the link below.

There always has been a healthy rivalry between the M-Town Rebels and the Mijnstreek Oost Crew (MOC, from the bigger area around Heerlen). The hardcore scenes definitely aren’t as big and influential as they used to be. This century, hiphop took over with Het Verzet (Heerlen) and Zachte G (Maastricht).

That doesn’t mean that there are no good rock bands in the most southern parts of The Netherlands. On the contrary. Maastricht has a lively indie scene (Ghost Bag, Grapevine, Baby Galaxy, Bawrence of Aralia).

A Minor Problem is one of the rising stars in the Heerlen region. In 2018, they reach the finals of the local pop music challenge. Debut Houston, We Have a Problem (2015) was a blend of indie rock, punk and a bit of hardcore. The combination of the guitar riffs and vocals sometimes reminds me of Arctic Monkeys during the period of their debut album.

Good Grief is even more diverse and ranged from punky indie rock (early Green Day meets Arctic Monkeys) in opener ‘Talk About It’ and the energetic ‘Whatever’, over hardcore/punk fueled ‘Positivity’, to current single ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’ that combines all the elements and influences that makes A Minor Problem such a good rock band. Original? Maybe not, but the energy and directness of their indie-rock are extremely contagious. Don’t forget to listen to their self-titled debut album (2019) too. It’s here.

Good Grief by A Minor Problem is self-released.

The M-Town Rebels Talk podcast can be listened here (in Dutch).



One of the few positive aspects of the current covid19 lockdown, is that bedroom producers and musicians finally have the time to turn their experiments into songs. There is nothing else to do, right?

One of them is Goya van der Heyden, an art student at the Maastricht Institute of Arts and one of the curators of the experimental art space PAND in Heerlen, the city she grew up in. As GRAPEVINE, she has been making music for quite a long time, but not anything serious. Well, I mean: she didn’t released her musical sketches. Her backing vocals ramble the web on a couple of songs, like ‘In the Beginning was the World’ by Peter Polito.

Not able to use her studio at the academy, Van der Heyden was stuck at home with her musical equipment and ideas for songs in her head. To be honest, in the case of GRAPEVINE we are really lucky with the isolation and estrangement she went through during the lockdown. The result of that period is Intro: five relatively short tracks that reveal the enormous talent Van der Heyden has.

In a way, the tracks are still sketches. They blend different styles, moods, sounds and instruments. On the other hand: it is precisely this blend that makes this EP so extremely refreshing and promising. Van der Heyden musical dieet is broad, ranging from jazz to r&b, and capoeira to folk from Zimbabwe. They are added to the main ingredients of Intro: lo-fi hiphop, UK Grime, dreamy indie pop and triphop.

Although the main mood on the five songs is quite dark, melancholic and reflect her introvert mindset, there is room for experimental and even joyful play. Like in opener ‘Gelato 1’, where she adds field recordings of people skating, noises of busy boulevards and distant screaming on the beach. Sounds she recorded during her walks in her city Maastricht and probably Heerlen are present in all songs and give depth to the richness of moods her songs play with.

The most obvious influence on Intro is the lo-fi side of UK electronic music and new wave. Especially the way of singing, which is a mixture of talking, whispering, rapping and singing. The dark ‘Holdfast’ reminds of both ‘The City Never Sleeps’ by Eurythmics and MC 900 Ft Jesus’ ‘The City Sleeps’. It’s narcotic, dreadful and dreamy. In other songs The Streets, Farai Bukowski-Bouquet and Portishead resonate.

Like Mike Skinner of The Streets, Van der Heyden hails from a city that is know for its problematic social-economic situation. Both translate their background into a melancholic, gritty sound with a touch of irony to put things into perspective. But reality can sometimes be unmistakably cruel and direct. In ‘Bloodless’ she sings:

“Girl can’t you see
Bloodless people can’t be made to bleed
Not for you, not for me”

The five songs on Intro are her attempt to come to terms with this fact, and deeply buried within the songs, her disbelieve that it actually is the human condition. In contrast to the dark, melancholic mood, there is this openness, a glimpse of wonder, perfectly amplified by the lo-fi bedroom production of this EP (with help of Sachit Ajmani and Subp Yao).

In a way this freshness and honesty, reminds me of mixtape For Those I Love dropped last year. Intro has the same vibe, isn’t perfect either (in terms of perfect songs and production), but shows what incredible talent Van der Heyden has, not only as a musician but even more so as a story-teller who is able to blend styles, sounds, moods and beautiful lyrics to meaningful pop culture that modestly critiques our current society.

We definitely need more of this. Much more.

Intro by GRAPEVINE is self-released.