• Atazia Hadjirouseva

Kelsey Coockson & Maurits Huijgen

I follow the bustling streets of De Pijp in Amsterdam into a bright, loft-style coffee bar (offering a pleasant vegan and gluten free menu) - Coffee & Coconuts. It’s been awhile since I had to wait in line (a line that I soon learn typically extends to outside, regardless of COVID hospitality etiquette) to get a seat at a cafe. But as someone who undeniably has a weak spot for good coffee, the line soon explains itself to be well worth the wait.

Savouring each sip of my cappuccino, my heart smiles upon seeing two familiar faces whom I consider to be a true DIY power couple, Kelsey Coockson & Maurits Huijgen. I sit down across from them on an oversized couch that envelops me into this space. Into the comfort of sitting still. Inviting to take this moment, away from the distractions of the outside world. This year has seen many hearts ache. But as the vibrations of glasses clinking, forks hitting plates, and thoughts meeting verbalization ring in my ears, to the sharing and exchanging of palettes of emotions that arise, I believe many hearts have been warmed and held this year. That these moments perhaps have held more value in comparison to years prior, and have shone through the veil of this year. “We were in Paris to film a music video three days before the lockdown. We left on Monday, and on Thursday or Friday the lockdown started” explains Maurits. “Then we had time to edit the video,” Kelsey chimes in.

Maurits: “That’s what we thought was the positive side to lockdown, because I had a massive tour planned with a band till the beginning of May. And finally, we thought, ‘we can finish our work and release two singles!’ Then we dropped dead. The run into the quarantine was pretty harsh. One month before they announced the lockdown my Mom passed away. And then one week after the funeral we released the first single of this year, ‘Not Scared’, as that was already planned. We thought, ‘we can’t stop, we worked really hard for that.’ We kept on going, kept on going, kept on going. At the end of May we released the single, and then somewhere in the middle of June we broke down. For about two months.” Kelsey: “I hit a wall. I worked really, really hard. I was so tired. I didn’t have the energy to do it myself. We have wanted to do way more, but I didn’t have the energy to do it. Half the time I would just be in bed actually. It’s funny, cause on social media I would still post - and you wouldn’t necessarily see it, [the thing with social media is that] you could be down or depressed and no one really sees it. So that can be difficult. It was the acknowledgement of it, that I couldn’t get out of bed. And he acknowledged it for me, that it sounded like I was depressed. And I thought, ‘maybe he’s right.’

It was kind of challenging at times, especially because it’s like it’s never enough. Especially when you are a freelancer and you have to motivate yourself – so we had to motivate each other. Which, I find pretty hard sometimes. But we do it and that’s the thing, I always manage to find a way to get going again…”

Maurits: “…especially if there’s a deadline. And it was that one day she just said, ‘I decided not to be depressed anymore.’” Kelsey: “It was accepting it, seeing the situation. Looking at the situation for what it really is. Like ‘okay, I feel that way, but I mean the only thing I can do is do things again.’ Day by day.” Maurits: “It started to get me into a bit of that depressed feeling as well, but what I really feel is that you really do encourage each other. That if one of you is happy, the other starts to feel lifted up by that. I have it less, the depressed feeling. But I was down. And when she was feeling heavier, then I thought ‘okay, I’ll be heavier as well’. Sometimes it’s hard to shut out, and be able to stay on your own path. It’s something we are learning." We acknowledge this form of empathy. How when you are close to someone, how easy and how natural it can be to take on what they feel, too.

Maurits: "I kind of feel that we’re going into a time of more energy now, 2 weeks ago was like the low point where we were tired all day, and then after that we said ‘okay, let’s go.’

It’s also good to say to yourself, ‘okay I’m not feeling okay, I gotta take time for myself.’ Cause otherwise you’re fighting against it, you’re struggling – ‘I want to work, but I don’t feel good’ - you’re not getting anything out of it.

It’s a blessing in disguise that we…”

Kelsey: “…had the lockdown, that we could take a break. Even though I find it really hard to take a break. As in, now I have a new project - and now I’m like ‘what am I doing to myself?’ Cause’ I was thinking to myself that I wanted to make products - and was thinking, what do I use? Soap bars. Shampoo bars. The thing is that when I do something, I can’t just do a small piece of it. I want to do it all. I’m really black and white like that - I either do it or I don’t."

The calendar month at the time of this interview is September. Since then, the couple has released their products – having made beautiful holiday gift boxes just in time for Christmas. Aside from creating an entire vegan cosmetics line, how else had the couple managed through 2020?

Kelsey & Maurits created a Vegan Test Panel during the first lockdown

Maurits: “It’s hard to give a tip for quarantine…” Kelsey: “Well yeah, get out of bed,” they both lightheartedly laugh. “I think that’s the most important.” Maurits: “And have a rhythm.”

Kelsey: “Once we drag ourselves out, we start working. Sometimes – not always. A friend of mine does marketing and promo, and we feel more accountable to need to finish projects and be on time. It also gives me a bit of rest. That’s why I look forward to building a team.

After six months we’re now starting to feel like we would like more space. Cause it’s so important to have space for yourself, especially when you haven’t had that. When it comes to writing I’m good at writing on my own and I haven’t had much time on my own since quarantine started. I wrote some things but I hadn’t written full songs. I played bits and pieces, and usually those bits and pieces come together, but it doesn’t feel good when you’re an artist.”

Maurits: "Normally I have so much work that I’m away three or four days per week. So then you have space for yourself. She can be at home, writing, I’m on the road - and then we can be together for a couple days per week and do some fun things together."

Kelsey: "Now we’re together in our 45m² space for 24 hours a day."

Maurits: “We work together a lot - we just

thought ‘we’re good at this’. For us, we’re working together, and we are in a relationship; working together in that way too – it’s intertwined. It’s frequently about work, because there’s always something to do. There’s always the next video, or photo, or song. Some days we need to let it go and say ‘okay, today we aren’t going to do anything work related.’ Which, that can be hard.” Kelsey nods in agreement.

Kelsey: “I have a lot of ideas. I have too many ideas. I need to go to a place where I think ‘okay now I’m going to work on this project for three months, and then I’m going to work on this project’ cause now I like doing everything at once, at the same time." Kelsey: “And I was training for a half marathon; it didn’t go through but…”

Maurits: “…we started running straight after quarantine started. We thought ‘gyms are closed, so we have to do something to stay in shape,’ so we did our running for about 8 weeks [through the streets of Amsterdam].”

Kelsey: “And then we started preparing for the next single."

Kelsey: "We laugh a lot; we talk a lot. We do everything ourselves." Maurits: “We’re quite relaxed with each other. It shows in the not fighting, not being too emotional and not saying things to each other that we don’t want to say.”

Kelsey: “We’ve been there at the beginning of the relationship. We had to go through a lot. I don’t like to attach myself to others, I have this thing with trust. It’s accepting that the other one is around, that it’s okay - but you still need to work on it.”

Kelsey: "It’s finding the balance.”

Kelsey Coockson [@kelseycoockson] and Maurits Huijgen [@mauritshuijgen] reside in Amsterdam, The Netherlands Check out their latest single 'Sabotage' here:

Photography + Editing by Atazia Hadjirouseva [@atazia.pavlina] and Maurits Huijgen [@mauritshuijgen]