For too long Holland has looked at the UK for its bands when right under its nose there is a vibrant scene of great bands of its own argues Richard Foster
“The boy looked at Johan”Â – A “Dutchrocksampler”Â for the uninitiated…
It all started back in July 2006 on a burning hot day at Rotterdam’s Metropolis festival. I was hanging round a stage, waiting for a young band called De Nieuwe Vrolijkheid, (translation: The New Cheerfulness), who I’d been tipped off about. Once they’d shuffled onstage, had a couple of internal slanging matches and made it clear to all watching that they couldn’t care less if no-one bothered watching them at all, they proceeded to kick out a god-awful sound; inhabiting some dark space you’d expect to find “Scream Thy Last Scream”Â, “Monster Movies”Â, or “For Your Pleasure”Â lurking in.
And I remember thinking, fucking hell”Â¦ what was that about?
The following year sadly saw the demise of De Nieuwe Vrolijkheid. In many ways, however, they were the harbingers of the current growth of a new ”Ëalternative to the alternative’ scene music in Holland, prompted in part by the duo formed from the Vrolijkheid’s ashes, Appie Kim. This scene is remarkable not only for the quality of the music – and the sheer number of groups – but also for the creation of a very accessible, fluid sound; inspiration for which harks back to the mid-60s U.S. garage & psych scene, 70s bubblegum pop and the Neue Deutsche Welle/Industrial movement in equal measure.
Sounds good, eh? Well, not if you’re Dutch”Â¦
Frankly, the Dutch musical mainstream doesn’t know and frankly doesn’t care what’s going on under its nose. Holland looks to Britain’s music scene – often to an unhealthy degree – for solid commercial reasons. The Paradiso in Amsterdam will be packed for any event like London Calling, where young, hyped and often undercooked UK bands are paraded in front of a trend-seeking crowd, like a prize bull calf being judged at a livestock fair. The Dutch like trends; they can make money from them. After all, why go to the effort of creating and promoting something new when a ready-made, highly promoted product (however shit) regularly turns up on your doorstep?
Here’s Niek from brilliant underground label Subroutine:
“If there was the same enthusiasm, support and interest for Dutch bands as there was for all those Belgian bands during the mid-nineties, or the same support for local talent that you see with French and German bands, then there would be a noticeable knock”âon effect and some really great acts would get the attention they deserve.”Â
Koen from Subroutine expounds this point: “Currently one of the most important TV shows, “De Wereld Draait Door”Â (The World Turns) has a new band on every week, BUT only shows one minute of the song live: it’s easy for them to say, “we give so much more attention to young bands than any other media outlet”Â but all these bands sound like the Kooks”Â¦ The main radio show here, 3FM radio is focussing on easy, commercial talent and the mainstream here is strongly supported from the Dutch saying ‘doe maar normaal dan doe je al gek genoeg’ ,which translates as, ”Ëdon’t be crazy, normal is crazy enough’.
When John Peel was still alive (the brilliant) Suicidal Birds did two sessions, nobody was looking or interested. Suddenly everything is about (commercial) success abroad because of the decline of government subsidies. But even so there is a bit of a snob scene and a disinterest in discovering new talent that falls outside of the accepted mainstream, or ”Ëin crowd’. Take Noorderslag in Groningen ”â the accepted showcase for new Dutch talent: if you are not playing Saturday night, nobody is watching, listening or writing because Noorderslag supposedly brings the crÃÂ¨me de la crÃÂ¨me of new music and functions as a necessity to achieve ANYTHING in NL. So last year when they missed out on The Black Atlantic it was kinda embarrassing”Â¦ since this band is playing 100+shows in the USA with hard work. They were booked this year, but their record is from 2009 and nobody cared.”Â
But there’s a bristling determination on behalf of some of the new Dutch underground to plough their own furlough in the face of national indifference: Chris, the teenage bass player of Daily Bread explains”Â¦ “They (Dutch people) want a safety net. They wanna talk about music people know. But we think differently, we are a different generation. We don’t think a whole lot of the mainstream Dutch scene. Our music is very underground, but it’s also very poppy so maybe we can ride this audience.”Â
What makes this musical renaissance more remarkable is the lack of a coherent underground scene. Maybe it’s just the small number of people involved”Â¦ Still, there are a set of clubs & squat bars willing to put on independent acts. And luckily, this lack of coherence has allowed the bands to work out sounds and ideas regardless of current trends. After all, if you’re going to play in front of 30 people, you might as well do what you want”Â¦
It’s still hard to take in that this increasingly conservative country could be a well-spring of such good underground music. Two years ago even, the idea was laughable, and still is in most hip quarters. And I think it can safely be said that the beetle-browed, track-suited legions of British youth don’t come to Amsterdam for the underground scene that has exploded this last 2 to 3 years”Â¦ Having said that, what the fuck? Let’s not waffle on. The proof is in the pudding. Here’s a list of bands, clubs and record labels for you to peruse at your leisure.
Here are some acts infused with a garage pop/psych vibe
Rats on Rafts www.myspace.com/ratsonrafts
Pony Pack www.myspace.com/ponypack
Vox von Braun www.myspace.com/voxvonbraun
Appie Kim www.myspace.com/appiekim
AC Berkheimer, www.myspace.com/acberkheimer
Hospital Bombers www.myspace.com/hospitalbombersatmyspace
The No Goods www.myspace.com/lekkerebeat
Daily Bread www.myspace.com/dailybreadtheband
Zoppo – http://www.myspace.com/zoppomusic
The Bent Moustache – http://www.thebentmoustache.com/
Suicidal Birds – http://www.myspace.com/suicidalbirdss
Moi Non Plus – http://www.myspace.com/themoinonplus
Space Siren – http://www.myspace.com/spacesiren
Here’s some underground pop: from chaotic to punk to whimsical to M.O.R.
Roy Santiago www.myspace.com/roysantiago
Very Sexuals www.myspace.com/theverysexuals
Zea – http://www.zea.dds.nl/
Free rock noiseniks and aficionados of weird sounds should find their manna here:
Uw Hypotheek Advies www.myspace.com/uwhypotheekadvies
Eklin, (formed from the ashes of the Late, Great Adept) www.myspace.com/adeptadept
Julie Mittens www.myspace.com/juliemittens
Bonne Aparte www.myspace.com/bonneaparte
Spoelstra – http://www.myspace.com/spoelstralia
Katadreuffe – http://www.myspace.com/katadreuffe
Wham! Wham! www.myspace.com/whamwhamrecords
Excelsior Records www.myspace.com/excelsiorrecordings
Knife Slits Water www.myspace.com/knifeslitswater
Tocado Records www.myspace.com/tocadorecords
Badmintone Records www.myspace.com/badmintonerecords
Narrominded – http://www.narrominded.com/
Out there / groovy-trendy clubs & organisations:
De Nieuwe Anita www.myspace.com/nieuweanita
Wot Nxt www.myspace.com/wotnxt
Links to interviews with heroes of the Dutch underground
Interview with Marcel van Schooten of SUB071
Interview with Christelle Gualdi of OMSOURCE
Interview with Wymer Vaastra of Vox Von Braun
Interviwe with Natasha van Waardenburg of Appie Kim & de Nieuwe Vroolijkheid