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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” – A “Dutchrocksampler” 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”, “Monster Movies”, or “For Your Pleasure” lurking in.

And I remember thinking, fucking hell”¦ 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 ”Ëœalternative 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”¦

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”“on effect and some really great acts would get the attention they deserve.”

Koen from Subroutine expounds this point: “Currently one of the most important TV shows, “De Wereld Draait Door” (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” but all these bands sound like the Kooks”¦ 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, ”Ëœdon’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 ”Ëœin crowd’. Take Noorderslag in Groningen ”“ 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 crème de la crème 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”¦ 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.”

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”¦ “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.”

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”¦ 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”¦

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”¦ 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 – https://www.myspace.com/zoppomusic
The Bent Moustache – https://www.thebentmoustache.com/
Suicidal Birds – https://www.myspace.com/suicidalbirdss
Moi Non Plus – https://www.myspace.com/themoinonplus
Space Siren – https://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
ZZZ https://www.soundofzzz.com/
Skipper www.myspace.com/skippermuzik
Sugarettes www.myspace.com/thesugarettes
Very Sexuals www.myspace.com/theverysexuals
Zea – https://www.zea.dds.nl/

Free rock noiseniks and aficionados of weird sounds should find their manna here:
Uw Hypotheek Advies www.myspace.com/uwhypotheekadvies
Harmweirda www.myspace.com/harmwierda
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
Accadians www.myspace.com/accadians
Ghiu www.myspace.com/ghiumusic
Spoelstra – https://www.myspace.com/spoelstralia
Katadreuffe – https://www.myspace.com/katadreuffe

Dance acts:
About www.myspace.com/aboutabout
DJ Marcelle www.anothernicemess.com

Subroutine www.myspace.com/subroutinerecords
Wham! Wham! www.myspace.com/whamwhamrecords
Excelsior Records www.myspace.com/excelsiorrecordings
Knife Slits Water www.myspace.com/knifeslitswater
Tegel www.myspace.com/tegelrecords
Kuriosa www.myspace.com/kuriosarecords
Tocado Records www.myspace.com/tocadorecords
Badmintone Records www.myspace.com/badmintonerecords
Narrominded – https://www.narrominded.com/

Out there / groovy-trendy clubs & organisations:
SUB071 https://www.myspace.com/SUB071
Subbacultcha www.myspace.com/therealsubbacultcha
De Nieuwe Anita www.myspace.com/nieuweanita
OCCII www.myspace.com/occii
Wot Nxt www.myspace.com/wotnxt
Vera www.myspace.com/veraclubgroningen
Exit www.exit.nl

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

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Don’t forget about the louder bands like Toner Low myspace.com/tonerlow (touring through europe every couple of months) still one of the best dutch/european stoneract around with beautifull records and all DIY. But also one-man electro act like Spoelstra myspace.com/spoelstralia who travels holland and abroad with his suitcase. There is some much going on that everybody just ignores completly a friend of mine Manuel managed to do this amazing underground noise venue a couple of years ago where every big noise/improv act showed up (chris corsano, jack rose, ducktales everything, mudboy and more and more) the shows and posters (by Zeloot) were amazing but only 50 people showed up on a regular base which made it almost inpossible to maintain the night. So they had to stop … for a year because the loved the music to much and are currently doing shows all over The Hague again! So I agree there is a lot going on in Holland just put in a little effort and you never want to leave the country again ;)

  2. dB’s in Utrecht bro! not your run-of-the-mill, lo-risk, thirteen in a dozen NL venue… and on the garage pop side Stilettos & Keefmen (out now on Dirty Water Records) may not remain unnamed!

  3. @Richard that sure was Hellbaard after the huishoudschool did a couple of shows in a former church and after that most of the people ended up at the Villa (which still is around). Also check out the guys Kleefstra/Kleefstra (soundcloud/com/dekleef) with the groups of friends (Greg Haines, Garreth Davis, Machinefabriek, Bella Emerson and much much more)

  4. good 2 hear someone put the dutch music situation so eloquently – there r however sum great underground bands doing D.I.Y – fuuuuk the industry !!!

  5. Richie, looks good… but you missed the mathrockers of Boutros Bubba!
    For Folky stuff; check: This Leo Sunrise, Port of Call, Bird, Cpt. Badass, Moi Le Voisin, Long Conversations, The Black Atlantic, I am Oak, Bardt van der Lee, Kim Jansen, and probably LOADS more… :)

  6. Nice article & thanks for mentioning Narrominded and some of our bands! I invite the noiserockers amongst you to also check out the Fine China Superbone EP (free download), or the recently released Gone Bald album. The electro-acoustic peoples might want to have a listen to the new Puin+Hoop album (free download as well). I also can definitely recommend the labels Enfant Terrible, Esc.Rec and Lomechanik.

  7. Damn! I lived in Amsterdam 3 years ago and didn’t manage to find out the decent local stuff. Any cool bars to go too where people like good music?

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