Noise of The Netherlands
European music certainly carries a different tone to that from the UK and America. It can sometimes be hard to scan across the nations and scout out the few artists that might be your cup of tea. However, if there is one place to start your search then it is definitely The Netherlands. With a thriving lo-fi, bedroom Indie scene, the country has a high density of high quality young artists producing UK accessible yet appropriately distinctive music for English Indie fans to latch onto. It is without doubt the best place to find your next favourite underground artist outside of the UK so we have compiled a few of our top picks to set you on your way.
Kicking us off is the vibrant Indie pop of Blanks. One of the biggest artists coming out of The Netherlands right now and certainly someone to keep tabs on with his debut album in the works. It is not only the loveable summer roadtrip tracks that he produces that have gained him his following but it is the entire package. He is at the forefront of the next wave of young Indie artists harnessing their online support to the best of their ability. From creating songs with his Insta followers to offering online music lessons and shedding light on the entire process behind songwriting, keeping up to date with Blanks offers so much more than just some funky pop bangers. So we caught up to find out about his music and his love for finding new ways to engage with fans.
How would you describe your music to any newcomers - what kind of moments do you make music for?
"Upbeat, fresh, indie pop with a nostalgic feel to it! Made for those moments you’ll always remember: that first summer holiday with friends, that amazing roadtrip in the rented van, and the song you played on repeat all summer".
Can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind your latest single ‘What You Do To Me’ and how you went about creating the track?
"I was falling in love around the time I wrote the track, so I played around with this idea of making a chorus that feels exactly like that. Like an explosion of feelings in your stomach. So I started with that idea, came up with the chorus, and worked from there".
Quite a few of your songs place emotive, melancholic lyrics such as “Catch me overthinking, looking for the reasons why I’m getting so tired” into your trademark upbeat summer sound - how do you balance this contrast and do you feel it is therapeutic for you/fans to express internal worries and anxieties in such a euphoric and positive way?
"It’s definitely therapeutic for me! It feels really good to capture what you’re feeling (happy or sad) in a lyric. I feel like a song that sounds happy but has more meaningful lyrics than expected are more interesting. I love it when I can listen to a song that is a good vibe, but when I listen to the lyrics there is also something interesting going on there!".
How did you find the process of writing a new track ‘Dance Alone’ during lockdown?
"It felt so natural, go with the flow! I wrote the guitar riff on my couch, wrote the chorus to that the next day in the studio, and finished the song the day after that. I feel like the song just fell out of me. And fun fact: when I came up with the chorus, I didn’t really like it. It wasn’t until the next day that I thought: wait, this is actually awesome!!".
Have you found lockdown restrictive or has it allowed you time to experiment and create?
"For me it allowed me to experiment and create! I wrote Dance Alone the 3 day after lockdown I think? And I wrote so many songs last year, learning and getting better at my craft: I love it! I wasn’t able to play live shows, but I feel like I got extra practice and I’m also better at that now haha".
How did you find working with Alfie Templeman and did you learn anything from creating a song with him?
"Alfie is a great guy! We had a lot of fun during the session, and his energy reminded me of the fact that whilst writing a song, the best you can do is go with the flow! If you get too much in your head while writing a song, it will most of the time be less good than if you just do what feels good, and Alfie is really good at that".
You seem to have a love for collaboration with your ‘INVITES’ series and making a song with your instagram followers - what do you get out of collaborating that you don’t when creating music alone?
"Collaborating is just so interesting, you get exposed to so many ideas you probably won’t come up with yourself, and I love that".
How do you think your time in The Netherlands has impacted your musical perspective and influenced your style?
"I feel like the fact that I speak Dutch and not English as native language, influences my songwriting. I word things differently than English-speaking writers would do".
Who are your favourite dutch artists right now?
"Froukje! She has great lyrics and really unique sounds. And Meau, amazing voice and great songwriter, and I have the pleasure of working with her on some of her songs".
What have you got in store for the rest of 2021?
"A ‘Blanks’ album! New YouTube concepts! Songs I worked on for other people! Basically, more of everything, but then better haha".
The retro Indie sounds of solo performer Eelke carry a nostalgic yet noticeably contemporary feel, combining the kind of vocal tones and strong riffs that have been offered by past rock legends with a modern, intricate energy. After a steady stream of singles trailing back to 2016, he has finally released his debut album 'Mirror' this year and, although it contains just 7 tracks, it perfectly encapsulates what makes him stand out.
The tracks aren't just full of neat melodies, hooks that stick in your head and engaging bouts of instrumental playfulness, but also a certain level of poignancy. The guitars in songs like 'I'm A Man' and 'Too Much Too Soon' emanate a tone that triggers something in your stomach and that makes you want to get up and be apart of it. It makes you wish you were on stage belting the words, jamming away on the drums, getting into the groove of the tension building riffs or at the very least in the crowd moshing to every note.
However, having said this, many of his tracks fall on the calmer and more methodical side of music. It is plain to see that he is a songwriter at heart as, however energetic his tracks get, they still demand that you listen to his words and appreciate the emotive impact of the audio in any given moment. Now, with a debut album out in the world Eelke stands along with the very best Dutch musicians at this time.
Next up we take an introspective turn with Amsterdam's producer/singer-songwriter Musha and her atmospheric EP 'Fragments'. Although the EP itself is more a collection of her singles she has been working on over the years she says herself that it reflects "the process of searching my place in this world. This EP is a big step for me personally. It is about finding an inner connection of parts of me that were lost and putting those pieces together. It is about the importance of being whole and embracing who you are".
Musically, the release focuses on the electronic textures to build up a subtle yet all encompassing sound that invites you to shut your eyes and let yourself be drawn into the dream like contemplations of each track. Her ethereal vocals are reminiscent of Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell at times and only further the trance like effect that the songs have. However, her vocals really come to life on 'Better Chances' as they play off the tension building bass line and head bopping beat. They dance between drawn out haunting notes and quick paced vocal phrasing that slips around the electronic rhythm and creates a really nice layered track that uses her vocals as just one pat of a much bigger sonic landscape.
DIY duo Gravity Circus have to be one of the most prolific new artists coming out of the country, with 5 singles released back in 2019, 4 last year and 1 already this year with two lined up to be released in May. However, this isn't a case of releasing music for the sake of it. Each track hits with a big impact, from the sing-a-long coastal aroma of 'Room for Heartache' to the dirty, riff-driven darkness of 'Chupacabra'.
Their succinct, electro influenced production on top of their natural big Indie sound has become their trademark and their latest single 'Loser Attitude' is a good example of what is to come in the next month for the pair. The funky guitar and intricate drum patterns give a glimpse into 'Tension', a dreamy, swaying single that is arriving in 2 weeks time just in time for the summer months. Meanwhile the punchy vocal delivery and electronic guitar impulses are a sign of what their follow up single 'Shaky Little Dice Roll' has in store. Gritty vibes, driven by a raw energy and delivered with a tasty level of arrogance to create a huge rock stomper. Versatility is definitely a strong point with these two but whatever sound they plump for next you guarantee it will be just as enticing as the last.
EUT caught our attention back in 2018 with three timeless singles from their debut album that have yet to slip out of rotation on our Spotify. You can hear hints of the American coast packed tightly into the Amsterdam city. Yet there was something else that really made their singles distinctive - the peculiar use of electronic backing with talkbox esc vocals hidden in 'Bad Sweet Pony' and the digital voice over placed in 'Crack The Password'. This intriguing production matched with the irresistible chorus' meant that we were waiting in anticipation for their follow up record.
Lucky for us it didn't disappoint. Their new album 'Party Time' delivers just what it says on the tin, a string of tracks made for an Amsterdam Indie flat party. The strange use of sounds is present once again and perhaps even more effectively. The electronic string like stabs in 'What Gives You The Kicks' provide an unsettling pause before diving into the euphoric riff and the sonic glitches provide that disjointed feel of a messy night out. Overall the record is littered with simplistic satisfaction as well as Indie experimentation (read our full review) and solidifies them as one of the most interesting European acts. So, we caught up with them for a chat over lockdown to see what gives them the kicks.
What did you learn from the release of your first album?
"We thought it would be better to release it in the end of the winter, begin spring time so the record would be fresh for the summer festival season. But sadly there is no festival summer this year. HAHAHA. Also on the first record we recorded everything separately. And made it super produced. This time we really wanted to catch more or the rawness and we tracked a lot of songs all together so it has more of a live vibe and I think we all love it more".
How do you think you have changed musically/personally in this time?
"We are still the same people and we wrote the record in the year after the first one so we haven’t changed that much. But I think the next one is gonna be a bit different. This lockdown we had a lot of time..".
Why did you decide to call the new record 'Party Time'?
"All the songs are about partying your troubles away, The album cover is literally an example of Megan who fell off her bike, while celebrating her birthday during the first lockdown. She went to all her friends by bike so they could be together. Back then you could still see each other if you were with 3 people. And everyone wanted to make something out of these weird times, and wanted to celebrate, whenever possible. After all this time we have build up this feeling, and the need to go out again and be able to see our friends and meet new friends and lovers is had become such a burden".
"We though the lockdown would be over by now, so the title Party Time feels really double. For now people have to party their troubles away in quarantine, but we WILL meet again, and we will save all the energy for you to share".
What is your perfect party? Does the sound of the album reflect this?
"We like it when parties are messy and too crowded. We need music that bounces to dance to, and a lot of drinks/food".
Do you think Amsterdam has a unique musical identity?
"There are a lot of indie bands in Amsterdam, and the scene is very tight. A lot of our friends play in multiple bands at the same time and everyone knows and supports each other".
What is your musical relationship with the UK?
"We all love music from the UK, we grew up in the 90s so we listened a lot to Britpop songs like Blur, the Verve, The Spice Girls, Oasis and Robbie Williams. I think they’ve inspired us a lot. And our manager lives in London!".
Who are your favourite new artists from The Netherlands?
"Froukje, Banji & Personal Trainer".
Rotterdam's self taught producer Noa Silver, dances across areas of hip-hop and bedroom pop delving deep into each track with his electronic toolkit. He has released a selection of easy going groove led singles that showcase his work nicely, yet his full potential has come to the surface in a new collaboration with Singer Songwriter Robyn Florence and Indie Rapper Equivocal. Together the trio have concocted the EP 'Salt Wave' that is rich both instrumentally and lyrically.
Robyn's smooth, soulful harmonies bring an overriding warmth to the tracks so that however far you get dragged into Equivocal's fast paced lyrical rhythms, you are never too far from the soothing comfort of her ever-calming tones. The two voices compliment each other perfectly, darting in and out between harmonies and contrasts. Yet, Noa Silver never allows them to relax them too much with their vocal interplay. His beats carry the songs and give them a layer of depth that separates them from similar Indie Hip-Hop you might come across. The best example is probably the later side of the title track, where Noa's scratchy textures and harsh brass stabs never let you settle, providing a sour shot into the soothing hot chocolate taste of his collaborators vocals'. As the temperature begins to rise, get outside, get away from the noise and just sit and let 'Salt Wave' wash over you in the summer air.
With the recent craze of introspective bedroom pop coming from female artists such as Phoebe Green & Chloe Moriondo it is easy to see why Dutch/Indonesian songwriter VVARD (Verena Ward) has found herself shining in the last 12 months. Her recent releases have culminated in her latest EP 'Im So Tired'. Musically her sounds are supremely smooth as she paints over her dreamy electronic beats with her delicately powerful vocals.
However, what really impresses on the new EP is the emotive range she generates. 'Touch You' is a refreshingly honest opener which acts as a great introduction to her lyrics which often reflect the most basic yet most sincere and endearing inside thoughts. Yet it isn't absent of passion, with the backing vocal effects delivering a little dose of angst into the mix reminiscent of Biig Piig. 'Toast' is the perfect nighttime driving soundtrack with the simple question "Do you wanna get high?" building to a euphoric ending. It is the most uplifting part on the EP, evoking memories of those care free summer nights spent singing along to your favourite songs with your closest mates. Having said this, 'Twizzlers' has to be the EP's highlight. It sees VVARD at her most vulnerable and most vocally proficient. In contrast to 'Toast' which is certainly meant to be sung with friends, 'Twizzlers' is definitely a song for listening solo. It is a track to put on when your self confidence is lacking and your spending a quiet moment in your room. Just lay back and let the soothing pop beats and vocal textures lift your spirits and have you ready for the more intense EP ender and title track 'I'm So Tired' when it comes around.
Perhaps the perfect embodiment of Dutch music, Indie rocker Pip Blom offers a grainy DIY aesthetic. Although it is her solo project it carries a definite band feel with every element playing just a big of a part as Pip's vocals. Their debut album 'Boat' arrived back in 2019 and maintained the grungy DIY charm of their early demo's yet showcased their huge talent. Tracks combined fun riffs with sometimes melancholic, dark tones that dug underneath their happy Indie exterior. Even though she hasn't released music in a while we couldn't not include her in our list. So, we had a quick chat to find out what's happening for the future of Pip Blom.
How did it feel to finally release your debut album back in 2019?
"It was super exciting and also a bit frightening. You've been working on something very long and aren't sure if anyone is going to like it. Luckily for us the response was really good! We spent the whole of 2019 touring the record and that was just awesome".
What did you learn from the process of releasing your first record?
"I think we learned a lot in the whole process, he hadn't really done anything like it before and lots of stuff was new to us. Things like: how to record a proper record in the studio, what choices you like or don't want to make. But also more practical things like: mixing a record whilst being on tour isn't ideal".
How is the writing process different when writing for a second album rather than before your first?
"I don't think it has been massively different compared to the first album. It did feel a lot more like a our project this time around, we made many more conscious decisions and we rehearsed a lot more too. With Boat, two months before we were supposed to go into the studio our bass player left the band, so it was quite stressful to go into the studio with a new bass player that we didn't really know. That was completely different this time around of course as we've been playing together a lot the last few years".
How have you navigated lockdown and managed to stay productive?
"We rehearsed a lot during the lockdown and also recorded the album together. It wasn't too bad as we really got to focus on making the record sound the way we wanted it to sound and paying full attention to that".
What can you tell us about any new music in the works? How are things sounding? Are you sticking with your trademark
"It won't be long before we're going to start release singles and work our way towards releasing our new record. We're super excited about it and hope everyone will like the album. I think it's still really a 'Pip Blom' record. It's melancholic and energetic at the same time. We tried to capture the live energy of the band a bit more this time around and i think that worked out pretty well".
In what way do you think music from The Netherlands has its own distinctive sound?
"I'm not sure if there is a distinctive Dutch sound. The most popular genre of music in the Netherlands is, like everywhere else, pop music and it's very international-focused. The scene we're in is more indie, but i would say doesn't differ too much from UK music scene".
Who are your favourite dutch artists right now?
"Definitely Personal Trainer".
If you haven't been swayed already by what we've had to offer then 1) Our blog probably isn't the place for you 2) Then we have one last tasty morsel to get you up and dancing to the sound of The Netherlands. Located in the relatively small city of Venlo, the 4 Dutch badboys (Their words not ours!) that make up The Awkward have a truck load of party vibes and 80s synths to get you in the mood to have fun.
They have landed in 2021 strong with 3 singles to showcase what they're all about. We were first met by the funky bass driven stomper 'Back' that draws you in with the hip-swaying swagger of the groove before letting loose on its synth melody that makes up the after chorus and fires deep into your brain with a piercing tone. If this wasn't danceworhty enough then their latest single 'Dance The Night Away' lays it out even more in your face. Coming straight out of the traps with a brass/synth melody that is instantly infectious, the track describes just how the track's audio makes you feel. The lyrics "Feel the rhythm, move your feet" may seem simple but it is this simplicity that draws every ounce of feel-good energy out of the single. With the combined vocals of Cheri Addo the track packs a pure Indie dance sound that you can't help but smile to. So turn it up and dance the night away!
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