Voicst: Interview @ Bang Bang Club 31.10.2009
Last Saturday evening, I sat down in the basement of Bang Bang Club with Tjeerd (guitar, vox), Joppe (drums), and Sven (bass, vox); the three gentlemen who make up the indie rock band Voicst. After the initial chaos caused by Joppe tumbling out of a collapsing red velvet chaise lounge he had found in the corner, we got down to business.
Brit: Let's start off with band origin, how long have you been together and how did you all meet?
Tjeerd: Well, we were in a band in high school, for a like a year-ish, but it was really a high school band, no pretensions, just having fun, it was great though. Then we didn't see each other for a couple years. Then we met up again in 2001-2002, and that's basically when it, for me, when it started.
B: You are described as a three-piece band, how do you explain the contributions from the baritone sax, etc?
T: It was basically, after the first record, which was just the three of us, and the three of us touring a lot in Holland but also all over the world, that we really felt that we had to do something new, you know to expand our horizons, and, yeah, explore really. So that's when we made a record, actually not with these people, but with these elements. There were horns on the record, there were electronics on the record, there were more guitar parts than one. So in the end, to play live we needed and wanted to do that as well. Yeah, so it's funny it's like they've become real band members in a way, we feel more and more that they're really part of it, but this is what it is here [gesturing to Joppe and Sven], this is the band.
B: You have been touring a lot, where did you guys go and how did that affect the next album?
Joppe: Well, we tried to get shows everywhere, and funnily enough we got some as well. We got some shows in the US, like CMJ, and did some shows around that. Which lead us to meet some other people, who got us into other shows.
T: Which lead us to other shows....
J: So we played all of Europe, couple of times, three times.
T: Five or six tours, we all did day jobs at the time, so we would get a phone call, and they would say, there's this band that's touring 2-3 weeks in Europe, and it's starting next week...
J: And then we would be on tour for 3 weeks, and then while you're on tour, you get a call that there's another band to open for, and it starts as soon as your back, so WHILE you're on tour you have to call up your boss and say, ‘Um it's gonna be another three or four weeks'. So we had to leave our jobs. And then we got more experience, we became tighter as a band.
B: So how did all this touring affect your music?
T: All this touring made us not want to do the same thing. We were touring, it was just us drums, guitars and bass, kicking ass, arsche. In a way what was more important for this new record was the setback that we got when we stopped playing, because we were like, how many shows can you do on one record? Going all over was great, but at a certain point it was time for new music again. It was definitely enough, so we went home and we were like, ok now we're going to make a new record. It was also being in the cycle of touring and it's great but it's quite one dimensional. It's great, but it also tends to be hard. I'm getting better, but it's hard to read a book or keep in touch with reading newspapers and keeping up with what's happening in the world. So touring, it's great, but it's also quite one dimensional.
B: Do you have great catastrophes, where something happens and you can't make it to a show?
T: Well, you [to Sven] missed one show. The tree incident.
Sven: This was last year we were playing a festival in France, Eurofuchs. And we drove down the night before, and we were all out drinking and I fell out of a tree after climbing into it with our trumpet player.
B: Was it, by chance, a coconut tree?
S: No, it was a nice tree but with small limbs, and I grabbed one of the small limbs with two hands, and fell like 4 meters down, and broke my back. So I went home, slept on it, and the next morning woke up and was so fucked up, so I went to the hospital and they said, well, your back is broken. And then like 2 minutes before the show started, I hobbled on stage and the tour manager had set everything up, and I got up there and played the bass. Played a show I don't even remember. And then we called Jamie, and then she played bass the next night somewhere in Denmark.
T: And so this is a good story. We were in France, and then we had the next day a show in Denmark, so it was literally 24 hours before the show. So we found out that Sven couldn't make it, he couldn't drive there.
S: Well, in order to get from the show in France to Denmark we had to drive like 24 hours and I didn't want to sit down in the car for so long.
T: It was impossible, it was too unhealthy. Shit. And then we were like how are we going to find somebody to learn the set in 24 hours AND drive from Holland to Denmark. So I called three people. And two people said, ‘well I can only think of one person, and it's this girl called Jamie, and she lives in Amsterdam.' And she now plays keyboards with us, and that's how we first met. And she learned the whole set, it was crazy.
B: Where has been your favorite place to play?
T: I'm gonna have to name a few, but I think that Sarajevo was definitely one that the energy there was really special, and Tokyo, it was also really special.
J: I liked Germany, I don't remember where it was but we were on tour with the Presidents [of the United States of America], and there was this show, I don't think that I was drunk, but I think I do remember correctly that we got a "we want more!" maybe it was only 2 guys in a corner, but it was nice, the Germans were very enthusiastic, I liked them.
S: Italy was funny ‘cause we played in a disco, yeah.
T: It's hard cause you ask from which perspective, as in the biggest show, we played this really big show in Holland at a festival, we played a big show at Pink Pop festival, and it was insane from the "look at me being a rock star" perspective, you know what I mean? But then there's like a disco in Italy with like 200 people who were really weird, so it depends.
S: Japan, and I liked Sarajevo, it was a small place like this but totally packed.
J: Oh WAY smaller.
S: Oh it was just so much fun.
B: What makes the experience special?
S: In Sarajevo it was the size of the stage, the heat, it's the things you have to overcome, where are we going to fit everything? And how are we going to amplify with nothing working, and then you just play a fun show and everyone's just dancing around.
J: And you're having fun with the people there.
T: And they don't have a lot of people coming through, they don't get a lot of attention from bands, because you know there's no money to be made. But again, there's really also the energy there is different because of all the shit that went down obviously. The people are really a bit fucked up, but it's really cool. I mean, sometimes in a negative way, but also in a really positive way. It's a weird combination, I felt it was like levenslust, "lust for life" with a very darkness and very depressed feeling, like it's never going to get better, and that together with the desire, "I want to live!" all in one.
J: There are these two extremes
T: But they somehow fit there, and they're both true. They are both really true, because there's a lot of corruption there and you experience insane things.
J: We also played another show in South Africa this summer
T: Oh yeah, that was cool!!
J: It was in this mining company, and it was just full of tiny little kids, and half of them probably didn't understand what we were saying. And we were there playing with basically nothing, like half a kit and something plugged into a PA, and they would be jumping up and down and singing and RAH!! That was really a lot of fun!
T: Yeah and dancing.
S: We had never played like this for kids before.
T: They were all dancing out like crazy.
S: The best part was when they were all singing in between when we were setting up. We just watched this on the way over, our keyboardist recorded it. The teacher started it I think, and then this little girl took over to lead she was like [singing] and the kids were like [repeating singing]. It was so cool! Have to ask, where are we? You can be standing there and you're playing. And some of these songs we know really well, and you don't have to think about what you're playing, and then suddenly you look around, and you're like, oh shit!! And it zooms in, it hits you, and you're like, oh man, I'm in South Africa in the middle of nowhere, and I'm playing for these little kids, and they're having so much fun, and WOAH! And then in Tokyo, and we would finish a song and everyone would clap and then... Silence. And no one's talking
J: They clap and they wait to see what the next song is, totally silent, they all wait for it.
B: To wrap it up, Tjeerd: what's your favorite word, in Dutch? And then the translation.
T: Favorite word in Dutch? Wow. Duurt lang, it means dauert lange, it means take a long time.
T: Because a lot of things take a long time.
J: Hurry up and wait, it's what happens to us on tour.
T: It's our job, to hurry up and wait. Hurry to the club, and then wait, and hurry and do sound check, and then wait: hurry up and wait.
B: OK, Joppe, how do you feel about breaking the fanciest chair at Bang Bang club?
J: Actually, maybe it's wrong, but I don't feel guilty, at all, well, maybe just a tiny little bit. But this one was so rocky and so crappy, but I think I'm just going to bend it straight again and then let someone else sit on it and then blame it on him...
S: I'm usually the one breaking chairs.
B: When was the last time you [Sven] broke a chair?
S: The last time I broke a chair, I think it was in a lawyers' office. It was the first time we went to our old lawyer in the US, big time lawyer, we walked in and said "hello, hello," and we all sat down, and I went *whew* right through the chair. And he said, "ah you fucking rock and rollers." And that was our first impression.
Interview by Brit-Maren Schjeide