Where the heck do I find these bands eh?
Well. with Dutch trio Caesar I was just sitting around the house
when label foolishly offered to sling me in a hotel for the night
if only I went along to see them on that Melody Maker-sponsored
tour of dodgy Firkin pubs. Everybody has their price you know; and
it's boiling Camden boozer here I come! Luckily the band have a
sweet and spiky album in No Rest For The Lonely coming
across on a kind of Delgados meets Pavement tip. They have a mutual
appreciation society with the latter (more of which later), and
singing guitarist Roald Van Oosten kindly came down by the river
for a chat.
(predictably) Is this your first
time playing in the UK?
It is. The tour's been going pretty
good I guess, we've been playing well. It's a weird tour, all these
pubs, it's not like the regular circuit for indie bands. But at
first we haven't had a choice, so for us it's like a good start
to find ourselves an audience. We're kind of aware of what an opportunity
it is all the bad circumstances and all the shitty experiences
that come alone with it, like playing during a football game and
stuff. We'll survive that. No we're enjoying it.
No Rest is your second album
when did the first appear?
It came out in '95 I believe
I'm not sure and was restricted just to Holland. We tried
to get it over the borders but it failed, unfortunately. Not sure
why because it was a great album, just like this one!
Is there a marked difference in sound
between the two?
Yeah. I think at that point we were
basically an energy-based band, trying to write songs that give
you some kind of vitamin B feeling. They were especially based on
rhythm, simplicity. This new album is a lot more subtle I think
and we even tried to make it a little danceable, so that was new
for us, and that's really something we want to continue. I think
that's what makes us a bit different from a lot of other guitar
bands (in Holland) who mainly are influenced by bands like Husker
Du. We try to be influenced by a lot of thing; try to make it a
bit more groovy.
What would you say your prime influences
It's very hard to say because we're
not the type of band that spends a lot of time together apart from
when we have to work for the band, so it's like when you get together
to go to a gig you hear what other people are listening to. For
instance Sem (David Bakker bass) goes to see the Jesus
Lizard again, which I wouldn't dream of going and seeing, you know?
I like musical stuff, my favourite album is Jesus Christ Superstar
which by the way is a great album as far as grooves are concerned
and then we all share our preferences for bands like Pavement,
Sebadoh of course, Beck. Ween for their humour. A lot of
Nirvana I love as well, which we dare to say. It's not very fashionable
but it's there. I like the old REM stuff. Lots of things.
The album released here is different
to the Dutch version.
Yep. We thought it was a bit too
long for a debut album (which it is here). In Holland we can get
away with a lot of things. so we put on 14 tracks, among which were
some really strange tracks as well, some of my favourites. A couple
have been left out now so it's just a bit shorter and a bit more
easy to comprehend I think. And they're put it in a different order
we like to keep the good things for the end but in the UK
they like to start off with them, because people will listen to
the first one or two. The tracklisting in Holland was something
we chose after working with the album for too long a time. Over
here they had fresh ears and they've put it in a really brilliant
order. They took away some songs which is a shame, but they've already
put them back on the single. so we're happy with it.
Which do you prefer?
I must say I prefer the English
version. I mean I can hardly listen to the album anymore
I'd never play it anymore but the fact that it's shorter
makes it easier for me to listen to it.
Why do you only have half the song lyrics
on your sleeve?
It's not like those are the best
lyrics or anything, it's just that these are the hardest to understand
when you're listening to it, the others are easier to follow.
I'd have thought the lyrics to Stains
(a Lee & Nancy style duet with drummer Marit de Loos) would
be on there.
Aren't they? I've not seen
what they've done with the sleeve over here... (has a peep)
It's stupid. It's a choice you make and with Stains there's
a lot of repeating, the verse comes like five times and there are
only two choruses. We thought it's quite easy to follow, they'll
get it. Or keep it mystical! There's been a lot of gossip going
around in Holland, where we are just a slightly bit more famous,
so people tend to get more interested in the private things behind
What sort of level are you at in Holland?
We're at the level where you play
at the main festivals and get some national TV. It's been a big
thing that we won this prize it's called the Silver Harp
which is a lot of recognition for the album, and where we
sell about 5,000 albums. I always tend to compare to bands like
us, for instance that equals the sales of Pavement, we're really
happy with that. We're not a big commercial band, but it's like
we're a big underground band, especially at the moment, it's been
going on for like two months. We've had so much press it's kind
of ridiculous. And now they've also put our single on daytime radio
which is great for us because radio in Holland is like tile worst,
maybe apart from Italy. Even in Belgium they have proper radio stations.
Speaking of Pavement, you appear to have
bonded with them
It's gone through varying different
stages, it's not like we're friends or anything, but we've met up
with them a couple of times. When we were their support act at the
Paradiso they came to watch us and they liked it a lot. Then at
the Lowlands festival the singer said something about us from the
stage and as you can imagine we went to see them backstage and then
Sem used a lot of ecstasy with them and they started driving their
bus around the festival area, sitting on the roof. Apart from that
there's nothing really much, but I'm sure we'll meet them again.
Did you specifically ask for the album
to be released on my birthday?
Yes we did.
Visions of Mars would
you go into space if you could?
Oh yeah, I mean it's hardly an original
thing to be into but I've been reading sci-fi novels since I was
about 10, and I've got this big collection of sci-fi things. I've
seen the Star Wars movies about 20 times and I'm a bit of
a Trekkie as well. But this song about space travelling is more
of a parody of what's been going on all the time, with all the Foo
Fighters, and Frank Black started it all. so it's more like I wanted
to have a space song on the album too. You don't know this, but
we have a series in Holland which is called Beertje Collargol
("little bear Collargol") and he has this colour book where
he builds his own rocket and it's all really cosy and cute and it's
really nice. You put a couple of bins up and you've got a spaceship
it's more like that sort of space romanticism than the real
sci-fi hi-tech stuff.
Is it a cartoon or puppets?
It was both. It was on TV as puppets.
but they made it into beautiful colour books sometimes that
sort of thing can be really magical and beautiful. I love that.
Have you always sung in English?
Uh, yeah I have. I tried French
and that was alright. A lot of people wonder why all these Dutchies
have to sing in English. but there are a lot of scenes. It would
be easier to sing in Dutch because when you sing in Dutch we'd sell
at least 20,000 albums because English is a slightly smaller market
back in Holland, but for us it's only natural the only thing
we listen to is Anglo-Saxon music. When you really go and think
about it, it's strange to have to do that but apart from that we
like to go abroad with our music, and it's the easiest way. Even
in Germany you can sing better in English than in German.
Do you face criticism in Holland for
Well it's not like people criticise
you, it's more like they don't tend to like it very much when you
do that. There is a big scene for that kind of music, it's just
a less commercial one than there is for Dutch music. The most popular
music right now is straight rock Jon Bon Jovi-like music with Dutch
lyrics, it's like the biggest thing they have at the moment, sometimes
it's like prehistoric but you just have to deal with it. In Holland
we have a strong movement of regional bands who sing in their own
dialects and that's really popular. Maybe it's got something to
do with the Euro thing, you know. where some people try to hang
on to their nationalities, but it's not something for me: the music
that goes along with it is like farmer music. But it's a lot better
than trying to be an American rock band. because that's not what
we're about. I don't think we're totally British or totally American
or totally Dutch, but somewhere in the middle.
The verse structure on Before My
Head Explodes (debut UK single) sounds like You Showed
Me by The Turtles how do you plead?
You're kidding. I'm really amazed
by what people get away with and if it's true... I mean there hasn't
been a Turtles revival in Holland so I would have no idea. The song
you refer to is part of a traditional song it's all open
chords it wouldn't surprise me if there were a lot of songs
going similarly. Is it the chord progression or the melody It's
a great melody. I'm really happy with that song.
Have you ever tried to get away
with ripping someone off?
I remember two bands ago, in 90-91,
that we were really eager on writing our own Nirvana song, of course
like everybody else. Since we're on a label with a couple of bands
who are always in each other's way you tend to quote the others
in an ironic way, which is kinda funny. Like Visions of Mars
as a title is a joke about the band Johann. They were called Visions
of Johanna and they had a song called Life on Mars, which
sounded by the way exactly like David Bowie. We're really bad at
covering actually we can't play anyone else's songs, so no,
the easiest way is to write our own. This Aint a Song (Dutch
album track/UK B-side) is a song where we let ourselves be inspired
by Pavement, the way they use melodies to push tile vocals up a
I little bit. That's what we try to do as well and we tried to write
a Pavement song. Actually it was called This Aint a Pavement
Song but we took that out because it'd be so obvious it wouldn't
be funny. It's only once so you can get away with it it's
funny when you try to re-create someone's sound.
What's a Philcordia?
It's an organ from Philips. Its
a Dutch organ, it's got this really eerie sound. But I don't know
if the song we played on it is on the British version of the album.
We put a lot of little things on different songs, so I really don't
Mayonnaise with chips are you
Dutch folk insane??
It's very hard to find mayonnaise
around here; it's been one of our main problems because we've had
chips every night and we can't get any mayonnaise. Have you seen
Pulp Fiction? "They fuckin' drown 'em in that shit!" It is
true, we love it.
And you should have seen the hotel they put
me in nine floors up in Kensington High Street and freaking
out so much I couldn't sleep for hours, just watching the cabs and
the tourists. Well, they say there's no rest for the lonely, after