Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tije Oortwijn Of Cafebar 401 Interview, 2004

Hello! Greetings from America. Some of these questions aren't blindingly
original, but feel free to say whatever you feel about these things.  

1. Tell me a little bit about how the band came together, and describe the
four personalities in the band (yourself included).

It may sound a bit mushy, but we’re really a band of friends that happen to make music. We have the same interests, and in smaller communities like the village Luttenberg (approximately 2,000 inhabitants), where three of us come from, you become friends quite easily, going to the same places, same kind of humor and so on. I’ve played with Wout for 5 or 6 years now, and over the years Dennis and Martijn joined us. Martijn, comes from a nearby town, about 3 miles from Luttenberg and we knew him from another band we liked. When his band fell apart, we immediately asked him to play with us and we never had any regrets.

Martijn is the most calm and thoughtful, and Wout is the most outgoing and humorous. Dennis and I are somewhere in between, I think.  You won’t see us trashing dressing rooms or calling people names. What we also have in common is that we usually don’t leave anywhere before closing time: we like to have fun after a gig or when we’re going out. 

2. It sounds like you've soaked up a lot of American music from the past
ten years. Elements of pop-rock, grunge, moody ballads. What are your
influences, do you think about those musical influences as American? 

In the Netherlands we often get the compliment we don’t sound Dutch, but foreign. It’s true our musical influences are mostly American: Soundgarden, Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, and Masters of Reality all are personal favorites of mine, all original in their own way. They all have a distinct, personal sound and mood you won’t find in European bands. I’m gripped by certain aspects of the music I listen to: for instance, I love the song structures of grunge and pop-rock bands (Nirvana, Weezer, Foo Fighters, etc.), the brutal, in-your-face guitar riffs and sounds of most ‘stoner/louder’ bands (Fu Manchu, Helmet, QOTSA), and the melodic vocals and mood of bands like Soundgarden, Masters of Reality, Ben Harper and (Canadian..) the Tragically Hip. Of course I’m influenced by a whole lot of European bands, too (Coldplay, Muse, Soulwax).  Songs like ‘Troubles,’ ‘Today’ and ‘Senses Working Overtime’ have a lot more European feel to them.  

3. Are there any older artists that came before the past ten years (from
the '60s or '70s, for example) that you think has had an influence on you. 

As a youngster I listened to the Stones, and later on I discovered Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, all of whom I love. But I can’t say I’m directly influenced by them (although I know the bands I listen to are). The other guys, especially Martijn and Wout, listen to the older stuff all the time, and are surely influenced by it, particularly in the way they play their instruments .

4. Did the scene in the Netherlands the last several years have any
influence on you? What is the scene like these days?

There are some great bands in the Netherlands like ‘Johan’ and ‘16Down’ who I’m surely influenced by. Those two bands aren’t huge in the Netherlands, but well-known by a fair amount of people, and both made some outstanding albums in the past few years, containing some really outstanding pop songs. Alternative bands (including us) here struggle to reach a bigger audience and receive some airplay. The big radio stations in the Netherlands commercialize more and more. They would rather play the latest Britney Spears than a 16Down single and that’s a shame, but sadly I think that’s the same in the USA. Furthermore, the scene is very small. The same bands play all the festivals year after year, and the majority of the Dutch bands don’t appeal to me that much. The festivals suffer from the same problem as the radio stations: they commercialize more and more, and would rather play it safe then program an unknown band. 

5. Do you tend to think of lyrics first, then the music? Or the opposite?
The lyrics to some of the songs (Full-Pro Disco, for instance) feel like
they grew organically out of the guitar riff.

The music always comes first. Usually I have one phrase, and from there a melody and the music is formed (or at least something that sounds like an actual sentence). Then, based on the mood of the song and the key phrase, I start to write actual lyrics. The phrase ‘Full-Pro Disco’ came from an earlier song called ‘El Sombrero’ which had nonsense lyrics and that one phrase I thought was good. It fit perfectly to the riff. The rest of the lines wrote themselves: Wouldn’t it be great to be full professional disco? Spending your day waiting to go to the club at night and have a ball? I actually don’t know if it would be that great, but I definitely like the concept.

6. Do you write the songs, and then present them to the band, or do you
put together the music with the band?

Partly both. I prefer to have written and arranged a song for the biggest part, before we’re having a go at it together. That way I can make it clearer what direction I have in mind for the song, and avoid those frustrating situations where you practice and don’t make any progress in a song whatsoever, and get stuck time and time again after the first verse. Once we’re playing a new song, the pieces start falling together. Martijn, for instance, might say: ‘What if we go down instead of up here,’ or ‘What if the drum starts there instead of,’ and that way the song gets closer to its definite shape. And if I come up with a song that someone sincerely dislikes, we throw it away or change it completely.  When you’re playing with four guys in a band, nothing’s gonna come up exactly the same as you have in mind and I believe that’s part of the beauty of making music in a band. 
7. Tell me some things about recording this record. How was its process
different than when you've recorded before?

Prior to this album, we only recorded 2 demos (recorded in my bedroom) and a single (‘I Need to Know,’ track 11 on the album). Recording the single was the first time we set foot in a professional studio. Due to poor preparation and a lack of experience, we were utterly disappointed with that recording, and felt we had ourselves to blame. Nevertheless, we released it and put it on the album, and miraculously many still loved the song and it gathered quite some attention, also thanks to a brilliant video a friend of ours made. Still we decided to rigorously change our approach -- at first we wanted to completely record the album in the studio -- and we purchased our own small Pro Tools setup and did it ourselves. This was a risk, too, because I personally had very little experience in engineering and producing, but we felt the end result would be much more gratifying. It might suffer technically, but we would get our message across and we could work at our own pace. Preparation was thorough this time: we more or less recorded the same album twice. I recorded rough versions of every song and everyone worked their asses off to prepare for the recording stage. This time, Wout took off to the studio and easily taped all of the songs in a day and a half, this as opposed to the absolute struggle of the single. Next we transferred those tape recordings to our own setup and we started building up the songs again, bit by bit. The entire process took about 6 months, from pre-recording to the mixing stage. In the end, we were proud we did everything ourselves…. No studio musicians, engineers or producers are heard on the album and we love the final result.

8. As I mentioned before, your music does often change moods and influences
throughout the entire album. Are you often aware of that, or is every song
simply what you felt like writing at that point?

Again, partly both. When writing most songs, it depends what mood and influences have the upper hand in the time of writing, so yes -- simply what you feel like at that point. But once I’m aware of the atmosphere a song breathes, I severely change, add or remove parts to make it even more dreamy, poppy, heavy or something. So I took a different approach at different stages of the writing process. It’s a deliberate choice to have all those different moods on the album: we didn’t want the album to be loud or poppy all the way, because in our opinion everything starts to get boring after a while. That’s merely a choice in which songs you put on the album and which you don’t. On past demos we tended to go overboard with a different style, guitar, and drum sound on every track, but I believe we found a good balance on this one, in spite of the fact the moods and influences still differ. What’s great about it, too, is that if you ask ten people what’s their favorite song on the album, they’ll each come up with a different song. Everybody likes a different mood in music, and this way, you appeal to a huge number of people.  

9. It sounds like Cafebar 401 has already gotten a fair amount of media
attention in the Netherlands. Describe that, and some of the TV and radio
appearances you've done.

We’re still relatively unknown to the majority of people in the Netherlands. The ‘I Need to Know’ video played medium rotation on MTV Holland for some time, and we played 3FM (the biggest radio station in Holland), but nothing huge yet to brag about. We also received a fair amount of attention when we signed with Wampus -- “unknown Dutch band signed by American label!” -- resulting in an article in the biggest Dutch newspaper, ‘de Telegraaf,’ and an item on national TV. Again, nothing to brag about, but good publicity. The goal of this album is to establish Cafebar in the top of the alternative scene in the Netherlands, and we’re confident we’re going to succeed in time. But considering the questionable state of the Dutch alt-rock/pop scene these days, it’s gonna be hard to get there and we’ll have to work real hard.  

10. Silly question, I know, but what do you think is the forseeable future
for the band?

At first, we hope to do a lot of shows, and we hope this album can make that happen for us here. It would be great if one of the songs on the album ripped up the Dutch charts, but we’ll need some luck with that. In time, we would love to make another record and continue our way up.

11. Throwaway question-and-answer. Anything about the band or your music
that you'd like to discuss, or anything I haven't brought up, go for it.

No, not really.  What I would like to say to you: I hope the answers in this interview are sufficient to you -- English isn’t my native language, so I’ve spent a lot of time on this.  

12. Any questions for me, the writer of these questions?

I would like to know how the alternative scene is in America right now.  How is it for American bands, and what’s hot at the moment? 

The guys at Wampus Multimedia are very enthusiastic about your magazine, but I haven’t found a copy yet here in the Netherlands. Is Amplifier magazine distributed in the Netherlands?

Cafebar is:

Wout Oosterwechel: Drums
Martijn Masman: Bass guitar
Dennis Kleinlangevelsloo: Guitar
Tije Oortwijn (me): Guitar / Vocals


July 21, 2020

No comments:

Post a Comment