Koen van de Wardt talks Klangstof’s success as the first Dutch band to play Coachella

Backstage at a sweaty second weekend of Coachella, we meet Koen van de Wardt of Dutch indie group, Klangstof. Their presence at the American music festival was one of large significance, with Klangstof stepping up to being the first Dutch band to ever appear at Coachella in the history of the event.

Speaking with Koen, we find out more about how the two weekends had treated them and what’s coming next in terms of new music.

Your first time here at Coachella. Technically second if you’re going to count both weekends. How is it doing a festival that you’ve got two weekends back to back?

It’s pretty weird. For the first weekend I was really nervous, because it’s Coachella, obviously something really big, and we were being the first Dutch band ever to play there.

I can’t … That’s crazy.

Yeah, I know.

How have they never … There are so many great bands from your part of the world.

Well, there are. I was pretty nerve wracking, because it kind of felt like everyone from my home country was following us. They were going crazy. It was very nervous, but the show went really well. The second weekend, you finally chill out a bit and play the set like the way you wanted. Just completely empty your mind. It was great.

Tell me a little bit about how the show works from a production point of view.

We always try to be very dynamic. I think that’s always our main key. We want to be able to … Like if there’s a shitty crowd we want to play really loud. If there’s a good crowd we want to really play with dynamics and go for really soft to really blowing it up. Also, it’s very synth based. We don’t have a bass player, but everything is coming from synthesisers.

How many people are on the stage?

Four only, yeah. Usually, like in the start, it was pretty much a very, kind of a challenge to get everything right. We now find it pretty good way to deal with it.

When the songs are originally created, is it just you or do you collaborate with the other musicians?

For the first record, it was just me. It started as a solo project. I could do whatever I like, which usually is a very bad thing to have. When you think about, “I’m with four musicians on stage,” it’s very easy to filter out what you can and what you can’t do.

I just had clean sheets and did whatever I wanted to do. Whenever we started to play live, it was a bit of a struggle to get all the sounds we wanted out of the instruments. We did a pretty good job, I think.

You certainly did in terms of the record. I only discovered you guys a couple of months ago when I saw you on this lineup. It’s a great album to have on when you’re working or driving… It’s such an atmospheric record. Is [future music] a more collaborative process?

We’re thinking about just renting a cabin back in Norway and just going there with all four guys and getting all our equipment out and restarting writing more as a band, which I’m really looking forward to.

I imagine that by playing together live, that you’re almost recomposing the songs.

Definitely.

That’s creating a new collaboration, even with the old material.

Definitely, yeah. I think whenever we play live, we don’t think about the record anymore. We just look at each other and we kind of know what to do and how to play it. I really think that’s also a cool thing. It’s boring when the live show is exactly like a record.

It’s really cool to now have four musicians that have their own style and do it the way they want to and still be able to develop a really fresh and cool sound.

You’re going to continue developing that around some pretty amazing bands over the summer. Tell me a little bit about the certain, “Flaming” bands that you’re going to be heading on the road with.

Yeah, so in two weeks we’re going to start a tour with the Flaming Lips, which is gonna be sick. I’ve never seen them live before.

You’ve never seen them live? You’re in for a treat.

It’s sick. I just know everything about what they’re doing and all the unicorns and confetti cannons. I’ve never seen it live. That’s gonna be pretty amazing.

Nothing beats that first Flaming Lips experience.

Oh man, I can’t wait. After that, it’s straight off to a Miike Snow tour. Then just a lot of festivals in Europe. December we do a little run in Holland. After that, it’s writing new stuff.

How has being surrounded by other musicians and other bands at festivals like Coachella and other events that you’ve played over the world? You’ve got a lot of other festivals coming up  as well over the summer. Does being around so much talent give you ideas for things that you want to do in the future? Like, “Wayne Coyne gets in a giant ball, I want to do that.”

No, but it’s sick. That’s just how it works. We went on tour with Jagwar Ma twice. One run in the U.S. and one run in Europe. What I love about being a support band is that you learn so much from the band that’s headlining. You go onstage and you kind of watch, “How do they do this?” and “How do they cope with this?” and “How do they write their music?”

I think it’s just a great experience to now be able to tour with Jagwar Ma, Flaming Lips and a band like Miike Snow. Look at what they do creatively and use that yourself.

Yeah, there’s an element to it that’s … what’s the right word? Osmosis almost,  where you’re absorbing everything around you. I wanted to ask you about the Jagwar Ma shows. Has that introduced you to a world of Australian music, the King Gizzards and the Tame Impalas.

Definitely, a little bit. They talked a little bit about Tame Impala, of course. Basically I wasn’t that familiar with the electronic scene, especially from Australia. The way they perform live without a drummer, but with a lot of cool drumbeats and cool synthesisers. It opened up a new world to me, because I was always very stuck to acoustic drums and a bit more straight forward way of recording.

The EDM scene in Australia is ridiculous. From Flume to…

Flume is Australian?

Flume is Australian.

No way. Wow, I didn’t know that.

He went to my high school, funnily enough…

Wow.

But many years after I left. Flume is Australian and Chet Faker … Who are some other great electronic acts out of Australia … Running Touch, Alice in Wonderland, Ana Lunoe, who’s playing here.

That’s cool.

Lots of great electronic music out of Australia at the moment.

Yeah, we’re being compared a lot to Chet Faker as well.I didn’t know he was Australian either. Wow.

It’s just been absorbed by the international community.

Yeah, exactly.

You’re often compared to artists like Sigur Ros and all that sort of stuff. When I listen to the record I don’t … It’s almost like saying Sigur Ros sounds like a classical band, like classical music. Just because they’re instrumental then they’re suddenly connected. There’s certainly the atmospheric connections and things like that.

What music do you listen to though? Not necessarily stuff that inspires you for your music. When you’re at home listening to music, what do you listen to? What inspires you to be creative?

For the first record, it was just a lot of Radiohead. Now I’m exploring the more urban … I love Kendrick Lamar.

Is there a hip hop record in the works?

There might be some hip hop going on there. I don’t know yet. It’s just very inspiring.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvwNJb9ZCIg

You’re music would work with hip hop, like with a guest or something mixed in there. Have there been any remixes or anything lying around?

We’ve been trying. We got a few new songs and there are some verses we just keep open, like, “We should have Kendrick on there.” Something like that. We’re just exploring a bit of different ground now. Also, because the next album … The first time I was in Scandinavia and then you get this very atmospheric thing; I was feeling lonely and sad and now all of a sudden I’m playing Coachella and having a bunch of friends around.

You’re not as lonely and sad.

Exactly. So you just change along the way. I’m really curious about what will happen.

I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you today, but I hope to see you in the near future at one of your many festival dates and hopefully get you down to Australia as well.

I would love that.

For more on the band, head to their official facebook page.

The author travelled to Coachella from Australia via Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines. For bookings and more details head to http://hawaiianair.com/

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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