Tag: Roy Orbison

A Q&A with Donna Blue’s Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen

Donna Blue is a rising Amsterdam-based indie act centered around its core duo, romantic couple Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen. Creatively, they’re each other’s muse. And with the release of their debut 7 inch EP, which was released in 2017, the Dutch indie act quickly established a unique and dream-like sound seemingly influenced by Phil Spector, Wall of Sound-like pop, Pasty Cline, yè yè and the work of David Lynch – in particular, Twin Peaks. “Sunset Blvd,” which appeared on that 7 inch was played on Elton John’s Apple Music radio show Rocket Hour.

Building upon a growing profile, the Dutch duo released the yé yé inspired single “1 2 3.” Sung in French, the song describes the lack of a passion within a romantic relationship. And instead of making a standard music video for the song, the duo chose to create an audiovisual monologue conveying the narrator’s longing that’s visually inspired by the nouvelle vague movement.

Released last month through Dutch indie label, Snowstar Records, the self-recorded and self-produced 5 song EP Inbetween finds the act continuing to draw from and seamlessly mesh Roy Orbison, Julee Cruise, Nancy Sinatra, Patsy Cline and yé yé into a unique sound that evokes late nights wandering around narrow European streets, smokey cafes and swooning Romanticism. Personally, listening to the EP reminds me of late nights walking through Amsterdam’s Centrum and the Red Light District and of walking down Frankfurt-am-Main’s Haupwatche and Romer Districts with the aching loneliness of being a foreigner, of being a Black man in Northern Europe. And although that’s a deeply personal lens, the material overall is smoky, cinematic and absolutely gorgeous.

Persfoto 2019-1 (Satellite June)

Persfoto 2019-5 (OAK & FIR)

Inbetween

I recently exchanged emails with Donna Blue’s Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. Current world events have impacted all of us – and they’ve found ways to bleed into our personal and professional lives in ways that will reverberate for quite some time to come. As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the rising Dutch act was here in New York, playing the second annual New Colossus Festival. Shortly after their New Colossus Festival sets, the world as we know it has been at an uncomfortable and indefinite pause. While we do chat about their excellent new EP, we do talk seriously about the impact of the pandemic on their careers, how much Twin Peaks has influenced their work and we reminisce about beautiful Amsterdam. Check it out below.

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WRH: Donna Blue is centered around core duo and romantic couple Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen. How is it like to collaborate and tour with your partner?

 

Danique van Kesteren: Thatʼs a big question to start with. Itʼs hard to explain well, but itʼs very special. I believe thereʼs a certain energy and creativity that only sparks when youʼre completely on the same wavelength as the person you are collaborating with. We work together so intimately that our ideas can flow without speaking.

Bart van Dalen: That being said, working closely together on a project blurs the lines between work and personal life. Itʼs all about keeping a good balance and that takes work. But most of the time itʼs very good. And touring together is super nice. Sharing experiences, traveling to all those places with her, performing and seeing Danique next to me on stage. I like how we can always feel what the other person is feeling on stage and feed off each otherʼs energy during a show.

WRH: Most of the known world has been in quarantine in some fashion since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic last month. How have you been holding up? What have you been spending your time doing? Binge watching anything interesting?


DVK: We mainly have been resting a lot, staying at home reading and cooking healthy food. We did set up a studio at home, so we can record ideas for new songs whenever we want.

BVD: Itʼs a weird time. We wouldʼve been in the US right now taking some time off after a tour. So weʼve been adjusting and taking time to think about where we are going from here. And weʼre binge watching a lot of Mad Men.

WRH: Donna Blue played this yearʼs New Colossus Festival. How did it go? Did you get a chance to take in any local food or bars or anything? Did you have a chance to see anyone play while you were in town? If so, who?

BVD: We had such a good time performing at the New Colossus; itʼs a really good memory. We played 4 shows and met some amazing people. We saw a couple of other artists perform at the festival, like Luke De-Sciscio, Kirsten Knick and Ghost World, which was very fun. And we got to play a Paste Magazine session while we were in town. But every day felt more uncertain as COVID-19 was really hitting Europe hard. So, it was a strange time.

DVK: We were in New York for 5 days, so we tried to explore some of the city, even though it felt like we shouldnʼt. In the mornings we got bagels and we walked around the neighbourhood a little. Some of our band went to MOMA the last day before it closed. But mostly we stayed indoors until it was time to head off to our show. We all shared a big loft, so we just chilled in the living [room] and tried to stay calm and positive.

WRH: You were supposed to head down to Austin for SXSW after New Colossus Festival and unfortunately while you were in town COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Shortly after that festivals were postponing and canceling left and right, including SXSW. How has COVID-19 currently impacted you and your career?

BVD: Yes, that was a hard pill to swallow for everyone. Of course, weʼve worked very hard to get to SXSW and set up a tour around it. And thereʼs a huge financial investment that comes with touring the US. So not being able to play an important festival like SXSW and cancel all upcoming shows does impact our career. But weʼll carry on and keep making music, weʼll just have to wait and see what the scene is going to be like when we can go back out.

DVK: I think it will impact our career the same way it does any artist at the moment. Itʼs all very uncertain when we are going to be able to bring people together for live performances again, and if they even want to come out again when itʼs allowed. Small venues will collapse, international touring will be impossible for a while and it might be a lot harder to get our music in front of interesting parties.

WRH: Youʼre from one of my favorite cities in the entire world –- Amsterdam. I was in the Netherlands three years ago and I miss Amsterdam and the country. So say, Iʼm a tourist and itʼs my first time in Amsterdam, where would I go to get a taste of local life?

DVK: Amsterdam is a really special place. I still canʼt decide whether I love it more when the city wakes up in spring or when itʼs quiet in winter, the narrow streets and bridges covered in snow. It just feels so old and magical. I would recommend just walking past the canals just outside the busy city center. Have a little picnic on the waterfront, maybe smoke a funny cigarette and donʼt forget to look up to stare at the beautiful facades. Go through the ‘9 straatjesʼ or down Haarlemmerstraat for some nice local shops and vintage stores.

BVD: If you like movies, visit LAB-111 (best programming), beautiful art deco cinemas The Movies or Tsuchinsky, or the EYE film museum.

WRH: Whatʼs your favorite spot in Amsterdam to catch live music? Why?

BVD: We have a beautiful venue called Paradiso, itʼs in an old church and saw some real underground action in the 60s. Now itʼs one of the most important concert venues in our country, and still a magical place.

DVK: Bitterzoet is also a venue I really like, itʼs smaller but very cool, and it has a little red light district vibe going on.

WRH: Are there any Dutch acts that should be blowing up that havenʼt yet?

BVD: Definitely. Look up a band called Lewsberg, and Eerie Wanda.
DVK: And a band we love that make[s] awesome music to dance to is called Yin Yin.

WRH: I understand that Elton John played “Sunset Blvd” during his Apple Music radio show Rocket Hour. How did it feel to receive a co-sign from someone as legendary as him?

DVK: So unreal. I never thought in a million years I would hear Elton John say my full name.
BVD: Weʼve also been getting a lot of attention and radio play through it, so itʼs been very helpful.

WRH: I was first introduced to you and your sound through the Paste Session you did last month. So how much has David Lynch and Twin Peaks influenced the band and its aesthetic?

DVK: A lot, especially at the start. The way David Lynch plays with mystery and beauty is something we find really inspiring and try to incorporate in our own music. And visually too, we get inspired by his films for our music videos.

BVD: And of course, the soundtrack and music of Twin Peaks are so good. Being one of the bands playing at the Roadhouse is one of our musical dreams. We try to capture some of that Roadhouse-feeling in our own live performances.

WRH: How would you describe your sound to those who would be initially unfamiliar with you and your sound?

BVD: We usually describe it as sultry indie pop under the influence of 60s yé yé, Lynch movies and old Hollywood romance.

WRH: Who (and what) are your influences?

BVD: Musically our influences are mainly artists from the 50s/60s. Think of Serge Gainsbourg, Roy Orbison, Nancy Sinatra, Link Wray. And as mentioned before, so is the mystery from the Twin Peaks soundtrack.

DVK: Next to that we get inspired lyrically and visually by things like our own relationship and stuff we go through, cult movies from the 70s, Jean-Luc Godard, old Hollywood glamour, books and big questions like is there a heaven and would it be fun to go there for all eternity?

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

DVK: For Donna Blue, we try to listen mostly to ‘oldʼ music, but of course so much modern music is great too. Weʼve been listening to Alexandra Savior, Hayley Hendrickx, Babe Rainbow, Kevin Morby, Jess Williamson, Yo La Tengo, SadGirl.
BVD: And I just got a Velvet Underground vinyl for my birthday that weʼve been spinning on repeat.

WRH: Your latest effort Inbetween EP was released last month. Itʼs a gorgeous and cinematic effort that evokes film noir, smoky cafes and bars, strolling down narrow European streets, swooning love – and to my ears, I hear quite bit of Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline and Phil Spectorʼs girl groups in the overall production. Iʼve managed to play the EP quite a bit late at night and for some reason, it reminds me so much of wandering around Amsterdam Centrum and the Red Light District. Is there a unifying theme that holds the EPʼs five songs together?

DVK: Itʼs not so much a theme as it is a feeling. Weʼve tried to translate that place between waking and sleeping into songs. Strange things happen there. Sometimes literally, like in title track Inbetween. But sometimes itʼs more figuratively, like waking up to what love really is.

WRH: “Desert Lake,” “Billy” and “Fool” are among my personal favourites on the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about what that songs are about?


DVK: Yes of course, “Desert Lake” is about the badlands every artist needs to cross while they do their work. Right between dreaming up a song and finishing it, a fear always creeps in: is it good enough? No matter how beautiful it is to create things, it will forever come with doubt. For the song we made up a cinematic story about someone getting lost in that madness of art. “Billy” is a song about l’amour fou gone wrong. We wanted it to sound like a sweet little 50’s heartbreak song at the start, but it ends like an eerie nightmare. It leaves you wondering what happened to the person not picking up the phone. And “Fool” is a song about the moment in a relationship you realise there is no such thing as perfect love, even though you thought you had it figured out. Itʼs a personal testament to losing some of that beautiful, open innocence of childhood love when transitioning into an adult relationship. Like an awakening.

WRH: How do you know when you have a finished song?

DVK: I think for a big part itʼs a feeling, you just know when thereʼs something still missing from the song.
BVD: Usually when we think a song is complete, we let it sit for a while. Then we listen to it again after a week or two, if it still feels good, itʼs finished.

WRH: Whatʼs next for you?

DVK: Weʼll be working on new music, maybe even a full-length album . .  .
BVD: And of course making plans to set up another tour as soon as we can.

New Video: Los Angeles’ SadGirl Releases a Stylistic and Surreal Visual for “Miss Me”

SadGirl is a Los Angeles-based garage rock trio who specializes in a vintage sound — and interestingly, their latest album, Water, which Suicide Squeeze Records released earlier this year, finds the trio tapping into the romantic and nostalgic spirit of their hometown while exuding an authenticity that suggests that they’ve peeked at the scuzzy underside of the manicured lawns, glitzy boulevards and relentless sunshine.

“If you want to learn about water, go to the desert,” the Los Angeles-based garage trio’s recording engineer and friend Max Garland has sagely said in press notes, and unsurprisingly that statement made a huge impact on the band’s Misha Lindes (guitar, vocals). “Here we are in Los Angeles, a desert ping-ponging between drought and El Nino. This record is just an attempt to share a very small portion of my experience growing up and living here,” Lindes says of the album. “It’s basically just about the fluidity of water and its power and importance.” And while seemingly post-apocalyptic, the album is a collection of old-school tinged pop songs, recorded with vintage recording techniques with the album being pieced together from a series of recording session over the past two years that employed a variety of tape machines in different setups — from living rooms to professional studios. 

Water‘s later single is the slow-burning, Roy Orbison-like ballad “Miss Me.” And while rooted in a traditional of bittersweet and aching love songs written from the perspective of the tortured and heartbroken lover, yearning for that love interest, who has cruelly spurned them — for another or for no particular reason. But underneath that bitter sentiment is a heartbroken tell-off to that lover, to “miss me with that bullshit” before walking away from them for good with your sanity and dignity. “This song is about realizing someone close to you isn’t the person you thought you knew, and coming to terms with the fact that they may never share the same values as you,” SadGirl’s Lindes says of the song. “Getting to that point where you decide that it’s no longer worth the effort and it’s better to walk away with what’s important to you still intact.”

Directed, produced and edited by Nathan Castiel, the recently released video for “Miss Me” is a slick and stylistically shot visual that’s split between the band perfuming the song in a sparsely furnished studio and some goofy footage of people drinking “Water” branded water. “This song really hits close to the heart,” the band’s Misha Lindes say sin press notes, “so it was awesome to have so many friends involved and making cameos. It’s also the first time that we’ve ever done a non “narrative” video, so it was a totally new experience for me. We love collaborating and working with friends on projects, so getting so many homies involved was awesome. I feel like the video perfectly captures that thin corny smile that sometimes disguises someone’s true intentions.”

I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed, Swedish Grammy-winning,  Gothenburg, Sweden-based singer/songwriter Sarah Klang, and as you may recall, with the release of “Sleep,” and “Strangers,” Klang received praise across the blogosphere for crafting heartbreaking and achingly sad material that meshed Americana, country and pop and was frequently compared to  Roy Orbison and Jeff Buckley.

Building upon a growing profile, Klang released her critically applauded full-length debut Love In The Milky Way last year, which she supported with touring across Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the US. Adding to a breakthrough year for her, she also played sold-out shows at Gothenburg Concert Hall and Stockholm’Södra Teatern.

The Gothenburg-based singer/songwriter and JOVM mainstays highly-anticipated, forthcoming sophomore album is slated for release later this year and the album was written and recorded during what was arguably one of the busiest years of her young career. The album’s slow-burning and swooning, Dolly Parton meets Carole King-like first single “Call Me,” was centered around twinkling piano, a shimmering string arrangement and Klang’s achingly tender vocals — and as the Swedish JOVM mainstay explained in press notes, the song was “about the love that only happens once. It might not last for long, but you’ll remember it forever.” The album’s second single, the slow-burning and spectral “Endless Sadness” was centered around shimmering and twangy bursts of steel pedal guitar, twinkling organ and a soaring hook, which made it the perfect setting for what I think is one of the most gorgeous and heartbreakingly saddest voices I’ve come across in recent memory.

The album’s third and latest single “New Day Coming” effortlessly meshes 70s troubadour pop and AM Rock with Dolly Parton-like country as it features an uncannily period specific arrangement consisting of a shimmering stringiest arrangement, twinkling piano, strummed guitar and a soaring hook, and it’s roomy enough for Klang’s aching vocals to express hope that in the fact the most difficult and darkest periods don’t last forever — that a bright new day and a new start are often just over the horizon. While continuing a spectacular run of gorgeous singles, Klang’s latest single may actually be the most hopeful of her growing catalog — while rooted in hard-fought, lived-in experience.

 

 

SadGirl is a Los Angeles-based garage rock trio who specializes in a vintage sound — and interestingly, their newest album Water, which is slated for a June 14, 2019 release through Suicide Squeeze Records reportedly finds the trio tapping into the romantic and nostalgic spirit of their hometown while exuding an authenticity that suggests that they’ve peeked at the scuzzy underside of the manicured lawns, glitzy boulevards and relentless sunshine.

“If you want to learn about water, go to the desert,” the Los Angeles-based garage trio’s recording engineer and friend Max Garland has sagely said, and unsurprisingly that statement made a huge impact on the band’s Misha Lindes (guitar, vocals). “Here we are in Los Angeles, a desert ping-ponging between drought and El Nino. This record is just an attempt to share a very small portion of my experience growing up and living here,” Lindes says of the album. “It’s basically just about the fluidity of water and its power and importance.” And while seemingly post-apocalyptic, the album is a collection of old-school tinged pop songs, recorded with vintage recording techniques; in fact, the album was pieced together out of a series of recording sessions over the past two years using a variety of tape machines in different set ups — from living rooms to professional studios.

Interestingly, Water‘s later single is the slow-burning, Roy Orbison-like ballad “Miss Me.” And while rooted in a traditional of bittersweet and aching love songs written from the perspective of the tortured and heartbroken lover, yearning for that love interest, who has cruelly spurned them — for another or for no particular reason. But underneath that bitter sentiment is a heartbroken tell-off to that lover, to “miss me with that bullshit” before walking away from them for good with your sanity and dignity. “This song is about realizing someone close to you isn’t the person you thought you knew, and coming to terms with the fact that they may never share the same values as you,” SadGirl’s Lindes says of the song. “Getting to that point where you decide that it’s no longer worth the effort and it’s better to walk away with what’s important to you still intact.”

The members of the Los Angeles-based garage rock will be embarking on a tour. Check out the current collection of tour dates below.

Tour Dates

May 18 Elm Street Festival – Dallas, TX
May 24 Holland Project – Reno, NV
May 25 ORMF – Davis, CA
May 26 Slims – San Francisco, CA
July 11 Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles, CA

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about the acclaimed  Gothenburg, Sweden-based singer/songwriter Sarah Klang. With the release of “Sleep,” and “Strangers,” Klang received praise across the blogosphere for crafting aching and heartbreakingly sad material that some critics compared to the likes of  Roy Orbison and Jeff Buckley — although interestingly enough, the Gothenburg-based singer/songwriter has publicly cited Barbra Streisand and ambient electronica as major influences on her work.

Building upon a growing profile, Klang released her critically applauded full-length debut Love In The Milky Way last year, which she supposed with tours across the US, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Adding to breakthrough year, Klang played a sold-out shows at Gothenburg Concert Hall and Stockholm’Södra Teatern — and she won a Swedish Grammy.

Written and recorded during one of the busiest year’s of Klang’s young career, her forthcoming sophomore full-length album is slated for release later this year. Now, as you may recall, “Call Me,” the album’s slow-burning, Dolly Parton meets Carole King-like first single was centered around twinkling piano, shimmering strings and Klang’s achingly tender vocals — and as Klang explained in press notes, the song was “about the love that only happens once. It might not last for long, but you’ll remember it forever.” And as a result, the song’s narrator expressed a bitter and swooning despair and begrudging acceptance over the loss of her love.

Continuing in a similar vein as its predecessor, the album’s second and latest single “Endless Sadness” is centered around a slow-burning and hauntingly spectral arrangement featuring bursts of steel pedal, twinkling organ and a soaring hook is a perfect setting for one of the most unique and saddest voices in contemporary indie music. And much like its immediate predecessor, the song is infused with a deeply bitter sense of despair and loss.

 

 

New Video: Acclaimed Swedish Singer Songwriter Sarah Klang Releases Swooning and Sensual Visuals for “Call Me”

With the release of “Sleep,” and “Strangers,” the Gothenburg, Sweden-based singer/songwriter Sarah Klang began receiving praise across the blogosphere for crafting heartbreakingly sad material that some critics compared favorably to the likes of Roy Orbison and Jeff Buckley, and others — although interestingly enough, Klang has publicly cited Barbra Streisand and ambient electronica as major influences on her work. Building upon a growing national and international profile, Klang released her critically applauded full-length debut Love In The Milky Way last year, which she supported with a tours across the US, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Adding to a breakthrough year, Klang played a sold-out hometown show at the Gothenburg Concert Hall and three sold-out nights at Stockholm’s Södra Teatern — and she nominated for a Swedish Grammy for Alternative Pop Album and P3 Guld Award for Best Live Act.

Slated for a Fall 2019 release, Klang’s forthcoming (and still untitled) sophomore, Kevin Andersson-produced full-length album was written and recorded during an extremely busy year — and the first single from those recording sessions is the slow-burning and heartbreaking single “Call Me.” Centered around an arrangement featuring twinkling piano, a shimmering string section, a soaring hook and Klang’s aching vocals, the song manages to recall both 70s AM rock and Dolly Parton ballads simultaneously, the song as Klang explains in press notes “is about the love that only happens once. It might not last for long, but you’ll remember it forever. ” And as a result, the song’s narrator expresses a swooning despair and bitter acceptance over the loss of her love, mixed with a bit of hope that she’ll know that feeling once again.

The recently released video made by Nadim Elazzeh and Mathilda Adolfsson Näslundis is shot with a hazy, dream-like and old-timey  quality while further emphasizing swooning and sensual Romanticism of the song with Klang looking lost in a nostalgic reverie. 

With the release of “Sleep,” and “Strangers,” the Gothenburg, Sweden-based singer/songwriter Sarah Klang began receiving praise across the blogosphere for crafting heartbreakingly sad material that some critics compared favorably to the likes of Roy Orbison and Jeff Buckley, and others — although interestingly enough, Klang has publicly cited Barbra Streisand and ambient electronica as major influences on her work. Building upon a growing national and international profile, Klang released her critically applauded full-length debut Love In The Milky Way last year, which she supported with a tours across the US, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Adding to a breakthrough year, Klang played a sold-out hometown show at the Gothenburg Concert Hall and three sold-out nights at Stockholm’s Södra Teatern — and she nominated for a Swedish Grammy for Alternative Pop Album and P3 Guld Award for Best Live Act.

Slated for a Fall 2019 release, Klang’s forthcoming (and still untitled) sophomore, Kevin Andersson-produced full-length album was written and recorded during an extremely busy year — and the first single from those recording sessions is the slow-burning and heartbreaking single “Call Me.” Centered around an arrangement featuring twinkling piano, a shimmering string section, a soaring hook and Klang’s aching vocals, the song manages to recall both 70s AM rock and Dolly Parton ballads simultaneously, the song as Klang explains in press notes “is about the love that only happens once. It might not last for long, but you’ll remember it forever. ” And as a result, the song’s narrator expresses a swooning despair and bitter acceptance over the loss of her love, mixed with a bit of hope that she’ll know that feeling once again.