Cooler than Slick Radio Edits; An interview with Pip Blom

Pip Blom is a remarkable example of how what remains of the music industry can still work for good. Plucked from the mass of self-released music that’s uploaded to the internet every day, the young Amsterdam band accumulated snowballing critical approval and attention from other musicians like Franz Ferdinand and The Breeders. Listening to the handful of released songs, it’s easy to see why too; Pip Blom embody a lofi DIY sound and aesthetic that resonate across oceans and ages. The band’s debut EP, Paycheck was released earlier this month on Persona Non Grata.

Ghettoblaster: Touring with Franz Ferdinand and The Breeders and getting great reviews from Noisey, Stereogum and the BBC, you’ve already had a remarkable amount of success for a band so early on. Was there a particular relationship or early review that really started to get things rolling for you?

Pip Blom: It’s definitely because Marc Riley on BBC6 started playing us really early on. When there was no band, and I released the first four songs that I had recorded all by myself at home, he immediately picked up on one of them, “Hours.” He played that song a lot and he even invited us over to do a session at his show. That was so cool. We were just starting off and him supporting our music was so cool. 

GB: With all of the success you’ve had with these individual songs, were you tempted to stray from the traditional album format? 2018 seems as good a time to try and reinvent how things are being done in music as any.

PB: Ha, that’s a really funny question. I’ve always said I don’t want to make an album. I couldn’t really see why it would be useful for a beginning band to put so much money in a huge project. Especially cause I always felt that we were still developing our sound and songs a lot. If you compare songs we made in March 2016 to songs we made in July 2016: they are completely different. I wanted to take the time and figure out what it was that we really loved making. And I think, after two years with so many gigs and different line-ups we’re finally there. We’ve got a dream team and we know what kind of songs we want to make.

GB: Some of your songs were written as early as when you were 18, correct? Going from your late teens the to early twenties can be quite a big mentality shift and I wondered how you still viewed the old songs. 

PB: It’s even 16! But yeah, I don’t really think the age part is causing a big shift in lyrics or songwriting.  I find it harder to listen to a few of the early songs cause I had never written songs before. So they are really, really basic and simple. After two and a half years of playing lots of shows and listening in a different way to music then I used to, I feel a lot more comfortable with the whole songwriting process. I do need to add one thing though: one of the first songs I’ve ever written is still one of my favourites.

GB: Do you feel additional pressure in pulling together your debut album in the midst of so much attention? I remember an article from Tom Verlaine where he mentioned that Television had nearly 10 years to play the songs that would eventually become Marquee Moon.

PB: I don’t really feel pressure cause I try to be really self-centred. I make music cause I like to make the music. Of course, it’s amazing if other people like it too. But I don’t want to try music with other people in mind. I think that never helps. It only causes stress.

GB: A lot of the bands reviewers reference when describing your sound, Pavement, Blur, Courtney Barnett, The Breeders, are these artists that you listen to? Do you see yourself as being influenced by them?

PB: Yes, definitely. I’ve listened to all those bands a lot. And I still do. Parquet Courts were one of the biggest reasons why I started with writing songs. I grew up with Blur and The Breeders and I was a big fan of Courtney Barnett when I was in high school. My biggest influence though is Micachu and The Shapes. They are my favourite band and their album Jewellery, in particular, is the best album I know.  

GB: Are those bands fairly well-known in Amsterdam? I know it’s still Western Europe, but I don’t want to take for granted that all “indie” culture is the same, especially almost 3 decades on.

PB: Yes, I would say they are fairly well-known. They sell out if they play in the Netherlands. And the indie scene is still quite big. It isn’t as big as it used to but hey, we’re slowly getting back on track. 

GB: Are there any Dutch bands that you think the rest of us should know about

PB: Canshaker Pi, Rats on Rafts, The Homesick, Steve French, Baby Galaxy, The Ex and so on. Lots of great Dutch bands you should check out!

GB: What do you find alluring about that lofi sound? 

PB: It feels a bit more real to me. It adds a lot of character to music if it’s not overproduced and way too slick. You can hear more of the choices that really reflect the way the artist thinks about music and likes music and I find that a lot cooler than slick radio edits. 

GB: Can you tell me more about the bandmembers you’re playing with? Are the songs still primarily your’s or are you sharing any more of the duties for the new songs?

PB: We’ve got my brother: Tender (guitar + vocal), Gini (drums) and Darek (bass). Tender has been with me since the beginning, but the rest has changed twice. It took some time to find the right line-up. But oh boy, this is really the one. Everyone has got the same way of thinking and we really get along. Darek hasn’t been in the band for long, but we recorded our record with him straight away. And that was a great experience. We’re all really happy with the end result. I still write all the songs, but everyone changes the parts that I’ve written and that really elevates the songs to a whole other level. I can’t play drums or bass and my guitar skill are also really lacking. So it’s great that everyone uses the parts but makes them a lot better. 

GB: What’s next for you as a band? Are there any artists you’d like to open for? Any particular fests or cities that would be exciting to play?

PB: We’re doing a tour through the UK in November. And we’re really busy scheduling the upcoming year. It’s all really exciting but nothing is set in stone yet so we have to wait and see if it’s going to be a mayhem or not. To be honest: we like to play everywhere. But I think at the top of our list at the moment is Tokyo. If we’re ever able to play there, it’s a dream come true.

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Photo: Ronald van Mil