EP REVIEW/ INTERVIEW
Re-intpreting their already omnivorous back catalogue (mostly picking songs from their last LP, I_Con), the rambunctious, ennui, Dutch group added even more mayhem to their already cross-pollinated originals with the reworked Vinticious Versions EP. One minute a Carney Die Antwood, the next, Damon Albarn shimmying to kooky sheik rock, each song was remodeled with a new musical verve and style. If anything, it could be argued that the EP is an improvement on the source – songs such as their Ill Communications era Beastie Boys homage, ‘Input Source Select’, became crispier and bouncier. Sean Bw Parker gives us his opinions on the EP, followed with an interview he conducted just before Christmas.
De Staat – Vinticious Versions (Cool Green Recordings)
In the blanded-out, anodyne landscape of ‘alternative’ music – roundly demarcated by Coldplay, Alt-J and Mumford & Sons – a Dutch studio maverick making headway after a music production degree would naturally set all alarm bells ringing. For this is what Torre Florim, De Staat’s main man is.
However, what he inserts into this all too auspicious introduction is…soul. And a most welcome degree of unhinged loonery, a la Beastie Boys (‘Paul’s Boutique’ era), G-Love & Special Sauce, and yes, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. It feels like the eight tracks on the Vinticious Versions have been meticulously handpicked and sequenced to ensure that NO ONE ever gets bored – and this we must celebrate.
Musically speaking, the highlight is ‘Devil’s Blood’, a genuinely beguiling, evocative soul lament, minor piano chords and autotune intertwining to sublime hypnotic affect. Elsewhere, ‘Get It Together’, Sweat Shop’ and ‘Down Town’ stand out with their sass and streetwise jaywalking appeal.
Some old-school skank here, spooky whistling there – all perfectly summing up a very roots-y, postmodern perspective – the sound of London, Berlin and New York concentrated into an hour of unique, funky focus and vision.
You’ve made one of my albums of 2014, in Vinticious Versions. Could you give us a rundown of the genesis of the recording?
When you’re in a band you often get asked to do an ‘acoustic’ performance, or a performance in a smaller setting, for radio and in-store sessions mostly.
Most of our songs aren’t made in smaller settings, and aren’t meant to be in smaller settings. Basically, we didn’t like smaller settings.
So we had to be creative and do something different with our songs, without falling into the ‘cajon-trap’. I personally hate it when bad ass bands get into campfire mode. That’s just not for us. So we brought out our small amps, small drum kit, and changed the songs into something different, a bit old school if you will, without losing the edginess.
The new versions were so different and too cool to leave be, so we recorded it in my home and released it a couple of months later as the Vinticious Versions.
De Staat seems to be a sonic stew of many different ingredients, a Dutch Gumbo if you will. Do your audiences get confused with the multifarious directions you take?
I personally love bands that do a lot of different shit. There’s too much cool music around to stay in the same genre bubble all the time.
With an EP like the Vinticous Versions, that’s just what we’re aiming for, to toy around with the original songs, and bring in other influences in an over the top way.
But I think you can hear it’s obviously us in every song. I don’t think our audience gets confused. Our audience is very bright you see.
To Torre Florim: you seem to carry the weight of responsibility in the band. To what extent are you accused of being a ‘control freak’, and does the tag even bother you?
I’m not accused of it that often, though I probably am. The cool thing is about our band is that we have a great understanding of each others qualities, and we tend to agree on what is good and what sucks very naturally.
If the rest of the band think a certain new idea I wrote sucks, I’m usually thinking the same thing at the same time, and vice versa.
I do think I’m less control freakish than I used to be, but that’s easy when you’re surrounded by quality players like I am.
How do you see yourselves within the contemporary music landscape of 2014? Are there any other artists you feel a kinship with?
It’s hard to look at yourself and say, “this is what we are” or “this is where we stand”. I usually don’t know what to say. It’s a being in the eye of the storm kind of thing. If you know what I mean? I don’t!
I’m very much digging St. Vincent, Jookabox and James Blake though, right now. Don’t know if that’s the same as kinship, but this is my answer so you figure it out.
Torre, if you were the CEO of a conglomeration of EMI, Universal, itunes and Spotify, what changes would you bring to the music industry?
I would fire myself right this minute. Let someone else deal with that horror.
What are you drinking?
I’m not drinking it right now, but it’s a great idea: a glass of zubrovka with one ice cube.