A Chat with The Arthurs (28.07.20)

Hailing from The Netherlands, The Arthurs is a dynamic and compelling alt-rock band with a rather distinctive style. Receiving positive feedback for their previous singles, The Arthurs have outdone themselves with the latest ‘Something With Oceans’. We spoke with frontman Robin den Drijver (RD) about the new single, musical inspiration and experiencing nostalgia.

OSR: How did the band form?

RD: Back in 2013-2014, I was in a band with our drummer Jetske and two other guys with the ambition to record a couple of songs I had written; that didn’t really work out. The whole recording process went too slow, so after half a year I decided to record the album and do all the instruments by myself with Jetske doing the drum parts. The recordings eventually turned out to become our debut album When I’m Sane. It was shelved for a year or two because there was no band to perform these songs with and during that time I also lost contact with Jetske.

In 2016, I decided to form a band again to play these songs from When I’m Sane live, so I asked Jetske to form a band again with the name The Arthurs. We released When I’m Sane in the summer of 2017 after completing the line-up with an English bassist and a Northern-Irish lead guitarist who were both living in The Netherlands.

In the years following that release, we had to make some changes in our line-up. Jetske is still there and with Dylano as our lead guitarist and Martin as our new bass player we feel blessed with very nice people and great musicians.

OSR: How would you describe your single ‘Something With Oceans’?

RD: ‘Something with Oceans’ is partly based on a dream I once had about somebody I used to know; someone I was really close with when I was younger. It’s a sort of autobiographical song, I think. It’s about how I felt back then, how I felt about myself, about this person and how I saw the world I was living in at that point. Life can be pretty frightening and confusing when you are 21. When you’re in your thirties it still is sometimes, I have to say. *laughs*

OSR: Do you feel ‘Something With Oceans’ differs from your previous work?

RD: I always liked the loud-quiet-loud dynamics in alternative rock music, like Pixies and Nirvana did. You can recognise these structures in some of our songs too, like ‘Red Letter Days’, ‘Void’ and ‘Leave this Town’. I really like melody too. I like the idea of translating images, memories, scents, emotions, thoughts and feelings. All these things that your brain can fabricate into sounds.

‘Something with Oceans’ is like that too. There are no loud-quiet-loud-dynamics in this one, it’s more ‘in your face’ right from the start. It doesn’t really have a build-up or a bridge, like a lot of our other songs. It doesn’t have the verse-chorus-verse pattern; the first chorus is an instrumental part where there were vocals first. To make it instrumental was an idea of my girlfriend and it worked out really well, I guess. ‘Something with Oceans’ is a more compact, melodic and emotional song. It’s even more poppy than some of our previous songs, in a good way, I think.

OSR: What is your creative process?

RD: I’m writing the songs and record demos at home. In our rehearsal space these songs come alive when everyone is doing their own stuff and filling in their own pieces. Every member of the band has a 100 percent creative freedom, so I’m not really telling them what to do or how they should play their parts. I encourage the other members to write songs also or write musical pieces to create songs. In the end, I think democracy and artistic freedom in a band is the best way to keep everybody happy.

OSR: Who inspired your music?

RD: There are tons of bands and singer/songwriters who I really like, but here are a couple of the more well-known bands who I think inspired my music: The Doors, Pixies, Nirvana, Radiohead, R.E.M., etc. At that time, you could see these great bands on MTV all of the time. I also really like British 80’s bands like The Smiths and dark, moody singer/songwriters like Sparklehorse or Mark Lanegan. People like Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Thom Yorke and Morrisey were like heroes to me when I was younger.

I really like songwriters who can actually write ‘real’ songs; great writers with real lyrics. I think lyrics in songs are very important. I’m also keen on some electronic bands. I like the idea of blending rock music with electronic, weird spacey sounds; something I did when I was in a side project called Transtec.

OSR: Can you tell us about the video for ‘Something With Oceans’?

RD: It’s partly based on a dream I once had; a dream where I drowned. With this video, we also aimed to do something else than we did before which is not playing instruments. It’s like a little movie and pretty absurdist, just like we wanted it to be. There’s a queen and her sort of servant, a failing, incompetent ‘baywatch’ and a drunk, sleeping, dreaming sailor in a bathtub. I guess the video and song are still pretty much open for interpretation; something I really like when I’m listening to the lyrics of others too.

OSR: When is the last time you experienced nostalgia?

RD: I am a very nostalgic person and think about things that happened in the past quite often. A lot of my songs are inspired by personal experiences in the past, so nostalgia is an important element when I’m writing songs.

OSR: What are the different benefits and challenges to being an independent artist?

RD: We record all of our music at my place and only record the drum tracks in a studio. Recording at home saves a lot of money and gives you a lot of extra time to experiment. It’s free and you have all the time in the world. The internet brings you a lot of possibilities to promote your music yourself, so you can have 100 percent artistic control.

On the other hand, because of the internet, there are a lot of bands and there is a lot of competition. Unfortunately, it’s not always the quality of music that is key to success or recognition in this micro-independent music industry nowadays. Sometimes it’s not the about the music you’re making, but it’s about the people you know.

OSR: What plans do you have for the future?

RD: We’ve just recorded a lot of new songs for a second album. We want to release an album with 11 or 12 songs including the singles we released lately or an EP with six completely new songs at the end of the year.

We’re not playing live now because of the Corona situation, so we concentrate on staying visible, growing our fanbase and just keep on doing what we are doing. Before Corona, we had some pretty cool bookings to play on quite big Dutch festivals this spring. We are all doing this DIY without management or a booker, so we were doing pretty good in that sense. We hope that we will do even better when the situation changes and we can play live again.

OSR: Do you have a final message for our readers?

RD: As a very ambitious band, we just want to reach as many people as possible with our music. We think it’s really worth it, so just give it a listen yourselves!

Thanks to Robin for chatting with us! You can find more about The Arthurs on their Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify.

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