Timber Timbre at Muziekgieterij, Maastricht – an interview

What is going on? I will arrive later in Maastricht, Netherlands, than the band itself, Timber Timbre, who have travelled all the way from Switzerland…Holiday traffic jams, roadworks galore and then a city thronging with people and coaches from all over Europe. Ah, the city’s greatest son, André Rieu is playing his hometown in a beautiful old open air setting slap bang in the middle of the city. Masses of fans queue up and populate every, and I mean every, restaurant and cafe in town. Will there be still people attending Timber Timbre at the Muziekgieterij tonight? I am not insinuating that the fans share a musical taste here but that visitors might simply not get into town…But they do, many of them, and they are being well rewarded with a great final gig before the venue’s summer lull. Here we go:Timber Timbre at Muziekgieterij, Maastricht – an interview.

Timber Timbre at Muziekgieterij, Maastricht - an interview

Timber Timbre play songs from all albums, neatly interject the new “Sincerely, Future Pollution” album and do so with a dark, hypnotic and yet danceable vibe. Encores galore, a very friendly band, what more do you want. It is however very dark, suits the music, suits Taylor Kirk, but does not suit the camera so much…

Earlier in the afternoon, a tired Taylor Kirk enters the venue from the tour coach and kindly chats to Offbeat Music Blog. A quiet, pensive, well-spoken man who strikes me as very modest and friendly with a good sense of humour.

At this point, I would like to thank Ingrid Huhn at City Slang and Yann Dupuis, tour manager, for making it possible and as always the great crew at the Muziekgieterij, the appreciative audience of this venue and of course Timber Timbre for the great performance. And now we chat:


Timber Timbre at Muziekgieterij, Maastricht - an interview

Offbeat Music Blog: Thank you very much, Taylor, for taking the time for this interview on your rather strenuous tour!

Taylor Kirk (Timber Timbre): Yes, of course.

OMB: Has there been a defining moment in your life where you decided, music is something I want to do and totally immerse myself in it and create?

Taylor Kirk: I can remember as a kid seeing another kid, a couple of years older than me: He was playing guitar at a friend’s place. He was playing “Heart Shaped Box” by Nirvana. This really captured my imagination and I understood that I needed to be able to do that. That was the only real kind of moment. From that point on it was just something that needed to be done at some level.

OMB: How old were you there?

Taylor Kirk: I think I was maybe twelve or thirteen.

OMB: And did you come from a musical family?

Taylor Kirk: Yeah, my Dad is actually a drummer. We used to actually play together when I learned to play guitar. We would jam.

OMB: You joined bands before Timber Timbre. Were they in the same kind of genre?

Taylor Kirk: I suppose, yeah. I was mostly playing drums before this project in other people’s friends’ bands, kind of, yeah, rock’n roll music.

OMB: When you look back at Timber Timbre and the bands before that, do you see a straight line in your development, in your songwriting?

Taylor Kirk: Yeah, to me it is quite linear. It changes a certain way. I can track where it’s come from and how it’s changed. I observed that. And also, you know, part of that is intentional and deliberate, and part is also subconscious and a result of learning.

OMB: When you sit down to write a song, do you think about the perception they might receive or is that at the back of your mind and you write them for yourself?

Taylor Kirk: I remember when I began making recordings, writing songs, that it was really just for me – it was for my own kind of catharsis or pleasure. Now, as I go along, I notice more and more that the thing is kind of infected by this concern that it has another purpose, that it is not just meant for me. I always try and put that away but it is there. It is too bad. I wish I could somehow undo that. I don’t know what that would mean to reverse that kind of idea or that factor, you know.

OMB: You recorded your new album “Sincerely Future Pollution” in France in a studio that was full of old, mainly electronic, instruments and you made use of them in a big way. But did you already have in mind before that to change direction a little bit?

Taylor Kirk: Oh yes! The idea was that we would make something that was decidedly electronic and maybe even sort of uptempo or danceable. Something more kind of fun. There was a curiosity about doing something different. It didn’t really go as planned but we did end up embracing this different instrumentation. It is not hugely different but I guess it is just the era of the synthesisers we were using.

OMB: For me it is not so different. There is some new additions but it is still Timber Timbre.

Taylor Kirk: For some it was a big deal.

OMB: For some it was a HUGE deal to the point that they claimed this is not Timber Timbre anymore. How did you deal with that?

Taylor Kirk: I dunno. That was kind of the initial reaction when we started to share the recording with friends and contemporaries and they found it to be…well, it was weird to them and somehow unfamiliar. So that got me a little bit concerned at the time. I never found that it was that unusual.

OMB: Maybe people see Timber Timbre from a different angle sometimes than yourself?

Taylor Kirk: Could be, yeah!

OMB: When you write songs, you do this on your own, I presume and then go into the studio. Do your band colleagues find it difficult, those not being their own songs, to add to them?

Taylor Kirk: No, it seems, as we’ve gone along, they have insinuated themselves more into the thing and made themselves indispensable. To the show but also to the recording process and to the composing as well and arranging. This time around we spent a lot of time together, evolving the songs, the three of us, Mathieu and Simon and myself. Olivier, our former drummer – he was also very involved with sounds and he played quite a lot on the album as well….Did I lose track there?

OMB: No, not at all, you are right on track (laughter). What did you have in mind other than from the musical perspective, from the lyrical and atmospheric side, when you started out doing the album?

Taylor Kirk: All these kind of notes and observations I collected, textural kind of references – all of them were kind of revolving around this science fiction ideas of dystopic realities. I started to consider that we were now living in one of these science fiction worlds that had been written about in the past, had this idea that we had arrived in the future.

OMB: Do you mean the power or the digitalisation?

Taylor Kirk: Yes, that but also the ephemeral nature of how things are disposable and how fast things are moving now.

OMB: You live in Montreal, Canada. Canada is becoming really popular right now, back on the map when we talk about “America”, isn’t it? You are lucky to live there.

Taylor Kirk: Yes, I guess so.

OMB: From the feel of your older recordings and knowing you write in solitude, one would assume you live in the countryside, but Montreal is a pretty big place, isn’t it?

Taylor Kirk: Yeah, it’s a proper city. I dunno, I really thought I was destined to return to the woods. I grew up in a rural place. But I haven’t managed to do it yet. I haven’t managed to be courageous enough to do that on my own. One day…

OMB: If, like you said, tend to write “in a bubble”, how do you find touring? You have one stressful tour here at the moment.

Taylor Kirk: It’s fun. I really really used to hate it. I really preferred to be at home but somehow I have adjusted and I have come to like it and need it. It’s weird. It has been very different now with this group. It’s become a lot more fun to do it with this group of people. To play in this kind of traditional format of a rock group is much more satisfying, I think. People know what this is and they respond to it. As opposed to what we were doing years ago. It was really difficult.

OMB: With the audience?

Taylor Kirk: Yeah, to win people over in the format that we were approaching it with before.

OMB: And now you get a good feedback?

Taylor Kirk: Yeah, it doesn’t require the same level of patience and attention. It is a bit more like (snaps fingers).

OMB: With the more complex nature of the instrumentation on your new album, are the songs more difficult to take to a stage?

Taylor Kirk: It is only really now that we had to pay attention to honour what we have done with the recordings with the live show. It is still a bit bigger and heavier but we have never been overly concerned about that. This time we weren’t really able to do other arrangements because of the nuanced things. Everything needed to be there.

OMB: So it was a bit like jumping into cold water then. But it worked out fine?

Taylor Kirk: Oh yeah, yeah! There was a big concern also that the new music wasn’t going to fit with the older repertoire but it’s all good.

OMB: Which song on the new album “Sincerely Future Pollution” best exemplifies the spirit of the album?

Taylor Kirk: The one that I was really the most proud of was “Sincerely Future Pollution”, the song. Because we really realised it as a group. That was probably the first time that something had been created organically between all of us together. It is quite anonymous on the recording but that’s the one for me.

OMB: Are there songs that you won’t play anymore from the past or on the contrary are there songs that you can still totally identify with?

Taylor Kirk: Oh yeah! I mean there are lots of songs that we never played because we just never were able to make them compelling in a live setting. And certainly there is older music that we have played for so long that it needs to be put away for a little while. Yeah, I dunno, I think everything from the catalogue is still cool, is still relevant. But maybe the first two recordings, “Cedar Shakes” and “Medicinals” – these were home recordings I did on my own. These are much more rooted in blues music and folk music. It would be tricky to find a place for a lot of these songs.

OMB: Is there any question where you would think – sitting at home and thinking about doing an interview – “I would really like to be asked that”?

Taylor Kirk: (Laughs out loud). I never ever think about that. I am not a good interviewee. I get really nervous about these kind of situations.

OMB: Well, this is not television and something big! So, nothing comes to mind?

Taylor Kirk: No, nothing in particular (laughs).

OMB: Thank you very much, Taylor!

Taylor Kirk: Thank you for the opportunity!





Buffalo Tom play Muziekgieterij Maastricht plus interview

Do you get this feeling too? You have listened to a certain album so many times that the first little sound of just one song off it, makes your mind explode with the memories of that time of your life. Sometimes I do not want to listen to that album later on in my life for the simple reason that I fear I might dilute those strong sentiments. This has been the case for many albums in my case, but certainly for the threesome of “Let Me Come Over”, “Big Red Letter Day” and “Sleepy Eyed” by one of Boston’s and indeed the US’ finest bands Buffalo Tom. I have found though that their later albums (spread over the years since Buffalo Tom are not fully in the music business alone anymore) appealed to me as well, Buffalo Tom having of course grown up too.  Since Buffalo Tom do still play their old songs and graced Europe with a rare set of performances (25th anniversary of “Let Me Come Over”), I went to their gig (giddily excited like everyone else in the series of sold-out shows in Europe). Are you ready? Buffalo Tom play Muziekgieterij Maastricht plus interview.

Buffalo Tom play Muziekgieterij Maastricht plus interview

Okay, I am ready to listen to the old songs again. Why? Because Bill Janovitz, Chris Colbourn and Tom Maginnis, just the three of them, without much ado, delivered a burning set of old and new songs. And the old songs have stayed so fresh despite being delivered very true to the originals. Buffalo Tom songs can take a lot memories of a lot of people and there is room for new experiences too.

Thank you so much Buffalo Tom for this amazing gig and everyone at Muziekgieterij too for being such a lovely venue of real music enthusiasts and of course another thank you to Bill Janovitz for the following interview!

Buffalo Tom play Muziekgieterij Maastricht plus interview

Offbeat Music Blog: Thank you very much, Bill, for taking the time for a chat. We are all looking forward to Buffalo Tom’s show tonight here in Maastricht/Netherlands. You seem to have a very loyal fanbase in Belgium and the Netherlands. How come?

Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz: Thank you. I don’t know! You should tell me (laughs)! There are a couple of things: American guitar rock was already fairly popular on an indie level in the Netherlands and Belgium and Germany and the UK when we started in the late eighties. We signed to a label out of the Netherlands, run by a Belgian guy, Megadisc Records. We signed to them and SST in America at around the same time. That was really our first entree to Europe. Also we were produced by J Mascis on our first two albums and he already had some leeway here in Europe. So people were interested in that respect. And we actually had a Dutch promoter to our first tour, the Paperclip people. There was already a circuit for people plus we had the fortune to sign to a Dutch label and the Play It Again Sam people were all involved. We had a good leg up here but the music, I think, appealed to people and I think, they were ready for this kind of thing, at least on the level that we were at.

OMB: I heard you first on a Belgian radio station in the mid-eighties. I think we are about the same age. Belated happy birthday by the way. You were going straight on a tour after your birthday. That must have been pretty rough.

Bill: Nooo, no, it’s a good thing. At this point, a tour of a week is a vacation for me. This is all my birthday week. I love playing music live. You know, we don’t have to tour for months and months at a time like we used to. So, at fifty-one, it’s like…I have a friend who is just here for the ride. He came along because he is having a good time. My friends look at this like: Wow, you get to play to thousands of people or hundreds of people and you tour around and drink beer and have fun and meet people. That’s what touring was when we started. But it gets old very quickly especially when you tour for a month, then go home for a week and then you do another month and then ten years of that. Then it gets burning out.

OMB: You are celebrating the 25th anniversary of your third album “Let Me Come Over”. Did you celebrate the anniversaries of the first two albums as well?

Bill: (Laughs). No, no. We might want to do an anniversary of “Big Red Letter Day” (4th album) because that was a big record for us. I don’t know. At this point it is just an excuse to go out (chuckles).

OMB: Some people also say, that on the third album you found your distinctive voice. The first two albums were fine but it was really Buffalo Tom from the third album on.

Bill: Yeah, that’s right. It is kind of our breakthrough artistic record, for sure.

OMB: Did you have to rehearse or did you often play the songs of that third album?

Bill: Most of “Let Me Come Over” we know like the back of our hand but there are some songs that we had to rehearse. Then there are some songs we thought we knew. We just soundchecked now and we soundchecked “Staples” and we were looking at each other, asking “Do you we end here or do you we keep going?” Certain things like that: As soon as you start thinking about it, it is no longer muscle memory and you start to question yourself. But a lot of it is just muscle memory. It is just a matter of reminding yourself and the ball rolls. So most of “Let Me Come Over” we have played but some songs we have not played much at all after that initial tour.

OMB: After “Let Me Come Over” came the two big commercial successes “Big Red Letter Day” and “Let Me Come Over” and then after that “Smitten”. Then, for a long time, there was nothing. Had you decided, okay, we are doing music on the side now.

Bill: Sort of. I don’t think we were that absolute about it. We were more burned out and said, let’s concentrate on our families for now. I had a kid that was being born that year, 1999, and Tom (Maginnis) already had two kids. We were just really tired of it all. It had gone on for longer than we expected. We didn’t say “Let’s break up” or “Let’s do this for a hobby”. It was more like Let’s give this a break for now, Let’s not rush back into the studio. We certainly did not. We did not have another record out for five or almost ten more years. But we kept playing and we would do a few shows here and there, even did little tours. We did this cover of “Going Underground” by The Jam. So we did things like that and always played around Boston. We went on to other jobs and in doing so, getting off that cycle, made music just so much more enjoyable again.

OMB: Maybe because the pressure was off? Probably explains why you three are still playing together and did not start to fight?

Bill: Yeah, that’s right. We might have just done irreparable harm back then. And the fact that we didn’t have a huge hit…it would have been nice to have a huge hit from the financial perspective because then you can do music on your own terms as well. I am friendly with Eddie Vedder. I look at this as a kind of ideal of success. He can go and play smaller places himself and still theatres and things. So he can get that experience. Also he can go “I can make whatever kind of record I want” and they make lots and lots of money. I don’t know if it would have been a good thing for Buffalo Tom or not. I think we are very level-headed, so who knows.

OMB: Your music was independent of any fashion which in the long run was a good thing because you are still there.

Bill: I think we were always more interested in classic kind of things, timeless, not necessarily classic. We were interested in the timeless aspects of music. We loved new sounds and experimenting with new sounds and bands that experimented, artists like My Bloody Valentine. You always want to push that. But we always wanted to write good songs, songs that lasted. “Let Me Come Over” is an interesting example of what you are talking about. At the time Nirvana and the grunge scene were really taking off and we were going back to more acoustic guitar. We double-downed with that idea on “Big Red Letter Day”, made it even more real classic sounding and I think those records hold up very well.

OMB: They do. They stay very fresh. Or do you have songs that you cannot identify with anymore?

Bill: Oh yeah, for sure! Especially those first two records (Buffalo Tom and Birdbrain) where you are still finding your way through. What are we? That’s why “Let Me Come Over” was such a breakthrough because we really coalesced into a thing. On the first two records you are sort of experimenting. Especially “Birdbrain”: It had more darkness to it than there really was about the band, I think. It was a little more grungy than Buffalo Tom actually tended to be. There is song called “Directive” which we don’t play. It is not that I dislike the song or a guy who is me from that record. We just quickly went through them. The other thing about the first two records for any band is, that is all you have for material. That’s basically a set. So you play these songs over and over again and by the time you get into the third, fourth, fifth record, you have all these songs to choose from. We are now on the ninth record and we try and work in some new songs too.

OMB: The albums “Three Easy Pieces” and “Skins” were then spread out over a number of years. How did you find your approach to making a record had changed, not only technologically but also maybe atmospherically?

Bill: The primary thing is, it is all digital. So you can make records at home or at least record sounds at home that are arguably better than our first record’s technology when it was still primitive. It wasn’t so much that technology in general was that primitive. The height of recording technology for me is still the late seventies of analogue. But then digital became so good to where we are now. But the first record was made on very inexpensive analogue equipment. Everybody involved in making the record was sort of inexperienced including the producers and the engineers. It was not a real studio, more like a warehouse space. You were just happy to get the sounds you get. But now, you can take stuff and bring it home and work on it and if the ideas don’t work, that’s fine, because you are not wasting anybody’s time or money. I am no engineer but I know how to get a decent sound with a decent amplifier. And I can sing.

OMB: Are you a bit nostalgic about the old days though? The record shops instead of downloading and streaming, the analogue technology, the music industry, the radio stations?

Bill: Yeah, I mean, I loved the days of spending a Saturday afternoon going to buy records and books and going back to my rented apartment with my girlfriend or my friends. Just having a glass of wine and putting on the new records and reading books and maybe going to a movie. But that was a whole lifestyle of being in my twenties. I don’t know what people in their twenties without kids do now – I am sure there are all kinds of fun things. But I also embraced technology readily. I am kind of an early adopter of things. I love new tools – to a fault. I love Spotify and I love being able to stream music. I think it is a myth that bands, new bands, feel that they missed out on an opportunity to make money. Because we made no royalties from records, you know. You got an advance and if you recouped your advance, then you did not get a very big advance because we were only selling ten, twenty, thirty thousand records. It wasn’t like all of a sudden there was big money in it. I think people make the mistake of thinking, well, if you got played on the radio, you get these royalty cheques from the broadcasters. And that you do get, but that was on the big radio stations. If a couple of people are streaming your…I think, the formulas could be better, don’t get me wrong. I would like to see people getting paid more.
I don’t really get nostalgic for vinyl per se. I understand it and I like to put on records from time to time. But I am much more about streaming music all through my house from my phone and if it sounds good on the high-quality systems I use, high-bit rate and whatever, bla bla bla, the convenience far outweighs – and I am glad to pay ten dollars. Honestly, I would pay twenty dollars a month for the same access. I don’t go buy records anymore, really. I mean, I will, if it helps support a band if they are doing a campaign or that sort of thing. But I don’t really listen to the vinyl anymore. It is located in a part of my house, in the basement.

OMB: Yeah, I keep them there too, looking after them though. I like the feel of vinyl and the look of it. (Me too, says Bill). But I am happy that I can do shows from home and artists can contact me with their music easily. And I can find new music on the internet.

Bill: I don’t know if I would be as adventurous if it was about records. I think I would shut down my mind.

OMB: Sometimes people don’t even get to do records or CDs and they put the music on bandcamp first.

Bill: Then there is that thing. Bandcamp is a great tool. I find a lot of acts that way and I support acts that way. Bandcamp is a great thing because you can put it on any device and listen to it – through Sonos which I use at home.

Buffalo Tom play Muziekgieterij Maastricht plus interview

OMB: I often hear people saying: Buffalo Tom – oh my, they were great, but they were the perennial maids of honour. But the other bands who made it were not exactly swimming in dosh, like Pavement.

Bill: Yeah, Pavement did a very successful reunion tour. They did okay there. But, yeah, you’re right. There were a lot of bands that did not get to our level but they were a lot of bands that opened up for us or supported us that did go on to big time like Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Hole. But you know, I wouldn’t trade places and be Smashing Pumpkins. Billy is an interesting guy but I wouldn’t want to be in a band with him. (Sees my uncomfortable face and laughs out loud). And apparently nobody else does here. (Laughs even louder). But he is a very nice guy when I have met him. And we were really enjoying playing with them and Hole.It’s just different. Listen, to be able to go and play to 1700 or 1800 people in Brussels or sell out London or come here…it’s just a gift.

OMB: Yeah, it is great, you go on tour and get packed venues still.

Bill: Yeah, we always admired cult artists like Tom Waits or Nick Cave. Even Van Morrison, he was huge in the seventies, but he still plays to loyal audiences. I would love to achieve that level of respect and be able to fill out a theatre any time. I don’t feel we are there. But I think if we devoted more time to the road, we would. But I think it is nice, I mean, the Paradiso in Amsterdam and so on, I never wanted to get much bigger than that. We have gotten respect over the years. There is nothing I would really change too much.

OMB: How do think your songwriting has changed over the years?

Bill: I think we mostly stayed ninety per cent the same (laughs). The lyrics have changed quite a bit. It reflects our lives and our lives as fifty-year olds are very different than when we were twenty-five. Things about adult concerns get in there. The approach of impressionist and stream-of-consciousness and guitar rock is all sort of the same though. We are writing different stuff now – we have a new record coming out which I think is excellent. So, let’s see.

OMB: Yes, I wanted to keep that secret until last. Because you have a very big surprise, you are working on a new record. It is almost finished?

Bill: Yeah, it’s done and we are having it mixed next week or so by John Agnello (Me: Woohoo!) who actually produced and mixed “Sleepy Eyed”. And he’s obviously done quite a bit since then (laughs). That should be interesting. He is a nice guy. It was a pledge music campaign – a crowd-sourcing thing. It did very well and it is still open if people wanna pledge!

OMB: But you have your own label?

Bill: Yeah, I am not sure who is going to release it. It’s going be us in partnership with somebody maybe.

OMB: Will you play a new song tonight?

Bill, Yeah, I think we will play a song.

OMB: Thank you very much!

Bill: Thank you so much, Alice!

Buffalo Tom play Muziekgieterij Maastricht plus interview

Mary Lattimore gig review

Mary Lattimore from Philadelphia travelled our shores with Great Lake Swimmers after the release of her new album “At The Dam” (Ghostly International) that is spinning in the Offbeat household non-stop and was so perfectly prescribed by someone writing in to BBC Radio 6 that I cannot but quote it: “Preparing for a holiday, listening to “At The Dam” which was inspired by her experiences on tour. What could be more perfect?”

Mary Lattimore is one busy woman and it is not an easy feat to travel to Europe with her chosen instrument – the harp. So you were well advised to use the opportunity to see her playing live. More on Mary Lattimore here in this blog as well.

We had the chance to see her at Muziekgieterij in Maastricht and when she sat down at the her harp, loop thingie (what DO you call it?) on lap, no microphone, the audience was very curious. Now let me add a little to that: You have here a master of her rare instrument, classically trained and on top of that having played with what reads like the who is who of modern music and yet Mary is down-to-earth, very funny and very kind. It was such a pleasure meeting her again and hearing her perform as well of course.

She treated us to a couple of pieces of her repertoire, ranging from the almost classical to the way-out-there experience.

The amazing mixture of her harp playing and interspersing it quick as a flash with loops and creating a soundscape that totally draws you in, was lost on some maybe. Others were absolutely thrilled to be introduced to her. The very few people who might not have quite connected were amazed in the end with what ease Mary joined and accompanied Great Lake Swimmers for one of their last songs of the eve. Yes, she CAN!

It is wonderful how Mary Lattimore gives harp music a new lease on life and us sound experiences that lull you in, shake you, stir you to eventually console you again. Those pieces will of course develop more of a life of their own in each listener’s mind as they are instrumentals, no lyrics and sometimes titles that you might not have any idea about and certainly not have in mind what Mary did. (Thinking about “Jimmy V” here – not known to too many Europeans or, yes, Mary, I must harp (er) on this: Welsh Corgis In The Snow (can’t get over that one).

I am not too worried about the poor Corgis anymore though as Mary is a dog-lover if I ever saw one.

The end of Mary’s performance saw enthusiastic, awestruck, some bewildered and yet taken aback faces.

I cannot see the video below (aaaawww, thanks German GEMA (royalties company) but I am sure most of you can. Just to give you an impression of what the music of At The Dam is like.

Still, even though you could listen to Mary’s music at home, it is still very impressive to see her live at work. I did not film anything but there is a wee clip I found from this tour, so I’ll point you to that:

Great Lake Swimmers @Muziekgieterij & interview

In one of the past blog posts I had posted an interview that Great Lake Swimmers‘ Tony Dekker kindly gave me and also highly recommended you to go see them on tour. And here comes more: Great Lake Swimmers gig review and interview

The three-week tour through Europe with Mary Lattimore has now come to an end and I had the opportunity (thank you Phil Klygo from weewerk!) to see them play and have another short conversation.

So, it was Friday, May 6th, one of the first warm days after a very cold spring so far and the lovely people of Maastricht do what they love best: Sitting outside, having fun and watch the world go by in their beautiful old city. Yet, quite a few people made it into the outstanding venue “Muziekgieterij” (thank you, the great people at Muziekgieterij, too) and were well rewarded:

Great Lake Swimmers had invited their friends The Fire Harvest from Utrecht who came despite it being their CD release day and treated us to a great set of slow and dark and introspective songs. Check them out!

Next up was master harp player Mary Lattimore but she will of course get her own space on this blog 🙂

Great Lake Swimmers - audience perspective
Maastricht concert May 2016

Great Lake Swimmers then entered the stage and by looking at people, I’d dare say, they entered their minds and hearts. You could hear a needle drop when the band delivered their acoustic set.  Yes, we all were still in the dark venue but somehow GLS conveyed The Great Wide Open that is so important to them, their inspiration, their essential elixir.

Tony Dekker, Bret Higgins and Erik Arnesen are accomplished multi-nstrumentalists, so if you are thinking – phew, a long acoustic set, that is going to be a tad dull, no it was by no means. At the same time the acoustic nature of the show made for a very personal atmosphere. Lovely to see and hear older songs again like old acquaintances, changed but inside the same.

The quiet sound also made it possible to really pay attention to the lyrics.

Great Lake Swimmers played a very long set and encores as well during one of which they were joined by Mary Lattimore on harp. I think most people would have had the same long-lasting effect of contemplative, calming and introspective mood after the concert as me. It was beautiful, thank you.

Before I forget, Tony Dekker kindly answered a couple more questions as well, so here goes:

Offbeat: Some people were a little worried since you only perform with part of the band on this tour.

Tony Dekker: Well, we are doing acoustic shows.

Offbeat: People seem to be very impressed that the music came across really well. Are you happy enough with how the tour is going?

Tony Dekker: Yeah, it’s great. We’ve been touring for three weeks and we have one more show and it’s been going really good. We were able to bring things back and revisit some of the back catalogue, playing songs in a little bit more quiet way and present them in a more intimate show with a three-piece band.

Offbeat: Do you find that the songs have changed over time or taken on a life of their own?

Tony Dekker: I guess so. I mean when you release a song you never know where it’s going to go, who is going to listen to it, what it is going to do. The songs always have a life of their own.

Offbeat: Do you have a musical background in your family?

Tony Dekker: No, no music in the family at all. I am the black sheep. I started out in my teens. I learned to play guitar and I was in scrappy art rock bands when I was younger. Then I started taking songwriting a little more seriously. After school I studied literature. Some of that affected my writing. It got me deeper into the writing process. I have more of a background in literature and writing than in music.

Offbeat: Are you one of the few artists who would think about the lyrics first?

Tony Dekker: Yeah, absolutely. 100 per cent.

Offbeat: That is very rare.

Tony Dekker: For a lot of the music out there at the moment the lyrics seems to be kind of an afterthought. It is more about the flavour of the week. Hopefully we are making music that will last a little longer. It is not really meant to be disposable music. A lot of the music at the moment lasts maybe a month and then it’s the next thing. Ours is not music that is meant to be like that.

Offbeat: Leonard Cohen it was, I think, who said, that his poetry does not sell or is read and that through music it becomes more approachable.

Tony Dekker: Yeah, I don’t know. It is a more direct channel. I know the quote.

Offbeat: Or maybe adding an extra layer for the atmosphere of the music?

Tony Dekker: I think songwriting is very different to poetry for sure. It is a different discipline. Some poems don’t really work as songs. And some songs don’t really read well as poems. So I think it is a different thing. But on that topic, I think, music is a more direct channel as you are really communicating with someone, you are really expressing something. There is a more direct connection when you are in room with a person sharing the same space and singing and making music in the air.

Offbeat: If you take us through your albums, how do you see your own development?

Tony Dekker: I don’t know, I think, maybe the songwriting has got a little more concise. We have gotten to be better musicians. We have evolved over the years. At the same time you could play some songs and do them with voice and guitar like on the first album and do them in the same setting and the songs still hold up. We still play songs from across our catalogue. We haven’t made the same album twice. There has been a progression with each album and I think you can hear that. It brought us to a place.
This tour is kind of a special tour where it is like reviewing our older songs. A lot of people who have been fans over the years want to hear those songs. So it’s more a tour for them.

Offbeat: Thanks very much!