Incendiary interview Joep van Son from The Sugarettes and The Very Sexuals
Joep van Son, one of Nature’s gentlemen and self-confessed shy obsessive has something of a legendary reputation in pop circles. The lad hates singing on stage yet those who have seen him play live would attest to the charm he radiates. More importantly Joep can’t stop writing brilliant pop songs. Incendiary took a little time to ask him about all things pop.
IN: Joep, you are a man with your fingers in many musical pies. What is it that you need to express that can’t be expressed in one band?
JVS: Well, I didn’t ever feel like binding myself to a particular genre, or a group of people. I came out of a tiring band “process” in the past where I couldn’t do much with my ideas. I think I've got some catchin' up to do ;-)…
I came out of a jazzy kind of prog-rock band while I was only listening to the Palace Brothers and Songs Ohia and all that kind of shit. Now I want to write songs which I think are cool. And of course I discovered the Jesus & Mary Chain some time back. That - in combination with my love for female vocals – was the main reason that my current two bands arose. The Sugarettes are more bubblegum pop, whereas the Very Sexuals are more acoustic and Hollywood B-movie orientated. But both are based on action movies, love, porn & some of my own experiences IN: Are there two Joeps (the Sugarette Joep & the Very Sexual Joep) or are you just bad at concentrating on one thing, or staying in one creative place?
JVS: Ha-ha, yes I'm bored quickly, even with my own stuff. When I involve other people, I automatically get a different sound and feel to my songs. I get restless if I am too busy with one thing. So, whilst recording one thing I'm already busy in my mind with other projects with other people. I love the concept of catching the first moment of a song. So that’s my ideal scenario… to write and lo-fi tape it, and record it the next day.
IN: What do you feel is the essential difference between the two bands? I take it working with Pien is different from working with Iskaa?
JVS: Making music with Mariska is something I cherish. The process is always very spontaneous and effective. And I love the way our voices match. We spend relatively little time in writing as the first impulses are always good. When I wasn't doing much with music, she motivated me to do something with it. From that moment, we were a kind of duo. Now we are working on the second Sugarettes LP. Funnily enough, we use our mobile phones a lot to record sketches and play them for each other when we meet. After that we record a good demo in her home-studio. The problem is that she starts to giggle every time I sing; something during a recording; or maybe it is because of the wine...
Pien and I didn’t write the songs together (for the first Very Sexuals LP). I bumped into her on the ‘net and E-mailed her some songs. We finished them by email. When we first met, we had written the whole damn Very Sexuals record already without even speaking to each other on the phone. That was exiting. After one rehearsal we started recording the album. Pien is an expressive vocalist and my songs are quite simple. It was interesting to hear her sing more straight-forward 3 minute pop songs. We have plans to record a full-length LP next year. Tony Soprano and Matthew Star have been worked in along the way, say no more…
IN: You really love pop music don’t you?
JVS: Yes who doesn't? I love choruses where you have to put your arms in the air. And I love male / female harmonies. The tension that you get when you sing with each other is amazing. I do not want to say that I am looking for the perfect pop song and all that crap, but I always react best to music that is catchy. My knowledge of the guitar is very limited and most of the time I play something like A-D-A-D-E-D-A or the same thing but with a Kapo… Kapodaster… What’s the English word?
I also like to limit myself. I tried this fancy recording software at home but I've got to many choices too make. That is why I like to record songs with my mobile phone or an 8-track. The song must be good from the first, without the 1000 layers. For Post Apocalyptic Love we only used a crappy guitar from the flea market. And sometimes we recorded the drum kit with just one mic at the other end of the room. But we still made a Phil Spector-esque mix of it (laughs). And I always hated concept albums in pop music. Weirdly enough, that is why I wanted to make one myself about a boy & girl in love after the apocalypse. Like Mad Max meets Pretty Woman (laughs). IN: Sex and love is always present in your songs. Why is that?
JVS: It just is, because I'm nowhere near Bob Dylan and my English vocabulary is limited! (Laughs) IN: You are happy working and living in Eindhoven I know. And you always hear Eindhoven is Holland’s Rock & Roll spiritual heart. Is that hype? What has the place got to offer?
JVS: 15 years ago Eindhoven was the “cradle” for Dutch stoner rock bands. You had great bands here like 7zuma7, or Candybar Planet, mostly inspired by Kyuss in combination with Russ Myer movies. Nowadays you can’t really speak of a vivid & leading scene. It is not hype but yet it is history.
What I think is still worthwhile are bands like: Suimasen, Woody & Paul and Stuurbaard Bakkebaard. There are still a few constant rock ‘n roll monsters who are doing very well for example Peter Pan Speedrock but the pop scene in Eindhoven is very small; I personally know less than ten people who are in the “indie-corner”. So it goes; the same 10 people = 15 indie bands. They all mix up in different combinations! It gets a little much at times.. That is also the reason I love to be a part of The Subroutine Label. One of the few Dutch based record labels that have great taste in leftfield music.
IN: You have often stated that you suffer from stage-fright, yet you seem so relaxed on stage. Have you conquered this fear? You’re a charming fella, not really shy are you?
JVS: When The Sugarettes started playing live I had never sung before on stage. That was terrifying for me! I knew I had to get over that and that is why I think I'm comfortable sharing vocals 50/50 with another singer (laughs). And yes I'm shy. I'm more of a studio guy; I love the process of making songs and then I think 'crap, now we have to “do’’ it live!’ One big goal I have is to work on performance when we are going to play the new Sugarettes album next year! We must ‘Rock’!
Words: Richard Foster
Pics: Courtesy of Joep van Son