She just runs her finger up and down a string, any string she fancies. One finger chords. When I come to the end of a song, I nod then she stops.
Incendiary spend some high times with the Sugarettes
A jazz cafe in Haarlem on a Tuesday night is not the sort of place you'd expect to find one of the most exciting prospects in Dutch rock, but there you go, that's Holland for you. And checking out something good invariably takes you to the strangest places. Since picking up a promo CD from a friend, I've been intrigued by this raucous, poppy and slightly shambolic four-piece known as the Sugarettes. Initial listening impressions pointed towards late eighties independent releases; the sort of stuff Creation put out in their heyday, but there's something there that you can't quite pin down; and that's always a promising sign. An interview was duly arranged at Cafe Stiels in Haarlem and once the band (comprising of the twin vocal/guitar attack of Joep & Iskaa, bassist Cox and drummer man Marnix) were sitting comfortably, Incendiary pressed the record button.
IN: The first time I heard you, I thought you didn't sound at all like a Dutch band. Your music is very brash, upbeat and melodic. And the lyrics are very different from a lot of other Dutch bands. Your lyrics are very hard hitting and sensual. May I say "proper" rock and roll lyrics? What drives you to make this kind of music?
I: Joep, you answer that (laughs) because you wrote it!
J: That's a difficult question. I write other lyrics and things just pop up, I don't think about it. The first thing that comes into my mind I write it down and I keep it that way... I hardly ever change things because then it stays of the moment and spontaneous.
We don't really think about the music or its direction, we just sketch it, it takes twenty minutes and then that's it.
C: And then he comes to us and then we make a song out of it and record it.
IN: A pop art image...
J: We also have another process at work in the rehearsal room where we mould the notes into a song and shape it and create something.
IN: Why is it important to you to put the songs straight down?
J: I don't know, I've always done it and for ages I never did anything with it. I wrote like this for ages together with Iskaa...
I: Sitting there for ages next to a drum machine!
J: Yeah, it's cheaper than a drummer; you turn on the drum machine and start to make some songs...
C: I think Joep has a very poetic way of putting words in songs, maybe poetic isn't the right word, but he definitely has an interesting vocabulary. And he puts it all together in a very strange way.
M: There is also a very associative way of thinking involved in the stage between the songs being given to us (by Joep) and recording the songs. I do think you see colours and images through hearing the songs... I think that in some ways the message or lyrical content is less important than the actual way a word sounds in the song.
IN: I do think they are very sensual lyrics...
I & C: Sexy! Absolutely.
IN: Do you think you are kicking against the pricks in Holland?
I & J (simultaneously): Yes! Erm, NO!
C: It just turns out that we are I think... our role. That's the way it turns out.
J: If you say so... Is it you want me to say something as a protest against other bands? What do you want us to say?
I: It's not like that at all no.
M: If anything we want to create music with no hassle, without all the talk that surrounds making music in Holland, just get people together and make what we have into music.
I: We don't want to make statements for MTV. I'm sure you will! (laughs) Maybe I'm a bit boring!
IN: Yeah, starting with me. From now. Indeed.
M: We just don't have time for statements, especially when our music should speak for itself.
I: Also we don't try to be different; we're not looking for a new music or movement, not at all.
C: Joep writes sexy songs and we can make something from it and that's really it.
J: Because we have such limited means in many ways we concentrate on the songs.
M: Actually thinking on a tangent, Joep is the only guitarist I know who tunes with his ears.
I: (laughs) Ah that's just because he doesn't have... (Iskaa dissolves into laughter... gentle reader; we shall never know what Joep doesn't have).
J: Iskaa doesn't even have an official way of playing guitar.
M: She doesn't play chords, or use any particular tuning.
IN: Very Sonic Youth.
I: No I don't play any chords AT ALL!
J: She just runs her finger up and down a string, any string she fancies. One finger chords. When I come to the end of a song, I nod then she stops. (Iskaa is nodding and laughing approvingly).
look, no chords
IN: Do you think it's a struggle as a Dutch band to be taken seriously in Holland?
C: I don't know; everything's just going our way. Everything's just fallen into place in a rather unexpected way. Because in our other bands things have been difficult; maybe not because we are Dutch, but I don't know...
M: Well that's true to an extent of the other bands we have played in. But we did this demo and the reaction to it has been overwhelming and we have been completely surprised by it because we certainly can't explain why it is this time. I never know what makes us so different to other Dutch bands.
I: I have to say it's very strange that people already have expectations for the album, and we get reactions from people who don't like music (laughs) and they tell us!
IN: That's very Dutch.
IN: Moving on, what inspires you musically?
J: I like blues and straight rock and Iskaa likes indie bands. It's really weird, I think I'll make a song like Tom Petty and Iskaa decides to make the same song sound like Sonic Youth.
I: I always wanted to make music like the early Manchester sound, or like The Jesus & Mary Chain and sometimes it happens a little bit, if Joep is in the mood.
J: She accuses me of bad taste...
I (ignoring Joep): And I like singing and combining voices and that reminds me a little bit of a Beach Boys atmosphere.
J: I always liked Sparklehorse. I've got a big pile of tapes at home with loads of songs, some rock, some country and no-one wants to hear them.
C: I think to be honest it's good not to want to sound like any one band or style.
IN: People would always define you as a rock or a pop band, the 3voor12 interview (a Dutch TV interview on the Sugarettes' myspace) immediately saw you as a pop band, and tried to ask you questions in a teenager pop style...
M: I think it's because of the name.
J: I never thought of you thinking of the name like that. I just named it 'cos it's the name of the heroin cigarettes.
IN: Do you mind being branded a pop band?
J: It's a problem maybe...
I: Erm well... I think we're going to get labelled anyway...
M: I think it's more a problem for me if we get labelled rock than pop.
To read the rest of this interview, where we are offered chicken recipes, click here