It seemed like the next stop on a trip to the past when Feng Suave put out their single Come Gather ‘Round this June. Now, a whole summer and an EP later, the Dutch psych-pop duo came to Berlin to play an intimate showcase. In a laid-back fashion, Daniël De Jong and Daniël Schoemaker managed to wrap the audience around their fingers with their silky smooth sound – and good humor. Before the performance, I got the chance to chat with them about their fresh release So Much For Gardening, why its title is a bit misleading and their feelings about lab-grown meat.
Your new EP “So Much For Gardening” has been out for around a week now. How are you two feeling?
Daniël Schoemaker: Pretty good!
Daniël de Jong: We kinda dragged it out a little bit, as we already had three singles when the 4-track EP was released. The whole thing was already finished in January this year, so mentally we’ve moved on to the next project.
D.S.: But it feels good to see the people listen to it and enjoy it.
Thematically, the record seems to differ a bit from your prior releases. What brought you to tackle darker topics like climate change?
D.S.: I guess we’ve tackled these topics before, but not as explicitly. Now we have a song more or less devoted to the environment.
D.J.: We’re not trying to offer any solutions, it’s just an observation.
That was kind of my next question: Is there an intention to make people conscious of the problem or do you simply reflect the state of our world?
D.S.: I don’t think that among our listeneres we need to raise more awareness, as it’s generally a younger crowd. So it’s more of just being true to the time you’re living in and we want the music to be a reflection of that.
Concerning the sound itself, the new songs sound a lot more like previous decades. What drew you to the 60ies and 70ies, what artists did you listen to while creating?
D.J.: The Beatles, The Mamas & The Papas and The Beach Boys of course. We tried to imitate them, especially Unweaving The Rainbow Forever and Come Gather ‘Round feel very much borrowed from these musicians. We’ve been listening to this kind of music for quite a long time, but we never really nailed this old sound. So we decided to just do it the same way they did and record it to tape instead of a computer.
D.S.: While the first EP was all bedroom, the second one was done in something that resembled a studio and now we were in a proper studio with an engineer, Jasper. He brought all his crunchy analog gear and it was nice to have someone who knew exactly what he was doing, who we could rely on for the quality of the sound.
D.J.: Yeah, ’cause we really didn’t know how to record to tape. (laughs)
When watching your music videos, like Come Gather ‘Round for example, one would not expect the lyrics to be so cynical and serious compared to your positive sound and entertaining visuals. Why do you like this strong contrast?
D.J.: The video is cynical in a way too: It was a joke we had in mind even before making the song, to make fun of people who believe rich people are lizards, as there’s a conspiracy theory about that.
D.S.: Yes, lizard acolytes. We portrayed the elites and that kind of fit the theme of Come Gather ‘Round. And with regard to the contrast, we just think it’s important to bring something new to the table. If you’re gonna be super vintage musically and write romantic lyrics, that might be a bit too boring.
D.J.: The lyrics give away the fact that it’s not from the 1960ies, because people wouldn’t sing that back then.
Moving on, Unweaving The Rainbow Forever is kind of directed towards our destruction of the environment and I find the metaphor in the title quite interesting. What was the idea behind that?
D.S.: Well, it’s actually a bit of a rip-off. There’s a book called “Unweaving The Rainbow” – and we added the word “Forever” to that.
D.J.: That was our input. (laughs)
D.S.: And “Forever” by Pete Drake is the name of the song who’s music video we ripped off, so full circle there. But the book is about deciphering natural phenomena like rainbows and seeing what the scientific explainations are for these. Now the song uses this in a different context, it takes apart the world and unscrews all the nuts and bolts.
Show Me on the other hand seems more turned inwards. Is it scary to make yourself so vulnerable for everyone to hear?
D.J.: It is a way more personal track in that sense. But we made sure to make the text a little more abstract, so that it is still relatable for other people and that you have to dig in for the message. It’s always difficult when writing lyrics to not just write down “I feel this because of this and then this happened” – before you know it you have your life story in front of you and that’s not something I would want to sing about. I like when people can extract different meanings from a song.
I also watched your “Gardening With Feng” video and I must admit that was one of the best ads for an EP I’ve seen in while. Now, do you actually have a green thumb?
D.S.: Not yet!
D.J.: It’s funny ’cause neither of us has a garden.
Why then the title So Much For Gardening?
D.S.: Yeah, we’re starting to ask ourselves that question more and more. (laughs) The title was just meant as a “Whatever!” and now we have to do all these gardening themed things and oh man, this got out of hand… It does kind of encapsulate the topics of the EP and is meant as a metaphor, but now people think we made a Mort Garson record and are all about plants. It’s like asking Tame Impala what he thinks of ocean currents or what fish he eats, you know what I mean?
D.J.: Well, we’re sort of in a garden on the EP cover to be fair…
D.S.: That’s true, we did ask for it.
The artwork in question: So Much For Gardening EP Cover after “Clover” by Tateishi Harumi
And you played a few shows during the last days, how did it feel to perform on stage after such a long time?
D.S.: It was really fun to be in front of an audience again and to be back on the road. It’s the part of the job we didn’t get to do for two years – that’s a pretty crazy gap. So you kind of forget what it’s like and lose touch with half of what your profession is, you know? Simply working from the house and not seeing anybody respond to the music live was weird, as your career only happens online.
D.J.: It makes everything very surreal.
D.S.: You feel detached from it, you don’t really think that you have a career. It’s just like “Oh, in this app in my phone it says that I have one.”
D.J.: Yes, we had to practice quite a bit. As we hadn’t played as much together as we usually would have done, it took a bit of time to pick it up again.
Very much understandable. But you’ve been releasing music together since 2017 now, has your joined creative process changed since then? Are you sick of each other yet?
D.J.: It’s working well still as we don’t work together that often. First and foremost we’re friends and after that we’re colleagues. Our writing process is very much individual as he’s doing it from his home and I do it from mine, later we complete each other’s ideas if necessary.
D.S.: So we usually don’t write under one roof but rather unify the songs we made seperately and arrange them together.
That’s interesting, I don’t think I’ve heard that from a band before.
D.S.: People always think it’s weird, kind of like two solo artists under one name.
D.J.: Also I can imagine a situation where you see each other on a daily basis writing songs together and getting into fights a lot quicker, so it comes in handy in multiple ways. It preserves the friendship.
With sounds and thrills
And flashing lights
A cosmic sigh“Show Me” – Feng Suave
At the end of each of Picky’s interviews, there’s a blank space where the artists can drop anything that they’d like. So if there’s something you want to say, now is the time!
D.J.: Shoutout to the boys!
D.S.: Shoutout to the band, to our friends. Kike, Gino, Adura, Ivar – and Denzel, our new member. He’s a f*cking weapon.
D.J.: What else do we want to say?
D.S.: Hm… Oh yeah, lab grown meat is stupid. Not that real meat is any better, but I just think we should give that up. Why make something that is exactly like beef?
I guess it helps people who want to stop eating meat but like the taste?
D.S.: That is true, that is the reason. There are people who like the taste so much they’re willing to invest a ton of time and energy to make a burger in a petri dish…
D.J.: Screw them.
D.S.: (laughs) It’s just ridiculous, I mean veggie burgers exist. Give up the meat, man!
Lovely, now if that doesn’t match the climate change spirit of your EP…