is the name of Dutch singer-songwriter Johannes Sigmond and his band, whose debut LP Heavy Flowers
was just released in the US. Johannes probably wouldn't like me labeling his music, but it's got a unique folk sound, only with a darker, more sincere vibe than you're typical American banjo-playing "indie" band. Johannes was a lovely person to talk to when we interviewed him. Here's what he had to say about touring Europe, coming to the US, playing music with his brother, cycling, and the drama he hopes to bring to our American ears.
Where am I reaching you?
I'm in Amsterdam right now. I was in Barcelona yesterday.
Where you there on tour?
No. When there's no show or festivals scheduled, I am in Barcelona.
Is that where your band is?
No, no. My band is centered around Amsterdam. Barcelona is, I think, a three-hour flight, but it's much sunnier over there and the food is good. It's a good place for me to chill and write and I always bring a guitar to write.
So you have this album Heavy Flowers. It was recently released here in the States. Are you excited to have your debut US release?
It's always good that new audiences hear my music. It's rather funny that it's my debut in the U.S. Actually, I think it's a dream for lots of artists. You always can have a debut in a new country. It's like a fresh start and expectations are a lot different. For example, in Europe, it's my third album, so people are looking for what you're going to do now. Now, in the U.S. it's a debut.
It has been doing quite well in the Netherlands. I understand you're nominated for and Edison award? That's a pretty big deal. Congratulations.
It is. It's a great honor. Last year my album was chosen Best Alternative Album in Holland, and the rest of europe is pretty excited, so we're touring a lot. We're going to tour Germany and Eastern Europe. It's a good thing.
You were over here in October for CMJ. You played Santos Party House? How was the show?
It was good. Actually, it was in the middle of our Belgian club tour so we had like, four or five gigs in Belgium and just headed to New York just for one gig and then flew back to Belgium. When you're on tour you have no notion of time or day and night most of the time, so we played New York and it was just like we played in Belgium. I dont know. I haven't traveled much in the US, but I've been to New York a couple of times. New York feels kind of European to me, so it was just like a good European show - on the other hand, of course, it was my first US show. I brought my own band and we had like six other musicians on stage and it was really fun to do and the audience responded very well. We had great fun.
I think it's surprising that we haven't heard from you much over here. Your sound is something I think people would really enjoy.
I hope so. I take it step by step and that's the way I built in Europe, also. It's not like I am a radio hit wonder or something. It's a good thing to just play and people get to know your songs and get to know your album and are coming to shows. We take it step by step, so I hope the US will be kind to us.
How would you describe your music, maybe to someone who hasnt heard you?
It's always hard. People have to listen. I think that really is the case. I still label myself as a singer-songwriter but most the poeple, when they hear that you're a singer-songwriter think you are just a guy with a guitar or piano. But I'm not. I bring the whole band with me and it gets loud most of the time. So it's still hard to say with people putting a label on music. That's why I call it singer-songwriting.
You have a six-piece band. I understand your brother is in the band.
We have a six-piece most of the time. Sometimes if it makes sense, I'll bring an extra horn section or cello payer or whatever we like. My brother plays lap steel and electric guitar. He was there from day one when I started Blaudzun. It wasn't a real choice when he would join me on stage. It was so natural for him and for me that he was a part of that. In the end it's just me writing the songs and he helped me to get those songs on the album, and he joins me on stage. So it's not like the classic brother thing, like arguing about girls. It's a real a blessing that he's with me all the time and we don't have to explain ourselves musically to each other, so that's a good thing. We just have to look at each other and know if something is good, if an idea is right, if a show is just okay or a new song is working out well. It's a really great thing to have.
So, what's next on the agenda for Blaudzun?
We'll be touring Germany now, we've got some festivals in Holland, and we're coming to the States. We're doing South By South West, and I think we're doing a couple of New York shows also. Then we'll see what happens because we're ready and able to play. So it will be a year of...frequently flying.
Festivals! That's a good thing to do. It's always nice to do festivals after you've done a lot of club shows. They're more intimiate, but festivals are more cheerful, especially when the sun is shining.
Well, Austin ought to be nice then. I also hear there's a lot of cycling around there.
I think Lance Armstrong is from Texas.
Are you a fan?
Of course. I am a fan of every cyclist. I really love cycling. I'm really into professional cycling. I watch all the races. The classics in spring, and the grand tours in summer. I'm a big fan.
What influences your music most? Are there any American artists that you like over here?
Well of course, in my parents' house, I grew up with Dylan, and Johnny Cash and also a lot of Christian hippy stuff like Larry Norman. But that was the music that my parents were listening to. It was kind of a Christian family, so they weren't listening to the Beatles or anything. I discovered the Beatles a lot later in my teens, I guess. I'm a big Nirvana fan also.
Would you say that your band is unique to other dutch music or music thats coming out in the Netherlands?
There's some pretty good artists and bands in Holland. Either they do alternative rock or great singer-songwriter stuff. I guess my music is more a combination of the two. Also, I like drama, and thats not a typical Dutch thing to put some drama in your music. To sing about the darker stuff in life. That's not what pop artists like to do here in Holland. I think those type of records are my favorite. Not the happy, cheerful stuff, but the music that makes you think about life and goes a lot deeper than saying "I love you, dear."
Blaudzun hits the Bowery Electric on March 10, and plays SXSW in Austin soon after. Heavy Flowers
is out now.
Follow Blaudzun on Twitter
Watch Blaudzun's "Elephants" music video: