Pip Blom: A European Embrace

With every day, the UK’s relationship with Europe seems to become increasingly fraught with despair. For Amsterdam’s Pip Blom, however, nothing seems to be getting in the way of their mission to win over support from across the channel. Over the last couple of years, the band have charmed their way into the consciousness of many avid fans with their wistful indie steeped in Britpop traditions, which has also helped them form vital relationships with bands, producers and their label, Heavenly Recordings. There is also little to suggest that the increase in stature they’ve experienced could come to a grinding halt, and while the band themselves admit it comes as quite a shock, they’ve taken this growth entirely in their stride. The UK have welcomed Pip Blom with open arms, and the band have reciprocated with a set of songs that feel like a warm embrace.

Despite a rigorous touring schedule that has seen multiple festival appearances across Europe, there is still a genuine enthusiasm within the band and an excitement for everything on the horizon for them. Returning to Bristol once again after countless times back and forth from the continent this year, the band brought songs from their acclaimed debut album, Boat, to be played at Thekla, a boat (something which the band themselves were thrilled about). In tow on this tour were fellow Amsterdam natives Personal Trainer, a collective of musicians from across the city’s scene who have also begun to amass some support from British bands such as Sports Team and Bull, and Pip Blom seemed as eager as ever to introduce their close friends to a wider audience.

Speaking before Pip Blom’s sold out show, the Dutch foursome – consisting of their namesake singer/guitarist Pip, her younger brother Tender (guitar/vocals), drummer Gini and bassist Darek – discussed their rise in fame, achieving career goals and maintaining a strong focus, all the while maintaining the youthful exuberance that is part of why so many have become enamoured with them.

I guess the last 18 months have been pretty huge for you guys; you’ve not really stopped touring in that space of time, how is it dealing with being on the road and watching your gradual rise in stature?

Pip: I think those two things are quite separate – because when you’re on the road as much as we are, that gets quite intense. So even though crowds are getting bigger and more enthusiastic, it’s not like every night you’re thinking “Oh my god, there’s so many people”, but for the first tour when the album was released, there was a really big gap between that and the tour before, so before the album and around album release it just spiked out of control for us. The merch lines were an hour long and that was very cool and surprising.

Tender: It’s most noticeable if it isn’t as gradual. We had that one time where there was loads of people and everyone was having so much fun but usually if it is a bit more gradual it doesn’t have the same impact. It’s still awesome.

P: It’s amazing. For example, we’re about to sell out our Scala show which is the day after tomorrow. That’s 800 people and that’s insane, we’ve never had so many people buy a ticket.

Gini: When we got the offer, we thought we wouldn’t want to do it because we don’t want to play for a half empty venue and we wondered “Are you sure we should actually do this?”

T: The closest thing isn’t even half the amount of tickets as Scala.

P: But then at the same time, we’re getting closer to having three months off or two months off and a period of recording which is something I’m really looking forward to as well because I think it would be nice to have some new stuff and also get a bit of rest. Then you can start again. We love touring but sometimes if you do it too much it can become a bit of a chore.

T: It loses the magic, I think.

P: I’m very much looking forward to having some time off and then being fresh again, but for now we’ve got some very cool stuff lined up for the future. We’re going to Iceland, Mexico and America and that’s totally new to us. This tour’s treated us so well so we can’t complain.

T: And we’re not complaining.

You definitely shouldn’t be complaining. This is your third time in Bristol in that space of time, right?

T: We played The Louisiana but no other shows of our own before that.

P: We played with The Breeders.

T: We did two shows the last time we played here actually, we did the instore for Rough Trade as well so technically three shows.

P: It’s funny because of the size difference between The Louisiana which was only three months ago and [Thekla] is big, I think there’s only 120 people allowed there and this is almost 400 so that’s a really big move for us.

G: It was the first show [of the tour] to sell out as well.

It must be quite something to see that in such a short space of time you’ve got so many more people on board with your music.

P: The thing is, what I’m always thinking about is “Are we staggering it enough?’ because if you’re going to be playing in the UK every single month, everyone who wants to see you has probably seen you. Because we’ve been here pretty recently –

T: And we’re always here (laughs)

P: There are people that keep buying tickets which amazes me as well. I like lots of bands but I wouldn’t go and see them every other month. At one point I’d think “Jesus, just find somewhere else to play.”

G: But also people come to two shows in the same tour.

P: That’s mind-blowing to us as well.

Last time I saw you was back in January in Bath as part of Independent Venue Week, which you were chosen as the ambassadors for – how did that come about?

P: I’m not really sure how it came about, we were just asked to play IVW and we’re very big fans of playing small venues. That’s usually our favourite thing to do because it’s so much more energetic, you can see everyone and you feel the vibe a lot more. The fun thing with that tour was we got to go to loads of places we’ve never been to and you notice that lots of people that came to those gigs don’t usually have a gig in their town that often because all of the venues had posters with tribute bands on.

D: I think it was St Albans where we saw a lot of that, the posters were very amusing because they were all for bands with names like Sack Blabbath or something.

P: I would love to do IVW again in a heartbeat.

G: It was a lot of fun going to places I’d never heard of before, one place even gave me a huge bag of Yorkshire tea.

Obviously you say you’ve been touring the same set of songs for quite a while now and are keen to move onto the next stage, are there any proper album plans in the pipeline or is it going to be more of a period of rest and reflection?

P: We’re thinking of doing something else first before the album but we are already thinking about when we’re going to write that album. The problem is at the minute because we’ve toured so much there was no time to write anything, so we need to make time to do stuff like that, that’s our main priority and having a bit of rest is another priority. We’re going to record a couple of songs first with some producers in the same studio as last time [Big Jelly in Ramsgate] and then we’ll see how it’s all going, but we are already thinking about it.

Do you ever find yourself having ideas whilst on tour and being frustrated that you can’t put them down anywhere?

P: Not really, I’m not someone who gets ideas out of the blue, I have to sit there and figure it out. But where I do get frustrated is when I’m at home and I don’t feel like writing because I’m finally home and just want to hang out, and then I’ll feel guilty because that’s the only time I get to work on music. So there’s this constant battle in your head because you’ve only got one week – what to do and what not to do, that’s a difficult thing.

Do you also feel like the UK has adopted you and this is now a second home? You’ve done a lot of touring here and had a lot of positive reception from the music press in the UK now.

T: Yeah for sure, I think we all enjoy playing here over all the other countries. All the people are always nice, it’s just a good vibe. We also know so many people over here now compared to the rest of Europe where we barely know anybody. But Germany is probably our third most played country after the Netherlands. The UK isn’t really even a second home, it’s just our proper home now.

Do you feel like there’s a lot more going on here than there is in the Netherlands and do you feel like you’ve become spokespeople for the Dutch scene over here?

T: If you say so! (laughs)

If you ask someone to tell you about Dutch music today though, most will mention your name – is being at the forefront of a scene a flag you think you can wave?

T: We don’t want to come off as cocky, we’d like to think so but obviously all the other Dutch bands are working really hard as well and they’d probably be doing great stuff without us. We’d like to think we maybe paved the way slightly though.

Obviously bringing your friends [Personal Trainer] on tour with you will get their name out there to a British audience as well, are there any others that you’d like to bring over from back home?

P: It’s very difficult because it’s so expensive, that’s a big downside of playing in the UK. The fees are terrible, and not to complain but a regular support fee is £50, and then if you’ve got to hire a van and find somewhere to sleep, it’s a big challenge. It’s very difficult to adopt a small band and say “Come along with us, you can play gigs with us”, when they usually don’t enough money saved. We do have funding but you have to get that and it’s not always happening, so it very difficult. But we love touring with British bands like Haze, for example, we’ve toured with them before, but Dutch bands, it’s difficult.

Does it feel like a sense of strong community there at the moment?

P: Yeah, it’s really nice because sometimes in the music industry you can have lots of rivalry but this feels a lot more like people supporting each other and making sure everyone is getting a platform and that’s so much than being in a battle

D: Also inviting British bands to the Netherlands which we did with our show in Amsterdam, you’ve got the guys from Bull who always come over and they brought another band, The Klittens to the UK.

P: Sports Team love the Netherlands, they always call it their second home and we played a show with them there. It’s very nice to have this melting pot of bands.

G: There’s definitely something going on between England and Holland at the moment because Sports Team also released Personal Trainer’s music because they know them through us.

P: It seems to me it all started with the two of us going on tour.

G: It would be cool if it could continue, you know, stop Brexit…

I wanted to ask you about your blog, The Road to Glastonbury. What do you do when you achieve what started as a pipedream, do you see yourself setting any other sights like that or will you take things as they come from now?

P: No, no, there are always goals. I think the biggest goal is to maintain and provide ourselves with an income so that we can do this and don’t have to work in a kitchen or a venue and be able to do that for a couple of years. That’d be awesome if we could do that. But there are separate dreams in separate categories, and I think the Glastonbury one falls in the same category as touring Japan –

T: KEXP session?

P: Yeah so there are all different types of goals, but I always think it’s important to keep dreaming about stuff. There are producers I want to work with, that would be a goal for one day. If you don’t dream, it’s a lot easier to settle and not try to improve yourself.

T: And we’d love to go to Glastonbury again – give us that legendary slot.

P: I loved the Park Stage, so maybe first headlining that and then… the Pyramid?

T: (laughing) Stay humble.

It’s definitely worth dreaming big. It’s quite something to see that that can happen in such a short space of time, how long ago did you start writing that?

P: I think around 2016, there wasn’t even a band.

G: You didn’t even have your own guitar yet, right?

T: That’s not exactly true, there were always guitars in the house. She’s been playing guitar since she was 12.

P: I had guitar lessons, but I didn’t like playing guitar. I could play, though.

Obviously, you [Pip and Tender] both grew up in quite a musical household, what was it like to have that support from parents who understand those goals?

T: It’s the best.

How much do you feel you were influenced by them and how much of what you do has come from your own influences?

T: They’ve never pushed us to be in a band or make music or anything, they’ve just always played us music and have been really enthusiastic about the music they listened to which has rubbed off on us, but it’s not like there was any sense of them pointing us in a certain direction. They’d have been fine if we’d have both been garbagemen, they’re just really supportive parents but it obviously did help.

G: Also, the difference in Holland is you’re allowed to go to gigs at any age so that makes a lot of difference, would be cool if England did the same.

T: Stop Brexit – all ages gigs (laughs).

P: Our mum is on tour with us though, she’s our merch lady, and our dad is coming the day after tomorrow. Gini’s mum has been and her dad is going to come so I think we’ve all got very supportive parents and they are very cute about it.

D: Mine don’t have a musical background whereas Gini’s do, but they’ve always been supportive and they suggested it might be an idea to go to music school, so I did and it was what I wanted as well, it wasn’t like they pushed me to do that.

T: There’s probably some argument to be made that you have a different outlook or a different drive if your parents don’t support it. I’ve got friends whose parents don’t understand and it makes them sort of want to do it more to prove to them that it can be a thing but it’s obviously way easier if your parents are supportive.

Words: Reuben Cross Photos: Aidan Stojsavljevic

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