Whatever floats your Boat – the Pip Blom interview

Band Substance: Pip Blom are heading our way again, this time with their debut album tucked under their arms. From left – Darek Mercks, Pip Blom, Gini Cameron, Tender Blom.  (Photo: Raymond Van Mill)

In a sense, perhaps it was almost inevitable that Pip Blom would follow her parents into the alternative music market.

It’s now three years since this Amsterdam-based singer-songwriter first shared her somewhat raw, lo-fi brand of indie guitar pop with us, the voice and her style leading to arguably lazy comparisons with Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett, as well as established US alt-rock outfit The Breeders, with whom they later toured.

But this is not a band just happy to follow. They’re more about finding their own distinct shipping lane, as Pip and her brother/bandmate Tender’s father, Erwin Blom did with his band, post-punk John Peel favourites Eton Crop, back in the ’80s. And the band that share Pip’s name certainly remain as fresh and exciting now as on day one, judging by my initial listen to debut album Boat, which is out tomorrow (Friday, May 31st).

These days, they’re recognised as being at the forefront of a number of emerging outfits from the Netherlands turning heads on this side of the North Sea, including friends Canshaker Pi and The Homesick. And it just so happens that Pip and Tender’s Dad and Mum – Leonieke Daalder, the ex-Eton Crop sound engineer who set up a successful alternative music blog with Erwin – have in recent years pitched in to help get the band off the ground.

And right now, Pip, fellow guitarist/vocalist Tender and bandmates Gini Cameron (drums) and Darek Mercks (bass) are on this side of the water, part-way through their latest UK tour, your scribe tracking them down in Milton Keynes on Monday – ‘day five’ – after their Sheffield debut the previous evening. So how was The Leadmill?

“It was so much fun. We’d never played in Sheffield before, so weren’t really sure what to expect. But it was very busy and full of enthusiastic people. It was amazing.”

After dates in Milton Keynes then a sell-out at Cambridge, tonight they’re at Reading’s South Street Arts Centre (Thursday, May 30th, also now sold out), with an official album launch date at Rough Trade East in Brick Lane, London E1 (Friday, May 31st) following, before they come closer to my patch the following evening, giving me Champions League final complications as they pitch up at Band on the Wall in Manchester’s Northern Quarter (Saturday, June 1st). Remember that episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? where they try to avoid seeing how the match panned out? That could well be me late on Saturday night.

Anyway, I digress. You’ve played Manchester a few times before, haven’t you?

“Quite a few times. We’ve played The Castle, The Night and Day (Café), and the Soup Kitchen.”

And now we’re awaiting the release of the debut LP, Boat, largely recorded on this side of the water, at Big Jelly Studios, Ramsgate, Kent.

“Yeah, released this Friday! Really exciting!”

Indeed. Tell me why it’s called Boat.

“Now that’s a good question. It hasn’t got anything to do with the songs. I just really like the word. It’s a cool word, it suits us, it’s not too difficult or too fancy. We came up with the name before we made the record. With my boyfriend we always talk about cool names for bands or records, and I loved it as a name. deciding our first record had to be called Boat.”

And hopefully it will turn out to be a ferry good vehicle for you (sorry, I couldn’t resist that).

“Yeah, and we use it quite often when we come over to the UK.”

As well as the album launch at Rough Trade East, could we persuade you to do a northern launch too? Either at Action Records in Preston, who recently successfully hosted Fontaines D.C., or perhaps even Preston Docks would be perfect.

“Well, first we planned to do launch parties on boats, but it was very difficult and very expensive. Maybe when we get a bit bigger. Ha! Then maybe we can afford it.”

Your Manchester show signals a tour mid-point, with great reaction so far on this side of the North Sea, by all accounts … including a few sell-outs.

“Yeah, it’s amazing, and the ones that don’t sell out are also very busy. I think that’s a good sign, isn’t it?”

Park Life: Pip Blom and the band that take her name modle their boating apparel: (Photo: Phil Smithies)

Park Life: Pip Blom and the band that take her name model their boating apparel. From left – Tender Blom, Darek Mercks, Pip Blom, Gini Cameron (Photo: Phil Smithies)

Absolutely, and having seen Robert Forster at the Band on the Wall recently, it should prove a winning venue for pip too, I’d say. Getting back to Boat though, how long would you say this album’s been in the making? It seems that most of the songs are unreleased in any other format.

“We’ve got two singles out – ‘Daddy Issues’ and ‘Ruby’ and finished the album at the end of October. I think I’d been writing for half a year to a year max. We then practised the songs together over a month and recorded it in 16 days.”

I understand you made your first recordings at home.

“Yeah, and I still do that with demos, for example ‘School’ was a home recording. It’s something I really like doing, and we used lots of the tracks I recorded – like guitar or vocal parts – for the album, so it’s a combination of both.”

Her first two bandmates were schoolfriends, adding bass and drums, but they didn’t stick around long, the band evolving into what Pip has now, interest and support from BBC 6 Music helping spread the word. And home is still – between numerous live shows – central Amsterdam?

“It is. We call it Watergraafsmeer, but that’s a difficult name for you guys to pronounce!”

Indeed. You put us to shame when it comes to language. Of course, it’s your name on the records, but clearly there’s a team, band vibe to everything you do.

“Definitely. It’s really nice. We are four people and one is my brother, which is nice. I really like being in a band with him. It’s so much fun. Then we have Gini and Darek, the new bass player, although we did record the album with him so it’s our album – the four of us, and it’s such an amazing asset to the band.”

Out of interest, Pip is 22, with her brother turning 21 two days after the Manchester show. And who would Pip consider major influences on this side of the water?

“I think Micachu and the Shapes are my biggest influence. They’re London-based, I don’t think they exist anymore, but Mica Levi is the brains behind them and makes music for movies. They’re so cool. At the minute I’m also really into Sorry, although I started listening to them after writing the songs on this album. There are so many really cool bands.”

In fact, Sorry were one of the London outfits featuring on a Holly Whitaker-directed video for the band’s ‘Babies Are A Lie’ release, also involving cameos for Shame and past WriteWyattUK interviewees Goat Girl.

And there’s been a strong UK link from the start, the band only having played three shows in the Netherlands before three more over here, publicising an initial Spotify release Pip put together at home, at which point there was no band, initial social media interest stepping things up. Apparently, they toured here seven times in 2017 alone, starting to build a following. I’m guessing it’s now their second home, having spent so long here.

“Yeah, we’re here almost once a month, so you could say that!”

Were you aware of what your Dad was up to with his band when you were growing up, or did Eton Crop’s cult following and support from legendary DJ John Peel only really become apparent later?

“Well, I did know what he did with the band, because he always told stories about that, but it was really nice recently playing with them at the John Peel Centre (for Creative Arts, Stowmarket, Suffolk).

“That was so much fun, our two bands together and lots of people who knew each other. A very special moment. I really like seeing them touring as well, and playing gigs in the UK. He’s showed us lots of videos and pictures, all that kind of stuff. I thought it was so cool.”

That shared bill was organised for 2019’s Independent Venue Week, and came just a few short years after Pip made her own live solo debut supporting … Eton Crop, actually.

The latest appearance was the idea of Peel’s widow and close family friend Sheila Ravenscroft, Eton Crop having recorded five sessions for BBC Radio 1’s John Peel Show from 1985/88, becoming close.

Crop Tops: Eton Crop’s Corne Bros, Erwin Blom and Ingmar van Wijnsberge lead from the front in the snug at the Conti for Un-Peeled 2016 (Photo: Erika Gyökér)

And I was certainly impressed with Eton Crop when they played Tuff Life Boogie’s UnPeeled celebration at the Continental, Preston in late October 2016, I told Pip.

“Ah, that’s cool!”

Your Mum was a big influence on you too, I believe.

“Yes, she was sound engineer for Eton Crop, my Dad’s band, and also started a Dutch music platform with my Dad about alternative music, both Dutch and international, working there for around 15 years. She’s always been very passionate about music.”

There have been notable shared bills along the way, such as you supporting The Breeders.

“Yeah, we did. That was a dream come true. If we’re talking about influences, Kim Deal was definitely one of the coolest people on earth, so to play 14 shows with them, being able to see them play every night, that was really cool.”

Pip’s first live experience came playing her Dad’s three-string guitar in a songwriting competition in Amsterdam. On progressing to the semi-final stage, she realised she had to write more songs to fill a half-hour set, the die cast for a career of her own in music. So did Pip, who has also expressed an appreciation of fellow late ‘80s and ‘90s successes Blur and Pavement, come straight into all this from student days?

“I finished high school, but none of us studied after that … except for Darek, who studied music, so he’s the one who knows what he’s doing – the rest of us are just kind of fiddling around!”

And does this feel like a full-time job yet, or is that pinning too much on it?

“No, it definitely is. We’re not getting paid like it’s a full-time, but we invest our time in it like it is, and that’s all fine because it takes us to places we otherwise would never have seen. I think it’s one of the most fun things to do. It’s really cool.“

After these dates, it’s summer festival season, including the Deer Shed, Leeds and Reading appearances, the latter in particular a big name over the years.

“Yeah, definitely, and also we are set to play Mad Cool in Spain and Nos Alive in Portugal (both early July), travelling all over, not just the UK. All fun, we can hope!”

Are there more UK dates later this year?

“Yeah, with one really big tour planned, to be announced after this tour is done, and quite a few festival dates that haven’t been announced yet.”

She was being a little Secret Squirrel there, I might add, the following day announcing that they were in fact the opening act on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury Festival at the end of June. Very apt considering the band’s and the family’s history.

And while that promises to be another dream come true, I guess there have been venues they’ve already played where it’s suddenly struck Pip and her band that this is what they appear to be doing for a living now.

“Mmm. Well, when we got to support The Breeders we got to play huge venues, and when we played the Roundhouse it was really weird. But it’s not about size of venue. The most important thing is that there are people. You can play a 600-cap. venue, but if there’s no one there …”

I don’t reckon that will be an issue now. This band are clearly on the up. And rightly so.

Frequent Visitors: Pip Blom, back in the UK and bringing their own Boat this time. From left – Pip and Tender Blom, Gini Cameron, Darek Mercks (Photo: Phil Smithies)

Pip Blom’s debut album, Boat, is out this Friday, May 31, with pre-orders available here. For full details of the remaining dates on this tour, festival appearances, and more, try their official website, and follow the band via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  

About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/writewyattuk/ and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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