Photo courtesy of Klangstof/ WBR, used with permission
To our ears, it may sound like a collection of consonants and vowels, nonsense made from alphabet soup. But in actuality, Klangstof is a combination of two languages, Dutch and Norwegian, and the name of a European artist that is making waves across the pond.
Created and led by Dutch born and Norway raised, Koen Van de Wardt, Klangstof has created a sound that strikes a chord with the deepest emotions in all of us. Haunting and ambient, his synth-driven songs are the decade-long creation of a teen/ young man who, after uprooting to a new location, felt isolated in his new home.
We got to chat with the young Van de Wardt about his music and his current U.S. tour with the Flaming Lips and Miike Snow.
The project of Klangstof seemed to begin way back when Van de Wardt was 14 and moved to Norway. Mixing loops and creating soundscapes on his computer soon after, he built layers upon layers that though unchecked, slowly became his first album, Close Eyes to Exit. He signed a record deal and then realized that he needed a band so he turned to some old friends and social media.
“I moved to Norway when I was 14 years old and met the drummer and guitar player while I was there when I went to school.” He explains, “At one point I was going to move back to Holland to join a different band and left those guys in the cold and two years later I had the Klangstof album finished. I needed to get a band together. I loved to play with those guys so they moved to Holland as well to join Klangstof. Then I found some kind of synth wizard weirdo on Facebook and I asked him to join us on the synthesizer.”
When asked about his writing of the entire album, he expanded, “I never had the intention of releasing it or starting a band, I was pretty much just working on it as a home project. All of a sudden I had a record deal and had a chance to go touring. So I finished the record on my own and all of a sudden had to get a band together to start playing. It’s really exciting for the second record I really want to get the band involved on the project and I think it feels really fresh for everyone to make Klangstof music from a different angle.”
Even with an Edison award (the Dutch Grammy, if you will) in hand, Klangstof still hasn’t reached many in the United States. The sound itself, Van de Wardt admits, is different than anything we are used to listening to, which can lend into their obscurity. That could change however, as the band is not only hopping on big name US summer festivals (Bonnaroo and Coachella being some of them), but they are also touring with big names such as the Flaming Lips and Miike Snow.
Van de Wardt explains that there is, to him, a noticeable difference between the crowds here and his home in Europe. “I actually like the US crowds a bit more than the European crowds. I think the Europe crowds are a bit more introverted. If they feel something, they don’t usually express that when they’re standing in a crowd. It’s really cool to play in the US and every time they feel an emotion coming up they just scream it out. It’s kind of a really cool way to interact with the audience.”
Van de Wardt found inspiration in the Radiohead’s 1997 album, OK Computer, and today considers alt rockers, The Flaming Lips as one of the big names he wanted to tour with. After multiple pitches, he is finally getting a chance to do just that, as he embarks on a US tour as their opening act.
The Flaming Lips are known for their psychedelic and seemingly drug inspired live shows. Touring with such an iconic live band, Van de Wardt admits to having to up his game. “I guess playing with the Flaming Lips you have to come up with something good. They’ve got unicorns and every weird thing you’ve ever seen on a stage. It would be really dumb if we were there with just t-shirts playing a regular set. Maybe I should ask the Flaming Lips guys… maybe we can borrow some unicorns for the show.”
Klangstof will be playing with the Flaming Lips at the North Park Observatory on May 7th. Unicorns are TBD.