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Waking Up With Klangstof

Klangstof's Koen Van de Wardt talks about the Dutch language -- and putting people to sleep

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    Waking Up With Klangstof
    Jack McKain
    Klangstof opens for the Flaming Lips at the Observatory North Park on May 7.

    If you've seen the Flaming Lips, you know just how extravagant their live show can be -- animal costumes, psychedelic lighting, balloons, and epic extended jams make them a must-see.

    However, there is another reason to be at the Observatory North Park on Sunday, May 7.

    Opening for the Lips is Klangstof. The young, up-and-coming band from Netherlands/Norway released their debut album, “Close Eyes to Exit,” last September. The 11-song gem draws comparisons to Radiohead, Foals, and “The Alchemy Index” by Thrice. In other words, it’s both atmospheric and dynamic indie-rock.

    I spoke to lead singer/songwriter Koen Van de Wardt while he was at his home in Amsterdam, a bit jet-lagged from the band’s double-duty at Coachella, and about a week before he was set to head back to California for the first show of a U.S. tour -- which begins right here in San Diego. The 24-year-old spoke with his heavy Dutch accent about his moniker Klangstof and how it began just as a DIY project.

    “For the first record we released, that was the case,” said Van de Wardt. “I kind of really wrote ['Close Eyes to Exit'] as a solo project, which was basically just me in the studio doing my own thing. I never planned to release it or to start playing live or anything. So, I got a label, and was kind of forced to bring a band together and start playing live. But I think right now, since we have a really nice group of people around, the next album will be more a band approach, I really want to try that one time to see if that works.

    “The band consists of people that are a bit more than just session musicians, so they’re all very much into producing and songwriting themselves," the frontman continued. "So I think it’s going to be very interesting, just to get some other creative minds into the picture and work more as a band. I think that will only make the music even better. It will also make it better live, so it doesn’t really feel like they’re playing cover songs, like they kind of feel like sometimes at the moment.”

    Klangstof’s music owns a lot of tension and release -- gradual builds that climax into a dynamic conclusion. However, the songs feel cold, melancholic and lonely at times, but Van de Wardt doesn’t plan to lull you to sleep with their live set:

    “We’ve had a lot of comments before from people, that they’re a bit surprised, because they thought we were just a bunch of depressed Norwegian kids. Then, they all of a sudden see really happy, energetic people on stage. So I think we’re not as dark as we are on the record when we are playing on stage, which is kind of a cool contrast. So, we’re very energetic and we really give it our all everytime. We also try to put some extra dynamics into the live show, because that always works really nice -- start from nowhere and really go all out at the end. So yeah, that's Klangstof for you.”

    Despite Van de Wardt growing up in both Norway and the Netherlands, “Close Eyes to Exit” is sung all in English. I asked when he would start singing in Dutch.

    “Oh man [laughs], I don’t think we should do that. I had a good chat about it with someone a few weeks back and we kind of both agreed that Dutch was the worst language in the world. So, I wouldn’t try singing in Dutch.”

    But maybe just this one time -- for San Diego.

    “Yes, I will try to translate every song to Dutch, then when we play it, I’m going to do the whole show in Dutch for you.” [laughs]

    Klangstof opens for the Flaming Lips at the Observatory North Park on Sunday, May 7. Tickets are currently sold out.

    Musician, people-pleaser, lover, fighter and writer Matthew Craig Burke has been spewing musical words of wisdom since never. He lives off of peanut butter sandwiches, beer and Beck Hansen. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.