Where are you currently based?
I am living/working in Melbourne, whereas Thijs has moved back to Utrecht in the Netherlands!
How did you first start playing music?
My dad plays guitar, and so I had always taken an interest in watching him play music when I was a child. I think when my friends started playing guitar in about year 7 or 8 (Age 13-14?) that really motivated me to pick it up and try to play though! At one point I started learning from a book to read proper music notation etc, but then guitar tabs appeared that let me learn to play ‘Scar Tissue’ from RHCP, and then I was done with learning properly! Sort of regrettable in hindsight not to learn more music theory, but once I could play the songs I loved I just couldn’t be bothered learning the ‘proper’ way. I do often think that my lack of formal musical knowledge allows me to think outside the box a bit though in terms of song writing, without being bounded by what ‘should’ follow a certain chord etc. But it also limits me, which is why working with a classically trained musician (Thijs) worked so well for our songs, I could have the crazy idea, and then he would be able to add really clever additions to the chords/progressions to tie it all together! ☺
What’s been happening recently and how has your Covid experience been?
I have been super busy with my work in science and also promoting our album! My Covid experience has been very fortunate compared to a lot of people, as I have maintained my employment throughout the entire lockdown in Melbourne. I was able to work from home for many weeks and then get back into the lab occasionally as well because medical research is an essential service. Although working from home was great for a while, I think being able to go back into the workplace was really good for me, and I feel very lucky for it. It was tough not being able to see my parents for around 6 months, as they were outside the ‘ring of steel’, but we have seen each other again now and it was just awesome to get back and say G’day! ☺
Your new album ‘Yours to Lend’ is out now, what influenced the sound and songwriting?
There are a huge amount of different influences on this album, as is demonstrated by the range of different sounds within the 10 tracks. The sounds on our album range through rock music like ‘Storm’ to piano ballads like ‘Dork’ and acoustic guitar/harmonica sounds like ‘Rory’. The influences behind all those sounds are so varied it’s hard to describe, but I guess for me personally, my strongest influences are probably as follows: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus (I love the percussive vocal lines in both of these bands, and I often try to include percussive vocal sections in our songs), Ben Harper, Neil Young, and basically anything that makes me feel emotions! I think I can speak on Thijs’s behalf to say his largest influence as a pianist/keyboard player is definitely Supertramp.
How did you go about writing the music?
For 9 out of the 10 tracks I had lyrics/chord structures written already in an acoustic form, and I would bring these ideas in to work with me where we would find a quiet room and start putting piano lines to them. But as the songs developed the piano would quickly become the driving force behind the songs, and I would then really reduce the amount of guitar I was playing to a minimal amount to leave room for Thijs’s beautiful piano lines ☺ As a guitarist who has played in guitar heavy punk/rock bands before, it was a really fun experience actually to play in a very minimalistic way, just trying to compliment the piano and vocals. For the song ‘Storm’ our roles were switched…Thijs came in with the whole chord structure on piano and initial lyrics, and we jammed to it, I added some guitar and played around with the lyrics/vocal style until we had what you hear on the album ☺
Where and when did you record/produce?
We recorded the whole album with Steve Vertigan at Soggy Dog Recording Studios in Upwey. I have worked with Steve before on some other recordings and I knew he has a great ear for mixing, and vast musical knowledge to draw from during the recording process. The bulk of the recording was done across 2 days in March 2019, where the session musicians Jason Vorherr and Peter Maslen were present to record the bass and drums. Once the ‘skeleton’ of the tracks were down, we raced to get Thijs’s piano/harmonica and backing vocals down before he had to leave for the Netherlands in about May! After that, I basically went back into the studio once a month or so to add in my parts and work on the mixing with Steve. I also had around 7 weeks overseas in the middle of 2019 where I could listen back to the mixes and come back with fresh ears. The final mixes were sent off for mastering with Ross Cockle from Sing Sing Studios in about March 2020, so it really was an album recorded across an entire year! ☺ Although an unusual process, I love writing/recording and it was really great to have a creative project going along on the side whilst I continued working in science.
How did you approach the recording process?
I like to approach recording with an open mind to the fact that the songs might take on completely new forms during recording. It’s actually what I love most…the spontaneous things that arise in the studio, whether it’s a little guitar line or a particular take of the vocals, I just love it when you can drive away from the studio listening back to something that didn’t even exist when you drove there in the morning! ☺
What programs/equipment did you use?
I have no idea! (Steve?)
What did you find most challenging and rewarding during the creation of the album?
Most challenging was probably holding back from rushing the recording. After almost a year of recording/mixing there’s a real desire to get the music out and show it to people, but I really tried to hold on until the music was absolutely finished and mastered before I showed it to most people. I really wanted an end product that I was completely happy with, and it was totally worth the wait in the end, so I guess that is the most rewarding part…there really isn’t anything on the album that I listen to and go ‘Oh no! What were we thinking! Why didn’t we change that bit?’ Which has always been my previous experience with more rushed recordings.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Spotify tells me that recently I’ve been switching mainly between Thundercat, Bad Mother Nature, Jackson Browne, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, John Frusciante, Karnivool and Queens Of The Stone Age.
What do you like to do away from music?
I’m a mad scientist in most of my hours away from music. I actually really enjoy my work and particularly microscopy. I get to make time-lapse microscopy images of immune cells attacking their target cells and it’s just an incredible thing to visualise. I have a lot of fun and pour a lot of my creativity into trying to develop new techniques of visualising these events more clearly so that we can learn more about them ☺
What’s planned for the remainder of 2020 going into 2021?
I think like most people I just want to get through 2020 and then have an awesome 2021! It’s actually been pretty handy getting all of the album out this year, so that hopefully if gigs are allowed in the new year, I can start to focus on remembering how to play guitar and get a band together to perform Dutch Monks songs at live gigs! I’m actually really excited about that, can’t wait to perform these songs!
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Oh gee, anyone that knows me knows that I love most food! (a little too much tbh). But I think my favourite would have to be home-made pasties that my Mum makes ☺ As for a place to hangout, this year it’s probably been the research laboratory that I work in at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre! Other years it would be a quiet place in the bush though…as a kid who grew up in the country the city is far too busy for me, I like to get away from it and gather my thoughts ☺
Triple j Unearthed