Klangstof: the Total Football of indie rock
Fans of the lovable psy-ops psych rock band The Flaming Lips know the drill for their live shows: quick pint around the corner at about eight o'clock to compare costumes and opine about their 1992 album Hit to Death In the Future Head, then shuffle next door for the latest spectacle.
However, they'd do well to get to the Roseland early for the support act, Klangstof, who may be Holland's answer to Radiohead.
Klangstof (a nonsense word from the Norwegian "klang," echo, and "stof" dust in Dutch) was formed by Koen Van De Wardt. Dutch by both, at age 14 his family moved to Norway, where loneliness drove him to music and songwriting. He formed the band with Norwegian friends. The foursome is based in Amsterdam now, but Van De Wardt still retreats to his parents' hunters cabin in Norway to compose.
Van De Wardt spoke to the Portland Tribune by phone ahead of the Lips tour, and after just coming off playing Coachella festival in California, which was headlined by Radiohead.
"When I was younger I used to mess around with synthesizers but it all started when I came across Radiohead's 'OK Computer' (1997). That's when I started to make music more professionally."
He calls watching Radiohead from the crowd at Coachella amazing. "They are the biggest nerds in the world, they know so well what they do. The guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, is from another planet. They have every Moog synth ever made and they don't even use samples, you can hear that on stage."
It doesn't hurt to sound like Radiohead, if you can pull it off. Klangstof's song 'We Are Your Receiver' is about wearing a disguise in the online realm. Everything they make as a shifting, contingent atmosphere, with soundscapes pierce by clear and present English vocals.
Coachella was their first US festival. They're also line up for Sasquatch in the Gorge (May 26 to 28) Bonnaroo (June 8 to 11) and Firefly (June 15 to 18).
Having only played around Europe and the UK since forming in 2015, Coachella was harder to set list.
"We didn't know what to expect, it's much more mainstream and people get bored easily. They're worrying about their hair do and their clothes," he says with a laugh. We played mainly in clubs in the Netherlands and Norway, or London where you can play one chord for seven minutes and everyone loves it.
Be like Miike
"This is their first time playing medium-size theaters like the Roseland. "I always Google the venue and learn everything I can about it."
They're so ready for this tour.
"Being on tour with such influential bands (such as the Flaming Lips, Miike Snow or Jagwar Ma in 2016) I always want to take the support slot as an internship, to learn from the headline act."
Does he think the vaunted Lips will be amenable to that?
"I hope so, otherwise I'll be very annoying."
Klangstof will be playing their album 'Close Eyes to Exit' but with some improvisation. They like to take dynamic elements from the recording and "drag them out longer. Like going from really quiet to really loud. I don't enjoy watching bands who play exactly the same as the record."
Van De Wardt doesn't talk much between songs, unless it feels natural. A bit like his hero Thom Yorke.
"He's doing such weird stuff now. Ten years ago I felt like he was still trying to connect to the audience. Now he doesn't give a s—t. But if I start doing that people will hate me."
On stage he says they communicate while improvising, a bit like the defense of a soccer team, using voices and gestures to know where they are.
"Its just as important I know what the drummer's thinking, so I turn around a lot. The drummer is one of the guys I met in Norway and first started making music with. He can look at my ass and he knows what I'm thinking."
He's excited to meet US theater crowds. "People in the UK are very rock and roll, the Dutch and general Europeans are a bit more quiet. The further north you go…In Scandinavia sometime they are too polite to clap" until they are completely sure a song is over.
On the road, like everyone else, they listen to Sweden's great export, the streaming service Spotify.
"Spotify makes life a bit more boring, to be honest. I remember just 10 years ago you bought some music and weren't always sure if it was something good, it was a fun thing, a gamble. Now hooking up an iPhone to a speaker…It's boring. I always go back to the same playlists."
He believes their label, which has one band of each of five genres, is going to back Klangstof all the way.
"With major labels, they sign so many bands and cut you off if you are not selling enough records. We want to have creative control, we don't want to be kicked off after one album. I need time to show people what I am doing."
And that writing cabin?
"It's a classic hunters cabin, with a big open space with ten beds around it. It's very Scandinavian, it's near Lillehammer, on its own lake."
How he writes the bands dreamy, noodling tunes is also a bit Radiohead. He takes his synthesizers and looks for cool sounds. After a few weeks of that he comes back to Amsterdam and they form them into tunes.
"The lyrics come last. Often I finish a song and then go, O f—, I've got to sing too."
Supporting The Flaming Lips, Friday May 12, 7pm Roseland Theater, $45, all ages. 8 NW 6th Ave, 971 230 0033