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Novko

UG bands at ESNS

‘Making music is even better than studying’

Novko
Together with PopGroningen, Eurosonic Noorderslag also hosts Grunnsonic this week, which showcases the newest and greatest Groningen bands and acts. UKrant spoke to three bands made up of UG students. What do they hope to achieve by playing at Grunnsonic?
18 January om 12:04 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 18 January 2023
om 15:36 uur.
January 18 at 12:04 PM.
Last modified on January 18, 2023
at 15:36 PM.
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Door Giulia Fabrizi

18 January om 12:04 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 18 January 2023
om 15:36 uur.
Avatar photo

By Giulia Fabrizi

January 18 at 12:04 PM.
Last modified on January 18, 2023
at 15:36 PM.
Avatar photo

Giulia Fabrizi

Nieuwscoördinator Volledig bio » News coordinator Full bio »

You can’t have missed the banners hanging all over the city: this week, ESNS returns to the city for the first time since 2020. Hundreds of new acts from all over Europe will be trying to get noticed by music executives who’ve travelled to Groningen to attend the pre-eminent European showcase festival. Among them are the bands Novko, shoom and Never Been to Berlin.

Novko

Tuesday will be master student Bas Kuus’ (26) ‘last quiet day’ before a busy week. ‘Novko is playing a gig every day this week and we need a lot of preparation. So I’m just trying to enjoy my quiet day.’ 

In addition to making music, Bas is doing not one, but two master programmes. ‘A research master in cultural leadership and a regular master in international relations. Fortunately, I’ve passed all the courses for both programmes. All I need to do now is write my theses, which means my time is my own.’ In preparation for ESNS, that meant he worked on one of his theses during the day and rehearsed with the band at night. 

Last Friday, the alternative indie rock trio put out their latest single, ‘Lose my Cool’. ‘We figured that if we were going to be performing this much, we might as well treat ESNS as a release party’, says Bas, laughing. 

ESNS is a pretty big deal for Groningen musicians

Obviously, the band hopes to run into bookers and programmers for new opportunities, but there’s no pressure. ‘We all agree that we’d rather make our money through other means, so we can be free in our music.’

Bas feels like a professional without the need to make money. ‘I used to want to become super famous and rich, but eventually I started thinking about what it means to be able to keep doing something. That’s when my goal shifted from making money to being able to still make great music in thirty years with the people I love and having the opportunity to keep growing.’

The freedom to make music while also working is a philosophy all band members share. They’ve known each other for seven years. ‘But Novko was formed a year ago’, says Bas. They did a lot in that year: they’ve performed at Simplon, at Noorderzon, EM2, Vero, and in Leeuwarden at Neushoorn.

‘ESNS is a pretty big deal for Groningen musicians’, says Bas. ‘It’s so cool to have a festival like this in our own city, and I can’t say often enough what a great opportunity it is to be part of it.’ 

In fact, playing at cool festivals is high on Novko’s bucket list, says Bas. ‘But we’re also going to check out other cool bands, talk to people, and see if we can drum up any other cool opportunities that way.’

Novko will be playing Grunnsonic at the Pakhuis on Thursday, at 9.30 p.m. 

shoom

shoom 

Five-piece band shoom – no capital – started performing in saxophone player Lars Buisman’s living room. During the last lockdown, early 2022, the guys needed a place to rehearse, and they put the band’s drum set next to the couch. ‘Lars has the room for it’, says Jelte Rienstra (19), a second-year philosophy student. ‘After rehearsing a couple of times, we figured, why not invite people over here to perform for them?’

The band has been doing pretty well since then. They played at Simplon, had their first official performance in the Kelderbar at Vera, and were asked to return as an opening act to the band Battles in Vera’s Grote Zaal. ‘We’ve had around fourteen gigs since March’, says Jelte.

They love performing, but they do have to find that balance between studying and making music. ‘It’s pretty difficult at times to prioritise’, says second-year chemistry student Matthijs van den Brink (19). ‘We currently rehearse once a week, in a space on the edge of town. The five of us spend four hours in this cramped room. That’s really intense. It’s pretty exhausting at times, but also fun.’

I wouldn’t really care if I fell behind

They’re not sure how to exactly describe their music. ‘People should just give it a listen’, says Matthijs. Their music is instrumental, influenced by jazz, featuring complex rhythms with guitar riffs and emotional piano pieces. 

It’s the kind of innovative stuff that might just impress at Grunnsonic. ‘We’d love it if we were seen by bookers and people from venues across the Netherlands’, says Jelte. The band has played quite a few gigs in Groningen and would love to expand to Utrecht or even Amsterdam as a next step. ‘It would be especially great if we were selected to participate in this year’s Popronde, then we’d get to play all over the country.’

Would they choose music over their studies? Jelte thinks there’s a good chance of that. ‘I like studying, but making music is even better. I wouldn’t really care if I fell behind.’ Matthijs isn’t so sure. ‘It would be pretty difficult for me, because I really enjoy studying chemistry. But participating in something like the Popronde would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.’

This week, the band will be performing at the Pakhuis at 11 p.m.

Never Been to Berlin

Never Been to Berlin

Artificial intelligence student Sander Kaatee (26) was a little burnt out from making music during the pandemic. ‘Never Been to Berlin put out its very first album just before the pandemic. We’d been working on it for a year’, he says. But then the country went into lockdown and the duo – Goya Buitenhuis is doing a master in science education and communication – couldn’t perform their music anywhere. ‘That hit me really hard. I became depressed.’

Even with the pandemic forcing the band to go on hiatus, as Sander calls it, a mutual friend arranged some gigs for them in 2021, which slowly started things going again. ‘We were at Grunnsonic last year’, says Sander. ‘But it was online, which just isn’t the same as performing for a live audience.’ 

After a few more cancelled gigs because of the last lockdown, they were back on track in the spring of 2022. They blew the roof off the house at Grasnapolsky, were the support act for De Likt at EM2, played Festival Der Aa and Hongerige Wolf and even went to the Czech Republic for a small international tour.     

It makes sense for bookers and managers to only go to the bigger venues

‘We ended up doing a little over twenty gigs last year’, says Sander. ‘The best one was the Rooftop Sessions on top of the Forum. The music sessions were so loud that it was the first and the last time they did that’, he says, laughing. ‘But at least we were there.’

In the meantime, Sander tries to finish his bachelor. ‘I’m pretty busy and soon I’ll have to start writing my thesis, so I’ll have even less time.’ Once he graduates, he’s done studying for a while. Until then, he’ll keep making music in his time off. ‘Some people watch Netflix. I make music.’

Whether Grunnsonic will be Never Been to Berlin’s big break, Sander doesn’t know. ‘There’s so much to see during ESNS that it makes sense for bookers and managers to only go to the bigger venues. But it would be amazing if we got an invitation to this year’s Popronde. We talked to some people on the selection committee. If we could snag that, I’d be overjoyed.’

Never Been to Berlin is playing Grunnsonic at the Concerthuis on Thursday at 11.30 p.m.

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