For many years, Dutch music seemed to be all about club records and superstar DJs. But thanks to the recent rise in alternative Dutch acts, international audiences are realising the country has far more to offer. At the forefront of the musical revolution is Nijmegen five-piece De Staat, who were selected by English rock group Muse to support them on their Drones tour earlier this year and can already tick off iconic events such as the Glastonbury festival from their to-do list. Their name may translate to ‘The State’, but this band are conquering the world. Here, we delve into the mind of frontman Torre Florim, who famously began De Staat as an experimental one-man project back in the early 2000s.
“It’s so kind of unbelievable to me,” begins Florim, who still cannot quite fathom the idea that he is fronting one of the biggest bands in the Netherlands. The musician began writing songs for De Staat’s debut album when he was a teenager, but he never could have envisaged performing them to packed-out stadiums. “If I had a dream, if I thought of something, it would have probably been playing smaller clubs. That was the thing I was aiming for. I thought we could do smaller clubs and maybe cross the border, but I never expected for us to fill the Heineken Music Hall. “It’s very strange, but it’s been a slow process. We got time to get used to larger crowds and make bigger shows.”
A nomadic life
Currently performing sell-out gigs across the Benelux, UK and Germany, Florim and his bandmates Jop van Summeren, Rocco Hueting, Vedran Mircetic and Tim van Delft are not yet bored of tour life. “To be honest, I love being away. I love the nomadic way of living, I guess,” smiles Florim. “I love being on the road and meeting new people, getting to see places. I love the Netherlands, but we’re not away that often to be super homesick all the time. “Sometimes on tour you get very tired and you don’t get to sleep a lot so that’s normally the moment you think ‘ah, it would be great to be home for sleep’. But that’s just the tired you talking.” Are there many all-night parties and rock and roll antics tiring Florim and his bandmates out? Not so much it seems. “Normally we sit in the van a lot, look at our laptops, read a book… “Most tours we do are just in vans. You drive to the venue, sound check, play, pack your stuff, sleep, get up the next morning and drive somewhere else. You just see the world through the window of a van, I guess. It’s okay, but it cannot compare to travelling or being on a holiday or something; it’s different.”
After impressing fans and critics alike with the release of their latest album O earlier this year, November also sees the release of the band’s first official live album, recorded at The TivoliVredenburg music venue in Utrecht back in February. “A lot of fans asked us ‘can you release a live album?’ and we were like ‘Nah’. Then we just thought ‘let’s do it!’” Florim says of the decision. “When you play songs you start to change, you start to get better. At a certain point you think ‘this is really cool, wouldn’t it be nice if we had it on tape?’” Originally, the album had been planned to include recordings from various live shows, but the TivoliVredenburg performance really stood out. “We noticed that most of the good versions of the songs came from that one show, so we thought we should just release the show as a whole. It kept the vibe of what it would be like if you were there,” explains Florim. “It was the last show of the tour so we were pretty familiar with the stuff we were doing. It always takes a couple of shows when you’re releasing a new album to get used to the new material and actually know what you’re doing. Even if you’ve rehearsed so many times and recorded the songs, it’s still weird to start playing it live in front of an audience.” The beauty of a live album is that it recreates an authentic concert experience, mistakes and all. Florim is the first to admit that there were indeed some mistakes. Far from disguising them, he believes they add to the listener’s experience. “It was the last show of the tour so we were very relaxed. We were having fun and you could hear it, I think. For most of the songs there are mistakes in there, but I think that’s cool as a listener. I think it’s funny to hear if something goes wrong or some notes aren’t exactly…on the note, you know?”
In the studio
Florim’s on-stage charisma has undoubtedly played a role in De Staat’s success, but he has an equally important role behind the scenes as a producer. So, does he feel more at home in the studio or in front of a crowd? “They are different animals but I love both,” he smiles. “I should produce and perform, otherwise neither my producing nor my performing will be the best work I’ve ever done. You must be in the studio to know what you’re doing live and the other way around. “The cool thing about being in a band is that it’s diverse. You can be in the cave of the studio for weeks and weeks and then you start getting out there again – meeting people and getting in front of a live audience, making music videos. That’s so different. but it’s so good at the same time.” As much as he adores performing and the creative opportunities that come from fronting De Staat, Florim admits the studio will always be his special place. “When I started making music, I was in my room behind a computer making stuff, so I still love that the most – creating and forgetting all about time, forgetting to eat and drink because you’re just so focused on the thing that you’re doing. That’s kind of what I always loved doing.”
A lucky man
Florim developed an interest in music at an early age, and his evident talent was nurtured by his family and school teachers growing up. Their support has not been taken for granted. “I’m just a very lucky guy,” he admits. “I’m
from the Netherlands, which is like being one point ahead already, being a guy makes it easier… and I have really nice parents who supported me and gave me space just to mess around on the computer. They weren’t like ‘you have to go outside, you have to get a job’ or that kind of stuff, so they gave me plenty of room and time to get better making music. I had a lot of luck in my high school. There was a music teacher who let us use the music room after school. All these kinds of people were helping me out.” Clearly Florim is not the kind of guy to become a success and abandon his roots. This is further highlighted by the fact that De Staat continue to be based in their native Nijmegen and have not abandoned the popular student town for the bright lights of the capital. “A lot of bands go to Amsterdam,” he muses. “It’s the bigger city which make sense but it doesn’t make sense for me because it’s just way more expensive, it’s harder to go live there. It’s a fun city but there’s more room to do stuff here and if you have a good idea it’s welcomed with open arms.” Good ideas are something that Florim seems to have in large supply. Apart from his success with De Staat, his surprising solo cover of The Prodigy’s famous dance track Firestarter back in 2012 highlighted his skill for defying genres.
We wonder what inspires Florim musically? “I have a list on Spotify of favourites, but I also have a list that is not public. It’s songs that inspire me. You know, in that list there’s so many different styles. Remember Brandy? Her song called What About Us? I just like that beat that is in there. “I don’t have any genre I stick to. I love a lot of different stuff and even if there’s something I really hate it inspires me more than something I kind of like because then I know: this is definitely not what I want to make. Bad music inspires me more than average music, I guess.” Could a solo album be on the cards for Florim? The answer is no, well, at least not for now. “De Staat feels very much the thing I can do everything I want in,” he explains. “Maybe in the future… if we get bored with each other at some point I might do something but it’s not for the near future. I’m still a young guy, you know!”
TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER
PHOTO: Isabelle Renate la Poutré