Dutch five-piece De Staat have something of a twinkle in their eye. Fronted by the hyper-talented Torre Florim, who sings, plays guitar, writes and produces for the band; the rock group embrace influences from R&B to art rock.
Their latest and fifth studio album Bubble Gum dropped last month, dealing with serious issues such as Trump’s arrival to the world stage in their characteristically fun way, bending genre at will. Their latest single Mona Lisa is described by Torre as ‘a blues song from the future’.
For fans of De Staat, seeing them live is a must. Their reputation as a live act has earned them major support slots with the likes of Rolling Stones and Muse; the latter asking De Staat to join them on the rest their Drones world tour after witnessing the magic firsthand.
‘We are definitely a fun band, especially live, we love to fuck around a little bit’ says Torre. ‘But KITTY KITTY is one of the tracks that is a little bit darker or more serious. I screw around with some of the sentences that were used in the Trump campaign and the media, although KITTY KITTY is still a fun track. It’s dark, but it has some funny stuff in there.
I can’t write about regular subjects like love
‘I can’t write about something that doesn’t really mean a lot to me, or I can’t write about regular subjects like love or anything. It has to be something that’s controlling my mind in some kind of weird way. When Trump came up, there was definitely an obsession for me a little bit, like with a lot of people, I think.’
Typically of De Staat, the album’s title on the surface seems whimsical and light hearted, but is actually rooted in a much deeper train of thought. Bubble Gum is about self-imposed segregation and ignorance – wilful or blissful.
on the surface seems whimsical and light hearted, but is actually rooted in a much deeper train of thought
‘In the past two years I’ve become obsessed with the idea of being in a bubble. I noticed a lot of people or groups all over the world feel very much like they are right or they are living the right way. The KITTY KITTY track was a very rich part of that, because there are so obviously two sides to the whole thing. I’m also very much in my own bubble; being an artist for more than ten years you get to have a weird life, you know, you can’t compare it to anything else.’
De Staat began as a mission to combine lots of different sounds and influences into ‘one thing’, which we can safely say they’ve achieved. De Staat’s influences range from AC/DC to Rihanna, but with their own iteration that’s enjoyably tricky to define.
fun is important
‘We are definitely a rock band essentially, but some songs don’t really sound like it anymore. We all play guitar, but it doesn’t really sound like we’re playing guitar. If you listen to most pop artists these days, take Beyoncé for example, if you look at her career a lot of her songs don’t make any sense if you put them next to each other – the one big overlapping theme is her voice. That’s always what I aim for, we just want to make cool stuff. If one song is completely different from another, then good. You don’t want every couple of songs to sound exactly alike – it’s just not something we we enjoy, and fun is important.
‘People tend to get surprised when I name names like Rihanna or Beyonce as influences. It doesn’t make a lot of sense when they listen to us, but actually I get a lot of inspiration from pop music and urban stuff like hip hop, because I think that’s where most of the progression is nowadays. Rock music has been standing still for a while now, so we tend to look elsewhere.’
Rock music has been standing still for a while now, so we tend to look elsewhere
De Staat began as a solo project by Torre, who wrote and produced the first album independently. But after putting a band together to tour the album, he soon realised that the project was meant for a band.
‘It became obvious to me that I really wanted to be in a band, a group of brothers, and get everyone’s sound and personality into my songs, but make it something better together.
‘I think it’s very important that we’re a group of friends, because I think that’s the only way – or at least the easiest way – to stay together as a pack. I’ve known the bass player all my life, two of the guys I know from high school… I still love doing other projects by myself, but there’s nothing better than being in a tribe and being able to strengthen each other.’
De Staat are stopping into Thekla next week as part of their European tour. Known especially for their live performances, Torre speculates on what makes their shows so special:
‘We try to do a show as we would like to see one. We are very critical. We are not easily amused. If you’ve been in a band for a long time, you’re just not easily entertained.
‘Even if you’re playing in a big room like we did with Muse, in front of seventeen thousand people, we try to bring the audience in. We started with the first couple of rows of people and I think by the end of that half hour, we created something that that added energy to the whole thing. So I can only guess, but I think that’s something that Muse felt that first show – the energy, so that’s probably one of reasons we got asked back to do three more weeks of tour with them.’
Even if you’re playing in a big room like we did with Muse, in front of seventeen thousand people, we try to bring the audience in
When it comes to the physical product, De Staat aim to capture this energy by recording their albums live, Torre explains: ‘We get the five of us in one room and we start playing. We record everything we do and at the end of two or three days, we get that one take to rule them all. So what you hear on the record is very much what you can feel live, because it’s recorded all in one take.’