Wealthy Beggar

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When you're making a list of the most promising Dutch bands of the moment, you simply can't ignore Wealthy Beggar. This band from the South of Holland recently released its great debut album 'Roxxx in the Disco', which immediately caused some commotion because of the 'violent' video for the first single 'Reminder'. MusicRemedy spoke to co-founder Tom Sikkers (guitar, MR) and bass player Niels 'Neelz' Verwey about the band, the music climate in Holland and Wealthy Beggar's debut album.

MR: When I listen to 'Roxxx in the Disco', I hear quite some different styles. Are there certain requirements a Wealthy Beggar-song has to contain?
Neelz: "Off course the songs have to contain certain requirements, but it's not like 'now we're gonna make a country song or now we're gonna do a rock song'. A song comes the way it comes, and then we're gonna look with the band how we can develop it qua arrangements, vibe and sphere. That's the way a Wealthy Beggar-song develops."

MR: Do all five of you come up with ideas for songs?
Neelz: "No, in the band we have two people, Tom and Derrick (Skyvan, singer, MR) who deliver the backbone of the songs. When that's done we're finishing them with the complete band."

MR: Which bands inspire you?
Tom: "Usually bands with a self-willed sound. Bands you recognize immediately when you hear the first tones of their songs. We also appreciate bands that can prove their selves on stage. Anyway, originality is very important in pop music. A lot of people say you can't find originality in today's pop music, but I don't agree on that one."

MR: Can you give us some names of bands that inspire you?
Tom: "Well, a while ago we played together with Serafin, a cool new band from England. They recorded an album together with David Sardy, the producer of Soulwax. I think that really is an interesting new band."
Neelz: "An other band that inspires us is Soulwax. They always search for creative solutions within their music. Creativity and artistry is very important, just as credibility. We think a band has to be credible, they must go for it for 300 percent and stand behind their music for 300 percent."

MR: When I listen to your album, I keep thinking about Millionaire all the time, because they use quite some different styles too.
Neelz: "I can believe that. We played with them once. That was awesome. You can say Millionaire's also one of those bands we just talked about."
Tom: "We like quite some Belgian bands."
Neelz: "Yes, that's kinda striking. There are a lot of Belgian bands we like to listen to."
Tom: "We have a Belgian drummer in our band who comes from that scene, and we live in Brabant, Tilburg ourselves, which is close to the border. So we have quite a good connection with Belgium, and music wise that's also the case obviously."

MR: There's at the moment a lot happening qua alternative bands in Belgium, isn't it?
Tom: "Yeah, there sure is. It all began with k's Choice and dEUS. Since those two bands there's been a spotlight on Belgium. I hope the Dutch scene will also start realising we have a lot of great bands, because they really earn it to get some attention. And like I just said, Holland should be a bit more proud and chauvinistic. All the radio stations are playing the same music, so it's almost impossible as a reader or listener to come in contact with the more interesting music styles."

MR: So you really have to get it from Kink FM (Dutch alternative radio station, MR) and 3 voor 12 (Dutch music site, MR)?
Tom: "Yes, from those sorts of stations. They still have their hearts in the right place qua music. I mean, there probably walk around some people at 3 FM (Dutch popular radio station, MR) who love good music, like Rob Stenders, who has a great taste for music. But those people are tied-up because they have to play whatever their superiors tell them. And those superiors are being navigated by the music industry, you know? The big ones always win. It's a shame that in the end everything has to do with money. That's not too frustrating for us, because we have nothing to complain, but it has to do with the total music industry in Holland. Dutch bands that didn't break through yet really should get some more attention."

MR: What do you think about all those English hypes, like Franz Ferdinand?
Tom: "Well, I love that band, but that's not the deal. In England they create a whole hype around those sorts of bands. Probably there's a better music climate in England. But I think there's a big disadvantage at being hyped. Those bands are being lifted sky high immediately, so in the future they can only fall deeper."

MR: So it's a good thing you have to fight for your success in Holland?
Tom: "Yes, it's a fact it has its advantages. I don't think it's bad to slowly win some souls with Wealthy Beggar."
Neelz: "But that's also our style. We wouldn't want be the hype of Holland suddenly."
Tom: "If we wanted to become a hype, we would have chosen for an other music label."

MR: When I listen to your album I hear all sorts of different styles, but you never go really extreme in my opinion. The songs are all around the four minutes, and they are very easy to listen to. Did you feel a certain brake when you wrote the songs?
Neelz: "We really chose to write a song record. You're right about that. We like to do something really different every few months. With this album it's obvious we chose to write 'normal' songs. When you see us live you can see our more experimental site."
Tom: "When you approach 'Roxxx in the Disco' as a song album, a song like 'Single' doesn't really fit because of its strange structure. I know what you mean, but as a band you always pick the songs that fit the best with each other. That's why an album always leaves a certain vibe. But Wealthy Beggar doesn't completely avoid the experiment."
Neelz: "No, a head and a tail aren't holy, you know? At the moment we're busy writing some new stuff, and one new song really has a different sort of structure. I really like this way of writing a song. It's kind of handicraft versus intuition. Handicraft in the sense of writing a good song, and intuition in the sense of letting the things come as they come."

MR: When you wrote the album, did you had in mind not a lot of people know you, so you had to write shorter songs to be played at the radio?
Tom: "No, not consciously. I think we became more conscious of how the music industry works because we're at a record company, but I don't think that worked through in our songs."
Neelz: "No, we absolutely didn't have any commercial arguments to make the album sound as it is right now."

MR: You weren't thinking in the way of 'this album is an acquaintance with Wealthy Beggar, but at the next album we'll go a different way'?
Neelz: "No, not at all. This is just the Wealthy Beggar of this moment. We're a band that's ready to evolve. And that's really going to happen, so I can't assure our next record will be a song album too. I really believe an album is a snapshot. I think it's in a way the same thing as a company that's making up a balance. This record fits with us now, we've given everything to make it the way it is now. When I listen to it in forty years I still want to love it and still be able to pick up that vibe we had right then. But I don't think we could make the same sort of album in forty years. There's a lot of chemistry in the band, so it's all very interesting. Off course it's a sort of passion we feel, and we're very happy we've collected the right group of people around us. We understand each other musical wise and personally very well. That's just amazing. So it can go in all different directions in the future."
Tom: "We like to do everything ourselves. We can do that because we're experienced and able to record an album without any help. Off course we've had some help for the more specialized things like the use of plug-ins and things on the computer. But in principle it really is our product, and the record company gave us enough space to do it our way. I think it all went really well. This was the first time for us. I think it will go the same way in the future, but more extensively."

MR: Does the record company really say to you: "Here is your money, go with it to the studio and see what you'll do with it."?
Neelz: "Yes, that's kinda the way it went, but off course we estimate the amount of money in advance. We do have some plans before we start, like we wanted to record a part of the album at home. To realize that we needed some extra stuff, so we estimated it all, and Pias (Wealthy Beggar?s record company, MR) gave us a certain amount of money. But yes, that's about the way it goes."

MR: So you have the freedom to do what you want to do?
Neelz: "Yes, it really was a pretty amazing story. At a certain moment we recorded some demos with a total of twenty songs. Pias picked sixteen of those songs, so we told them what we needed to make a good record. After some long talking they just said yes to it, which we almost couldn't believe!"

MR: A while ago I talked to Dreadlock Pussy, an other Dutch band. They talked about the bad economy in Holland, and the fact that everybody's downloading their music. Do you also deal with those kinds of problems?
Tom: "At the moment we can't tell much about that, because our album is released only recently. But in it's entirety we also know there's being downloaded a lot. You find the action 'artists against copying', with for example Ilse de Lange (Dutch female singer, MR) in every music magazine. Those people, who make music on a higher level and sell way more records than us, have to deal with it a lot. It's just not very healthy for the music industry. On the other hand you can say artists have to become more creative to sell their albums, so it does have its advantages too."
Neelz: "I think the music industry will heal itself, but a huge problem is the fact that artists from our league get lower budget to create something. And that's a shame because it's really hard for some bands to raise above their own subculture. Record companies just sign less and less bands, and search for all kinds of strange constructions to keep signing bands. As a band you have to invest a lot of time and energy to keep going on. But at a certain moment you just can't go on because you have to keep eating and living."
Tom: "It sounds very dramatic, but it's just a shame that record companies don't invest a lot of money anymore in the smaller bands. Besides that I think the cd in general has lost its value. In the early days you could tape albums on cassette, but everyone wanted 'the real thing' so they bought the original records. Nowadays you can make an exact copy of the original without losing any quality. Who can blame the people that do that kind of stuff? Besides that it's legal according to the penal code. You're allowed to make one or two copies for your own use. But this discussion between musicians, programmers and the whole music industry is going on for a long time now, but what can we do about it? Nobody knows the answer. Within five years we will see the impact it has had."

WB: Every time I read a review about 'Roxxx in the Disco' I see the same clich?s, like your 'American sound' and how 'un-Dutch good' you are. Don't you get sicking tired of that?
Neelz: "Well, sicking tired... It sure is striking. When we're reading a review together and we see that 'un-Dutch good' again, we sure laugh about it."
Tom: "Or that we 'don't avoid the experiment'. Besides that I must say a few reviews are amazing and written well too. But sometimes it looks like they read some other reviews, listened to the album once and wrote their review."
Neelz: "I think it's just a shame, because we're just a Dutch band. We don't want to sound like an American band at all."
Tom: "We just sound the way we wanna sound. If some people think we sound like an American band that's fine by me."

MR: Besides that I don't really get that term 'un-Dutch good'. Like Dutch bands aren't very good in common.
Tom: "Exactly, but that's the attitude of Dutchmen in common, a bit too sober."
Neelz: "But it's a deadly shame, un-Dutch good... There are fucking many great bands in Holland. I know a lot of bands who really are the bomb."
Tom: "This way you create an atmosphere where everybody thinks you should compare Dutch bands with each other instead of comparing them at a normal level. All music is beautiful and all music is valuable. Can't they look at it in a broader way? Way does it have to be defined geographically? I think that's a shame. I do think it's cool to know which nationality a band has so you know something about its cultural background, but that's all. In Holland they we do have such an atmosphere. I think that has to be changed."

MR: MTV and TMF (Dutch music broadcaster, MR) don't play your video for 'Reminder' because they think there's too much violence in it. Doesn't this whole occurrence only delivered you more publicity?
Neelz: "Well, I'll be honest with you. We're very happy with the publicity we've got thus far. A lot of people have heard about Wealthy Beggar and 'Reminder' without having seen the video. But we do think it's a pity the video hasn't got any airplay, because it still is an artistic product. We're very happy The Box (Dutch music broadcaster, MR) does send it out, and you can watch it peer to peer at 3 voor 12, which a lot of people do. You won't hear us complain about publicity, absolutely not. But it still is a shame, because we worked really hard at it."

MR: I think it's a nice video. I don't really get the fuss.
Tom: "We hear that all the time. When 50 percent of the population didn't understand the video it would be something else."
Neelz: "But it's something completely different, you know? Take a look at TMF and MTV. All you see are those pathetic R&B videos or those programmes like Flam Bam..."

MR: Viva la Bam?
Neelz: "Yes, Viva la Bam. In that program happen a lot of strange things too, doesn't it? I don't understand why those people always have to be that difficult."

MR: I also have a question about one of your songs. Did you get the beginning of 'Wonderful Thing' from Foo Fighter's 'Break Out'?
Tom: "No, I've heard that question once before. I listened t it myself to see what they meant, but it's just a very typical guitar lick. In fact it's just a country lick. That song just developed that way."

MR: What can we expect of Wealthy Beggar this summer? Are you gonna do a lot of festivals?
Neelz: "First we're gonna do some early festivals. The release of 'Reminder' must become our 'ticket to ride' for the bigger festivals, especially the summer festivals. We just want to play a lot."

MR: Did you already receive your invitation to Lowlands (big Dutch music festival, MR)?
Tom: "No, we haven't received it yet, but off course we hope for it."
Neelz: "I hope we'll play at Lowlands. It would be really cool. But as a band you have to be really careful with that kind of things. We can say to everyone we're gonna play at Lowlands, but we'll just wait and see. We do have some good hope at it. But besides Lowlands there are a lot of other great festivals where we would like to play. We're just looking forward to it. We're touring right now which we like a lot."

MR: I saw you're playing every weekend at the moment.
Neelz: "Yes, we play about four times per week."
Tom: "But besides that there happen a lot of other nice things, like an item for MTV recently. Most of the times we hear about those kinds of things about a week in advance."

MR: Do you still have the time to tour that much?
Tom: "Yeah, sure, we have the time. You'll just have to be willing to give up a lot of things. The one has to give up more than the other. For example, I'm able to work a lot in the evening, while others have to call off their work sometimes. But we're all very flexible. We've arranged our lives in such a way this all is possible."

MR: So you're ready to break through?
Neelz: "Well, breaking through... I think that's a bit a strange term. But we're ready to attain more people."
Tom: "So we're ready for the bigger things and to play together more. We're absolutely ready for that now."

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