When I first met Klangstof, it was in the basement of the Bowery Electric in New York City. They were in the middle of their sound check and seemed to be super professional and rather serious. The second time was at a music festival where they were giggly, chatty and pretty unfiltered.
Hailing from Amsterdam, the group of four 20-something-year-olds has made somewhat of a name for themselves creating haunting electronic tunes. Frontman Koen van de Wardt is complemented by Wannes Salome, Jun Christian Villanueva and Jobo Engh. Together they’ve released one studio album to date, Close Eyes To Exit and performed at Coachella 2017 as the first-ever Dutch band to play the fest.
“Well, I wrote a little bit of music for the record on my own but these guys were always around. They would give me feedback on how horrible it sounded, back in the day,” lead vocalist Koen van de Wardt says of the band’s formation. Once all four guys were in Amsterdam together, Klangstof was born, and the music got better.
Klangstof stretches across the whole spectrum as far as the dynamics of music go, according to Koen. “We have some music that is a bit more emotional but we also have some really weird, exciting shit going on,” he says. “I want listeners to be happy-sad. When someone is about to cry, I want them to laugh,” he concludes.
Koen’s band mate Jobo Engh adds with a laugh, “We want to break them down and then build them up.”
As far as the inspiration for Klangstof, Koen admits that Radiohead has always been very important to him. “At the same time, I’m not as depressed as Thom York is so that’s where the happy part comes in,” he says. Klangstof’s first album, Close Eyes To Exit was written in Norway, accounting for the typically Norwegian feel throughout the tracks. Currently, as the band is living in Amsterdam, Koen says there is a much more urban feel to the music they’ve been making. “It’s always hard to put yourself in a box. But, it’s definitely something dynamic that we do. That’s what we love to do,” he adds.
Although the band agrees that yes, they have a very dynamic sound, the man who has pegged their music the most accurately is one of the member’s dads. “His [Jun Christian Villanueva] dad always says we make ‘dynamic indie rock,’” Koen shares. From there, the guys start throwing out other descriptors like electronic and rock. When Jobo cleverly comes up with the phrase “dynamic electro-rock,” all three other members simultaneously cringe. I give them a few moments to playfully torture their band mate. The band is at the tail end of their American tour and will be returning to Europe for a slew of shows over the summer. Before they go, I ask them to reveal something surprising about them.
“We’re really nice guys but at the same time we behave like rednecks. We’re always eating sunflower seeds and dipping tobacco. On tour we’re super… I bought a NASCAR jacket. We try to be really typically American when we’re over here,” Jobo says with a grin.