The Road Home
It’s not everyday someone you know a bit sends you a promo of his new band and you’re floored by the sheer greatness of it. When Kenneth asked me to review the EP of his band The Road Home I didn’t expect to hear one of the best new punk bands in the past couple of years. He’s probably the first Reflections intern and No Turning Back roadie to come up with such a mainstream sound.
The artwork of your EP features a pretty big comb, are all you guys the kind of artists who won’t go on stage before checking if their hair is all right?
Haha, well my brother Luke, who first started the band is really into all things 50’s rock ‘n roll. Him and I used to have a pretty slick hairdo (think Elvis Presley or Mike Ness). When we started thinking about artwork we came up with the stiletto comb as a logo/trademark for The Road Home. We thought it looked cool , would fit the music and would set us apart from the other Dutch punk rock bands (visually) so we stuck with it. We also think music sounds better when it looks good, so we whenever we get the chance we’ll make sure our hair is right haha.
I don’t think we sound like a band from Enschede (sonically), but I do think Enschede is part of our sound.
Your’e from the city of Enschede which if you ask me isn’t the most happening place in the world. Do you think the city is part of your sound, that because there’s not that much going on you have to create some excitement for yourself? Would The Road Home even have existed if you were all living in Berlin?
Well, I agree that it’s not the most happening city in the world. After all, the world’s a pretty big place. But in our province it’s the biggest city so in a smaller perspective it’s more happening than other cities/towns around us. We don’t have the best music scene around but it’s getting better all the time. (We do have the best soccer team but that’s a different story)
I think the Netherlands, looking at the punkrock and hardcore genre, there’s not a really strong relation between the sound of a band and the area they’re from sonically. At least not compared to the US where different areas tend to have a more distinctive sound of their own; think NY, Boston, DC, California etc.
When looking at the Netherlands….I can’t really say No Turning Back has a specific Brabant sound or Striking Justice has a Hengelo sound. A lot of European bands end up sounding like American bands, which is not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. It’s only natural since most of the European bands are influenced by American bands. The Road Home is no exception.
Everyone is, soundwise, influenced and inspired mostly by whatever they listen to and take that into account when writing and producing music. Conscious- or subconsciously. So I don’t think we sound like a band from Enschede (sonically), but I do think Enschede is part of our sound.
(Am I still on topic? Haha.)
It’s the place we were born and raised and still live to this day. It’s a place where we feel at home and are proud of. As songwriters we’re influenced by Enschede; we do actually write about our hometown and refer to it in the lyrics. Obviously the fact that it’s sometimes a dull and/or isolated place has an effect on us, thus on the songwriting as well (lyrically at least). We also use 053 (our area code) in our artwork and merchandise. So in that way I do think it’s part of our sound, or maybe identity.
We didn’t start the band because there’s too little to do in our hometown. Sure, we’re creating excitement for ourselves (and it beats the hell out of soccer;-)) but, I don’t think the story would be any different if we’d be from Tokyo, London or Berlin. We just love music and playing in bands, so there’d still be a band. I don’t think there are things in more happening cities that are so immensely cool that they would stop us from playing music. But would the band have sounded differently if we were from Berlin? Yeah, probably a little. But I guess we’ll never know.
Talking about Berlin why is the first song on the EP called Berlin Streets, do you have a special connection with that city?
It’s definitely one of our favorite cities in Europe The song was inspired by the things we learned about the history of the city and WWII during a road trip last year. Things we experienced walking down the streets of Berlin. Hence the title. Other than that both musically and lyrically it seemed like a good opener for the EP.
Tim Van Tol sings along on Old Hearts, why did you ask him to do guest vocals? Or did he just wander around in the studio and you asked him out of courtesy?
We were (and still are) big fans of his music. My brother met him at a festival last summer and they’ve been in touch ever since. When it came to recording we came up with the idea to have him do guest vocals.
We thought his voice would fit our music really well. Thankfully he said yes when we approached him. When we were done recording the song Old Hearts we sent it out to him and he recorded his vocal parts in his home studio. We think it worked out great and are proud of the result.
Thing is, doing these contests when you’re first starting out as a band provides you an opportunity to showcase yourself to both public (audience) and industry (jury) that matter in your area.
The Road Home has entered and won some band competitions. I know there are bands in the hc and punk scene who don’t even want to think about entering these kind of things, what made you decide other wise?
We’re not the band that signs up for every other contest but we registered for some band competitions (and won one) because we basically see them as shows in the first place. But they are shows that can lead up to more (important) shows and other cool things really fast.
Thing is, doing these contests when you’re first starting out as a band provides you an opportunity to showcase yourself to both public (audience) and industry (jury) that matter in your area, which will eventually lead up to more shows, attention and fans (taken you play a good show).
When it came to the competition that we won I remember thinking “lets just register and see what happens, after all it’s a show”. We only had a home made demo from one of our songs so I was already surprised we made it trough the pre selection haha..
Next thing you know, much to our surprise, we won the most high profile band competition in our area (Overijssel). Afterwards we immediately noticed an increase in interest: we got more attention in the press, got booked at festivals, got offered supportslots etc. So in this case it worked out pretty well for us. It helped fire up the engine.
I think on the overall I learned it’s an attitude thing. They just work very hard, stay humble and take no interest in rock star bullshit. I see a lot of resemblance with how people are from our hometown area.
You have been going on tour with No Turning Back for a few times selling merch etc. What did you learn from that and from your practical traineeship at Reflections Records that you know use for The Road Home?
Well, I got the chance to take a look into Europe’s foremost hardcore label and band (if you ask me) which has obviously taught me a lot. Both Reflections Records and No Turning Back have been around for a long time and to still see them do what they do, out of love for music, is truly inspiring.
I learned a lot talking to those guys about music in general, the industry, how’ve they been able to do what they do for so long, how things have changed over the years etc.
It broadens your view on things. I’m inspired and more educated every time I get out of the tour bus / office.
I think on the overall I learned it’s an attitude thing. They just work very hard, stay humble and take no interest in rock star bullshit. I see a lot of resemblance with how people are from our hometown area (nuchtere tukkers). Maybe that’s why we get along so well haha….
But all kidding aside, there’s a lot of DIY and PMA spirit involved. I think that’s something I apply to The Road Home as well. No one’s going to work as hard for your band/label/zine as yourself. You’ll have to work really, really hard if you want to ‘make it’ and there’s a lot of sacrifice in the process.
And of course you learn practical things as well. Johan, and Suzanne, taught me a lot about how the industry works and the business side of music. To this day we’re still in contact. I remember calling Johan about our plans to release our debut EP and asking his opinion on things, if he had any advice, if he’d do things differently etc. for instance.
Observing the guys in NTB in the van and on stage day after day taught me a lot as well. I watched and learned seeing them do the most basic things; seeing how they organize their merch, seeing how they create a good setlist, seeing how they always take time to hang out with their fans and stay really approachable. Simply seeing how they get things done. Those were not things I had never done before myself, but it’s educational to see them do it in their way, and see why it works for them. You just take everything you learn along the way into account when working for your own band.
Getting to know the guys behind the label/band and being able to call them my friends really means a lot to me and has always been really rewarding.
In the end I don’t think it’s one or the other. We just want the best of both worlds.
You guys have the sound that could well be played on Dutch national radio. Are you going for a career like that, being one of the new ‘serious talents’ or do you aim for a more international career playing youth centres in Belgium and squats in Germany?
I agree. With The Road Home, we’re sort of in between those two worlds like you said. It’s not that we set out to write radio friendly hit singles per se but we do happen to write catchy songs. We just write and play the music we love writing and playing and if there’s a mass market interest and we end up getting a lot of airplay or are getting the ‘serious talent’ stamp, you won’t hear us complain.
But on the other hand we’d love to tour internationally of course. We haven’t done a lot of international shows yet, we’ve only been around for a year. But I know that the miles on the road, and on stage, are really important miles to make as a band. There’s a lot of bonding, both musically and personally. And tours are great adventures. I’ve done a couple of tours with other bands and it’s always been the best of times. Being able to tour a lot internationally with The Road Home would be a dream come true.
In the end I don’t think it’s one or the other. We just want the best of both worlds. I know there are not a lot of Dutch bands that have accomplished such ‘a career’, it’s usually one or the other. But is that going to stop us from trying? Hell no. We’ll just keep doing what we do and we’ll see where that takes us.
In my review I say that your EP is a really good soundtrack for the summer, which 5 records will you be listening to this summer and why?
Well that’s a tough question. There’s so much good music around. I don’t have any ultimate summer records, records that I listen to summer after summer.
Five records that I’ve been listening to on a regular basis over the last months are Resolutions (Dave Hause), Covering Ground (Chuck Ragan), End Measured Mile (Make Do And Mend), White Crosses (Against Me!) and Darkness On The Edge Of Town (Bruce Springsteen). Why? They’re great records. They all get to me in a different way. I’m sure I will still play them regularly this summer.
And I’m also really looking forward to new records by HWM, The Gaslight Anthem and Tenement Kids. I’m sure I will end up listening a lot to those records as well.