In Conversation with Pablo van de Poel from DeWolff

In Conversation with Pablo van de Poel from DeWolff following release of album Wolff Pack full of Dutch Raw Psychedelic Southern Rock

Simon Green over at Bluesdoodles spoke to the engaging lead singer and guitarist of the three-piece Dutch band, DeWolff a couple of days after the release of their excellent new album “Wolffpack”.

You must be pleased with the reception of the new album?
I must say I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t think a year ago that we would have an album out now; we started on the songs in April 2020 and slowly released them to a group of subscribers every two weeks after we’d just written them, which was exciting.  It all went so fast!  The songs we put out two days ago were a distillation of the 17 songs we put out to fans.

You are a very prolific for a young band.  How old were you when you started playing?
I was 9 when I started on guitar, 11 when I had my first band and 16 when I started DeWolff.  My little brother Luca (drummer with DeWolff) was 13.

Robin is an integral part of the band. How did you meet him?
When I was 9 or 10, I joined this youth choir, which gave me the first chance to play with other people. I’d been there for over a year and was now playing electric guitar and in walked this guy carrying a Spanish guitar and I thought “look at that dork!”, but we became really good friends.  He switched to bass and then keyboards and I suggested it would be good to have a band with my brother and have Robin play Hammond, although I didn’t know what a Hammond organ was then!  We started jamming for hours with Robin playing a little electronic keyboard, which was the first time he’d played organ.  He immediately started playing bass notes with his left hand. We eventually thought “we’re a band!”  we should play live and call ourself DeWolff!

Some bands spend months trying to think of a name.
I had this Fender Blues DeVille amplifier, which had the D and the V in capital letters, which I thought looked really cool; we were also really into the film Pulp Fiction, which had a character called “The Wolf”, so we put those ideas together. 

The band has a really unique sound, did that come about straight away?
The chemistry was there from the start.  I originally had an idea for a surf guitar riff, again influenced by the movie, but we got bored by that and started coming up with ideas without any preconceived thoughts about what we wanted to do. That was the foundation for how we developed.

You have a very active guitar style and are always playing runs, riffs or solo etc.  It’s a lot to remember, especially bearing in mind the forthcoming online “Nonagon Marathon” (where the band will play 9 albums over 9 days)
I’m really bad at strumming chords!  It has to do with being a three piece and having to fill out the sound.  I’m bad at remembering lyrics to other people’s song but could play you everyone one of our songs right now, it’s weird!

Your music has many influences, was that down to your parents?
My dad had a big CD collection and he grew up in the 80s listening to alternative rock, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Sound Garden and a lot of others.  He was also in a covers band and it was going to their rehearsals and watching the guitarist making these noises that made me want to play guitar.  I became fixated.  I was frustrated at first by being taught things like “Old MacDonald had a farm” when I wanted to play solos.  When I was 12 my dad bought me my first CD, a Jimi Hendrix collection because he thought I would appreciate his playing.  After about the 5th play, I really got into it and, although I was still a beginner, started to work out what he was playing.  Because of that I explored bands from the same era like Led Zeppelin and Cream and that was when I really started.  I then got my dad interested in Led Zep!

You have a very soulful voice; you must have had a lot of influences aside from guitar heavy bands?
Listening to those bands led me to the Allman Brothers – I must have played their Fillmore East album 1000 times – and the Black Crowes, who referenced soul music, which led me to Otis Reading, Sam Cooke and Al Green.  My dad also got my brother Luca a southern soul compilation and we realised that soul music going even further back was the source of the music we liked.  Even though it’s in the past there seems to be an infinite amount of good music available from previous eras.

You must have been very confident to start playing live when you were only 15 or 16?
I’m amazed when I look back at myself, I thought I knew it all!  I was 18 when I went to the Amsterdam music conservatory and I realised there was so much I didn’t know!  That started a new level of being serious about music.  My teachers were amazed that DeWolff would sometimes play 4 shows over the weekend in 3 different countries and I’d still show up on Monday morning.  By my 2nd & 3rd years we didn’t play so much as Luca was taking his exams at high school.

What impact did the Conservatory have on your music?
It gave me new angles to look at music.  Before I went, I would create a riff and we would work it into a song.  It gave me the knowledge so that now I can sit down and write a song at any time whereas before I would have been dependent on “inspiration”.  It’s a more theoretical approach, so, I may wake up and think what if a play a 7th over a 4th.  If it sounds good, I’ll play it to Luca and we’ll work it into a song.  It became very apparent making our last 2 albums, “Tascam Tapes” and “Wolffpack” that if we put our minds to it that we could write a song and by the end of the day it would be finished.   The Conservatory gave me tools to always have inspiration!

Watching the movie of the making of the Tascam Tapes (the band recorded on a 4-track analogue tape deck using only a drum machine, small keyboard and guitar directly input) would be enough to put young bands off of touring.  It was impressive how you recorded, squeezed in together while the van was in transit.  It must have taken a lot of editing.
(Laughs) Right now we’d give anything to go back and experience even one day of touring with all the bad things happening.  Those tapes man, they were a pain in the arse in the end!  Because we had so little time, we would record anything that we thought sounded cool but to avoid accidentally taping over something we’d use new tapes all the time. After the tour we had a box of tapes and spent 2 weeks listening to them and found 4-5 were missing.  I had to go back to my old landlady to look for them, and found one!  We took them and converted them in our 24-track studio.  Some needed additions and some songs on the album were just the original four tracks.  We’ve always been interested in the technical side of things and would ask recording engineers what they did.  Robin in particular loves building things, like pre-amps.  We enjoy all aspects relating to music, whether it’s recording, engineering, song writing, playing live, everything!  We are all super open-minded and there’s never been an occasion when someone has proposed an idea that the others haven’t liked.  We trust each other and know that whatever gets suggested is going to be cool.

Is that laid back approach a Dutch thing?
Funny enough where we are from is down the south of the Netherlands, where there are no big cities and no-one speaks their minds!  It’s not like Amsterdam.  We all live in Utrecht, which is where our studio is, which is about 25 minutes from Amsterdam.  It’s a very mellow place.

Do you take inspiration from your surroundings? For instance, you went to Georgia to record Grand Southern Electric?
It’s true that a lot of the music we love comes from the American south but the main reason we went there was to work with Mark Neill who produced “Brothers” by the Black Keys, which is one of our favourite albums.  When the time came, we only had enough money to work with him for nine days, so we went in prepared.  We arrived in the evening and started recording the next day.  We only had time for a trip to Nashville at the end so inspiration from that experience went towards our next album.    

What did you learn from working with Mark Neill?
We’d made some recordings in our home studio which we thought were good enough but friends suggested we work with a producer.  Watching how Mark engineered us we thought “wow, this is next level stuff” and I asked him “how do you do this and how do you do that” and he was very secretive!  I learned a lot though, for instance he had the drums controlled on a single mono fader yet they sounded great.  He said it’s all about having a lot of good mics and putting them in the right place.  We’d experimented a lot before without getting the crazy drum sound that he managed.   I think that the quality of the drum sound defines the quality of an album.

Watching your livestream to launch the new album I noticed from comments made that as well as some international viewers you naturally have a lot of Dutch fans.  How are you viewed there?
I have the feeling now that the position we’ve gained is not going to go away; things are going well and we have solid support. I think we’ll still be playing in 20 years from now.  We’ve been playing for 13 years and there were times when I thought is this the high or low point?  For the last 5 years things have been going smoothly upwards, but it’s not like we’re playing arenas yet.

How will DeWolff develop from here?  Is it just about developing the song writing?
That’s a good question.  We would record an album and think “that’s it, we know what we’re doing” and then with the next one it would be “now, we really know how to write songs” but I look back and think we still haven’t written “the” song that I want to hear if I wasn’t in the band. It was trial and error for a while but I feel like we know what to do to be a great band and part of that is to get out and play as much as possible. We were really looking forward to playing in the UK.  When we linked up with Mascot records and started to get some British reviews in, we were surprised by how positive they were. We don’t tend to take so much notice of reviews in Holland but we really took notice of the UK reviews as having a lot of credibility.

A last tricky question; where do get your snazzy stage gear from? (laughs) Luca’s girlfriend has a vintage clothes store, which is one source.  We wanted to get the same look as the Nudie suits so we had a tailor make up some white suits and we cut up some floral fabrics and had them stitched on.  Luca has actually bought a 1950s embroidery machine and he has started to make some vintage style embroideries. If we go on the road next year, we won’t release an album, it’ll be a clothing line!

Check out Tom Dixon’s review of Wolff Pack – HERE
DeWolff unleashes the Wolff Pack a Wonderful album that gets better every time you listen and will be welcome in any rock lovers collection…or blues, or soul, or funk…so everyone’s then.

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