The Bucket Playlist’s interview with Orange Skyline

The Bucket Playlist’s interview with Orange Skyline: ‘Oasis was our stepping stone to a magical mystery tour of music’

Amsterdam-based indie rock band, Orange Skyline, brought out their thumping, anthemic single, ‘Shine On’, last month and have several new singles in the works.

The band comprises Stefan van der Wielen (vocals), his brother Niels (guitar), Mart Artema (drums) and Simon Christiaanse (bass). Niels and Mart have know each other since playing football together in primary school and Simon is a friend from high school. Their name doesn’t have a deep backstory, they tell me, laughing: ‘If you try to come up with a band name, every one is taken,’ Stefan says. ‘We went to a website, something like onlinebandnamegenerator, and when we pressed the button, it gave us this name! We used to make it up that we’d got the name from a song lyric but now you know the truth!’

‘Shine On’ is a huge, energetic song, driven by some fantastic riffs and strong vocals. While Stefan typically sings lead vocals, Niels sings lead vocals on some tracks and also sings the belting ‘Shine On’ chorus. Or, as Stefan jokingly puts it: ‘Every time you think you hear the Bee Gees, it’s Niels! Niels, you came up with the guitar riff, then we wrote the chorus together and the melody.’

Interestingly, Stefan wrote a lot of the song after a night out – ‘when it was still possible’: ‘I went home that night and when I woke up, I saw that I’d written some lyrics and I liked them! This is the first time that had happened, normally they’re not very good if I write them when I’m drunk!’

As the song kicks off: ‘The sky is open and the world’s asleep, I got my cigs, it’s all I need. There’s this song playing in my head, walking to the beat and the preacher said: “Mama have you heard the news? Your baby’s built to be bulletproof.” The world is turning and the city sleeps, it’s all I ever wanted, all I ever need.’

‘I wanted it to be darker, to be about the twisted logic of the night when you see things differently’

It’s the kind of track that would be a brilliant end to a set, the sort of song that will have the audience punching their fists in the air in euphoric bliss once gigs start up again. Stefan describes it as being about ‘a walk through the city at night’: ‘These nights out have their own sense of logic, sort of like Bob Dylan’s ‘Highway 61’. There’s a reference to Leonard Cohen in the second verse. These party anthems can be about dancing and beer but I wanted it to be darker, to be about the twisted logic of the night when you see things differently. The ‘Shine On’ from the chorus is taken from ‘Instant Karma’ by John Lennon (Stefan starts singing it.) ‘The ‘Shine On’ part is bright, so it needed some darkness around it.’ It turns out that they have often opened a gig with the track: ‘It’s a great first song,’ Stefan says. ‘It opens up your throat!’ We chat about belting songs out and I say that he ‘gives it some welly’. They love the expression and laugh, repeating it, and say that the Dutch equivalent loosely translates as ‘singing from your toes’.

‘Shine On’ marks their first release for around two and a half years after taking a short hiatus to develop their sound, Niels says: ‘We’re working on lots of songs and we’ve changed our sound, we put in a lot more guitars. We started off as a garage band, more like The Libertines. We’d like to release some more singles this year, although we haven’t decided which one will be next. They’re all positive, the new songs, that’s what binds them together. We’re not going to hit you with a hip hop track!’ Stefan jumps in: ”Shine On’ gives you a good taste of what to expect next. It’s still going to be eclectic. Every song gives you a new opportunity to express yourself, some hidden treasure.’

They have already released two albums: An Introduction in 2015 and Things That I Hide in 2017, which is more electronic and which was produced by Dutch singer, JB Meijers, whom they knew from a collaboration at 3FM where they did a cover of The Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’. They both describe themselves as ‘an album band’: ‘We definitely want to do another album,’ Stefan says. ‘The overall idea is to release some singles and then do an album next year.’ Niels jumps in: ‘Or it could be a Christmas present this year!’

‘To me, it’s kind of a homage to madness as a force’

The opening track on Things That I Hide, ‘Sound & Fury’, is based on the novel by Willliam Faulkner of the same name: ‘It’s the only time I’ll write the guitar chords to something,’ Stefan jokes. ‘To me, it’s kind of a homage to madness as a force. I studied comparative literature and I was working on an essay about this novel, not feeling it, and started strumming my guitar. I thought, let’s write a song about madness but not a depressing Radiohead type song! It’s a theme, I like to write about twisted logic or fury. When I heard Trump go on stage to the fire song (The Rolling Stones’ ‘Play With Fire”), I thought our song is the anti-version of that.’


Niels’ favourite Dutch band is rock band Golden Earring, who have been around since the 60’s and who he describes as ‘the Dutch Rolling Stones’: ‘Hillary Clinton used their music on her campaign trail,’ he said. (She used their song ‘When The Lady Smiles’.) He also cited ‘Hocus Pocus’, the slightly surreal smash hit from Dutch prog rock band Focus in 1970: ‘It’s really great!’

If their music could feature on any show, Niels is quick to say The Office. ‘My girlfriend watches the US one and we’ll start the UK one. I’d be the luckiest guy in the world if one of our songs was on that.’ Stefan interjects: ‘Steve Carrell is so great in the US one!’ Niels is laughing. ‘Ohhhh, so there’s this personality test you can do and I was matched with Michael Scott (Steve Carrell’s character in The Office), I was very happy with that. Stefan is laughing as well: ‘I have a friend who made this test at work and sent it round in a WhatsApp group.’ I ask him who he was matched with and he starts laughing harder: ‘Oh, this is going to sound so bad (he grimaces) but I was matched with William Shakespeare!’ I say that they are about as different as two characters could be but just think of the range it will give their songwriting and what kind of songs they could write. ‘Yes,’ Niels deadpans. ‘Songs like ‘Shine On’!’

‘It’s nice to be a part of it, it feels as if something is happening’

They’re stuck in a strange kind of limbo, given that a 9 p.m. curfew was introduced in the Netherlands in January, which is expected to continue for at least another two weeks. Luckily, they are neighbours, which means they get to see more of each other than they would otherwise. In normal circumstances, there is a vibrant music scene in the Netherlands, according to Niels: ‘It’s nice to be a part of it, it feels as if something is happening.’ What makes the scene special is that the Netherlands is locked in between France, Germany and the UK, Stefan says: ‘If you look at music history here, the Netherlands has been benchmark territory for record labels to try and break acts out, with a view that if they work in Holland, they will work elsewhere.’

Stefan would like Jack Nicholson to play him in a film about his life ‘if he stays alive long enough and I become famous when I’m old or if we can make him younger’! Niels is still laughing. ‘I’ll say Tom Felton (who plays Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films). He’s my twin, we have the same facial expressions! When I’m on stage, my hair is pulled back more, like this (he shows me), a bit like Kurt Cobain. Tom Felton even plays guitar!’ ‘Yeah,’ Stefan says cheekily. ‘You’re Kurt Cobain on a broom!’

Music history is littered with siblings who have worked together from The Jackson 5, Oasis, Kings of Leon and The Teskey Brothers. I ask them which famous musician brothers they would most like to be identified with: ‘The Kinks,’ says Stefan, to which Niels agrees. ‘They had fights! Niels is a musical genius and I am so not. The Kinks had a sense of humour to their music, a sense of irony. They understood their role and how they were supposed to play it. It makes them really unique.’

‘We started a band in 2009 after we went to an Oasis gig’

In a move that is reminiscent of the plot of the film Sing Street, they started a band before they could actually play any instruments, they tell me, laughing: ‘We started a band in 2009 after we went to an Oasis gig, the last one they did in the Netherlands,’ Niels says. ‘We were there with Mart the drummer. I was 14, Stef was 16, I think. Our father drove us there and waited for us. On the way back, in the car, we said we want to do this, but we didn’t play anything at this point!’ Stefan joins in: ‘We started on the guitar and the chords were fine but there are these things called scales that you have to memorise. Niels seemed to enjoy it! The main thing was to look cool on stage,’ he says jokingly. ‘It’s hard to sing and play the guitar AND look cool so I dropped the guitar!’ (However, he does still play it on sone tracks.)

They cite their musical influences as Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, The Who and The Sex Pistols: ‘Oasis was our stepping stone to a magical mystery tour of music,’ Stefan says. Niels nods. The Beatles also loomed large: ‘You’d say, “Niels, I’ve got Sergeant Pepper, you have to hear this” and then I listened to it every day for two years! It’s the greatest thing to discover music that’s new to you.’

If they could tour with anyone, Niels picks The Rolling Stones in the 70’s. We’ve been chatting about the films Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, in particular about how brilliant Rocketman is, not least because it shows Elton John’s highs and lows and is far more raw than Bohemian Rhapsody, which we all feel glosses over Freddie Mercury’s sexuality: ‘Rocketman doesn’t,’ Stefan points out. ‘But in Bohemian Rhapsody, it feels as if they are trying to hide it. He was a gay man, they shouldn’t be afraid to show two men kissing!’ We agree. Stefan decides that he’d like to tour with Elton: ‘I’d enjoy that, we’d show him how to party!’

(Photo from left to right: Niels, Mart, Stefan and Simon)https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/3KEa3pODK8jjNc9x85Iplf

by Sara Seddon at The Bucket Playlist (inthebucketplaylist.com)

This story first appeared on: https://inthebucketplaylist.com/ on March 11th 2021

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