Dutch band Klangstof breaks sound and social barriers for their homeland

 By Melissa Wylie

June 11, 2017

For Koen Van De Wardt, success first came far from home.

His multi-layered genre-bending music, produced under the name Klangstof, earned him spots at music festivals across Europe before his album resonated back home in Amsterdam. But the real turning point was when he took the stage at Coachella this year, marking the first time a Dutch band played the California festival.

“For us to be the first to play Coachella gives us an enormous boost in our home country,” Van De Wardt said. “In the Netherlands, people look up to the U.S. in some ways, definitely in pop culture.”

Klangstof has also hit Sasquatch, Firefly and Bonnaroo on the U.S. festival circuit this year, and recently wrapped a West Coast tour opening for The Flaming Lips. The band is on the road with Swedish indie synth-pop trio Miike Snow, making a stop in Charlotte on June 15 at The Fillmore.

Koen Van De Wardt (left) photo by Tonje Thilesen

Klangstof’s first album Close Eyes to Exit, released in 2016, reflects electronic, alt-rock, and acoustic singer-songwriter influences, as well as an underlying feeling of lonesomeness. Van De Wardt now has a full band behind him, but he originally wrote and recorded the songs on his own. The Amsterdam-native spent time in Norway as a teenager, and the relocation affected his relationship with music.

“I grew up with a lot of Radiohead,” he said. “My goal was always to, in a way, spread the same message as they did. When I lived in Norway, I really wanted to have someone to talk to me the way Thom Yorke talks to people from a very lonely perspective.”

Van De Wardt spent six years writing and producing “Close Eyes to Exit” at his leisure. Radiohead’s influence is obvious in Klangstof’s moody tracks, and Van De Wardt said he draws inspiration from other English acts such as Alt-J, James Blake and Coldplay, specifically their first album “Parachutes.” Van De Wardt is also fan of Iceland’s Sigur Ros, which is apparent in Klangstof’s mix of quiet intensity and sprawling grandiosity.

“I always had this fascination with acoustic music, but I was very into electronic music. The goal was to blend those two worlds into each other in a way that doesn’t sound weird, but sounds like a very natural thing,” Van De Wardt said. “It was more like a puzzle rather than trying to copy one band or another.”

Koen Van De Wardt (middle left) Photo by Jack McKain

Van De Wardt enlisted his friends Jobo Engh, Wannes Salome and Jun C. Villanueva to play guitar, synths and drums, respectively, during live shows. Now that Van De Wardt is part of a fully formed band, and signed to Warner Bros. Records, he said he plans to put more effort toward wider exposure with the next album, possibly getting a song on the radio without losing the emotional integrity behind the music.

“The first record was very much about isolation because I was very much in complete isolation at that time. Since I’m not there anymore, you can start to look at other things in life,” he said. “I think there are a lot of other struggles that are turning up now that definitely would reflect back in the music, either lyrically or creatively.”

Catch Klangstof and Miike Snow Thursday, June 15 at The Fillmore.

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