Photo Credit: Jack McKain
Close Eyes To Exit…the perfect four words to describe the effects of Klangstof's music–an expansive, psychedelic, and experimental soundscape comparable to the likes of Radiohead, alt-J, and Sigur Rós.
As the brainchild of Dutch-born, Norway-raised Koen Van De Wardt, Klangstof didn't set out to pursue success in the music business–it found him. As a result of social isolation as a teenager in rural Norway, Van De Wardt focused on music for solace and creative expression.
He posted his first single, "Hostage," with zero intention or expectation of recognition. Almost immediately, it was discovered by L.A.'s Mind of a Genius Records, and thus, Klangstof was officially born. With three members added for the live show, the band unveiled their debut album in September 2016 and have ridden a steady wave of progress and acclaim ever since.
Klangstof embarks on a major milestone this weekend (and next), as featured artists on the Coachella 2017 lineup. Ahead of the big day, we sat down with Koen Van De Wardt to discuss his sonic influences, proudest accomplishments, artists to watch, and goals for album number two.
OTW: You were born in Holland, then grew up in Norway–how did your surroundings impact the way you approached music?
Klangstof: When I was in the Netherlands, I wasn't really doing anything with music because it's just kind of an urban environment, you know? So you have friends to hang around. I was just, you know, a normal kid.
When I was 14, we moved to Norway with my parents because they were done with living in the city and not having that much nature around. So they decided to move to Norway to kind of a middle-of-nowhere place. I was also becoming a bit of a bad boy in school, you know? So for them, it felt like some kind of boot camp to send me to Norway. So that's pretty much when I started making music, as well.
Because all of a sudden, I was in this town with like 40 people there. None were my age, so I was bound to do something–it was either gaming or make music.
OTW: Nice. And so you just started, like got up and picked up a guitar?
Klangstof: Yeah, I learned everything myself. My dad bought me a guitar. And I was more into electronic music, like EDM, at the time because I came from Holland, obviously.
But as soon as I went to the record store one day, and I found Okay Computer by Radiohead. And that's pretty much when I started…all of a sudden, I wanted to become a rock star.
OTW: Oh wow, so Radiohead was your trigger, and now you've been compared to Radiohead. Is that mind blowing?
Klangstof: It's a bit weird. It's the only band I don't feel offended by when I get compared to them, you know?
When people say that I sound like Pink Floyd or anything, I just think, "Mmm, no." I think Radiohead is the only one that I would like to be compared with, even though I don't see it myself.
OTW: And how'd that lead to forming the band?
Klangstof: That took a long time. I think it took me like 7 years to get some things together because I was all by myself. I had to learn to play synths and learn how to record and do everything myself.
When I was 21, I moved back again to the Netherlands to join a band there to become a full-time musician, just playing around Holland. And you know, on the side I tried to make my own project. And yeah, all of a sudden I had "Hostage" finished and I just uploaded it to SoundCloud.
But, you know, I didn't have any plan. It was just like, "Let's upload a song and see what happens."
OTW: So you did that on your own?
Klangstof: Yeah, the first time I did it on my own. And then I think, two or three weeks later, David Dann from Mind of a Genius called me like, "Yoooo!" [laughs].
OTW: [laughs] Wow, so fast.
Klangstof: Yeah, and I didn't expect it all. So for me, it was a life-changing thing that I never saw coming.
I was just doing my thing and playing in Holland and all of a sudden, I thought, "Woah, I could do something internationally…"
OTW: So you never thought to pursue music as a career until then?
Klangstof: At that time, it wasn't my goal. So when I wrote the record, I never thought about what other people would think or what genre I was doing it in or, you know, anything. I was just making it purely for myself.
OTW: Do you approach making music differently now that it's gotten this far?
Klangstof: Yeah, it kind of turned out that way. As soon as you upload it, you feel that people kind of feel the same way you do about your music. All of a sudden, you're like, "Wow, maybe I'm not just a longer, you know?" So for me, it was both a relief to just get it out and feel that everyone's pretty much thinking the same thing. But now, going into making the second album, I do feel more pressure, because people feel connected to it.
OTW: Where'd the band come in?
Klangstof: As soon as the record came out, I realized how much better it worked if we were a band. The music can go either way, but I really thought that a band approach was much more interesting than the solo project approach. So, I got a band together, and it's just way more fun to do it with four people than doing everything by yourself.
OTW: Right. How's the second album going?
Klangstof: It's going pretty well. The first album has been finished for like two years, so it took a pretty long time before we released it. Since it was finished, I've had time to work on new stuff, which is really exciting. Now I'm really way more focused than I was back then. And I also feel like I'm way better now than I was back then, because I learned from all the mistakes, and I've grown as a producer.
The next album is going be my proudest moment.
OTW: So excited to hear it! Close Eyes to Exit is a great name–why'd you choose it?
Klangstof: Personally, it was kind about locking myself out of the real world, and, you know, just being myself & not listening too much to other people.
That's what I found out in Norway–that as soon as you're on your own, you find out what your real talents are. You don't feel the pressure of the outside world. You really listen to your own body and your mind, and you start creating something really beautiful.
Some people think it's a suicidal title, as well, which I don't really agree on.But you can really interpret that in every, as long as it connects to you.
OTW: What's the best compliment you've gotten on the album?
Klangstof: I always had a pretty bad relationship with my dad. He never supported the fact that I was making music. And just a few weeks back, he called me and said he was on a holiday to Copenhagen with my mom–he was walking through the streets and just called me to say, "Man, you're going to make it. Wow, it's actually really good and I trust it. I know it's going happen." That was my proudest moment.
OTW: Aww, that's the best!
Klangstof: Maybe he was drunk. I don't know [laughs].
OTW: Well, congratulations anyway! Who are your top artists to watch these days?
Klangstof: I'm really into a guy called Chris Cohen. He's been in the scene for a long time–he was the guitar player for Deerhoof.
There's a band called The Districts. They're really good. Just an American rock band.
I'm also really into weird electronic things. So there's a project from Amsterdam called Weval, and they're something really special. I shared my studio with them for three years, and they were working on their debut album the same time as I did. So a lot of times, we would come together and just give feedback–they really made something really, really special.
OTW: So you're playing Coachella this year–can you give us a little visual preview of what we can expect when you go up?
Klangstof: It's going to be pretty special. I really enjoy just having fun on stage with the guys. I think that should always be the key to every show rather than having all the lights and stuff. As a band, we really have some kind of chemistry, and I think that should always be the focus.
OTW: [laughs] What's the ultimate goal for Klangstof?
Klangstof: Well, I guess my goal was Coachella, but it happened so quickly that I now have to find a new goal [laughs]. think I should just make the best record ever and feel good about that.
That's my main goal–to just maintain me being happy about what I'm doing.