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DeWolff FIDELITY interview



They just want to play

In their home country of the Netherlands, the rock trio DeWolff have already become bigger Taylor Swift. In an interview with FIDELITY, brothers Luka and Pablo van de Poel and Robin Piso explain to us how you conquer the music world with Deep Purple sounds and rock’n’roll even in the age of Swift, why their parents signed their first record deal – and what you can learn from ABBA.

DeWolff FIDELITY interview

Outside, a winter storm is howling around the Fabrik, the Hamburg cultural center where steam engines were once built. Now a guitar starts wailing inside: Pablo van de Poel, 32, is testing the sound system. His younger brother Luka, 29, is celebrating a delicate drum solo, while organist Robin Piso, 33, is playing his Hammond like the final chord of the concert. Then the sound check is complete and DeWolff has time for FIDELITY. The meeting point with the trio is backstage on a couch set that has been worn out by many artists over the years: Miles Davis, B.B. King, John Cale and the heavyweight rock icon Meatloaf have all sat here. Today, we’re discussing the career of another unique band: DeWolff from the Netherlands, who have been making music together since their primary school days.

FIDELITY: Let’s take a quick look back. Back in 2010, you played a concert on the legendary music program Rockpalast. In the interview back then, you were asked about your goals. Luka, the youngest at the time at 16, grabbed the microphone: “World domination!” How far along are you today?

Luka: (laughs out loud) Yes, that sounds like me! We’re on the right track. Everything is getting bigger. We recently toured the UK for the first time, that was awesome. We’ve also been discovered in Scandinavia. And in Germany, more and more people come to every tour.

Pablo: Things are really taking off in the Netherlands. Only sold-out concerts. Crazy!

You, Pablo, were 18 at the time and said: “We want to record really cool albums. No hits. We’re not Lady Gaga.” But your latest album Love, Death & Inbetween recently topped the Dutch music charts, ahead of Taylor Swift. Somehow, you’ve lost your way …

DeWolff FIDELITY interview

Pablo: Oh, shit, we’ve been figured out … (laughs). No, that’s still true today. It’s not like we go into the studio, stick a Taylor Swift poster on the wall and are like: ‘Watch your back, Taylor, we’re coming for you!’. We just do our thing. Honestly, I never, ever thought that Love, Death & Inbetween would even make it into any charts. We just want to play.

Robin: Every day feels like a dream come true to me. Tonight, we’re playing in Hamburg at the Fabrik, we can fit 1000 people in there. It might not be completely sold out, but it’ll likely be full. I remember our first concert here in the city: that was also on our first tour of Germany in 2010. In a club called “Hafenklang” down by the river. In front of 17 people.

Pablo: And what a great concert that was! I remember that.

You played as a trio for many years. Now you occasionally add a bass player, a brass section and two backing singers. Success does have an influence on the sound, right?

Robin: Well, you keep evolving. And if we take the liberty to play with a few friends from time to time, then sure, we get a different kind of sound. I always imagine what it’s like in front of the stage. That’s also how the song “Night Train” came about on the current album. That’s what we’re starting our concerts with at the moment. We just wanted that full rock’n’roll force. And if we have a few horns and a bass player on top to push us along, then why not?

Personally, I think it’s as a trio that you really unleash that force.

Pablo: Thank you! And I agree: the three of us sound as full as with ten musicians on stage. But the sound is different. One difference is, for example: I play fewer guitar solos. I had to get used to that at first. And of course it’s a different experience when there are singers and horn players behind you. In the studio, too, by the way. A couple of friends were there for the recording of Love, Death & Inbetween. I think that’s good for the album.

DeWolff FIDELITY interview

So far you have recorded all your albums in your own studio in Utrecht. The current one, the ninth, was recorded in France, in Brittany.

Pablo: We had to get out for once. We wanted to create a bubble where we wouldn’t be distracted by anything for two weeks. Like a little vacation. The album before that, Wolfpack, we recorded at our place in Utrecht. The one before that, too. And the one before that … We just needed a change of scenery.

Robin: You can hear that too, I think. Of course we didn’t record any chansons (laughs). But a certain new lightness … Of course we stayed true to ourselves: Everything recorded live, no overdubs.

On your debut Strange Fruits And Undiscovered Plants you were still teenagers, Luka was only 14 years old.

Luka: We were early starters. Our parents had to sign the record deal back then because we were not yet legally competent.

Robin: My parents and your father were the managing directors of our company – imagine that! We quickly set up our own studio and label back then. My parents had nothing to do with our music, but on paper they were record managers.

Pablo: The first thing I did when I came of age was practice a cool signature. For the next record deal.

DeWolff FIDELITY interview

You were obviously influenced by the Doors, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. Today you sound more mature. Wolfpack, which you released during the pandemic, is almost a soul album. Is soul part of growing up?

Luka: As a teenager, I listened to a lot of British bands – Deep Purple, Cream, Led Zeppelin. That’s still the core of our music today. Over the years, we’ve turned our ears more towards the west, especially the south of the USA. Blues, soul, southern rock, even a little gospel, it all filters into our music.

Robin: Today we are closer to the roots of the music. If Deep Purple influences you, then that’s second-hand music, so to speak. Because they in turn took their cue from the old rhythm’n’blues artists in the sixties.

“Mr. Garbage Man” from the current album make me think of “I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

Pablo: Ninety percent of the music we listen to privately comes from the fifties, the sixties. Now we don’t want to repeat the old stuff and deliberately sound like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. But we love this music so much that it’s no surprise when we go into the studio and afterwards you somehow think of “I Put A Spell On You”. If someone says to me: Don’t you want to sound more modern, then I say: Fuck that.

But one of you recently said: We love ABBA!

Robin: That’s old music too. Classics from the last millennium.

Pablo: I’m an ABBA fan. Fantastic songwriting. If you played a song like “Money, Money, Money” with other instruments in a different setting, it could also be a Southern rock song. A good song can transcend genre boundaries.

How about “Dancing Queen” at the concert tonight?

Robin: Ha, ha! We do love ABBA, but not quite that much. “Dancing Queen” is perhaps the exception. I somehow don’t see that song in a Southern rock outfit. That’s pure pop. Good pop though, I have to admit.

DeWolff FIDELITY interview

Speaking of pop: I’m bringing my daughter with me tonight. She’s 14 and usually listens to what’s on the radio.

Robin: That’s cool! But does she like us?

We’ll see … By the way, we’re going to see Taylor Swift next year. But first, DeWolff.

Luka: And ahead of Taylor once more! (laughs)

Pablo: When I look down from the stage into the audience, I see teenagers, their parents, and parents’ parents … That makes me happy! I hope your daughter ends up liking it.

I bring this up because you were also around 14 years old when you founded DeWolff, in your parents’ basement. AT that age, how do you come up with the artistic decision, we’ll be playing psychedelic rock?

Robin: I tried out a lot of instruments back then. Before I landed on the Hammond, I tried out the guitar. That’s when I ended up with Jimi Hendrix. And Woodstock. There was no going back (laughs).

Pablo: For me it was the movie School of Rock. That was the first time I heard the magic words: Led Zeppelin. At home, it was more the nineties stuff. Pearl Jam, Black Crowes.

DeWolff FIDELITY interview

Didn’t I read somewhere that you, Pablo, were conceived at a Black Crowes concert?

Pablo: The man comes prepared! Yes, that’s what my parents told me. My father gave me a Jimi Hendrix CD for my tenth birthday. Because he had heard that he was the best guitarist of all time. He didn’t find him that interesting himself. It was a decisive impulse for me.

There’s a little video clip on the Internet showing you, Pablo, as a three-year-old with a guitar in some kind of school competition …

Pablo: Seriously, man, now we’re really digging deep here. That was a karaoke show in elementary school. I sang to Metallica. To “Fuel”. Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire…

There’s one more thing I have to ask: You named yourselves after Winston Wolf, Mr. Wolf, the character from the movie Pulp Fiction, played by Harvey Keitel …

Luka: That’s right.

When you formed the band, Luka and Pablo weren’t 14 yet. You were allowed to watch Pulp Fiction back then?

Luka: Yeah! I think I was ten when I watched the movie.

But there are a few scenes that aren’t PG. Let’s bring out the gimp…

Luka: That’s true. But our parents enjoyed the movie so much, I think they didn’t even notice we were sitting next to them.

You spent most of your youth on stages and in tour vans. Didn’t you miss out on something?

Pablo: That’s a good question. Yeah, sometimes I think to myself: Ever since I was 16, I’ve been on stage every weekend, and also in between. That’s my vocation, no doubt about it. But I never go to a soccer stadium, I’ve missed just about every single birthday party. I often don’t feel like a normal person. There are weeks, even months, when my social contacts outside the band are limited to encounters with people who tell me how great the show was: ‘Hey, great show! ‘Great you liked it, thanks for coming’. But when I’m on stage, Luka starts the first song, Robin plays the first chord and we kick off with “Night Train”, then I know, that’s it, this is my life.

DeWolff FIDELITY interview
FIDELITY author Philip Wesselhöft met the Dutch trio DeWolff before their concert at the Hamburg Fabrik. He was asked onto the stage for the joint photo – but afterwards he was allowed/asked to return to the audience.

About DeWolff

DeWolff is a trio from Geleen in the Dutch province of Limburg – not the home of spicy Limburg cheese, by the way, which comes from the Allgäu. Luka and Pablo van de Poel founded the band with their school friend Robin Piso in 2007, when the three were just 13, 15 and 17 years old – they hired their parents as managing directors for their own record label. Today, the three have already recorded nine studio albums plus a handful of live albums. Their remarkable ability to improvise, especially at concerts, has seen their fan base grow steadily – their latest album Love, Death & Inbetween shot past Taylor Swift to number one in the Dutch music charts.


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