- Dust Bunnies - ole-196 - 1997-03-25
- Lamprey - ole-121 - 1995-01-24
March 25, 1997
‘Dust Bunnies’ marks a turning point of sorts for the Dutch rock band — singer/guitarist Carol van Dijk, guitarist Peter Visser, bassist Herman Bunskoeke and drummer Berend Dubbe.
The product of a year of hard work, during which songs were written, books were read, more songs were written, and a particular bass player got married. It was the first time the Betties benefitted from the studio guidance of producer Bryce Goggin, whose past credits include such fine Matador acts as Pavement and Come, as well as Spacehog, Kim Deal and John Zorn. It’s also the first Bettie Serveert disc that was recorded entirely within the contiguous United States, specifically at Bearsville Studios in scenic Woodstock, New York.
"We wanted to be in a place where there wasn’t a lot of room for visitors," explains Bunskoeke. "When we record in Amsterdam we usually end up going out to dinner with eight or nine people every night, which can make it a little difficult to concentrate on the recording process. At Bearsville, it was just the four of us in a house in the woods, walking over to the studio every morning."
For the record, there are actual bears in Bearsville, one of which was spotted prowling in the vicinity of that same house in the woods where the band stayed during the recording. And there are still plenty of hippies in Woodstock. The band was more alarmed by the presence of the hippies than the bears.
Other than that, Bunskoeke says, the sessions went off without a hitch, owing in part to the time the band spent doing pre-production in New York City with Goggin. "When we went into the studio for Lamprey we only had seven songs finished. This time we had 15 songs completely written and arranged, and we only ended up writing one while we were in the studio."
On Dust Bunnies, the band plays off the organic extremes they’ve always favored, translating abstract emotions into hard-bitten guitar hooks and gentle melodies, creating a backdrop for van Dijk’s lyrical person-to-person accounts, indicting or empathic as the subject demands. "What Friends?" is a warm and inviting pop-perfect gem; "Story In a Nutshell" a raucous romp in the garage, and "Sugar The Pill," a stark, sensual ballad that highlights the deep, moody resonances of van Dijk’s vocals. On the disc’s title track, "Dust Bunny," the band strips things down to bare-bones guitar and vocals for an impressionistic lyrical detour by van Dijk that was inspired by The Liar’s Club, an autobiography by Mary Karr, and the childhood memories it triggered .
"It’s not always easy to explain a song," van Dijk offers. "Some of them are like dreams. And when you dream you make up your own language and symbols. "Pork and Beans" is about the struggle between love and lust, something we all have to deal with sooner or later. It was also one of my favorite dishes as a kid. And a "Musher" is someone who spends his or her life training dogs for sled racing. They usually live in Alaska or northern Canada, in the middle of nowhere. When I was a kid I lived in the woods outside of Vancouver -- we didn’t have any neighbors, but we had five dogs. So when I read an article about mushers, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine living like that."
As for ancient history, Bettie Serveert emerged from the core of one of Holland’s legendary underground bands, De Artsen, in the late `80s. Visser and Bunskoeke were both members of that band, Dubbe was their roadie, and van Dijk worked with them as a live-sound engineer. While the better part of a decade separates De Artsen from Dust Bunnies, the basic philosophy remains.
As van Dijk puts it, "Bettie stands for songs. Heavy, sweet, melancholic and melodic, at times a bit noisy, sometimes sloppy, but never callous."
Something So Wild
July 11, 1995
Matador’s 150th release is the first U.S. single from Bettie Serveert’s second album, ‘Lamprey,’ featuring one unreleased b-side on the 7" ("What Friends") and two unreleased B-sides on the CD5 ("What Friends" and "Look Back in Anger").
January 24, 1995
ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED
QUESTIONS ABOUT BETTIE SERVEERT
What are their origins?
Formed in Amsterdam, 1990, Peter and Berend coming over in a trade from De Artsen (transfer fee was a big bucket of wheat glueten), Carol gave up a fledgling career as a sound engineer. The band name was suggested by close friend Peter Townshend many years ago (i.e., "you’ll probably go over like a Bettie Serveert.")
How did they rise to the top of the international uberground heap so quickly?
Practice, practise, rehearsals too. Stumbling across continents supporting big wheels like Belly, Dinosaur Jr., Buffalo Tom, Superchunk, Come, Frankie Valli, etc. has taught Bettie Serveert a thing or two about life on the road. However, it all would’ve happened so much faster if they’d just heard that Jackson Browne song about packing all your gear at the end of the night.
What’s going on with the whole bidding war thing?
We have no fucking idea. All the bands on this label record their albums for like, $600, ask anybody. And the last time the band were over here, they expected US to pay for the drinks.
What’s up with the second album?
Lamprey, filled with NOTES and CHORDS, was released January 1995.
September 8, 1993
The hit from Palomine with a buncha previously unreleased studio stuff should provide you all with something to wave at your friends together with your private parts. It’s a goddamn limited-edition, of which 5000 are manugactured with the uttermost precision and clarity. This is a Phase 4 Stereo record. The "Kid’s Allright" song is featured on the soundtrack to the movie, Amongst Friends.
January 17, 1993
Recycling seems to be all the rage in the ’90s. Ordinary folks like you an me are recycling tin cans, bottles, and newspapers, the people at Psychotronic Magazine are recycling trash cinema, young rock musicians in the Pacific Northwest are recycling Black Sabbath riffs and Bettie Serveert, well, they recycled themselves!
This is the second time around for Bettie Serveert, they already exited briefly as a band back in 1986, but with a different drummer. Herman Bunskoeke (bass guitar) and Peter Visser (lead guitar) who had been playing in now defunct "legendary" Dutch band De Artsen had to quit Bettie Serveert after the release of the first De Artsen album, Conny Waves with a Shell, since De Artsen became quite popular and played live a lot. Bettie Serveert ceased to exist and singer Carol became De Artsen’s sound engineer.
Bettie Serveert reformed in 1991 after De Artsen decided to call it quits. A seven-song demo was recorded in January 1992 and one ended up in the hands of Chris and Gerard here at Matador. These two distinguished gentlemen abandoned all subtlety upon hearing it and flew to Holland to "negotiate with the band" as they said, even though photographic evidence implies that a three-day international smoked sausage convention might have had something to do with it as well.
Bettie Serveert became Matador recording artists with goth rock alumni 4AD’s new subsidiary Guernica releasing the stuff in Europe.
The weeks following saw the entire race of Manhattan A&R ding-a-lings offering us real cash money for the band’s home address and a copy of the demo. Needless to say, we took the cash and handed them the phone number of Peter Missing together with some L. Ron Hubbard self-help tapes we had lying around.
The name Bettie Serveert, which translates into "Bettie served" (as in tennis) was suggested by drummer Berend Dubbe who had seen a tennis-instruction book by famous Dutch tennis player Betty Stove. This book, with its blatant undercurrents of eroticism, reached its feverish peak in the photo of Bettie serving, her flimsy up and down, and her entire body thrusting forward in one surging cataclysmal jolt of pure sensual power. A stunning parallel to the band’s music. Or that’s at least what Berend told me after a night of refreshing beverages at a local bar.
December 1, 1992
There is no way that Carol’s vocals aren’t gonna turn you into a pile of quivering mush, you don’t stand a ghost of a chance escaping from the clutches of Peter’s guitar, and the tunes, the tunes! They will linger on in your consciousness for ages, not unlike a White Castle mean, except this is very pleasant.
Where’s Bettie Serveert?
They’re now releasing albums on the Palomine label (which I assume is their own). If you want to be sure, look to bettieserveert.com which’ll have the most current information, no matter what label they’re with. (5/01)