The Effenaar band unites Eindhoven with BirminghamWritten by Meike Jentjens
They have both lived in different places in the Netherlands, know Eindhoven like the back of their hand, and call their time in our country 'wicked'. British multi-instrumentalist Danny Pullar and singer Darren Houghton have been making music separately for years, and have now seen the light together. The band The Effenaar is the answer to a long search for solid ground. Their debut album 'Ways Longest' is an ode to their time in Eindhoven, but above all, it sounds very British. 'We’re all looking for new places to go, especially when where you come from is no longer interesting.'
'The weather is pretty nice here, for once,' Danny Pullar tells us from the duo's studio in Birmingham. Normally, The Effenaar is a three-piece, but guitarist James Ross, whom they affectionately always call by his surname, has been in Australia for a while. It's a lot more pleasant there, temperature-wise. Talking about the weather is a custom that the Dutch and British obviously have in common. The men come across as relaxed and look precisely as you would expect from a post-punk or indie band: dark clothing, their hair done, and surrounded by at least 15 different instruments.
A long way to go
The band has just released their debut album, of which the album cover features a picture of the almost colossal, imposing building in Eindhoven with the same name. 'Ways Longest' is the first record released by The Effenaar as a studio band, and the guys are pretty proud of it. 'It finally feels like we've found our sound.'
Their sound does not lean on that of post-punk band Sleaford Mods in secrecy, and is also reminiscent of indie electronica bands like Viagra Boys and Idles. The underlying reference to real household names like Joy Division and Underworld never feels far away on the album, although this record from The Effenaar might be less likely to be played by your aunt at a family party. Still, the album sounds reasonably accessible, and, again, singer Darren Houghton's almost aggressive tone is just not quite that. However, the record mostly sounds very British, and that doesn't need further classification outside of 'computer music', if it's up to them.
The name Effenaar was coined when the old hippy venue Para Plus needed an image boost in 1971. The venue was named after a Dutch word for a weaving machine, which literally levelled fabric out. This is a subtle reference to the weaving mill that used to be in the same spot where the venue is now located. The fact that a band from the Birmingham area is now called The Effenaar can't be a coincidence, can it? Well, it isn't. Houghton: 'Ross and I used to go to the electronic music nights at Effenaar, which must have been in the early 2000s. There were really crazy jungle and drum & bass nights that I always attended. One night I will never forget was when Ashley Beedle came to perform in Effenaar, which was legendary. When I lived in Eindhoven, it wasn't even a question of where we would go. We all just went to Effenaar.'
So when it was time to come up with a name for the trio's new project, there was no doubt about it. And yes, people in the UK might find the spelling difficult, but the name has a ring to it. 'We started writing this album a very long time ago. It was back when Ross and I lived in Eindhoven and later moved to other parts of the world. I went back to England about ten years ago, and he moved further away. Our work in Eindhoven stopped, but the music was already partly written. Ross came up with naming our new project after the venue. When I think back on it, I immediately feel that you should have been there at that time, although I can only remember flashes now,' the singer laughs. 'People here think it's cool that we have chosen a word they don't know. In England, it just sounds different than usual, which suits our music.'
That the album has been so long in the making also relates to its title. 'It just took f*cking ages to finish the album,' the singer laughs again in his unmistakably dry fashion. Keyboardist Danny Pullar designed the album cover and wanted all the locations the band members have lived in over the years of writing to be reflected in the artwork. Each single features a different city on the cover, as with 'High Horses', which depicts Birmingham's famous and tricky Spaghetti Junction intersection. If you look up that junction online, the first hit is ‘Why is Spaghetti Junction so complicated?’ Clearly, the different places the band members carry with them have been used as the overarching theme, even if the appeal of it all is often hard to find.
So, are there any similarities between Birmingham and Eindhoven? Yes, the two think so. 'They are both industrial cities, leaning on engineers and other technical people. They are also both difficult cities for clubbing. There are festivals and there’s definitely a large live scene, but both cities will always remain raw and edgy. And there’s beauty in that too,' says Houghton. 'You can hear that on our record.'
They haven't been back to Eindhoven in a while but are very keen to do so. The plan is to tour live in Europe, presumably this spring. 'We are working hard to take our live shows to a higher level. Because we combine electronic music with punk-like guitars, we think it would be cool to produce a fitting and hard-hitting light show.' They also produce their music themselves, and a lot of new stuff is coming up. 'We are recording new music and have finally found our direction. The focus is on more synthesisers, more banging beats, and more punk. I am a complete fan of drum machines and hope to use them a lot more in our new music too,' keyboardist Danny Pullar elaborates on the singles coming up in the next few months.
A good example is the most recently released single 'Noia', which reminds us of earlier work by Editors, or an amped-up version of a White Lies song. The single also references Eindhoven again; it was written from the burning desire to trade England and the sometimes dull and almost depressing life there for another place. That led to Ross and Houghton ending up in Eindhoven, where they got factory jobs. Granted, that wasn't much better than the life they had, but hey, at least they were trying something. It brought us some popping singles that are finally out after all these years, and it appears there's plenty more in the pipeline.