Philine van den Hul

Track-By-Track: Real Farmer guide us through their scorching debut LP Compare What’s There

One of Real Farmer‘s mantra’s is “maximum living on a minimum wage” and apropos of that, their stupidly great debut LP Compare What’s There – out now via Pete Doherty’s Strap Originals label – sure as hell sounds like a band scraping and clawing for every inch. Those who have seen the band live can agree: Jeroen Klootsema (vocals), Marrit Meinema (bass guitar, vocals), Leon Harms (drums) and Peter van der Ploeg (guitar, vocals) are known for letting things derail quickly.

With a demented and highly charismatic protopunk blueprint, which at various points reminds of Misfits, Pixies and Mission Of Burma, the Groningen based firebrands dig deep into their reserves to salvage shreds of joy within their chronic discontent. We’re pleased and honored that the band has taken point to guide us through Compare What’s There‘s thematic and sonic touchstones.

  1. The Feeding

“The title ‘The Feeding’ is a nod to the Crass album The Feeding of 5000. For a long time, it was also our live set opener because it sets the mood. It’s immediate and hard-hitting with a frustrated energy from start-to-finish. The guitar and bass parts are played in a repetitive, almost machine-like way, while the lyrics take aim at egotistical, money-driven, and individualist states of mind.”

  1. Inner City

“‘Inner City’ was one of the first songs we wrote together once our new guitar player, Peter, joined the band. With our former guitar player, all songs had some kind of playfulness and even a cheer-y quality. Even the louder songs were very much on the lighter side of the punk spectrum. When Peter joined, we started writing an entirely new set and in this process we learned that as a newly formed group we tended to gravitate towards gloomy songwriting. Peter has brought out that darker edge to our songwriting, which was very interesting to explore and has made us as a band more open to different influences to our songs. 

However, we didn’t want the album to become too heavy or somber. So musically we challenged ourselves to write a few songs that are more light-hearted, such as this one, to balance that heaviness. In this song, the lyrics ponder upon the regrettable course that a love life can take and how a person can become stuck within certain patterns, both in and outside of a relationship. We released a demo version of it as the first song on our Forever (demo)’ EP, which was our way of letting everyone know: Real Farmer are still together as a band and committed as ever.”

  1. Waiting For

“For this song we kind of set out with a 60’s inspired jangly guitar and were quick to make a track around it with a more basic structure: chorus, verse, chorus, verse. But Marrit (Meinema) wasn’t really satisfied with playing the bass line of the chorus throughout most of the song, so she started working on a new one for the verses and we rewrote the song from there. We’re really happy with how it turned out as it brings together a lot of things we like. The acoustic guitar in the verses adds a harpsichord-esque sound to the mix, which is a nice touch. The song’s about politicians and the lies they tell to keep us divided and in line.”

  1. Empty

“The guitar part is something that Peter would occasionally play in between songs during rehearsals. One time during a rehearsal at the MOC in Groningen, Leon started playing drums, and then it clicked. Marrit started experimenting with a few different bass lines, while Jeroen worked on the vocals. And that’s basically it. As for the lyrics, Jeroen tends to be very direct and this song is no exception. It’s clear what it’s about and it’s actually this song where the album title originates from!”

  1. Gentrified

“We write mostly in the rehearsal space. But sometimes one of us will make a rough draft of a song at home, which is the case for ‘Gentrified’. Jeroen came up with this song at his home and demoed it on Garageband. When it came to recording it in the studio for the album, we fed part of the demo into the mix because we liked its rougher edges. Lyrically, it’s an assertive and direct song about the harms of capitalism.”

  1. I Can’t Run

“Just like ‘Inner City’, ‘I Can’t Run’ was first released on our Forever (demo) EP. The EP was only meant as a sneak peek into what we were working on at the time and we always intended to re-record it. The demo is a lot more lo-fi and we recorded all the instruments separately. For the album version, we were set up in one room playing live together as a band and captured it on analog tape. It was a lot more rewarding to record this way and left it sounding livelier and more dynamic. Jeroen is singing a lot about saving his soul on this one, but we don’t really know why, because he lost his soul a long time ago.”

  1. Perry Boys

“A fucking solid Oi! song in our opinion. It’s about anarchy, which we draw a lot of inspiration from.” 

  1. Next In

“This is one of the weirder songs on the album. It’s always felt a little bit out of place and even in the album recording sessions we felt there was still something missing. We even tried to add some synth parts to it, but that felt so strange… A synth in a Real Farmer song? Who do we think we are? Marrit saved the day with her backing vocals that echo Jeroen’s lyrics. Within moments of her coming up with it, we recorded it and incorporated it into the song. Jeroen being the ultimate hype man when recording vocals was in the room the entire time, which made it a lot of fun. Against the odds, it’s become one of our favourites.”

  1. The Straightest Line

“‘The Straightest Line’ was the second single we released. It was written in one rehearsal session. The intention was to keep the song as simple as possible (as with a lot of the songs on the album) and to create a catchy punk song with the few elements that we had. The lyrics speak about walking the straightest line, which means to lead a clean life: to work out, eat healthy, stay away from drugs and alcohol. Often this way of living is seen as the one size fits all solution to any type of mental struggle, yet its rigidity can actually become a very debilitating and alienating thing. It’s this realisation and the nothingness that exists between these ways of life that this song tries to encapsulate. This one is always a lot of fun to play live as it is such an explosive song. We kind of get to have fun with it and go off.”

  1. Consequence

“This song was built largely around the bass line. Marrit was goofing around a bit with the bass line and at first Peter had a bit of difficulty understanding the timing, but we started working on it together. Keeping the guitar simple at first and then slowly building into a jangly guitar solo at the end. Jeroen sings about being stuck in a competitive society. It is about doing what you love and not being able to enjoy certain privileges such as a stable income, holidays, or decent housing.”

  1. Wayside

“Jeroen showed us a demo of this song which he wrote at home and the three of us were immediately hooked. We wanted to keep the structure that he wrote. But changed the parts little by little to make them our own and to make the whole song a bit more Real Farmer. It’s still difficult to capture the same energy when we play it live because it is quite uniform and straight. There are no sudden switches in tempo or build-ups. In this sense, this song is one of the more studio-based tracks we made.”

  1. Wasted Words

“This is probably one of the more tender, vulnerable songs we’ve ever written. We didn’t want to rush this song, so it took quite some time to finish. It stayed in our demo folder for quite some time because we didn’t know how to finish it. Jeroen and Marrit tried different melodies for the vocals, and it wasn’t until we were in the studio that the song finally came together and felt right. Marrit even wrote out the structure before recording because this wasn’t fixed yet. We only played it live for the first time during our release shows in Vera, Groningen; and Cinetol, Amsterdam, which was incredibly nerve-wracking, but also liberating to let ourselves be more vulnerable on stage.”

  1. Never Enough

“Marrit: With this song, I always think of Hector. He’s a good friend of ours, and an amazing videographer. He shot the videos for ‘The Straightest Line’ and ‘Consequence’. Hector is from Madrid but he has lived in Groningen for quite a while now, which we are very happy about. One of the first times we played the song live, he started dancing like a flamenco dancer because of the rhythm of the song. I’d never noticed it before, but now I can’t play the song live without thinking of him. It’s so cool to see how different genres can unconsciously inspire or seep into a song. It’s about never being good enough.”

Order your copy of Compare What’s There here. Follow Real Farmer via InstagramFacebook, Bandcamp and Twitter.