Q&A: Pip Blom on Amsterdam’s music scene and her new album

Photo by Phil Smithies

Pip Blom, a 24-year-old singer-songwriter based in Amsterdam who fronts the indie pop band that bears her name, has made quite a splash both at home and internationally since she began recording and releasing her tunes in 2016. The band’s debut album Boat, released in 2019, was met with widespread critical acclaim (Rolling Stone called it an “instant classic.”).

Mixed Mantra recently chatted with Pip Blom to learn more about her origins as a musician, Amsterdam’s music scene and her group’s second album.

MIXED MANTRA: How did you first get into making music?

PIP BLOM: I first got into music because of my parents. My mom worked as a music journalist, and my dad played in a band. They talked about music a lot, mostly about tours with my dad’s band — my mom was their sound engineer — and they always told the wildest stories. I had taken some guitar lessons and some singing lessons, but nothing too serious. The real turning point was when I was at a gig — I think I was 14 or something — and I saw Parquet Courts play, and it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. I immediately thought, “I want this too!”

MM: How did Pip Blom (the band, not the person) actually get started?

PB: So after seeing that Parquet Courts gig, I decided I wanted to have a band too, but I struggled really hard to find people to join my band and I had never written songs before. So, I figured it would be best to start out simple — just me and a guitar. I wrote a couple of songs and joined a singer-songwriter competition. It was terrifying and I thought I never ever wanted to get back on stage, but when the competition was over, I decided I wanted to try to find a band again. I still had that very clear picture of Parquet Courts in my mind, of a couple of friends having so much fun and making great music. It sounded like something I really wanted too. That time around, it worked, and I finally found some people to join.

MM: What artists have had the biggest impact on your sound?

PB: Surprise surprise: Parquet Courts. But also Micachu & The Shapes, Blur and The Breeders. And probably everything else I listen to. But those bands have had a big influence since the start.

MM: How would you say the Amsterdam music scene differs from music scenes in the U.S. or U.K.?

PB: I think a big difference is that the eyes of the world aren’t on Amsterdam/The Netherlands as much as they are on the U.S. or U.K. It rarely happens that a Dutch band becomes a really, really big international band, so it feels less obvious and cool to be a musician. With that being said, I think the scene has been super cool and inspiring the past couple of years. Because the Netherlands is so small, I wouldn’t say it’s just an Amsterdam scene, but more of a Dutch scene. For anyone who’s interested, here are some cool Dutch bands to watch: Personal Trainer, Steve French, The Klittens, Kieff, The Homesick, Price, Rats on Rafts, Lewsberg, Real Farmer, Teddy’s Hit and so on!

MM: What did you set out to achieve with your debut album Boat? How has all of the critical acclaim for the album impacted your group or made you feel?

PB: I don’t think we ever decided on a certain goal. However, it has always been my personal goal to play the U.K. festival Glastonbury once, so once that happened I felt like we made it. We got so many good reviews and responses from people and press. It was just really nice.

MM: We’re really interested in songwriting processes. Can you walk us through how you wrote “Hours”?

PB: Here’s how it usually works: I start watching a documentary and play some stuff on my guitar, focusing on the documentary. Whenever I play something that sparks my interest, I stop watching, record it and start building the song. “Hours” is based around this one guitar loop and drum loop. I had just borrowed a very weird synth from a guy who said he didn’t really understand it and I loved the way it sounded, so I decided to play around with it, and that’s how the bridge happened. I work in blocks, so I work on the verse, finish it, start working on the chorus and so on, until the song is done.

MM: What has been Pip Blom’s most memorable set so far?

PB: That’s a hard one. There are so many. Some because they were amazing — Glastonbury, Corona Capital in Mexico, our biggest sold-out show in London at the Scala — and others because they were terrible, ha.

MM: How has COVID-19 impacted your artistic process?

PB: It’s been a lot harder to find inspiration. However, we did manage to record and finish our second album, so we can’t really complain about it too much.

MM: What can you tell us about your new album? Release date?

PB: Yeah, it will hopefully appear somewhere this year. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll also be able to play live shows again by that time, because we really, really miss that. But we will see!

MM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

PB: Go check out Personal Trainer! They’re an awesome Dutch band with super catchy songs.