De Delvers

Door Xavier Kruth

17 maart 2024
With the lyrics, I try to name things that I see happening around me and to pay attention to what we sometimes prefer to turn our heads away from.

We just did it! The Delvers are coming to play on a Dark Entries Night! Not that there is anyone obstructing it, but corona has already sabotaged two attempts to have De Delvers perform in the Kinky Star, to such an extent that we had the feeling that we were dealing with an evil curse. On Saturday, March 23, the Dutch-speaking night orchestra will play in Ghent, and in the run-up we thought it would be a good idea to question bassist and lyricist Tom Kets.

Hi Tom. Tell us how De Delvers came about?

The Delvers were founded in 2017. We know each other from previous musical projects and/or from teaching at the Boom Academy for Music and Word. I had some rough song sketches ready and we started working from there.

You call yourself a ‘Dutch-speaking night orchestra’. That is a term that really resonates with me. Was it a conscious choice to sing in Dutch, and why?

It is a very conscious choice. We try to be very careful with words and language. I write the texts and would not be able to do this in English, for example. I think that working in Dutch also increases the power and directness of the words. Singing in your native language does not have to be a limitation. It's about emotion. For me, Einstürzende Neubauten are a good example. The fact that we are being played on the radio with De Delvers in Germany, England and even Japan is the best proof of this for me.

You are – rightly – compared to Noordkaap, Aroma Di Amore and Arbeid Adelt! How does it feel to be compared to these greats of the Dutch-speaking wave?

It is of course nice to be compared to these bands. The biggest common ground is of course the language: Dutch. I think that the comparison they make mainly serves to situate us and give the listener something to hold on to. This is not always obvious because we actually mix all dark genres: from coldwave to more dark electro, from dreamwave to post-punk and punk. This was even more the case on our second album than on our debut. What also differs greatly from other bands is the singing style. Dries doesn’t actually sing in the typical eighties way. The fact that we cannot be lumped together is also noticeable in the airplay and reviews we receive. This ranges from underground and specific genre music programs to Radio 1 and the most diverse music magazines.

Your lyrics are considered a form of social criticism. There is always a great interest in the people who are ‘forgotten’. Tell me, what are the themes you want to address with De Delvers?

With the lyrics, I try to name things that I see happening around me and to pay attention to what we sometimes prefer to turn our heads away from. I try to do this with a big heart and without judgement. Housing problems, oppression, mental problems, control mechanisms... These are some of the themes that you can find on our albums. I found Danny Quetin's description in his review of our second album for your magazine very apt: ‘Poetry written in black ink’. Doesn’t it sound like fun to you? (Laughs)

Does the social criticism in your lyrics also have to do with the fact that you come from Boom, a municipality that, despite all its Tomorrowland glamour, is not exactly one of the most prosperous cities in Belgium?

Menno is actually the only purebred guy coming from Boom in the band. Boom is our base. We rehearse in an old machine hall between the remains of brickworks and ring kilns. That is why we consider De Delvers to be a Boom band. That place... it fits perfectly with who we are and what we stand for. The atmosphere of hard work from a bygone era certainly provides a certain dynamic and color to our songs. That cannot be denied. Our musical father Tom Claes also has his record store Music Media Corner in Boom. What you indicate about Boom in your question is of course correct, but I think that applies to several places in Belgium. Often we don’t see it or don’t want to see it. The idea that we make something visible through our lyrics, supported by a good melody, is something I consider it ‘meaningful work’.

Your first self-titled album was released in 2018. Our reviewer Henk Vereecken praised it, and I believe there was a general enthusiastic response. Did you have the feeling that a number of people were waiting for a group like De Delvers?

Both our albums were very well received. It actually exceeded all our expectations. We really didn’t know what to expect. It was a leap in the dark on every level. Henk Vereecken put it very succinctly in his review: There are very few ‘wave/post-punk’ bands that have a completely Dutch repertoire, definitely with new bands. So we had little or no reference. We just did it. I don't know if people were really waiting for us. We did feel a certain enthusiasm around ‘De Delvers’. But we try to concern ourselves as little as possible with the expectations of others.

The follow-up album ‘Hart in neonlicht’ was released in November 2022 when the corona pandemic was finally over. Did the pandemic affect you during the recording of the album, and did you consciously wait until the lockdowns were over to release the album?

Absolutely, that was not an obvious period. On the one hand, there were a lot of possibilities that the first record gave us. The record was also released on vinyl in collaboration with Music Media Corner from Boom and Variaworld Netherlands. This gave us a lot of concert opportunities, including a lot in the Netherlands. That disappeared during the lockdown, just like everything else. We tried to channel this feeling in recording ‘Hart in neonlicht’. The recordings took place for each of us separately, because people were not allowed to come together. Music files were forwarded, supplemented, changed... This was a lot of work, especially for Laurens Primusz (guitarist, keyboardist) who took over the production. Because of this we worked on the record for a very long time. We indeed waited for the right moment to release the album. We will not be rushed. We also started looking for a label that matched De Delvers. We found a good partner in Wagonmaniac.

On ‘Hart in neonlicht’ from 2022 we hear the same sound as on the untitled debut, but many songs now reach three to four minutes of playing time. I also hear more melody and attention to elaborate arrangements. Was that a conscious evolution?

I think a record has to dictate itself a bit. The songs spontaneously went in that direction. You have to let that happen a bit, I think. In addition, Laurens Primusz took more control over the production and the contribution of each member was greater than with the debut album. This pushed the end result more in that direction. The next album could go in a completely different direction.

The single ‘Hart in neonlicht’ seems to be an ode to the new wave scene and to the old new wave discos from the eighties. Was that the idea behind the song?

It is a song with a double meaning: on the one hand it is an ode to the new wave scene, on the other hand there is the underlying idea that describes the feeling that arises when things that we consider acquired disappear, in this case due to the impact of corona. It's a song that was written during that period. Or as the lyrics go: ‘All those bodies, all that sweat, new waves, I forget’. New waves refers to new wave, but also to yet another new corona wave that came our way.

You asked René Hulsbosch from Struggler to participate on the single ‘Onder de vloer’. How did that collaboration come about?

We met René and the Struggler crew at the Siglo XX Tribute Night where we played together. That was a very nice meeting. Struggler is also a very cool band. They are a real steamroller live, with a unique sound. We were looking for a second voice for ‘Onder de vloer’. René seemed like the ideal choice to us. We asked him, sent the song and he liked it. The fact that we were also able to perform the song live with him during our joint performance in B52 was the dark icing on the cake.

We are happy to finally welcome you to a Dark Entries Night. The corona pandemic had also thrown a spanner in the works here. A first concert had to be postponed due to the lockdown, and an option to do an online lockdown performance was also canceled because your keyboardist was pregnant at the time and obviously did not want to run the risk of infection. Third time's the charm?

We assume so!

De Delvers: website / bandcamp / Facebook

Dark Entries Night with De Delvers and Tvashtar, Saturday March 23, Kinky Star, Ghent

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Over Xavier Kruth

Xavier Kruth bekeerde zich al op jonge leeftijd tot het gothicdom. Toen hij begon te puberen, moest hij lang zagen om een zwarte broek te mogen hebben. Toen hij tegenover zijn moeder argumenteerde dat hij gewoon om een zwarte broek vroeg, niet om zijn haar omhoog te doen in alle richtingen, repliceerde ze dat als hij nu een zwarte broek zou krijgen, hij daarna toch zijn haar torenhoog omhoog zou doen. Xavier was versteld over de telepathische vermogens van zijn moeder. Hij leerde destijds ook gitaar spelen, en sinds 2006 speelt hij in donkere kroegen met zijn melancholische kleinkunstliedjes in verschillende talen. In 2011 vervoegde Xavier het team van Dark Entries. In Dark Entries las hij ook dat The Marchesa Casati (gothic rock) een gitarist zocht, en zo kon hij een paar keer met de groep optreden. Later speelde hij bij Kinderen van Moeder Aarde (sjamanische folk) en werkte samen met Gert (kleinpunk). En het belangrijkste van al: in 2020 bracht hij samen met Dark Entries-collega Gerry Croon de plaat ‘Puin van dromen’ uit onder de naam Winterstille.

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