Pip Blom on festivals, family and her debut album
We talk to Dutch rising star Pip Blom about the importance of festivals to her namesake band, and her imminent debut album Boat
Pip Blom is calling from Austin, Texas in mid-March, which can only mean one thing. She’s at SxSW, the festival of festivals, the broiling monolithic stew of bands and brands, and fans, and even more bands (maybe the odd bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived music reporter too). It’s the first time for the Dutch 22-year-old, whose band shares her name; in fact, they’ve just played their first Stateside show. It could only have gone well – she's fresh-voiced and unfazed. "We’re just taking it easy, hanging out. We just had a swim – it’s all been real nice so far," she says breezily.
The last 12 months have moved at light speed for Blom and her band, and it’s about to become even more packed, frantic even. After much buzz, numerous one-off releases, a concise but stall-setting EP, increased radio play, support slots for The Breeders, Franz Ferdinand and other huge acts, as well as high profile festival appearances (pause for breath), she is about to release her debut album Boat in May, and kick off a string of live shows that include a staggering number of festivals, the circuit for which seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. She'll pop up at Glasgow’s Stag & Dagger, The Great Escape in Brighton, and the likes of NOS Alive and Mad Cool in Portugal and Spain respectively. That’s not to mention the multiple SxSW shows she’ll play in the days following our conversation.
With all of this on the brink, enjoying it all, at least for now, seems most important. "It definitely seems like this big sprawling unmanageable thing," Blom says of being in Austin amid the festival, "but we’ve just really tried to pick out who we want to see, to relax and try to actually enjoy it."
Blom, who hails from Amsterdam, has moved quickly in developing her voice as an artist, on top of attaining attention, from bedroom indie-pop to a plumper sound, rounded out by a band that includes her brother Tender. After releasing the EP Paycheck last year, and playing Eurosonic in her home country, it was British press and audiences that latched on. It’s unusual, but perfectly explainable, according to Blom. "I guess it’s as simple as the fact that there are just more people in the UK that like the kind of music we play. In Amsterdam, and throughout the Netherlands really, it’s more trap and hip-hop that are popular, there’s no platform for our little rock band. I know you have BBC Radio 1 which showcases big pop acts, but you also have space to give pretty wide exposure to bands like us."
While in the Netherlands Pip Blom is part of the underground, on this island the band are on the verge of being branded 'the next big thing'. "I really want to stay as far away from that as possible," says Blom.
You could say Boat leans in to that though – it's exuberant and playful, with more than a hint of Blur and Elastica, but there’s still a bit of scrappiness, a sense that this is just an initial form. Blom’s vocal style is particularly ear-catching. On the late album highlight Set of Stairs, her almost spoken word cadence brings to mind Life Without Buildings’ Sue Tompkins. The rest of the album is bouncy, hook-laden. Its predecessor is more idiosyncratic and vibey; this wants to pack in the most fun possible in the short time it has your attention.
"I think the advantage with this project has been there’s more space to show different sides of who I am," she says. "We’ve evolved together over the last three years. I mean these are simple, straightforward songs, and that’s how I want them to be, but I think we managed to get to something a little different. I’ve never released anything so big, so important to me, out into the world. It’s terrifying."
Branding Blom 'underground' is not telling quite the whole story. Music is a family affair for her – her dad Erwin was a member of post-punks Eton Crop, and friends with John Peel, for whom he recorded multiple sessions. "No pressure at all, certainly not the feeling that I have anything to live up to," she says of her roots. "If anything, it just makes me feel unbelievably grateful for being exposed to music from such an early age, basically all my life."
Further complicating the picture are Blom’s views on Spotify’s positive effect on her career. As more established artists disowned the streaming service, Blom, in contrast, came to its defence. "It is of course quite difficult that they have so much power," she admits now. "But, in the Netherlands there are just two people working at Spotify who create every single playlist for Dutch audiences. So, if they don’t like you, you’ve got a problem. You don’t really have a choice. It is a cool platform. It has helped us a lot, and is still helping us."
Being able to accept the importance of industry factors in helping her progress, while maintaining a sense of being outwith it, Blom is the model modern artist. While it’s a realistic, mature and forward-thinking approach, it would be unsurprising if those of a more defiantly DIY worldview took against it.
Despite this recognition, as with most young acts, getting to the point of "blowing up" for Pip Blom has meant relentless touring, and mainly festivals. "Festivals have been really important in reaching people who might not normally get the chance to hear our music. And I love the atmosphere. It’s quite a bit different from playing clubby shows with all our own fans packed in."
Two thirds through our call, the line drops. Blom was just excitedly listing the acts she hoped to catch while in Austin: bands like Squid, the combustible Oh Sees, and, also much-hyped band, and pals, Sports Team ("It’s really weird getting to hang out with your friends at a festival halfway across the world."). Luckily, the line reconnects in enough time for her to depart on a grand, but apt, aspiration: "My biggest wish is to play Glastonbury, that would be the cherry on top."
Boat is released on 31 May via Heavenly Recordings
Pip Blom play Stag & Dagger, Glasgow, 5 May; The Great Escape, Brighton, 9-11 May; Sea Change Festival, Totnes, 24-26 May; The Mash House, Edinburgh, 2 Jun; Field Day, London, 7-8 Jun; NOS Alive, Lisbon, Portugal, 12 Jul; Mad Cool, Madrid, Spain, 13 Jul; Y Not? Festival, Pikehall, Derbyshire, 25-28 Jul; Truck Festival, Hill Farm, Oxfordshire, 26-28 Jul; Deer Shed Festival, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, 26-28 Jul; Port Eliot Festival, St Germans, Cornwall, 25-28 Jul; Lollapalooza, Berlin, Germany, 7-8 Sep