Dust Bunnies - ole-196 - 1997-03-25
Lamprey - ole-121 - 1995-01-24
March 25, 1997
‘Dust Bunnies’ marks a turning point of sorts for the Dutch rock band — singer/guitarist Carol van Dijk, guitarist Peter Visser, bassist Herman Bunskoeke and drummer Berend Dubbe.
The product of a year of hard work, during which songs were written, books were read, more songs were written, and a particular bass player got married. It was the first time the Betties benefitted from the studio guidance of producer Bryce Goggin, whose past credits include such fine Matador acts as Pavement and Come, as well as Spacehog, Kim Deal and John Zorn. It’s also the first Bettie Serveert disc that was recorded entirely within the contiguous United States, specifically at Bearsville Studios in scenic Woodstock, New York.
"We wanted to be in a place where there wasn’t a lot of room for visitors," explains Bunskoeke. "When we record in Amsterdam we usually end up going out to dinner with eight or nine people every night, which can make it a little difficult to concentrate on the recording process. At Bearsville, it was just the four of us in a house in the woods, walking over to the studio every morning."
For the record, there are actual bears in Bearsville, one of which was spotted prowling in the vicinity of that same house in the woods where the band stayed during the recording. And there are still plenty of hippies in Woodstock. The band was more alarmed by the presence of the hippies than the bears.
Other than that, Bunskoeke says, the sessions went off without a hitch, owing in part to the time the band spent doing pre-production in New York City with Goggin. "When we went into the studio for Lamprey we only had seven songs finished. This time we had 15 songs completely written and arranged, and we only ended up writing one while we were in the studio."
On Dust Bunnies, the band plays off the organic extremes they’ve always favored, translating abstract emotions into hard-bitten guitar hooks and gentle melodies, creating a backdrop for van Dijk’s lyrical person-to-person accounts, indicting or empathic as the subject demands. "What Friends?" is a warm and inviting pop-perfect gem; "Story In a Nutshell" a raucous romp in the garage, and "Sugar The Pill," a stark, sensual ballad that highlights the deep, moody resonances of van Dijk’s vocals. On the disc’s title track, "Dust Bunny," the band strips things down to bare-bones guitar and vocals for an impressionistic lyrical detour by van Dijk that was inspired by The Liar’s Club, an autobiography by Mary Karr, and the childhood memories it triggered .
"It’s not always easy to explain a song," van Dijk offers. "Some of them are like dreams. And when you dream you make up your own language and symbols. "Pork and Beans" is about the struggle between love and lust, something we all have to deal with sooner or later. It was also one of my favorite dishes as a kid. And a "Musher" is someone who spends his or her life training dogs for sled racing. They usually live in Alaska or northern Canada, in the middle of nowhere. When I was a kid I lived in the woods outside of Vancouver -- we didn’t have any neighbors, but we had five dogs. So when I read an article about mushers, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine living like that."
As for ancient history, Bettie Serveert emerged from the core of one of Holland’s legendary underground bands, De Artsen, in the late `80s. Visser and Bunskoeke were both members of that band, Dubbe was their roadie, and van Dijk worked with them as a live-sound engineer. While the better part of a decade separates De Artsen from Dust Bunnies, the basic philosophy remains.
As van Dijk puts it, "Bettie stands for songs. Heavy, sweet, melancholic and melodic, at times a bit noisy, sometimes sloppy, but never callous."