Pip Blom’s Neo-Britpop Thrills
Some bands reach greatness by inventing something new, others by reminding you of what you loved a long time ago. For Pip Blom, the 23-year-old sparkplug who leads the Dutch alt-rock band of the same name, the choice was clear. Growing up surrounded by peers who listened to Top 40 pop — “Jason Derulo, stuff like that,” she says dismissively — Pip and her younger brother Tender, 21, gravitated instead to the old Blur and Oasis records their parents played at home.
“All my favorite bands were British back then,” she says. “It was always a bit difficult, looking for friends to go to gigs with.”
Pip spent much of her late teens teaching herself how to sing and play guitar like her U.K. rock heroes, whose ranks grew to include more contemporary acts like Arctic Monkeys and Micachu and the Shapes. This summer, she and her brother, along with drummer Gini Cameron and bassist Darek Mercks (both 23), made good on those lonely but instructive years by releasing their debut LP, Boat — an instantly catchy set of burnt-sugar hooks that would fit perfectly into the Blom family record collection. If you came across the dreamy frustration of “Say It” or the grungier grumble of “Tinfoil” on a mixtape dated 1997, you’d swear they were forgotten Britpop gems; find them on a streaming playlist today and they just might be your new favorite songs.
Sitting in a Williamsburg, Brooklyn, café on the last day of their first-ever trip together to the U.S., the young musicians chat happily over early-afternoon Brooklyn Lagers and IPAs. “You look like little angels,” a waitress says as she clears a round of empty pint glasses.
All four grew up in Amsterdam, with Pip and Tender learning about the music industry via their parents’ tales of the Eighties, when their dad played in a punk band that landed repeat gigs on John Peel’s influential BBC radio show and their mom was the band’s live engineer. (Today both are journalists.) “Most kids, there’s a period where they dislike what their parents love, but we’ve not really had that,” Pip says. “We think they’re really cool!”
Toward the end of high school, Pip saw a poster for a local singer-songwriter contest and decided to enter. Messing around on a three-stringed lute their dad had backed on Kickstarter, she found that songwriting came naturally. “I banged out all these songs — verse/chorus/verse, I don’t think there’s even a bridge in any of them,” she says. “And I made it to the semi-finals, which was quite surprising.”
Performing solo gigs around town for the contest helped her realize that she’d rather front a band. The only problem? “She couldn’t find anyone who wanted to play with her,” Tender says, laughing. “So she kept asking me, but I didn’t want to be in a band. Too much work for my lazy ass.”
Eventually she convinced her little brother to join her in their family’s home studio, where they recorded a few voice-and-guitar demos that were good enough to land on a Spotify playlist for new bands. “Of course, it wasn’t, like, a Billie Eilish explosion,” Pip says. “But to me it felt really big.”
She was weighing her options after a gap year when her father told her not to shortchange her music. “He was like, ‘I don’t think you should go to college. This is something very special — maybe just give it time to see where it ends up,’” she recalls.
She and Tender cycled through two tentative rhythm sections for their band before finding Mercks and Cameron, both of whom had more experience playing in bands than they did. (“At one point I was in six or seven bands at the same time,” says Mercks, who also spent four years studying bass guitar in the pop department of a prestigious Amsterdam music school.) They booked Pip Blom’s first U.K. tour by cold-emailing local promoters and journalists — it’s still the country where they’ve spent the most time touring — and headed to the seaside town of Ramsgate, England, last fall to record their debut with producer Dave McCracken.
They all sound pleasantly giddy about finishing their first album. “The test pressing arrived at our home, and I gave one to my mum and dad to have a listen,” Pip says. “And then I had a listen as well, and I really liked it.”
Both of them still live at home, where their parents continue to support their indie-rock dreams. Pop Blom has been to every one of their gigs; Mom Blom books their hotel rooms on tour (they’ll be back in the U.S. for a handful of dates this November) and maintains a spreadsheet with their streaming play counts, which she makes sure to keep them current on. “Sometimes I come downstairs and I just want to relax, and I’m like, give me a break!” Pip says. “They can be annoying. But they’re really sweet.”
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