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One of the most interesting mixes in the bunch, this dutch group impressed me with their jazzy folkish sound and cool intrumentation. The latest album, "When The Whales Sing", was released this past October. They've got a really throwback sound, one that is really unusual nowadays, thus making it really refreshing. The frontrunner, Amarins Romkema, was kind enough to answer some questions for me. And some really interesting answers came out from that!

Interview and videos after the JUMP ...

*Firstly, why the name Amarins and le gatte negre? What's it's meaning?
It means, in a free way of mixing languages 'the black cats'. Amarins is just my name.

*How would you define the band? It's sound?
As a group of very enthusiastic musicians, a real live band who loves to perform and mixes different music styles. It sounds like The Andrew Sisters on a party with sailors and gypsy's, somewhere in the country side, near to the sea where boats sail by.

*When describing it, you say it's a mixture of folk, pop, blues, jazz, Balkan brass and Frisian, what do you exactly mean with the latest?
Actually, that's a joke. I come from Friesland (the northern province of Holland) which has no typical music style. We only use it to make people curious, as a joke, cause Frisian music by itself doesn't really exist. Although the brass band from my village did make me start to love music!

*Do you consider it's better moving between styles than sticking to only one?
I don't really choose what kind of music I make, it just comes. I love so many styles of music, and I don't feel like I have to choose, as long as it suits. We all love different music and we take that baggage along. Alessandro, plays the bass in a very melodical and groovy way, the percussionist adds some latin rythms, and violin and accordeon give that Balkan or Chanson like sound.

*Who would you name as your biggest influence?/What is your dream collaboration?
Although you wouldn't necessarily hear it in our music, that would now be Tom Waits. He so has his own style, dark, warm, with a lot of humour. I would meet him in a bar somewhere in New Orleans where he asks me to sing a song with him on the stage. Tom plays the piano and we sing a duet. After that he takes me to his studio and asks me I could please give him the chance to produce our next album. Of course I'd say yes.

*What can you tell me about the instruments that are used? Why those instruments?
I love acoustic instruments, and for us it is not only cause we love the sound of that, but we also play on the street a lot in the summer, so we need to be acoustic as well. We have double bass, percussion (conga, cajon, shakers, etc.), violin, accordeon, calimba, guitar, ukulele and we keep adding more and more instruments which we learn to play. I always love to see bands that keep surprising with the amount of different instruments they have. I would love it if we would all learn how to play each others instrument, just for the dynamic and because it's cool!

*Do you believe they play an important part in the jazzy sound you want to create?
I don't know, we have some jazz influences, but I wouldn't say we sound jazzy.

*The sound is a really interesting mix of different cultures. How is that ahcieved?
I think because of the influences, which for me is music which ranges from Ethiopia till India and from Hungary till Argentina, very wide.

*So you write all the songs? How are you influenced by the different members?
I love my band, they inspire me a lot. Their music taste of course influences me and we arrange the songs together which is always fun to do and in which everyone adds beautiful ideas for the songs.

*When writing, do you focus more on the lyrics or in the sound?
That comes together. I write the songs in a improvising way. So I play and sing and then I repeat things I like and record it. Most of the time the structure of the song then is made and I made a first step in the text, but that I work out on paper later.

*Several of your songs sound like they were inspired by traditional folk melodies, Is that something which is intentionally done or does it just happen?
I listen to old American Folk a lot and by listening to certain kind of music you always take it with you. So it didn't just happen like that.

*Your first album is "Incredibly Close to the Moon", why that name?
One of the songs is Incredibly Close and is about trying to get as close to a good memory as possible. My parents used to call me little Moon and because this album was so personal I thought it was, then, the closest to me (Moon) as could be. Also I liked the image of someone climbing a stairs to the Moon, an impossible mission, but if you imagine it, you might reach it.

*So the latest album is called "When The Whales Sing", what would you say about it?
It is dynamic, energetic, happy album with a wide variety of songs in which we travel through the streets of Amsterdam where Blackbirds can speak, Snowwhite who is in the park gets run over by the prince on the white horse, Airplanes fly over with our friends in them, a ship passes by which takes us to Singing Whales and when we finally see Mountains we long back to the streets in which we always lost our way. (these are the subjects of some of the songs)

*How would it differ from the previous one?
I think the second album is a much more energetic album. We always tell people- the blue one (Incredibly Close to the Moon) is for the night when you feel tired and want to do nothing- the red one (When The Whales Sing) is for the day when you wake up and feel like dancing!

*What can you tell me about it's video?
It was made by Mirjam von Bannisseht without budget. We thought of the concept together. The story is that I'm drawing a dream and everything I draw comes to life behind me in the window without me noticing that.

*Which song will you name as the higlight of the album?
I think The Whales is a very sweet song, I love the trumpet in it. Also Airplanes is one of my favourite.

*I've noticed that you like playing characters while performing, how important is that part in your music?
Well, we are not playing someone else, but we do really like to perform the songs so we like to add some jokes and we have some theatrical things in it.

*Are you already working on new material?
I'm always writing songs. With the band we just started to arrange again.

*How will you make it stand apart from your previous works?
That I don't know yet, I hope to find that out these coming months in which we travel a lot together again and will work on our songs a long the way.

*What can we expect from you in the coming months?/What are your plans from now on?
We have a summertour through Europe first. We will play on different festivals. I'm really looking forward to that now! After that I hope to really start working on our new songs.

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