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Prior to their concert at the Hard Rock Café, Rachel Huffman talked with Olly de Quartz about their inspiration for their new album, Amsterdam Experiment, the band's image, their lifestyle and the ups and downs of performing in front of a live audience. The concert on November 13th is sponsored by Metropolitan.
Olly de Quartz was formed in 2004, and you guys have been entertaining internationally since mid 2007. How did you meet?
Olly: 12 years ago, Amadeus was trying to find a drummer, a female drummer. I was a teacher at the time and he came to me asking if I had a student who could drum. I said, ‘Yes, I have a girl’. But I can drum, myself, so he said, ‘Never mind. You come. Come and be my drummer’. I thought why not try, so I started to play with Amadeus. I was the drummer. He had another singer. Then we met Florina. She was my student at the school I used to work at, and she wanted to be a drummer.
Fritz: No. First, I wanted to be a guitar player. But the only open spot in the band was drums.
Olly: Because I decided I wanted to be the singer. I wanted to take the place in front after drumming for two years.
Amadeus: Honestly, a band with just boys was enough for me. Drinking, smoking, making too much noise. We would be driving and after 10 minutes stop because someone wanted to drink a beer. Then back in the car, another 10 minutes would pass, stop, someone needed to pee. I thought maybe a band of girls would be more effective. When Fritz joined the band, she was 16—didn’t drink, didn’t smoke. I thought, ‘Wow, these girls are really a good influence’.
The band is based in the Netherlands but where are you originally from?
Amadeus: We have lived in Amsterdam for nearly eight years.
Olivia: But really we are vampires. We were born in Bucharest.
How has living in Amsterdam inspired you?
Amadeus: It is a place that accepts people and ideas from all over and brings them together to form a complex culture. Living there, we experienced a lot. But we have played all over Amsterdam. At one point it just became too little for our ambitions. It was once we got on the road that we found our main, most recent inspirations. Crossing European roads, meeting people, entering new civilisations, learning about different religions, eating local foods. I like to talk with people on the street. The girls are always saying I talk too much to people. Even if it’s in a random shop, anyone I meet, I find something to talk about with them. A girl has keys on a necklace around her neck so I say, ‘Are these the keys to your heart? Big keys. You must have a big heart’. These kinds of jokes and conversations. I like to have fun with people. People are beautiful. I’m lucky to have never met bad people, just beautiful people.
And now you also have a house in Catalunya, correct?
Amadeus: Yes. Now we have a second residence near Girona. It’s a very quiet town, city, village, whatever you want to call it. We love it because everyone there has an open heart. We can talk with different people. Amsterdam will always be useful, will always be our base. But this is our second life. The art, the traditions of Catalonia, the people we are meeting here, have brought new life into our music.
How would you describe your image as a band?
Amadeus: Most of the time we dress very well. Rock ‘n' roll is not chains or big get-ups. It’s simple. If you look at Bruce Springsteen, or even Aerosmith, they don’t need anything more than normal clothes and their talent. Like the girls when they play. They have so much energy and power. There’s always things breaking. But that’s what’s really important about a musician. How they play.
Olly: We also try to embody true American rock ’n’ roll. When people see us play, they think we are from the USA. But that’s fine. I even tell people I’m from San Francisco sometimes, because I want to go there so bad.
Amadeus: Rock ‘n’ roll is a pure Anglo-Saxon feeling. Even though people all over the world are playing it and singing it in their own language, it’s not the same. So we try to follow our true teachers. English rock 'n' rollers.
Have there ever been any clashes between band members?
Olly: Of course. But normal professional concerns and problems.
Amadeus: On stage sometimes we get competitive. Maybe the audience thinks we’re mad at each other, but it’s really just us feeding off each other and trying to be the best on the stage, be the biggest presence. After a concert, we get into the car, screaming at each other, ‘Why didn’t you do this or that’, but at the end of the day, we are always friends.
What do you love most about performing your music in front of a live audience?
Amadeus: When we’re on stage, we send energy and good feelings to the audience. They think, ‘Thank God I met these guys’.
Olivia: And then what? You think we’re gonna suck some kind of energy from above?
Amadeus: Well, then God thinks, ‘Ok f***ers. I like you’, and sends us some good vibes.
Olly: We also like playing some covers so that the audience can feel like they’re a part of our performance. Everyone likes to sing along. When you're a band that's not that popular, it's necessary to find a way to draw in the audience.
Amadeus: And we observe the audience and pick the next song to play during a concert based on what we think will get the most response. Performing is not an inside experience. It’s not about being introverted, but being open with your audience. And part of that is understanding what they want from you as a band.
Do you have a favourite concert or memory as a band?
Amadeus: I’ve played in front of Scorpions, in front of Jethro Tull, at different festivals. Every gig is different. There’s a different emotion whether we’re in Brussels or Frankfurt. But the best part of performing is when you’ve been in the car for so long, driving, and you’re nervous. Then you arrive to the venue and your friends and fans are there, and they’re trying to touch you and yelling your name. It feels great to have such warm greetings.
Olivia: I really like the motorbike festivals. The people in the audience think they are super-rockers, these big men. And they look at me and Florina, and maybe they think because we’re girls we can’t rock as hard as them. They think, ‘Oh, two women. What can they do?’ They watch us set up, putting everything in its proper place, but then when we start, they think, ‘Wow! These girls can rock!’ We give them energy and they appreciate it. They learn to respect us quite quickly. So that’s why I remember the motorbike festivals the most.
Now you’re playing at the Hard Rock Café in Barcelona on November 13th.
Amadeus: Yes, this concert will also be the release of our new album, Amsterdam Experiment. We have been working on this album for three, four years.
Olly: We released other albums during that time, but this one is the important one. This one bears our soul.
Amadeus: It’s a new attitude for us. It’s new kinds of lyrics. It’s a story based on ‘Welcome to My Funeral’, the first song on the album. For me, dying is not a problem. It’s just going to another level.
Olly: Life on Earth is hard anyway.
Amadeus: So this is a theme, as well as a slight criticism of the church in one song, but then in the next song we thank God for all our success and blessings. Every song on the album is a story in itself, but together all the songs also tell an overall story. Every song is a scene in the big picture.