Interview: Dutch Tulips talk 'Double Visions'
Boston alt-rock / indie-pop band’s highly anticipated full-length arrives April 23
In this Q&A, Dutch Tulips discuss their new LP, arriving April 23, as well as their songwriting process, waiting out the pandemic, and whether or not albums are a dead art form
Photo Credit: Stanislaw Nagiec
Dutch Tulips recorded their debut album at Ghost Hit Recording out in Western Massachusetts back in February 2020. Then the pandemic hit, and the world pressed the pause button. The eclectic Boston indie-pop ground decided to hold off on the album’s release, like sticking a finger down a lit Roman candle, growing as antsy as the music itself, but never losing focus. As the world begins to open back up, Dutch Tulips, the band, are back in bloom, and Double Visions is set for an April 23 release.
As we count down until the album drop, publi*sist caught up with all four members to discuss the approach behind the LP, their collaborative songwriting process, and whether or not the album is a dead art form.
publi*sist: So yeah, how good does it feel to finally release Double Visions?
Matt Freake, drummer and vocalist: So good!
Justin Mantell, guitarist, synth player, and vocalist: Releasing this album feels like waking up for the first time in my entire life. It’s time to slug some coffee, brush them shits, and get to fucking work.
Jack Holland, vocalist and guitarist: Extremely good.
Mike Holland, bassist and vocalist: It feels really good. Recording these songs was the last thing we did before the pandemic. To be releasing it as folks finally start getting vaccinated feels like a cycle completing.
How does the album reflect Dutch Tulips in 2021?
Matt Freake: It really reflects who we have evolved to be over our first few years as a band. It’s definitely the most collaborative thing we’ve done and it really represents how our writing process has evolved. Also, we’ve done a lot of collaborating on this album with other artists (Dillon Arloff who did the artwork, Melissa McClung who has done video and animation work, Andrew Oedel who mixed the record, and Brian Lucey who mastered it). In all those cases we found people who we trusted and respected and gave them the runway to add their creativity to make the album what it is today. I think we will continue to work extremely collaboratively going forward as it’s super rewarding and always produces a better end product.
Justin Mantell: Double Visions is like gel[atin], and it finally feels like our approach to sounds and songwriting has set.
Jack Holland: It’s true that we found a cohesive form with the full length. At the same time, creative work is like alchemy. Writing this record is necessary in order to write the next one.
Mike Holland: It is the most cohesive we have ever been as people, as collaborators, and as musicians. It still feels like a beginning though.
Is the band, collectively and individually, happy with how the album came out?
Matt Freake: Yes. Working with Andrew Oedel at Ghost Hit Recording was a dream. We vowed to never make a record with anyone else going forward.
Justin Mantell: I couldn’t imagine the album coming together any better than it did. Andrew and Ghost Hit Recording is next level, we stayed in what I am 200% sure is a haunted church for a week straight, and I believe that general eeriness found its way into our tracking, giving Double Visions that signature “creep pop” flavor.
Jack Holland: I love this record. I think it is thematically on point both personally and more broadly. I am especially grateful for the friendships forged along the way.
Mike Holland: Yes.
After two EPs, how is Double Visions, the album, an evolution of the band's sound?
Justin Mantell: Before Double Visions, Dutch Tulips felt more like an extension of Jack’s sonic exploration and the band pretty much wrote and fleshed out whatever riffs or progressions Jack was willing to share. Over time, more and more of the writing has been done within the four walls of 50 Terminal St, and now all riffs are thrown against the wall in real time, something sticks, and often entire songs are written within a practice session. We understand each other much more now than we did four years ago, and I’m sure that increased trust has allowed us to really put everything on the line and produce better music than we were writing in 2017.
Matt Freake: I agree with Justin’s statements here. I’ll also add that in addition to the writing process, we have figured out how to fit together sonically through lots of touring and live shows. We have also all grown a lot as singers and Double Visions definitely utilizes a lot of that.
Jack Holland: I love that everyone in the band sings. I love working with people who are so talented at hearing the whole sonic texture - we all get obsessed with the nuances of sound and how the sound corresponds to or supports the other aspects of the song like the lyrics.
Mike Holland: It is our biggest and most powerful sound so far. While Andrew captured us at our highest musicality, the raw emotion of the songs is still the first thing I hear. That combination of facts is probably my favorite thing about the album. In fact I’d say Ghost Hit has its own presence on the album which can’t be found on any other Dutch Tulips recording (yet). I certainly see the church spires and towering organ pipes when I listen to the end of “Sick Middle”, or the sparse parts in “Rosemary’s Baby”. I hear it in the spaciousness of the drums.
What was the writing process like for this particular batch of songs?
Matt Freake: It was super collaborative. Generally Jack or Justin would throw out a riff in the practice space or via a voice memo in between rehearsals and then we would just iterate on the idea to see where it went. Usually once a certain section seems to be coming together, we then start discussing if that feels like a verse or a chorus and what would compliment it well. Sometimes that would be an existing riff or a new thing all together. Once the songs were mostly formed, we then did a bunch of experimenting with tempos. We would find roughly where we liked it, and then go up and down by 1 or 2 bpm until we felt we found the perfect number. Jack generally writes all of the vocal melodies and lyrics and those tend to be born out of the random things we name the songs (“Pez Mansion”) or just the general feel of the track (“Tell Me Your Codes”). Once the main vocal melody is in place, we spend a lot of time experimenting with background vocals, often just looping a section and trying different things until we dial in what we want. A few of the songs were written prior to our last tour in 2019 and had the advantage of being toured on a bit. Most of them were written after said tour. We seem to be particularly productive after touring.
Justin Mantell: I’m sure Mike knows the exact figure, but I would guess that 80% of the current album was written in person as a full band collaboration, and 60% of the material on the album has never been played live.
Jack Holland: We don’t do anything unless everyone loves it. That means we have to listen to each other and respect each other. We tend to trust the process with more confidence now. Maybe if I’m improvising something with the wrong idea somebody else is clarifying the right idea of what they are doing. Paradoxically if you can let the imperfections flow you end up with something more perfect.
Mike: Super collaborative. I think everyone contributed something to every song, but Jack and Justin are definitely the main progenitors. Jack is still the most likely to bring a whole song to the band, more or less ready to play, and in the beginning that was almost the whole process. But Justin always has riffs, and sometimes has a whole song minus lyrics. As a bass player, sometimes I feel I’m getting away with contributing very little, literally one note at a time, sometimes just three or four notes for a whole song, but it takes all my effort to do it right.
How did the sequencing come together?
Matt Freake: We played around with a number of options and definitely didn’t have any specific sequence in mind going into recording the songs. Ultimately a good friend of Jack’s, Joe Visciano put together the sequence that we landed on. We did make one swap to Joe’s sequence in order to make the vinyl sides more equal for pressing (which we’re still planning on doing once we can tour again).
Here’s a fun question on the eve of an album release: Is the album format dead?
Matt Freake: Everything is cyclical. People’s brains can only survive on short attention span TikTok trends for so long and I think we’ll see a younger generation reject that and look to the past. We’ve seen that this year, all the places I normally hike were suddenly mobbed when people had nothing to do but sit home with their phones during the pandemic. People started playing board games and interacting with the world in a more meaningful way. All that to say albums have arguably become more important, but also harder to make. 20 years ago you just needed one or two good songs to sell albums, now the whole thing can be listened to for free in most cases so all of the songs have to be really strong.
Jack Holland: Music listening is going to come back as a primary social activity. We have really cheapened it as an adjunct to other activities. The power of music is unmatched and I think at a deep level people know that the way we interface with music is no longer optimal. People are going to start listening to complete songs and records together again because people crave a shared experience and a meaningful connection.
Justin Mantell: No way! The album format allows people to share some of their most personal tastes with complete strangers without feeling extra vulnerable or weird. Sharing music is something that will never go away, just get easier as technology evolves. Albums are like novels, they can be a lot to dive into, but if the artist does a good enough job catching you with a hook, a single can live in your mind and then hold your hand and gently lead you through the entire album, entire catalog of what may become your new favorite artist.
Mike: Maybe. Now I need to think about this.
Ok, what else do you want to say to help promote Double Visions?
Jack Holland: Ultimately we made the record that didn’t already exist but that we wanted to hear. It seemed obvious to me that if you’re going to make a record you should do something that has as much universal appeal as possible while at the same time stands apart from everything else. Some people claim “everything’s been done” but that is such a cop out. Everything has been labeled, yes - but it’s up to you to do something that flows from your unique subjective experience.
Matt Freake: I love that TikTok loves Justin and Justin hates the internet.
Justin Mantell: I used to really give a fuck about a lot of extremely unimportant shit. Now I don’t.
Dutch Tulips are:
Jack Holland - Guitar / Lead Vocals
Michael Holland - Bass / Vocals
Justin Mantell - Guitar / Synth / Vocals
Matt Freake - Drums / Vocals
‘Double Visions’ album artwork:
Designed by Dillon Arloff