In the context of COSMOS, the hybrid stage of Le Guess Who?, Front recorded two live sessions in the historic Marnixzaal. In the second session, Private Banking make an appearance in the hidden gem on the Domplein. In conversation, frontman Ruben van Weegberg, of Canshaker Pi and Steve French fame, talks about the first steps of his new post-punk formation.
Written by: Dirk Baart
You’ve got to do something, during a global pandemic that has lasted for almost two years. Some people started taking long walks, others remodeled their houses. Ruben van Weegberg decided to use the time to get serious about the songs he had always secretly written for himself. Not that Van Weegberg is a new face within the Dutch music landscape. On the contrary: the Amsterdam bassist has been around for ten years. He made his debut in 2011, when he featured along three friends in Palio Superspeed Donkey. They were still in high school, but shortly after the release of their debut EP Wateramp they played at Into The Great Wide Open and made an appearance on TV show De Wereld Draait Door. Later, Palio Superspeed Donkey - including Van Weegberg - would transition into Canshaker Pi, and Canshaker Pi into Personal Trainer. Guitarist Willem Smit became the eye-catcher of the scene, which now also includes bands such as Pip Blom, Steve French, Teddy's Hit, Global Charming and a fungus, but Van Weegberg was undoubtedly one of the foundations of that development as well.
Anyway, enough history. After years in a serving role for Smit and Steve French frontman Cees Paris, Van Weegberg now takes the reins as the singer and songwriter for Private Banking. “I now bear almost full responsibility, it kind of feels like that,” he describes the first steps of the new project. “Now I'm also singing as a frontman for the first time. It's a bit awkward, but I’ve noticed that I like it more than I thought." In October, Private Banking released their first EP, via Subroutine Records imprint Glove Compartment. They are four repetitive post-punk songs, largely made by Van Weegberg in collaboration with Doortje Hiddema (Euroboy, Rats On Rafts) and a stubborn drum computer from the eighties. “It's actually a sampler, you can basically load any sound you want into it. And then I think you have nine – no, let's see – sixteen buttons that you can press. You can do as much as you want with it, but it’s on the fritz and quite difficult to understand. Limiting yourself to as few options as possible is the easy way, to be honest.”
Van Weegberg is indeed a musician who needs frameworks. “I get a bit dizzy when I have too many options, so I often limit myself to one beat: that’s the one it has to happen with.” Of course, Private Banking is not far from the projects that Van Weegberg has already been involved in. Especially 'A Woman Came Knocking', closing off the EP, could be absorbed in a Canshaker Pi or Personal Trainer release. But with the lingering 'Brick' and 'Georgie', which in instrumental terms are reminiscent of early New Order, Van Weegberg shows that he is indeed a different type of writer than Willem Smit and Cees Paris are in Personal Trainer and Steve French, respectively. “And they are also very different from each other. Willem is incredibly fast, Cees and I are a bit slower I think. A song may or may not work for me. When it works, it goes very quickly. If it doesn't work, it goes very slowly and often eventually gets abandoned." Van Weegberg is not surprised that Private Banking has so far been described as a project that is somewhat more serious than Personal Trainer. “I'm not very good at incorporating humor into songs, that's something Willem does very often, for example. I didn't think: I'm going to make very serious music now, but that's just what comes out."
Releasing music for the first time with your own project is an exciting affair. Let alone if almost your entire group of friends consists of people who have been writing songs since they could hold a guitar, or at least since they first had a broken heart to sing about. It gives Van Weegberg some mixed feelings. “On the one hand, everyone is super supportive. They really like that you are making things, everyone applauds that. That's nice, but sometimes I do think: what do you really think? I got used to it quite quickly. The first single I found really nerve wracking, with the EP it didn't really matter to me anymore. It's okay, I'm confident about the music myself."
Van Weegberg has now gathered a live band around him to be able to translate Private Banking to the stage. You simply cannot rely on that old drum machine. Instead, Van Weegberg is joined by Hiddema and members of the – unsurprisingly – Personal Trainer, Teddy's Hit and A Fungus, among others. The group recently played their first show at Rotterdam showcase festival Left of the Dial. The band were promptly proclaimed by 3voor12 as one of the great discoveries of the weekend, above all kinds of Britons who had traveled to The Netherlands with great fanfare. “I had held off everything until that show,” laughs Van Weegberg. “We already received some invitations, but I first wanted to see if I liked it at all. It was very thrilling beforehand, but I was quite happy with it in the end, I think.” When even more requests trickled in after the show on Left of the Dial, Van Weegberg discovered the downside of the composition of his band, a close-knit group with a lot of experience: everyone had already planned the rest of the year with shows from all those other bands they play in. “That went on endlessly, until I finally had to reject twelve options. I sat here in my room, god damn it. But it also makes sense, ofcourse. We played our first show in October and after that I wanted to make all kinds of plans for the rest of the year, which is an unrealistic expectation. I just have to plan far ahead and then everything will be fine.”
Cinematography: Peter Marcus, Yuma Eekman en Stan Wiersma
Recording: Fokke de Wit en Jasper Boogaard
Mix: Jasper Boogaard
Edit: Peter Marcus
Master: Jasper Boogaard
This live session was created thanks to Le Guess Who?.