Interview by Woody
Holland may not be famous for its AOR exports but Sparklands are about to stir things up and let the AOR sparks fly. So Woody spoke to vocalist Thomas Riekerk to find out more about the new Dutch guys on the block.
Hi, Thomas! Sparklands are a new name to the melodic rock genre, what can fans expect from your new album and how would you describe your sound?
Fans can expect a revival of songs and sounds that inspired me and the other boys from back when we where youngster…Our love for melodic rock/pop through the years filled up these songs that are captured on our debut Tomocyclus.
What inspired the name of the band?
My friend (and session-drummer on Tomocyclus) was on a holiday in Sweden and found this amazing vintage poster at a thrift-store, a sort of reprint of an original painted landscape, very 80's and 'sparkling'. He bought it for me and that's how we came up with the name Sparklands. Somehow the name covers the music and feeling we'd like to get across, as simple as that.
I have to admit I’m having trouble pronouncing the album title ‘Tomocyclus’, what does it mean and why did you chose it as the album title?
Ha, i know what you mean and that's o.k. Tomocyclus is something very special and is worth it. Tomocyclus is the name of the boat our father (father of Robert en me) was sailing on when he was young (he was a sailor when he was young). We wanted to dedicate this album to our parents, because they always motivated us and gave us the opportunities to make and listen to music (They where/are big AOR - fans).
Our father passed away three years ago and therefore we wrote a song for him called Tomocyclus (on the album as well). My brother and i both remember him through a tattoo we both have on our arms as well. But now - through this song and album - we can share our love for him and 'our' AOR with the rest of the world.
You’ve been creating music for many years now in different musical styles, how come you’ve decided to make an AOR album at this point in your career?
Even though i've been working with different artists over the years, somehow the music i did has always been very melodic and rockin', overall not far from AOR. What's different mostly is that i was always part of a band, either a backing-vocalist, guitarist or bass-player. Sparklands is my solo-project and something i should have done years ago. And as AOR is my first love, Tomocyclus is perfect to me. Again, we grew up with bands such as Giant, Foreigner, Winger, Toto and Whiteheart. They inspired my brother and i to sing, play guitar and write songs in the first place. Over the years we also got influenced by other bands as such as U2, Pearl Jam and even Johnny Cash, still the ‘old’ AOR and Melodic Rock bands sticked to mind being our first love….I always had the idea to make such a record but never before the time was right. Finally when i found my friends willing to help me create this album, Sparklands was born.
You hail from Holland, it’s never been associated as a hot bed for melodic rock, is there much of a melodic rock scene or community in your homeland?
You are right, I don't think Holland has a large melodic scene history as of now. Nevertheless many people here still enjoy bands such as Toto (their shows are always sold-out) and in fact when i come to think of it most rockers out there definitely know Adrian Van de Berg of Whitesnake and Vandenberg but also the brothers Van Halen (they are from Holland too) to name a few. Let's hope Sparklands can start a revival of melodic rock/ AOR in the Netherlands.
Can you tell us a bit about a few of the songs on ‘Tomocyclus’, how they were written and any stories or meanings behind the songs?
The songs on Tomocyclus are written in a very natural way, lyrically they deal with the stuff i've been through over the years. The lyrics are about my daily life, such as: finding the love of your life, problems in a relationships, the purpose of life, losing a loved one, dreams that we have or have gone….actually it sounds very serious and all...but we are not always that serious believe me..haha.
So yeah, lyrically it's definitely a solo-album. On the other hand, the music has been written by all the guys that helped out in the studio. Sometimes someone i wrote a song at home, sometimes someone just came up with an idea that we worked on together in the studio. Still we had to arrange every song, sometimes right on the spot, sometimes at home in our own studio's (yes, i'm lucky to able to work with guys that also own home - studios and do this for a living :-). The arranging is what I loved about the process, getting those vintage sounds (Lexicon reverbs and DX7-synths to name a few) that the 80s and 90s are known for. There was much space/freedom for every musician to fill in an idea. The result on the album is a collaboration of fine musicians having a lot of fun creating this album.
Do you plan to make a music video to promote the album and what song would you choose if you did?
We’ve made some live videoshoots of three songs. They where recorded in the Mailmen studio of Martijn Groeneveld (producer of the album). The video for the first song called “The Game” will be released shortly and the two other songs will follow soon to promote our album.
You’re album is coming out on Avenue of Allies, how did these deal come about? And have you found them supportive considering you’re a new artist to the genre?
Yes, we’re very happy that Avenue of Allies will release the album. We approached different labels specifically releasing this genre and Avenue was on the top of our list and they responded really quick saying they liked the first songs. When we had the album finished they loved the rest too and offered us a fair deal. We know they are very supportive to the genre, releasing a new artist every now and then but also support some of the more 'known' artists and projects. Thanks to Avenue the name Sparklands is getting heard in the world of Melodic Rock as we speak. Over the last couple of weeks we've had people contacting us literally from all over the world - wanting to order and album, request an interview and what not. We simply can't complain.
Do you have any plans for live shows especially here in the UK?
We surely hope to play in the UK soon, in fact a slot at Firefest is one of my dreams! We are still looking for a bookings-agency in the UK to get us some shows, but as soon as we have one we are ready to go. I found some amazing friends willing to join my and my brother live as Sparklands. The guys playing in the band are very driven to bring Sparklands to you!
If you could tour with anyone would you love to play with?
Wow…if they would only be playing now a days?! Giant! Definitely had the biggest influence on us. Each bandmember (especially of the first two albums) are very talented and being a big example...
Of todays scene, we'd love to play with our friends of Work of Art (Robert Sall is a Sparklands-fan) as they make great music and write excellent songs, the top of AOR right now if you ask me.
What do you think sets you apart from the current crop of melodic rock acts?
I think Sparklands is modern band that shows respect to the 80s bands that have gone before. Soundwise we don't try to sound like any modern band. Quite the opposite as we got all the gear they got in the 80s and created something you don't hear that often. An album that could have been made back in the days. For example some people that are now working for us (bookers and such) thought it was an album from back in the days (which they liked!), so yes we definitely take that as a compliment! Sparklands is here to bring back the spirit and sound of true AOR. There is a variety of different kinds of melodic rock songs on this album, from ballads to an instrumental and from heavy rock songs to even an acoustic song! A real journey of hearts put into the music.
Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to our readers?
I hope the reader takes time to listen to our album and join our journey. We hope they appreciate these retro - AOR - songs like we do as AOR is still alive!
Enjoy the music and let the sparks fly! Cheers, Thomas