Amsterdam’s much-tipped seven-piece Personal Trainer return today with a brand new single, the elastic post-everything pop of “Key Of Ego”. Produced by regular collaborator Casper van der Laans, it’s the first new material from the band since last year’s debut EP “Gazebo” landed to much acclaim on tastemaker label Holm Front (Walt Disco, Sports Team).
LISTEN TO “KEY OF EGO” HERE
Personal Trainer are the brainchild of Willem Smit, the band’s front man and a multi-instrumentalist whose early talents saw his last band, Canshaker Pi, record with Stephen Malkmus while still teenagers. Personal Trainer began as an attempt to bottle the fervent energy of Amsterdam’s indie scene and to allow for something entirely unpredictable on stage and in the studio – an ever-shifting line-up of friends and peers playing together with only one rule: there are no rules.
The high-wired “Key Of Ego” illustrates Smit’s own quizzical struggle with masculinity, toying with the kind of meat-headed call-and-response lyrics that were a fad in the mid-to-late nineties. Musically, the band sees Personal Trainer continue to expand sonically, using sampling and textural layers in ever-expressive ways. The hooky, dynamic “Key Of Ego” seems to contain a little of everything: post-punk basslines, gang vocals, synth breaks, distorted guitars, a horn section and even a sample of an orchestra performing a Bach piece. Disparate sounds collide during the single’s near five minute runtime, encapsulating in one song what has made Personal Trainer such a thrilling prospect thus far.
Willem Smit says of their new single:
“I would rather see myself as a question-type-of-guy than an answer-type-of-guy. For me, that translates to being a vague-gesture-type-of-writer. Which I like, but can get really insecure about. I’m not too sure what Key Of Ego is about yet, but I think it has something to do with masculinity, machismo and shame.
Like most PT songs, Casper and I worked from a demo I had been working on for a while. We started the recording process by travelling to the Dutch town of Culemborg, where we had Leon Harms (of Yuko Yuko, Korfbal, Canshaker Pi and Real Farmer fame) bang the drums at 120 beats per minute. Back in Amsterdam I slowed the beat down by 20 bpm and added a whole bunch of sounds on top with Casper.
We messed around a lot and the moments when something actually worked always brought forth this fun energy that I hope we’ve captured for all to hear in the final song.”
The band, already known for their memorable live shows, have announced further shows in the Netherlands before they return to the UK for a short tour in May.
Most bands should be familiar with the honeymoon phase, those lofty formative stages where creativity blooms as the purest of fruits. The fingers itch, the eyes wander off to rapturous highs, the body trembles electric with creative energy waiting to be unleashed upon unsuspecting onlookers. Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase is usually just that: a phase. After each landmark or hurdle you clear, things tend to get more and more convoluted. Those impulsive why not’s can sour into routines and lots of contemplation in between said routines.
Thank heavens, nobody told indie rock crusaders Personal Trainer this was all supposed to be temporary. The Amsterdam-based collective seek out sharp-witted ways to prolong the innate joy of being a band just plugging in and playing. Willem Smit, the group’s conductor and cheerleader, started the band as an ultimate love letter to the vibrant scene he himself inhabits. Initially, it meant playing shows in impromptu lineups, with individuals of varying skill levels, interests and sensibilities. At the hub of this volatile energy, Smit embraced his role as jester in court, performing his own songs like a lost tourist on a karaoke bender.
This enthusiasm was reciprocal, as bands ranging from Pip Blom, Bull, Home Counties, The Klittens to Global Charming – as well as Smit’s other outfits Canshaker Pi and Steve French – frequently rubbed elbows on stage. Personal Trainer shows became rousing rituals, with songs that more or less sounded like all your favorite indie rock luminaries jam-packed into big-beaming pop psalms. The delirium of playing “The Lazer” for the umpteenth time would perpetually elevate to religious fervor. Understandably so: it’s a song that attacks things like restlessness, boredom, drudgery or shame with the stubbornness of a kamikaze-artist.