GETTING TO KNOW: Charlie & the Lesbians on the DIY Lifestyle, Working From the Ground Up and The Great Escape

In the coming months, you’ll come to discover that the Dutch DIY garage rock scene is far more flourishing than you previously thought. One band who are well on their way to leading the pack are Eindhoven’s Charlie & the Lesbians, an enigmatic and frenetic quartet from Brabant who will step to the international stage for the first time this weekend when they hit The Great Escape in Brighton. We caught up with frontman Charlie Hoeben to discuss the band’s beginnings, the DIY lifestyle and the importance of showcase festivals.

Hey Charlie. How are things?

Let’s start with day one. How did you all meet?
Our drummer is my sister! She is in a relationship with bassist Noor, and they were together before the band started. They wanted to start a band together, because Noor has been in bands before. They asked me if I wanted to sing, even though I’d never done it before. I thought, “fuck it” and gave it a shot. Mees joined a little later, and that sounded good so we just went with it.

(c) Jack Parker
(c) Jack Parker
(c) Jack Parker
(c) Jack Parker

Let’s discuss the DIY lifestyle. How do you survive it?
I think the key is just to do it, have an idea for it and then go for it and figure the rest out along the way. I reckon that’s the main thing, because especially with DIY you never know how it will be or how it will go. You have to make your own plans along the way and figure them out. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s the nicest way as it helps you to learn a lot.

You’ll be taking Charlie & the Lesbians to The Great Escape in Brighton this month. What can we expect?
Well, last year we played two shows in Switzerland and one in Germany, but they were really small shows and actually our first proper ones outside of Holland. The shows at the Great Escape are our first real show shows outside of Holland, and they’re going to be good.

How important – for you – are festivals such as The Great Escape, Eurosonic and such?
They’re pretty important, because we never thought that we could play shows like that. When we started this band, it was just for fun. Then people picked up on it, which was cool. After that you become more and more excited to do more stuff, because people are excited for your music and the shows you play. Then you get opportunities like The Great Escape and Noorderslag, which just feels great because you really get that feeling of becoming recognised and appreciated. That’s always nice. We’re a DIY punk band and we like these kinds of shows; they’re good.

And how much importance do you think they’ll have in years down the line, considering the impact of streaming and social media?
I think they’re always going to be very important, because we don’t really get that many streams on Spotify or plays on YouTube. That’s not our thing. We can really show who we are as a band by playing at a showcase festival, and so I think that this will always be important. Yo can’t judge a band by their Facebook page; you don’t know how good they are live.

(c) Jack Parker
(c) Jack Parker
(c) Jack Parker
(c) Jack Parker

The Dutch DIY scene is pretty big right now, what do you think of it?
There’s a lot of really exciting stuff happening! You have so many bands who pop up out of nowhere and make really great music. A couple of years back there were a lot of similar bands making the same shit, and now everyone is trying different things and experimenting. It’s really flourishing, especially in The Netherlands. It’s great! A lot of really good music is coming out of our country, like Korfbal, The Homesick, The Sweet Release of Death and The Lumes.

How do you see this whole band moving forward into the rest of 2018?
I don’t know man! It’s really hard to tell. When we started this band, we didn’t think we could play shows and we never thought we would play big showcase festivals like Eurosonic and The Great Escape. It comes in sets of surprises, and the future is going to be just that: a big surprise. I hope that we just keep on growing and play sick shows and festivals. Basically just getting bigger and bigger all the time. We just want to play great shows, and also meet new people who like our music and surprise them at our shows. The best thing is when they don’t know what we do, and then they look so surprised and excited when they hear us live. We just want to keep on doing that and continue playing.

Charlie & the Lesbians hit The Great Escape in Brighton this weekend. Catch them at the Komedia on Friday at 1pm and the Green Door Store on Saturday at 7:15pm.