Photography: Dillon Steele
Amsterdam based Personal Trainer are wholehearted advocates of the prankish, do-it-yourself principles of lo-fi guitar-pop. Featuring an ever-shifting line-up pooled from the large cohort of Dutch musicians currently plying their trade within Holland’s gently flourishing indie scene, the group thrive on joyous spontaneity, packing just enough major chords and rehearsals to sustain them through each energetic musical adventure. New single ‘The Lazer,’ set for release this week on Sports Team’s Holm Front label, is a case in point – a cavalcade of choruses, unhinged guitars and wry lyrical comments on the oddness of youth.
To learn more about this band and their unique ethos, Cool Brother sent a few questions via email to Personal Trainer singer, songwriter and ringmaster Willem Smit. This is what we got back.
Personal Trainer – The Lazer
How was the idea behind Personal Trainer born? Did you always plan to have a band with an ever-shifting line-up, or was that something that came about naturally?
I had a bunch of home-recorded songs and I wanted a band with more than four people to play the songs live at first. One of our first shows, we played with a band called Steve French, which had a lot of overlap in members with Personal Trainer at the time. We decided to do one long show instead of two shorter ones, where everyone would just fuck around during each other’s parts of the set. It felt really great to play a bunch of rock songs with a big group of friends, without thinking about it too much.
After that I decided to ask a bunch of different people I know from the Dutch music scene if they wanted to be in Personal Trainer. I’ve been in bands since I was fourteen and Holland is little, so I got to know a lot of cool people in the last couple of years at shows and festivals and stuff. Most of the songs I write for Personal Trainer are relatively simple two or three chord rock songs, which makes it easy to play with a fresh band and two rehearsals. So, it came about naturally.
Is there a particular satisfaction that comes from performing with Personal Trainer that you don't get playing in other groups?
With my other bands, we work a lot longer on parts, nuances and dynamics. After I give everyone their parts and they make them their own, we really dive into the song and try and get our best version of it. With Personal Trainer, I make very rough demos and send them to all the members. Apart from the rhythm section, which has been the same from the start, it’s about everyone trying to play the songs, rather than everyone nailing them. To me, it’s mostly about energy. This makes it all rather loose and adventurous. And fun.
I'm told would-be members can email firstname.lastname@example.org to apply to join the band. Can you describe the ideal member of Personal Trainer?
Someone kind who knows how to play an A, a D and a G!
What can you tell us about the current indie scene in Holland? It seems like there's a good appetite for guitar music over there at the moment.
Oh, man. There are so many great Dutch bands… Rotterdam has a ton of good groups like Lewsberg and Rats On Rafts. The Subroutine label puts out a lot of the best Dutch stuff like The Sweet Release Of Death and Baby Galaxy. There’s a variety of bands and projects that evolved from a Dokkum band called Yuko Yuko: Korfbal, The Homesick, Huub Prins, Real Farmer to name a few. Older bands like Hallo Venray and Scram C Baby are putting out some of their best records too.
I organise nights at a rehearsal space in Amsterdam called Helicopter with a recording studio of the legendary Remko Schouten, IJland Studios, where KIEFF is recording their next album. We teamed up to do some live session DIY nights with Amsterdam bands like The Klittens and Pip Blom, and British bands like Swine Tax and Sports Team. Sessions are filmed by Kilian (percussion Personal Trainer/drums Steve French) or Jilles (guitar Personal Trainer/vocals Global Charming). We put them up on this website: www.theindustry.nl
Long story short, there’s a lot of good bands and everything is intertwined. I don’t get the idea that there are any feelings of competition. There are good vibes and good music.
To me, 'The Lazer' is a joyful ode to being young, bored and slightly dissatisfied. Where does the inspiration for the song come from?
I think the song is about laughing at the idea of being stuck in some kind of system, or a feeling of predestination. It feels very powerful to be able to shrug at sad or anxious moments when you think about something like that and say “Hey, whatever – let’s go with it and party.”
The single cultivates a distinctly lo-fi sound. What attracts you to the rawer ends of guitar music?
A lot of the records I like are raw guitar music. The songs are recorded at home before being ‘perfected.’ Then they’re mixed with our bassist Casper, who is also the coolest producer of The Netherlands right now, at one of his houses (he moves a lot). I record the majority of the parts myself and I’m shit at recording, so I think that’s what makes everything sound lo-fi.
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