Music Interviews

The Sunny Grunge Of Mozes And The Firstborn

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The Dutch garage pop group Mozes and The Firstborn has a self-titled debut album out this month. NPR's Rachel Martin talks with Melle Dielesen of the band.


MOZES AND THE FIRSTBORN: (Singing) The harder you work here the less you get paid...


The music of the band Mozes and the Firstborn sounds like something that might waft out of a California garage in the 1960s. But this sunny, crunchy, extremely catchy sound is actually a product of the Netherlands. And strictly speaking, it got started in a basement - not a garage.

Melle Dielesen, the band's lead singer says his mom's basement has always been a sort of escape.

MELLE DIELESEN: When I was younger, I had all of these crazy projects downstairs in the basement. It was kind of my playground. I used to, like, deconstruct old radios there and start my own, like, little detective bureau. I played soccer down in that basement. I did a film stand in that basement. I started fighting school down in that basement.

MARTIN: Wow, that basement has seen a lot.

DIELESEN: It is seen a lot. And at one point, I started making music and that was really, you know, that was just the perfect place to start rehearsing with the band and start recording. We had all the time in the world. There was no one looking over our shoulders. We could do whatever we want.


MARTIN: I want to play another song off the new record. This is "I Got Skills."


FIRSTBORN: (Singing) Skills, I got skills. I got skills to make it through your doorway...

MARTIN: So, pretty good hook you've there written for that song, Melle.


DIELESEN: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: How do those come to you?

DIELESEN: For this - for "I Got Skills," it was a friend of mine, a really good friend of mine, he's mom used to listen to this mantra music. You know what I mean? Like this...

MARTIN: Kind of chanting?

DIELESEN: Yeah, chanting. Add me and my friend thought that was just really hilarious. And I was at my friends place once and he had a guitar there. And I was like, yeah, let's play one of those chants. And I couldn't really figure out the chords or the melody. And then I kind of like went, like (humming).


FIRSTBORN: (Singing) Skills, I got skills. I got skills to make it through your doorway...

DIELESEN: It kind of stuck with me. I, you know, I didn't even have to listen back to the recording. It was just in my head the whole time. I was like, man, I have to get this out - it's just so annoying...


DIELESEN: ...just going around in my head all the time, so.

MARTIN: So we have a phrase for that. We call that an ear worm.

DIELESEN: That's a phrase in Dutch, as well, oor worm.


DIELESEN: It's very similar.


MARTIN: Let's play another song. This one is called "Seasons."


FIRSTBORN: (Singing) Babe, I'll take you to a world without seasons, where the fruit has no taste...

MARTIN: So you've got quite a focal range on this album. There's some spoken word. At some points, what we just heard there, was kind of this raspy, more intense almost like a yell at times. Also some really mellow crooning. It's all in English, which is not your first language, right?

DIELESEN: No, it's not.

MARTIN: Did you always write songs in English? Or did you ever write in Dutch?

DIELESEN: I only wrote songs for fun, like for family members, kind of on, you know, special occasions in Dutch. It just really makes sense for me to write in English because all of the music I listen to is in English.

MARTIN: I don't suppose you could give me a sample of the little ditty in Dutch, could you?

DIELESEN: Of Dutch singing, (Singing in foreign language).

And so on. And so on.


MARTIN: Well, what's that song?


DIELESEN: Yeah, it's kind of, you know, carnival - which is like the Mardi Gras - it's kind of a song that you play around that time of the year.

MARTIN: So you're on tour right now - your first tour in the U.S., correct?

DIELESEN: Oh, no. It's her second tour.

MARTIN: Second tour, all right.


MARTIN: This is old hat for you.

DIELESEN: Well, no. It's still new. I mean I still can't really get used to being in America. I mean it's just...


DIELESEN: I guess for us, as Europeans, it kind of feels like just walking into a movie.

MARTIN: Can you give me an example of something that has really freaked you out, some moment of profound culture shock?

DIELESEN: Oh, one of the things is that we had to do a 12-hour drive from Arizona to Texas. And the fact that you can drive for 12 hours...


DIELESEN: ...then you get out of the car and people still speak the same language. People still have the same fast food chains. Whereas in Europe, if you drive for 12 hours, people speak really weird and, you know, they eat different kinds of cheese. And, you know, stuff.


DIELESEN: It's kind of - it really doesn't make any sense to us.


MARTIN: I want to play "Down with the Band." Let's listen to this one.


FIRSTBORN: (Singing) Well, sometimes I seem to forget you're one of my best friends, not someone that I can just use you; someone I can use...

DIELESEN: I wrote this song for Raven, our drummer. There was a period of time where we kind of grew apart in a way. Like, you start out the bands, you start with music and you do something that you really love. And, you know, mainly you do it because you want to have fun and you're making music with friends. On the other hand, the ambition has always been to become, well, like every professional band, to become the biggest band in the world.


DIELESEN: It's just kind of a song that just says, like, you know, sometimes you kind of have to say like, you know, (bleep), we're just friends and don't been ruined our friendship.


FIRSTBORN: (Singing) Down with the band. Down with the band...

MARTIN: Melle Dielesen, he is of the band Mozes and the Firstborn. That's M-O-Z-E-S, Mozes. Their self-titled album is out this month. He joined us from member station WHYY in Philadelphia.

Melle, thank you so much for talking with us. Best of luck with the tour. Have fun.

FIRSTBORN: Thank you very much. The pleasure is all mine.


FIRSTBORN: (Singing) Well, sometimes I seem to forget you're one of my best friends...

MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. BJ Leiderman wrote our theme. I'm Rachel Martin


FIRSTBORN: (Singing) Someone I can't use. So if I ever act a fool, I'll use my temper or my cool. It's just a demon in my head. My guts still tells me you're my friend and...

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