Band of The Month: Klaus Johann Grobe

Band of The Month: Klaus Johann Grobe

Welcome To Band Of The Month: Klaus Johann Grobe

Welcome to our new musical segement – Band of The Month – where we will be hitting you up with the best indie and ‘unheard’ of bands known to modern man.

We’ve been scouring through our Spotify accounts, the caverns of music related internet forums, and the talented minds of our journalists to bring you the best music (both old and new) on the scene.

Each month we will be providing you with an indepth look into band, so that you can stay up to date, refresh your ears, and expand your mind with the grooviest, hard-hitting sounds you can find… You can even share them with your friends and glout at your musical supremacy.

To start the new year off with a bang, we will be examining Klaus Johann Grobe, a Swiss duo (Sevi Landolt [keyboards, vocals] and Daniel Bachmann [percussion]), who sing exclusively in German.

The Klaus Johann Grobe Style:

While the band has often been noted as being heavily influenced by Krautrock, the duo has contended, in an interview in Pitchfork (May, 2014), that this genre has had little influence upon their sound, with Sevi stating that:

We’ve never been that much into krautrock to be honest. It’s superb when it works, but it has never been something we’ve been too enthusiastic about. Though we like stuff being stripped down, reduced to the important things, living of small details, being repetitive if something works. So those might be some parallels to krautrock, but we’ve probably been more influenced by a dozen of other things before it comes to krautrock.

Sevi Landolt, Pitchfork, 2014

While Klaus Johann Grobe may deny that Krautrock has heavily influenced their sound, the sparse and hypnotically repetitive beats strewn throughout many of their tracks (see: Discogedanken) indefinitely call upon the traditions of indietronica & boogie genres, in which a cacophony of retro-synths are shown on full display.

However, it is in their use of heavy bass licks, which are placed at the forefront of many of their songs (see: Ja!), that take the centre stage and provide the groove-rock-funk feel necessary to prevent songs from drifting into a monotonous drone of electronic tones.

Klaus Johann Grobe (2)
Illustration by Andrea Miranda

The History Of Klaus Johann Grobe:

Before Klaus Johann Grobe was formed, both Landolt and Bachmann had been making music together for several years, creating ‘amateurish jazz-funk, electronic stuff, garage rock, surf’ and had even created their own Euroboys cover band.

After a few years of being separated, in which Bachmann was situated in Berlin, Landolt would discuss whether he was keen to start a new project in the summer of 2011 after his return to Switzerland. While Klaus Johann Grobe was only initially planned as a ‘short one-off thing’, in which they wished to ‘press an EP, play a couple of shows, sell the EPs and then move on to different new things’, it would ultimately become a much larger project than either of them had originally envisioned.

The duo would go onto release their self-titled EP in 2012. Although they would only press a few hundred copies of the EP, it left a positive impression on critics and DJs, which would allow the band to be signed to the U.K. label Sound of Salvation that same year.

Although it is clear that the bands ‘sound’ had not been fully developed at this point, in which neither the recording quality nor catchiness of their later tracks is as present, it would provide the band with enough attention to act as a jumping point for the creation of their first full-length studio album.

In April 2014, Klaus Johann Grobe would release Im Sinne der Zeit, which was produced by David Langhard. They would spend the remainder of this year touring Europe and the U.K., partly as a support act for bands such as The Growlers and Temples.

While an examination of internet archives has shown that the band would not receive a great deal of press for their initial album, those that had discovered this indie gem would praise it for being ‘a pure groove machine that really zooms’ (Brooklyn Vegan), while others would argue that, ‘while by no means exceptional or revolutionary, Im Sinne de Zeit proves to be yet another solid release from Trouble in Mind’ (Pop Matters).

With Klaus Johann Grobe, the bass is thumping, and the organ sounds as warm as grandma’s electric blanket, but it’s at least three times as cool. The drums have tried jazz at some point. And the lyrics? Coming from the lower epigastric region, unimpressed by literary writing at the adult education centre, with German texts that inspire the British.

Detektor.FM, ‘Klaus Johann Grobe Interview: Alles so schön vintage‘, 12th January 2015: Rough Transalation.

While 2015 would see the band heading out to play gigs in an even wider pool of countries and festivals, including Way Back When, Eurosonic, Eindhoven Psych Lab, and Zaragoza Psychfest, they would head back to the studio in 2016 to record Spagat der Liebe.

This album would mark as a transformative moment for the band, in which their rawer motoric patterns would shift towards sounds and grooves reminiscent of the old-school disco beats and synths of a new romanticised 80’s.

To put it simply, the album has a much calmer feel about it. Tracks like Ein guter Tag  have a space like quality to them, in which the continuous synthetic sounds make one feel like they are floating, and on occasion bouncing, on a rhythmic jet-stream. Heut Abend nur (Tonight Only) offers a quiet and self-reflective work, in which Landolt seemingly questions himself and the world around him (I do not know yet / What it is all about). While on Liebe am Strand we are treated to the slightly kitsch introduction of flutes, that is almost reminiscent to a Gil Scott-Heron song.

On Paper the formula shouldn’t work, but when it’s on the box it pulls me in every time.

Peter Margasak, The Chicago Reader, ‘Klaus Johann Grobe, Hecks, Chandeliers’, 26th April 2016.

After the release of Spagat der Liebe, Klaus Johann Grobe would embark on their first tour of the U.S. They would return in 2017 to start recording their third album which was released the following year.  

Du Bist So Symmetrisch (You Are So Symmetrical) builds upon the sounds of both their previous albums; combining the fast-paced bass and beats of Im Sinne der Zeit, with the disco/synth tone of Spagat der Liebe.

In an interview with LaGroupie, Bachmann would discuss how the bands approach to this album would differ from their previous recording sessions. Rather than entering the studio with a handful of songs, ideas, and ‘winging’ the rest, Du Bist So Symmetrisch would be recorded in the ‘old-fashioned way.’ The record was ‘finished’ before they had even entered the studio session, in which the whole track list was completed, the lengths of the tracks were set, and each interlude had been planned.

The methodical approach to Du Bist So Symmetrisch is indeed noticeable. The production quality is crisper than ever before and listening to the album in a single sit-down not only feels appropriate but more pleasurable than previous albums.

Maybe we wanted to do an album in the old-fashioned way. I’m still a guy that listens to albums, and not to playlists. I mean, I like cool mixes and everything, but I’m more into bands, what records they do. We wanted to do something like that, and not just a list of songs behind each other. We wanted to do something that makes sense if you listen to the whole thing.

Daniel Bachmann, LaGroupie, 2018.
Klaus Johann Grobe, Discoedanken, Du Bist So Symmetrisch, 2018.

With the nuttiness of the pandemic, lockdowns, and restrictions occuring throughout the world it is difficult to know what we might see from Klaus Johann Grobe in the next 12 months.

With festival season looking as if it might be abandoned once again, you may be unable to see the band anytime soon. However, we can only hope that, nearly three years after the release of their last album, that they are working hard in the studio to bring the magic when it is most needed.

So, for now, keep listening, keep jamming, and keep discovering new and important sounds. We will be back next month to bring you are latest find(s) and keep you entertained for the times ahead.

About The Author

Gregory Segal

While humanity has has continuously ventured into the unknown, today we are on the precipice of a new uncertainty. With covid, political unrest, and economic decline we feel that another sinister turn is just round the corner. Although discussion, art, and storytelling won't necesserily create any solutions for this in the short-term it might provide a conduit for productive thought, or at the very least might take our minds off our current reality.

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