On a decade of Dutch pop-punk, old friends and reunions
Named after a Broadway Calls song, Call it Off doesn’t shy away from embracing their influences. During their 10-year existence, they were well on their way of becoming synonymous with pop-punk in the Netherlands.
After a successful career, in which they played Groezrock and Jera on Air, supported bands like Ignite, de Heideroosjes and Four Year Strong, and even landed a record deal with Sony. It came as a shock to many fans in early 2020 when the band announced they would call it quits. “It was in 2019 that I told the guys that I was done with it. I wanted to focus on other things, felt like I needed to do something else, something besides making music. The band looked at their options, they wanted to continue but couldn’t really find a way. So we made the decision that we all would quit,” singer Maurice Bolier said.
They scheduled their farewell show for May 2020 at the Dynamo, Eindhoven. That would have been it, one more show to keep the fans happy. The coronavirus pandemic had other plans.
When new lockdowns were announced in 2021, postponing their farewell shows another year, they felt the itch to get together and play some songs again. “It kept being delayed and delayed. Eventually, Lesley [Klaverdijk, ex-bassist] said: ‘wouldn’t it be fun to record some more music?’” Bolier said.
Their contract with Sony Music Entertainment Netherlands was up, so Call it Off teamed up with their old friends in White Russian Records, who they released their first album, Lovers & Liars, with and went back to the studio to record their swansong, aptly named “Fare Well.” Partially recorded in DeLange his home studio, partially with Nick Jongejan, they had fun. So much fun, they started to wonder why they decided to break up in the first place.
Bolier was the first to change his mind. “During those recordings, the guys and I, we all realized we had a break for two years, and this [making music together] really is a lot of fun. We had some meetings and during those our plans became more and more ambitious. I decided quickly that I wanted to get back to it,” Bolier said.He had settled into his life, and was rediscovering his love for music. Times changed for the other members as well; vocalist and guitarist Adrian DeLange just had a kid and he wasn’t ready to return to playing in an active band.
Expanding on this, Bolier said “I needed to step away from music and at the time [of ending the band] it wasn’t clear to me if that was for a long time or short time. After a two year break, I started to miss making music. Recording a new goodbye-EP refueled that feeling for me.”
“It was Adrian who left first, saying he couldn’t do it. It didn’t fit into his life anymore. He was still having fun, he just couldn’t live up to the expectations we had,” Bolier said. They parted on good terms and the band continued writing songs together, with guitarist Gio Sliwa taking on DeLange’s parts, dropping from three guitarists and two lead vocalists, to only two guitarists and Bolier as the main vocalist.
That is when their bassist, Lesley Klaverdijk, realized the band didn’t fit into his life anymore either. “Les eventually said that he wanted to do other things. He’s doing his streaming, a podcast, and so much more. He told us he couldn’t fit the band in. So, no hard feelings, all good. Lesley and Adrian will always stay involved in the band one way or another,” Bolier said.
Bolier asked his old bandmate Timothy Steenstra Toussaint, whom he played with in the Dronten based pop-punk band Vine-Yard, back in the late 2000s, to join Call it Off. Vine-Yard was the musical predecessor of Call it Off – with even DeLange having played a stint on the drums. “With Timmy on board, we started writing a lot more. We have about six songs now that we want to release,” Bolier said.
New members means new influences. When asked about whether the line-up change has affected their sound, Bolier wasn’t completely sure. “It is still me singing, so it will still be Call it Off. We all have a clear vision, we all bring ideas, sometimes those are voice memos or whatever, that we put on the table and all look at.”
Steenstra Toussaint does see the differences. “If you compare it with the old and the new, there are more Bayside-like licks and riffs in the old stuff. I think the new Call it Off is more along the lines of Blink 182 and Green Day. It’s still poppy, I just think that it is a bit less complicated,” he said.
“I agree with Timmy, the energy is still there, but it’s more pop-punk than punk rock. With the old Call it Off, we still had an in with punk rock, we still were on the edges of that scene,” Bolier said.
With different influences for each band member, it takes effort to find that compromise. For Call it Off, that compromise does not get decided on until they are working on the songs themselves. “We don’t really decide what we are going to do in advance, we just play whatever we like. It differs per person. That can be Neck Deep, or really poppy stuff, or with Timmy you’ll get the Rancid and Anti-Flag riffs,” Bolier said.
This shows in their new track “Letting Go,” the first single they released under the current line-up in March, and is as straight-forward of a pop-punk anthem as it comes. They released the video for it early April.
Their first show with the new line-up is on April 21
st at the Willemeen in Arnhem. Whereas 2023 is the ten-year anniversary of Call it Off, for Bolier and Steenstra Toussaint, it also celebrated the 15-year anniversary of their first show together, though they haven’t shared a stage since 2012.. “It’s fucking cool to play together again,” Steenstra Toussaint said.
With multiple shows around the Netherlands already planned, including the Willemeen in Arhem on April 14, Db’s in Utrecht on May 19 and Mezz in Breda on May 19, as well as an appearance on Jera on Air on the same day as bands including Rancid, the Flatliners and PUP, Call it Off is looking forward to get back on stage. “Everyone is really enthusiastic. I mean, I am new in the group, but you notice everyone is siked to get back on stage and play again. It is the first show and to be honest, I am kind of nervous, but at the same time, there’s just so much enthusiasm!” Steenstra Toussaint said.
Bolier agrees, but does have a caveat to add: “we do realize we’re all getting older. We were looking at the setlist and thinking about playing all those songs in a row and were ‘oh, maybe I should start running… get all that beer worked off’,” he said.
Steenstra Toussaint and Bolier also feel that the band is getting back on the horse at the right time, given the burgeoning pop-punk scene in the Netherlands. Along with the U.S. and U.K., the genre has been going through something of a revival, Bolier said. “I feel it’s at its peak right now, there are so many bands, I can’t keep track anymore.”
Steenstra Toussaint does know his bands: “There’s also a lot of subgenres happening. On one hand you have bands like IVYFOX, Jetlag Jenny, stuff like that, but then there’s bands like Half Cab, making that garage sound that’s the hype these days. It’s almost that No Pressure sound, not as fast, but that sound. You can see that the scene is growing, but it is different these days.”
Different is right, not just the music scene, but the social media landscape changed as well. Where bands could release a record and tour off of it, only to write songs right after, now bands need to be on top of their online channels to keep the attention of their fans. “I don’t know if you [Bolier] see it the same, but whenever we are somewhere, I always see if I can make a quick video, to store away and use later if needed. That wasn’t the case 10 years ago, we didn’t think about that. We mostly were busy drinking beers,” Steenstra Toussaint said.
Bolier agreed. “You’re right. Back then it was: Make music; throw it into the world; get on the road.”
Between a diversifying music scene and a media landscape that requires bands to constantly keep the attention of their fans, the band plans to release a few singles this year, and a full-length in 2024. They’re hoping for even more shows, including shows abroad. “Maybe we should do a tour in the States one day, but approach it as a vacation where we also play some shows,” Bolier said.