This Means War! did not pop up on our radar until just a few months ago when they made a social media push to promote their music video for the song “Use It Up”. Their street punk vibe and eye catching videos reeled me in and had me track down their lone release which is a self-titled EP that came out in 2017 on Pirates Press Records. Being long time veterans of the underground music scene they have used their prior connections and friendships to set up This Means War! In a good way as they have already opened up for a long list of bands that include some of the biggest names in the game. Fans of Rancid, Street Dogs, and just damn good music should check in with these guys from the “Lowlands” of Belgium and The Netherlands. This interview was conducted with their guitarist Robbie Jennekens in March of 2018. Graphics by: Bas Spierings. Photos by: Silvy Maatman and Martina Worz. Thank you to Pirates Press for their help with setting this interview up.
IE: Hey Robbie. Can you start off by telling us who is in the band, what instrument they play and what other bands they have been associated with in the past?
Robbie: Hey Chris, we have: Bert van Dyck on vocals, Dries van Dyck on drums, Carlo Geerlings on bass, Hugo Geerlings on guitar and me… Robbie Jennekens on guitar. Bert and Dries played in a band called Convict, Hugo played in Discipline as did/does Carlo and I played in Jamestown and Superhero
IE: Is anyone in the band still playing with other bands?
Robbie: Carlo is still playing in Discipline
IE: How did This Means War! come together as a band and who was the person or persons most responsible for getting everyone together and getting everyone into a practice space together? Things got started in June of 2016 and in just under 2 years you guys have put in a lot of work to get this band rolling along. What was going on in everyone's musical lives at the time that brought the 5 of you together?
Robbie: Well Chris, the concept for this band was established in 2016 by Bert and Dries, whom had been on tour with Agnostic Front where they really got to listen to the old Oi/streetpunk records on the tour bus. 'Cause that was something the Agnostic Front guys were really into. So when Convict decided that everything was said and done, Bert and Dries got the idea to start a street punk band, they started writing some songs and recorded an E.P. In June of 2017 Bert and Dries approached us and asked if we would be interested in forming a new band with them. So after a couple of beers and talking about what it was that they had in mind things got solidified and we crammed ourselves into a rehearsal room. In August (two months later) the EP got put out by Pirates Press Records and we had our EP release together with Street Dogs.
PHOTO BY: MARTINA WORZ
IE: Can you talk a little about your debut EP which came out last year? You had a couple of people with backgrounds in recording lend a hand in its creation and work on it took place in Amsterdam, N.Y. and Boston. Who helped with its recording? Are you guys happy the way everything turned out with it?
Robbie: Yeah we had a couple of people involved in the process (as you do). Igor Wouters (Backfire!) recorded the album and wrote with us at A.R.C. in Amsterdam. Then Jason Maas (Defeater) mixed the album at Getaway Studios in Boston and Mike Kalajian and Stephen Kondracki mastered it at Rogue Planet Mastering in New York. We are very pleased with the way it turned out. We wouldn’t want to change anything because at the time it felt right. And the thing with recording is that you always hear something different later on that makes you think “I should have done this or played that..." so you could rerecord an album or song 20 times and still come up with new ideas to add. But at the time it felt right and that's why we are happy with the way it turned out.
PHOTO BY: MARTINA WORZ
IE: There are 5 songs on it and in that short time frame you guys show some good diversity within your song writing. “Keep the Homefires Burning” is more of a melodic sing-a-long punk rock tune while “Use It Up” is more of an aggressive hardcore track. Every song seems to have a great hook incorporated into it. Can you talk about the sound you guys were going for while writing for this EP and how would you compare them to the newer songs that are currently being written for your debut full length?
Robbie: Hahaha...you kind of already answered your own question. The sound you hear was the sound we wanted to go for at the time, diverse without losing the cohesion on the record. A great hook is the backbone of any good song in our opinion, so we always try to incorporate one or two into each song. On the upcoming full-length album we want to try and create that same mix again, but also add some more punch to the songs, a little more of that raw energy so to speak. I would love to give you some song titles, but in all honesty they haven't really been set into stone yet.
IE: On your band logo and elsewhere you guys have the phrase “Punk From The Lowlands”. Can you explain this a little bit more?
Robbie: The lowlands is an old moniker for Belgium and the Netherlands back when they were one under the Spanish king. Since the band consists of members from Belgium and the Netherlands it made sense.
IE: Where does that short intro on “Keep The Homefires Burning” come from?
Robbie: "Keep the Homefires Burning" is a cover we did of an old WW1 song which was written in 1914. The intro you hear is the first part of the original song as sung by John McCormack.
PHOTO BY: SILVY MAATMAN
IE: The debut EP also has produced two really eye popping videos in “Sailing Anarchy” and “Use It Up”. The colors literally pop out of the screen when you watch them. Chris Curtis is the guy given credit for both of them. What can you tell us about the making of these videos and how did you get hooked up with Chris? Did you give him ideas on how you wanted everything to look or did you leave it all up to him and trust his judgement?
Robbie: Chris Curtis is mostly known for his work with Green Day and Dropkick Murphys. Our record company mentioned his name to us so we watched some of his videos and really liked his style. We got in touch with him hoping that he would be willing to work with us. So we sent him the songs and luckily he really liked them as well and was more than willing to work with us. We told him what the songs were about and he gave us his thoughts and ideas he had for the videos. We really liked those ideas, so we gave him carte blanche. He sent us snippets of the videos on a regular basis and kept us in the loop that way.
CLICK IMAGES BELOW TO WATCH THIS MEANS WAR! OFFICIAL VIDEOS
IE: 2018 looks to be a really big year for the band as you recently teamed up with M.A.D. Tour Booking and you also have announced a bunch of different festivals that you will be playing this upcoming summer. Can you tell us what fests you are booked on for 2018 so far?
Robbie: There are still some really cool festivals we are booked on that still have to be officially announced so I can't disclose all of them. But some of the ones we can talk about are: Punk and Disorderly in Berlin-Germany (with the Exploited/Bishops Green/Angelic Upstarts and more), Sjock Festival Antwerp-Belgium
(with Pennywise/Descendents/NoFunAtAll and more), Rebellion Festival Amsterdam- the Netherlands ( with Cock Sparrer/The Adicts/UK Subs/Angelic Upstarts and more).
IE: Besides these upcoming festivals that are now booked are there any plans for touring this year outside of Europe or are you concentrating on the writing process for the new record?
Robbie: We won't be touring outside of Europe this year because we indeed need to focus on writing and recording the new album. We will be doing some more shows in Europe though.
IE: Summertime in Europe seems to yield one large music festival after another and it is hard to keep track of them as they come and go and always seem to attract really large crowds. Here in the U.S. we don’t get the volume of festivals like you do over there. What are some of your favorite fests in Europe from over the years and which ones get you most excited to play and maybe also attend as a fan?
Robbie: This one I can only answer from a personal point of view. I personally really like Festivals like the Sound of Revolution, GroezRock, Jera on Air, Punk and Disorderly, Rebellion Festival, PogoRausch, Persistance Tour and many more.
PHOTO BY: SILVY MAATMAN
IE: What is the biggest crowd you have ever performed in front of? Where was it and what year?
Robbie: For me personally it has been around 25.000 somewhere in '04 or '05 I believe, it was called Rock Weekend in the Netherlands They had bands like Status Quo and Dog Eat Dog headlining and a whole bunch of Dutch bands who were really big at the time.
IE: Do you ever get nervous walking out on a stage to perform in front of 1000’s of people? What is usually going through your mind when you start to take the stage?
Robbie: Honestly I don't really get nervous before a show anymore, I mean, we all have been doing this for almost more than 25 years and we've all seen our fair share of crowds (large and small). I do have that healthy dose of excitement before a show...that feeling of " I wanna get on that stage and play!"
IE: For being a new band you guys already have a great list of bands that you have played with. To name a few you have opened for Dropkick Murphys, GBH, Sick Of It All, Street Dogs, and Sham 69 just to name a few. Your debut EP also came out on California’s Pirates Press Records who have a long track record dealing with big and small independent bands as well. Many new bands struggle to get known just outside of their local scene but with your past bands, experiences, friendships and connections you have in some ways bypassed some of the growing pains that come along with being in a band climbing up the ladder. How do you and the rest of your bandmates look at this situation? Is it a good or bad thing? Do you like having the situation like this or would you maybe have preferred to grind it out more as a band with less connections and maybe have to work that much harder to get that recognition? What are your thoughts?
Robbie: I think that all of us have earned our so-called "stripes" in the last 25 years grinding it out with our previous bands. So in that sense we went through the exact same struggle any band goes through. And all the blood, sweat and tears have paid off in the end. So in a way it took us 25 years to get to this point, that's a pretty long grind.
IE: When you guys sit around after practice, or wherever you guys may hang out and talk about the band what do you all vision the future being like for This Means War? What are your day jobs now and can you see a time in the future where you all make this band your full time jobs? Where would you like to see this band in say, 2 years, what is a realistic scenario for this bands future?
Robbie: Some of us work in construction, some in corporate and as a healthcare professional. We would like to be able to play cool festivals and shows across the globe in a couple of years. And you never know what the future is going to bring.
IE: Thank you for your time, I wish you guys the best of luck, do you have anything else to add before we wrap this up?
Robbie: Thanks for this interview Chris, I has been fun answering your questions. And hopefully our paths will cross again.