[Click play above to hear ‘BVO’tje (1 More 4)’ from The Whims of the Great Magnet’s The Purple and Yellow Album, out April 1.]
Even before the book was closed in 2013 on fuzz rockers Sungrazer, bassist/backing vocalist Sander Haagmans had begun to explore new ground in The Whims of the Great Magnet. The rock was lower-fi, still pulling influence from a ’90s sphere, but rawer in tone and intent alike. Haagmans, alternating between a full-band and completely-solo approach, oversaw the release of several EPs — 2012’s EP being the first, followed the next year by a collection of home recordings, then April Fool in 2015 — and now makes a full-length debut with The Purple and Yellow Album, once more working on his own and in arguably the most intimate incarnation of The Whims of the Great Magnet to-date.
Comprised of 12 self-recorded songs and running a vinyl-ready 37 minutes, The Purple and Yellow Album brings forth an at-times psychedelic vision of grunge folk. Instrumental and vocal layering and arrangement varies as songs like “Falling to Pieces” and the later “Better Stay at Home” might only feature an acoustic guitar while others build further out, whether it’s the howling guitar of “BVO’tje (1 More 4),” the incorporated keys of “As I Felt Alright Before,” the garage psych of “Ow What Have I Done” (which gets an experimentalist reprise at the album’s conclusion), the Mellotron-infused “Debussy” or the six-minute “Slowburner,” which shifts from its solo melancholy into an acoustic/bass/drum progression at the end over a six-minute run that makes it the longest inclusion overall.
Wherever he takes a given track, Haagmans unites the material on The Purple and Yellow Album through his own performance and an overarching sense of honesty in the songwriting. Some songs have a self-aware humor, like “Better Stay at Home” or the preceding “Teen Anger,” but even these are executed with harmonic depth and a resonant emotionalism, and while one can hear shades of Haagmans‘ former outfit in pieces like “As I Felt Alright Before” and “I Could Just Leave it Like That,” that becomes only one context in which his songwriting lives up to the considerable ambition behind the concept of these tracks and the finds balance with the humility with the circumstances of their recording and release, providing a nonetheless rich and engaging front-to-back listening experience.
Below, Haagmans talks about the songs’ making and some of his future plans, threatening a doom record and more.
Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
Six Dumb Questions with The Whims of the Great Magnet
Tell me about writing for The Purple and Yellow Album. At what point did you know the material would take a more acoustic direction?
Right from the start. It’s a collection of home recordings. And at home I had mainly acoustic guitars, so… But I just moved to a new house where we’re making a rehearsal room in the back, so my next recording might be a doom record.
Home recording is a very intimate process and you’ve decided to really convey something raw in these tracks in terms of sound. How did that come about? What is it you’re looking to say in these songs?
I just wanted to record some songs, sounds and sketches on my four-track cassette recorder (actually it’s my wife’s; thank you, wife). There’s lots of imperfections and vocals out of tune and all. But I wanted it to be loose and whimsical. So I kept many first ideas and mistakes and just played around. Also I used all of my ideas. So the cheesy songs, the sing-a-longs, the quasi serious songs and the slow boring songs are all in there. It’s a pretty good reflection of what music comes out of me at home. And I didn’t leave things out because it might not be cool enough in some setting or whatever.
Why purple and yellow? Is it just the artwork or is there some further significance to using those colors?
I remember I had a period in my childhood that I would only colour and paint with these two colours. And since I’m feeling more and more nostalgic as I’m getting older I went back to this period for the cover. Wish I could do the same with my music. But I will probably never reach the level I had when I was 12.
Will future The Whims of the Great Magnet recordings take a similar direction, or do you see yourself moving back toward a full-band sound again?
I really don’t know where the path will take me. I will keep doing stuff as The Whims of the Great Magnet for sure and it can go in any direction. Maybe a doom record isn’t such a bad idea. Also I really need to get a band together again but that would probably be with a different name.
Of course we have to mention your past playing in Sungrazer and that band’s ongoing legacy (you recently appeared on Spaceslug’s Time Travel Dilemma, for example). The Purple and Yellow Album has a laid back feel but some grunge to it as well. How do you view it in relation to your past work?
Ah the grunge thing! Anything I did in the past is not what I’m doing now. When we were with Sungrazer, we played as a band. We were in that moment together. Now with this album I’m doing something on my own. That’s a difference. But I’m sure it has some similarities as well which is obvious. But because I’m doing this album alone, it’s more personal and closer to me than anything I have done with a band. Because it’s just me, uncompromised and unfiltered. You could be right when you say that this doesn’t necessarily have to be better for the result. But that’s just the way it is (Bruce Hornsby!). And I’m not only into solo and mellow acoustic stuff. Nooooo, no, no, no, no. The other things still attract me just as much but weren’t around when I hit record.
Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
I would like to thank you and the people so very much who supported my music in the past and especially in the present. Cowabunga dudes!