R.I.P. Rutger Smeets of Sungrazer and Cigale

rutger smeets (photo by JJ Koczan)

Rutger Smeets, 1977-2015

It is with shock and sadness that confirmation comes of the death of Rutger Smeets, former guitarist and vocalist of heavy psych trio Sungrazer.

As the frontman of the Netherlands-based Sungrazer, Smeets was at the fore of one of Europe’s brightest hopes for next-generation heavy psych. Together with bassist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders, he released two full-length albums through Stefan Koglek of Colour Haze’s Elektrohasch imprint — Sungrazer (2010) and Mirador (2011) — that showcased progression and seemingly limitless potential through natural vibes, his warm guitar tone and laid back but richly melodic vocals. At festivals like Roadburn 2011, Desertfest London and Berlin in 2012, Sungrazer amassed a considerable fanbase that set them up to pay off all their potential with a significant impact on the genre. They were a special band, and all one had to do was listen to their records to hear it.

Following a 2013 split with countrymen The Machine, Sungrazer unexpectedly called it quits, with Smeets announcing his departure from the band in a short, almost terse post on social media. Earlier this year, he made his debut alongside Mulders in the new outfit Cigale, which despite a folkier and even-more pastoral approach found him contributing many of the same elements that made Sungrazer so special to begin with. Cigale’s 2015 self-titled is one of the best first-albums of the year. No word has been announced on the band’s future plans, but they played Desertfest Berlin this past spring, and if it was slow-going, their arrival meant that both fans of Sungrazer and others would have a new and engaging way to experience Smeets’ work.

On behalf of myself, someone who interviewed Smeets, admired his output and respected the distinctive feel he brought to what’s so often simple imitation — and on behalf of this site — condolences to the family, friends and bandmates current or former. Once more this community is brought together by a devastating loss and reminded of how important we are to each other.

I’ve heard no word of a fundraiser or anything like that being set up for Smeets’ family, but when/if I do, obviously this post will be updated with that information.


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15 Responses to “R.I.P. Rutger Smeets of Sungrazer and Cigale”

  1. Wow says:

    I don’t know where to begin. This is such a big loss!

    In a genre that’s crowded with cookie-cutter bands, Rutger & Sungrazer really stood apart from the rest. They really had a chance to do something special in the genre. Rutger’s guitar and vocals were just tremendous.

    If you haven’t had a chance to check out Sungrazer, you’re really missing out.

  2. Mike says:

    Let’s keep Rutger Smeets’s family and friends in our thoughts.

    I always wanted to reach out to Sungrazer but they were already broken up without any official website.

    May Rutger rest eternally.

  3. Jose Humberto says:

    I liked that band, not loooved , but liked a lot

    such a shame

  4. Berry says:

    Rip…. condoleances to friends and family

  5. AnnaSatana says:

    Very sad news. But in the very dim light of this, I thank you for your well-constructed and literate article of words and obvious heart-felt emotion. You have announced appreciation, where appreciation is due.

    • Tom says:

      I can only echo everybody else’s sentiments. It’s really, really sad and has hit me harder than one would expect. Sungrazer were a one off. I caught them supporting Colour Haze and Rotor. Fell in love with them then. Caught them a second time at DesertFest London 2012 and they stole the weekend easily. I’ve yet to check out Cigale much, but what I have heard was great.

      We’ll never know why it happened, but for anyone else feeling down about life, please reach out to someone. Talking sometimes helps.

  6. Martoux says:

    Sungrazer was one of the first bands I experienced since arriving in Berlin, as they did a great act on the Up in Smoke festival held in the now burned down Festsaal Kreuzberg. I picked up their Matador album, and in many ways, the wibe of that record – and particularly Rutgers amazing sound – is some of the best psychedelic desert I’ve heard.

  7. Daniel says:

    Very sad to hear! My condolence go out to the family and friends.

  8. Johan says:

    THat wherever he may wake up, he may live happily…

    Such a shame.. such a loss :(

  9. Marlen says:

    I had the chance to experience Sungrazer and Cigale, that’s why I want to say thank you for the beautiful, intensive and dreamlike moments. With each listen of your music I’ll be grateful and I’ll think of you and I’ll know that a wonderful musician has left the stoner rock world. I hope he is now dreaming of palmtrees and beach, with peaceful feelings – like the peaceful places, that are painted by his music in our minds. The loss for your family and friends must be unbelieveable – my sincere condolences and much strength for this difficult time.

  10. Gaia says:

    In the heavy wash of Desertfest 2012, Sungrazer surfed. To drink the wave is to assimilate the very energy of life. Their music swells like no other and we, the room, became enveloped, slowly stunned into basking, a pure recognition of craft on our faces.

    Art holds power, and gives life; all too often it expends those who make it. Rutger, you’re very brave for living as long as you have, and made fine work in the time you gave yourself. You remind us all of our mortality, and in that selfish way I wish you were still here. Making music.

  11. jeff says:

    rest in peace… was truly bummed to hear when that band called it quits … i stay in california and stumbled across them somehow through the internet…i thought so highly of them, they took stoner rock and made it their own , and now to know that ill never hear future projects from the man that headed them really blows.. devastating

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