A band today can win over fans around the world—so get ready to pull your maps out for this one!
Altın Gün is a six-piece band hailing from Amsterdam, Netherlands. The band is mostly Dutch, while the two lead singers, Merve Daşdemir and Erdinç Ecevit Yıldız, are of Turkish origin. Their music can be described as psychedelic Turkish funk, as the band covers and reinvents folk songs from Turkey. The band will be making a trip across the world to perform at Coachella on Sunday, April 17 and 24.
“I never thought, when I joined this band, that we would play at this festival,” drummer Daniel Smienk said during a recent Zoom interview. “We can’t wait to go there and be part of the festival. It’s our first time at such a big and well-known festival globally.”
In 2021, the group released two albums, Yol, and the Bandcamp exclusive Âlem. The psychedelic rock and funk nature of the band’s first two albums, On (2018) and Gece (2019), shifted into synth-play and electronic ’80s-style grooves on Yol and Âlem. Smienk explained how the change in sound is reflected—or not reflected—in the band’s performances.
“The production for live shows hasn’t changed at all,” Smienk said. “We don’t have any backing tracks, even though we had a lot of programmed stuff on the last two albums. We made the albums the way they are, because we were kind of forced to do it distanced from each other. Everybody sent over demos; (one) person had a drum computer loop; (another) person added some synths, and it kind of came together through the internet and sharing files. We had to record an album, and it just became the way it is—and then we had to translate it back to live again. We figured out that we are just a live band, and it works better for us to play together in a room and make an album on the spot.
“From Yol, there are quite a lot of dropouts (from live shows), because we just couldn’t get the right feel, or the right sounds, to give the exact same feeling as on the record. … There are just some songs on that record that we still feel like we have yet to capture. We do want to play it, but sometimes, you just have to let that go. … We have a lot of material that’s not even recorded on any of the albums, so we have enough to keep playing live shows with.”
Altın Gün’s members have varied their recording approach for each album.
“The first album (On), I wasn’t a part of, but what I’ve heard is that they started with small demos, and then they took them to the rehearsal space and worked them out live,” said Smienk. “They recorded it a bit scattered—like, most of the parts were all recorded together, but not on tape, just straight into the computer. When I joined for the second album (Gece), there were demos already, and they had some versions of the songs. We went to this little cabin in open fields in the northeast of the Netherlands, where we were secluded from everything for a week and a half, maybe two. We were working on those demos, and making new stuff to jam around, and then we recorded it live, straight to tape. It was my first time making a live record, so it was very interesting.
“We like … a live band in the room. That captures a lot more than when you’re just figuring out sequences, or dragging and dropping samples and stuff. It’s way more interactive, and brings a lot more feel to it. We’re going to do it for the next album as well.”
Smienk said he was “thrown in the deep end” when he joined the band in the summer of 2018.
“My first show was the first weekend of August, and then at the end of September, we went into the studio,” he said. “I think we did, like, 12 shows together before we started to write an album together. … There were some demos and some guidelines, like, ‘This is sort of what we want with this song.’ I could put my own touch on it to represent, but obviously, there were some lines for some songs already.”
Altın Gün just released single “Badİ Sabah Olmadan,” a live version of one of the electronic Âlem tracks. The band is getting back to its live roots ahead of releasing a fifth album.
“We basically just finished … two weeks in the studio,” Smienk said. “I think 95% of it is just live, and then there are a few ideas and demos that are a bit more production-oriented. We have more than an album, so we don’t know if (a song) will make the album after we record it, but there’s definitely some electronic stuff again.”
Smienk said some listeners are surprised when they learn that Altın Gün’s music is not totally original.
“The concept of this band is rearranging traditional folk music,” he said. “Mostly, the lyrics and the melody are already set, and then we puzzle with that and see what comes out. … There are a lot of songs that have been interpreted by heaps of artists, but no one really knows who the original is from. … It was just a standard folk thing that everybody did, but no one knew who wrote it. Sometimes, if we can’t do it better than them, or another version, then we decide to not touch it. … It’s funny, because before I joined the band, I also thought that they were all original songs.”
Is it safe to say that Altın Gün may be the world’s greatest cover band?
“We try to figure out what works to the lyrics,” Smienk said. “You try it in sort of a ballad way, or like a slow tune, and then you try it in, like, a disco beat, and then you try this perspective of a different genre. Some work; some don’t. … The lyrics and the melody are basically set. You can still kind of mess around with that, unless it doesn’t make sense lyrically. That’s what we have singers for, to say, ‘This doesn’t work like that, so we can’t do that.’ That’s also nice, because then you kind of limit your options—and then you don’t get lost.”