ET Explore Me, what did I just watch?

By Mya Berger

If you were to research online: 

ET EXPLORE ME

You’d see that it is “one of the vilest rock ‘n roll bands on Dutch soil with the irresistible acetone organ and some fuzz pedals”. The garage rock trio that started, most probably, in a basement, wants you to think and get dirty. But here’s the thing: you may be expecting their music to be vicious and punky only. In reality, you would find yourself face-to-face with three seasoned musicians who have taken clear beat-Provo-punk influences to make it their own. Jeroen Kruiks (drums and percussion), Joost Varkevisser (guitar, organ and vocals), and Jeroen Blijleve (bass guitar) from Haarlem, The Netherlands, are a force to be reckoned with.

‘President’ is a perfect entry point into ET Explore Me’s conflicting, insolent and mysterious universe. The music video, released in 2021, is a stop motion nonsensical trip. Strange inanimate objects appear in front of the camera. Think bloody pig heads, baby dolls, Monopoly money, teddy bears. The video was filmed in a slaughterhouse. And it shows. Multiple shots of rats running around a masked person’s throats may make you wince. But despite the first moments of aversions, you eventually find that you cannot stop yourself from watching and listening until the end. Accompanying these images is a refrain that comes back, again and again, sang in a bratty voice:

I am a rich kid 

My Mama spoiled me

She truly loved me

This repetition, almost like a chant, creates an odd yet calming ambience that contrasts with the disturbing video scenes. The sound’s heaviness combined with the echoing lyrics sets an obsessive and addictive undertone, drawing you in. Once you finish the video, you will not be able to explain what it was you just watched, but you’ll have that music stuck in your head. 

When I first heard of ET Explore Me, I was expecting a dirtier sound. More punky-underground basement. Like the overuse of guitar riffs, a sweaty overactive drummer and a screaming-into-the-mic while making intense eye contact with the audience sort of band. Or something a bit like the New Bomb Trucks or The Gories. I imagined growling and howling, guttural screams. But ET Explore’s Me is more psychedelic than purely punk. They are garage rock with a side of synth. The band don’t shy away from the fuzz pedal and are true masters of the odd percussion and organ sounds.

Their latest album, Shine, encapsulates their musical universe. Everything feels like an incantation–their signature nagging refrains take on an escapist quality and drag you away to unknown lands. Listening to them is like going down in one of those black and white hypnotic spirals. Coincidentally, their album’s cover features juxtaposed swirls that could be straight out of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. And the cinematic influences don’t stop there. Their use of anomalous futuristic sound effects would be perfect for an avant-garde 1970s cartoon theme song. The album reminds me of Iggy Pop’s cult ‘Monster Men’ produced for the 1997 Space Goof cartoon. I wonder which futuristic and kooky cartoon ET Explore Me could play their music for. Someone in the comment section of their album’s release on YouTube asked: “Did you come from a parallel dimension?” And I couldn’t agree more.

One thing’s for sure, you are on an intense trip back in time, a cinematic and cartoonish one. One of their earlier works, ‘Psychonaut’, highlights the band’s interest in merging vicious sounds and lyrics with eye-catching and confusing visuals. In  ‘Psychonaut’’s music video, two humanoid shovels fly about on a leopard print background. Rays of colours flash the screen, momentarily blinding you. And at the same time, a now all-too-familiar, fuzzy litany of sounds makes the lyrics almost impossible to discern. Had to read that description again? Can’t believe it’s true? See it for yourself here
ET Explore Me found their match in Reverend Beat-Man’s Voodoo Rhythm Records. The label’s website states that they can make a junkie out of anybody. And that “If it’s too loud, you’re too old”, which sounds exactly like what the band would say. It takes only one look at ET Explore Me’s Facebook page to know that they are a lot of fun. Photos and videos of people all-smiles, throwing their heads, bodies (and beers) about, dominate the page. ET Explore Me is shaking things up with a good-natured insolence. For now, they are touring small Dutch cities. But beware, they may soon be coming to your town.