|Genres||Pop rock, pop, progressive rock, new wave|
|Past members||Alex Roelofs
Laetitia van Krieken
Nits (until 1992 The Nits) are a Dutch pop group, founded in 1974. Their musical style has varied considerably over the years, as has their line-up with the core of Henk Hofstede (the group's lead singer and lyricist), Rob Kloet, drummer, Robert Jan Stips (Supersister, Gruppo Sportivo, Golden Earring), keyboards.
Their biggest hit in the Netherlands was "Nescio" (1983), a tribute to the Dutch author Jan Hendrik Frederik Grönloh. The major hit that brought the band to the attention of an international audience was "In the Dutch Mountains" (1987). Other well-known Nits songs include "J.O.S. Days", "Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof" and "Sketches of Spain". Top 10 albums include Omsk (1983), In the Dutch Mountains (1987), URK (1989), Doing the Dishes (2008) and Hotel Europa (2015).
The Nits originally consisted of Henk Hofstede (vocals, guitar), Alex Roelofs (bass), Michiel Peters (guitar) and Rob Kloet (drums). Influenced by British pop music, especially the Beatles, they also incorporated influences from new wave music into their sound. They made their live debut in 1977 and the following year released a self-financed limited-run LP, The Nits. This brought them to the attention of Columbia Records, for whom The Nits would continue to record for the next 22 years. Their major-label debut, Tent, carried on the new wave style of The Nits, but was considerably more polished, partly due to the influence of producer Robert Jan Stips. Two more albums, with an increasing use of synthesiser, were issued before Stips joined the group full-time, replacing Roelofs for Omsk (1983).
In the meantime, the group had been developing their sound on their numerous European tours. Many songs were radically reworked for live performance, a practice the group would continue throughout their career. Between the group's experiments with different arrangements, and the addition of Stips to the line-up, The Nits gradually moved toward a more distinctive musical style, with Kloet playing a wide range of percussion, and Stips' keyboards used to produce a lusher sound. Omsk showcased the new Nits sound with songs like "A Touch of Henry Moore", almost entirely based around Kloet's percussion, and the dramatic hit single "Nescio". The follow-up "Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof" was another hit, but tensions between the group and producer Jaap Eggermont led to the departure of Peters, and a change in the group's working methods. In future, they would produce their own material and bring in guest musicians as required.
The album Henk was recorded as a three-piece, after which new bassist Joke Geraets became the first female member of The Nits, completing the line-up that would go on to enjoy commercial success with single and album In the Dutch Mountains (1987). The group's extensive tours during this period led to the accomplished live triple-LP Urk (1989) which became their best-selling album.
When Geraets fell ill with a muscular disease, meaning that she was unable to play bass, the group (now using the shortened name "Nits", often rendered in capitals to emphasise the absence of the definite article) continued as a trio. Giant Normal Dwarf (1990) was a kaleidoscopic affair which at first glance seemed like a return to the psychedelia of "I Am the Walrus" and "Glass Onion" but was actually inspired by Hofstede's desire to write musical fairy tales for his newborn child. The subsequent album Ting (1992) was a return to a much more minimalist approach, both with respect to the emphasis on the piano and the inspiration of Philip Glass on several songs. At the same time as working on Ting, the group were also preparing material for a TV special with the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra. Mainly composed by Stips, this was later issued as the album Hjuvi - A Rhapsody In Time.
The 1994 album dA dA dA was something of a return to basics, with "traditional" songwriting largely replacing the quirkiness of recent Nits releases, and the group's early influences once again to the fore. The album was the first Nits material to gain a release in the United States. Ironically for a group that had always performed in English, regarding it as a necessary evil for international success, recognition in the major English-speaking markets always eluded them. dA dA dA, despite critical acclaim in both the UK and USA, still failed to break the group in either market.
In 1995, the group released Nest, a 20-track retrospective album, and the accompanying tour ended on a high note with a concert broadcast live on television from the Uitmarkt festival. Stips then left to pursue a solo career.
A one-hour VHS video compilation VEST, 16 video clips, 1984–1995 was also released, featuring short films to accompany the songs, filmed on a low budget by the band themselves, with a 16mm cine camera.
The group continued, releasing the introspective albums Alankomaat (1998) and Wool (2000), followed by another retrospective, Hits.
The group continues to perform to this day following the return of keyboard player Robert Jan Stips in 2003 for the release of the album 1974, commemorating the year of their formation. A new album titled Les Nuits was released in October 2005. After an extensive tour and some solo activity, the band returned to the studio in mid-2007 to record the album Doing the Dishes, released in January 2008. The album went top 10 in the Netherlands and was once again followed by a tour. In 2009, the next album and tour, Strawberry Wood, a top 15 hit on the Dutch album chart, followed. In early 2012, the Nits released the album Malpensa, to positive reviews and fan reactions. It contains a collaboration with Colin Benders of Kyteman on the track "Bad Government". The songs "Love-Locks" and "Man on a Wire" were released as singles. The song "Schwebebahn" finds the band singing in German for the first time. In 2013, the Nits composed and produced the music of the documentary The King of Mount Ventoux by director Fons Feyaerts. The 7-track soundtrack was released on iTunes and Spotify. 2014 and 2015 focused on the '40 years of NITS' anniversary. A 3CD compilation album spanning the band's whole career was released in 2014, which contained three unreleased tracks. In March 2015, the band released Hotel Europa, a double live album with songs ranging from Giant Normal Dwarf (1990) to Malpensa (2012), with exception of a live version of "Dutch Mountains". The album received rave reviews and entered the Dutch album charts at #5, making it their highest charting album since Urk (#3, 1989) and their first Top 10 album since Doing the Dishes (#8, 2008).
In November 2015, all Nits albums were released on digital platforms such as Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music.
Current and past members
The following people have been considered full members of the group:
- Henk Hofstede (main vocalist, guitar, some keyboards) - 1974 to present
- Rob Kloet (drums and percussion) - 1974 to present
- Alex Roelofs (bass, backing vocals) - 1974-81
- Michiel Peters (guitar, backing and some lead vocals) - 1974-85
- Robert Jan Stips (keyboards, backing and occasional lead vocals) - 1983-96, 2003 to present
- Joke Geraets (bass, guitar, some backing vocals) - 1986-91 (but inactive after 1989 due to illness)
- Pieter Meuris (violin) - 1991-6
- Martin Bakker (bass) - 1991-6
- Arwen Linnemann (bass) - 1998-2000
- Laetitia van Krieken (keyboards) - 1998-2004
The group travel widely, and Hofstede's lyrics often concern his impressions of places he has been. The official Nits website includes a map showing the locations that the group has written songs about. Another common theme (to some extent overlapping the first) is songs inspired by works of art, literature and museum exhibits (e.g. "A Touch of Henry Moore", "Soap Bubble Box", "Nescio"). Many other songs are impressionistic, and many are concerned with the passing of time. Some albums include clusters of songs on a particular subject, for example In the Dutch Mountains contains several songs about Hofstede's childhood memories, Giant Normal Dwarf includes several fantasy songs set in a folkloric version of the Netherlands called Fountainland, and the later albums, particularly Les Nuits, include numerous songs on the subject of human mortality.
- The Nits (1978)
- Tent (1979)
- New Flat (1980)
- Work (1981)
- Omsk (1983)
- Kilo (1983) (mini)
- Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof (1984)
- Henk (1986)
- In the Dutch Mountains (1987)
- Hat (1988) (mini)
- Urk (1989) (triple live album)
- Giant Normal Dwarf (1990)
- Hjuvi - A Rhapsody in Time (1992) (With The Radio Symphony Orchestra)
- Ting (1992)
- dA dA dA (1994)
- Dankzij de Dijken (1995) (as FRITS, together with Freek de Jonge, in Dutch)
- Nest (1995) (compilation album)
- Alankomaat (1998)
- Hits (2000) (compilation album)
- Wool (2000)
- 1974 (2003)
- Les Nuits (2005)
- Doing the Dishes (2008)
- Strawberry Wood (2009)
- Malpensa (2012)
- NITS? (2014) (3CD compilation album)
- Hotel Europa (2015) (2CD live album)
All of the group's albums have been re-issued on CD, except for their debut, which the group consider too rough for a proper reissue (though semi-bootleg copies can be obtained with the band's blessing).