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Dutch musician Arnold de Boer has led his eclectic indie pop project Zea through many incarnations since the 1990s. Originally a guitar-centric alternative rock band, they slimmed down to a duo and adopted an electro-punk sound, releasing Today I Forgot to Complain in 2003. Since 2008, Zea has consisted solely of de Boer, who sings and plays guitar and sampler, and his music has incorporated influences such as Ethiopian music, free jazz, folk, and blues. In 2009, de Boer became the frontman of legendary Dutch avant-punks the Ex, and has remained a member of the group while continuing his solo career as Zea and running the label Makkum Records. Arnold de Boer was born in a village called Makkum located in the northern Dutch province of Friesland, but he has lived his adult life in Amsterdam. He formed Zea in 1996, initially including guitarist Anton van de Kerkhof, bassist Corina Kuiper, and drummer Michiel Verburgh, with Remko Muermans joining in 1997, playing sampler and keyboards in addition to singing. Following a few compilation appearances, including a cover of "Here Comes Your Man" on a 1998 Pixies tribute album, the band released their debut album, Kowtow to an Idiot, on Dutch label Transformed Dreams in 2000. By 2002, Zea consisted of just de Boer and Muermans, and their music became much more manic, fractured, and electronic-heavy. They released a split single with labelmates Persil, followed by the single "An Experience of Trouble" and full-length Today I Forgot to Complain in 2003. They also embarked on their first tours of the United States and the U.K. that year, and released a split single with Fonda 500 containing the song "We Buried Indie Rock Years Ago," a tribute to alternative rock's glory days that namechecked Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield. The 2005 EP One Bomb Fits All included remixes of Zea songs by the likes of Jason Forrest and Melt Banana. Zea's third album, Insert Parallel Universe, appeared in 2006. In 2008, de Boer began performing solo as Zea. He played several dates in Ethiopia with the Ex, and he officially joined the band in 2009, replacing co-founder G.W. Sok, who departed from the group after leading them for 30 years. Also in 2009, de Boer founded Makkum Records, named after his hometown while also alluding to the classic Dutch gabber/hardcore techno label Mokum Records. Makkum's first release was Zea's EP We Better Boil Soup of the Grown-Ups, followed by a split single with Kanipchen-Fit. Fourth full-length The Beginner appeared in 2010, as well as Catch My Shoe, de Boer's first album as the Ex's frontman. Zea collaborated with French clarinet player Xavier Charles on the 2012 single "Bourgeois Blues," and worked with Dutch pianist Oscar Jan Hoogland, releasing "Exploding Head Syndrome" in 2014. Fifth full-length The Swimming City appeared that year, and the rarities compilation The 7" Cassette was issued in 2015. Moarn Gean Ik Dea, an acoustic album sung entirely in Frisian, de Boer's native tongue, was released in 2017. Austrian label Klanggalerie issued a Zea compilation titled Crimes Against Pop in 2018. Summing, a full-length collaboration with Hoogland, was released by the same label in 2020.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo
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