Published on April 28th, 2022

Altin Gun by Sanja Marusic

A talk with Jasper Verhulst of Altin Gün is like a trip through record-store infinity. The boundless music collection inside Verhulst’s head powers the band’s unexpected sound: a Dutch-made transformation of public-domain Turkish folk music into psych-rock and synth-pop art.

The Grammy-nominated Eurasian sextet — “Golden Day” in English — is on a pandemic makeup trek. Dates include a first-ever Florida stop at the North Beach Bandshell, thanks to the canny concert promoters at The Rhythm Foundation in Miami Beach. (“We have been playing their music nonstop in our offices,” says the Foundation’s Gregory Johnston.)

Speaking to PureHoney a week before the band’s rescheduled Coachella festival debut in California, Verhulst describes modest but telling origins. “My dad had a really big record collection, but nothing exotic,” he says. “I grew up listening to The Beatles and reggae music.” Though his parents weren’t musicians, Verhulst briefly took up drums at age six. As his listening traveled — there was a Top 40 phase — he later picked up guitar and finally bass.

Along the way, the young Dutchman found a self-titled debut album by ‘70s Turkish folk singer and guitarist Selda Bağcan. An iconoclastic figure from the near East, Bağcan wielded a defiant, confessional power. She sang as if through a spiritualized haze over plucked lutes and blown-amp guitars.

It was unlike anything Verhulst had ever heard. “It’s still my favorite Turkish album of all time,” he says.


In Amsterdam in 2016, Verhulst recruited new musicians to help execute his self-taught, developing musical vision and do another thing he couldn’t: sing in Turkish. Altin Gün found their niche playing garage-band versions of traditional songs with lyrics posing “philosophical questions — love, death, life,” Verhulst says, noting, “Most of the songs are very poetic, but don’t translate well.”

A global fan base nevertheless took root. Accolades piled up for their 2019 sophomore album “Gece.” Turks themselves hailed these Dutch revivalists. North American dates followed until Covid-19 put off further U.S. inroads including Coachella.

Back home, band members found that physical separation encouraged tinkering with new instruments and ideas. The result was two albums, “Yol” and “Âlem,” released in that order in 2021, marking a departure from their trance-y Anatolian rock. Heavy electro sounds and a new wave atmosphere abound. The music is as immersive — and Turkish — as ever, now with a mesmerizing ’80s bop on songs such as “Yüce Dağ Başında,” sung by bandmate Merve Daşdemir with a playful spark.

Touring was still impossible after “Yol” came out. “So we decided to release a charity album and donate everything to protect nature,” Verhulst says. For each “Âlem” track purchased, the organization EarthToday sets aside a square meter of land as part of the Nature Needs Half global biodiversity campaign.

And speaking of diversity, consider this band’s listening habits. “We all have a soft spot for the sounds of the ’60s, ‘70s, early ’80s,” Verhulst says. On tour, “We listen to a lot of hip hop in the van,” he says. Verhulst isn’t entirely joking when he quips that his influences stop at 1985. “I am a big record collector,” he says, “but I don’t collect just anyone’s work. I want every record to mean something to me.”

But the firewall is coming down. “Right now I’ve been listening to ’90s house pop with a swing beat,” he says. “I am slowly starting to add the ‘90s to what I collect.”

That expansion might filter into the band’s Florida debut, where Verhulst plans to solo-DJ an opening set of — his words — “eclectic global groovy cosmic synth pop disco.” And for all of Verhulst’s solitary crating and collating, it’s clear that Altin Gün consider themselves a live band. Freed from lockdown, Verhulst says their next album will be imprinted with this tour’s vitality: “We are returning to the studio to create live — the opposite of the past two albums.”

What he doesn’t foresee changing is his wonderment at Turkish music. “It still sounds exotic to me,” he says, “even though I have been playing it for several years now.”

Altin Gün perform 7pm Tuesday May 3 at the North Beach Bandshell. ~ Amanda E. Moore and Sean Piccoli