We talked with Stefanie, Stjn and Peter at B90’s backstage just a couple hours before their concert at Soundrive Festival. We asked them about belgian music scene and their second album.
Your debut album got really nice reviews, you know that?
Stefanie: Yes, it’s true. I don’t know what the expectations were and everyone has expectations of themselves. In the beginning we just wanted to make a good record – after that, we thought that if people liked it and we could do some shows, it would be even better. So we’re very happy it all worked out. But we weren’t thinking about the reviews when we were making it – I don’t think we would make a record, especially not the first one, to have it acclaimed by the public – it was not our goal. For us, the goal was to make a record that we all liked.
Stijn: Right, that was the plan. We recorded this album when we were away from home for like a month and we’ve had a great situation, where we could decide whether we like the songs and how they were recorded. After that month, when we knew that was it, we were ready to put it out. But at first, it was just for us.
Peter: And then the good reviews started to come, and it’s crazy. The fact that we’re sitting here is just amazing, we never thought it would go this way. A year ago we were opening for local bands in Belgium, and now we get to play at festivals in some nicer venues.
How would you compare smaller clubs to bigger venues and festivals – do you have preference, do you like one of these better?
Stefanie: It’s never better, it’s just different. If, for instance, you play in a bar for 20 people, it can be more intimidating, because everyone can actually see everything that’s happening on the stage. If you play on a bigger venue and you are far away from the audience, the vibe on stage changes. There is no better or worse. You play with the same energy in both smaller and bigger places, but sometimes it’s more difficult to translate your energy on the big venue.
Stijn: I still have to learn to play on bigger festivals, because I’m not used to it. I always say I like small venues, but yeah. I’m working on it (laugh)
In every review we’ve read people are trying to label your music differently: math rock, post-rock, post-hardcore… even power metal (laugh). What would you say your music sounds like?
Stefanie: I think rock, for me, in general. Being in the band with guitars is rock (laugh). People like to label things. If I had to say what genre we are not alike, it would be metal. There are some more powerful parts that I like to play, but it’s not metal for me. So yes, if my granddad asked, I’m in a rock band (laugh). Rock is like the bigger word, it’s not a label and it’s easier to say we’re in a rock band.
Simple as that. Speaking of genres – is Belgium a good place to be a musician?
Peter: Of course, it’s like one big city – so many great bands. And what is important, there are a lot of ways to present your music. It’s how we started.
Stijn:. A lot of bands in Belgium start recording their music and then they put their songs somewhere, like on facebook, and almost instantly they get a reaction from other musicians and venues: do you want to collaborate, do you want to play? You don’t have to do a lot to get through, you know.
Could you recommend some Belgian bands?
Stefanie: For everyone, it may be different. If I could recommend some bands, it would have to be Kaboom. And of course Steak Number Eight – it’s my boyfriend’s band (laugh). Yeah, stuff like that I enjoy.
Stijn: Also, we really like GURU GURU, they’re friends of ours. Really nice band.
Stefanie: It’s a weird rock. And I don’t know if you know Pulled Apart by Horses – it’s a little bit like that. Weird, witchy and crazy singing.
You seem to know a lot about your scene. Do you still have time to explore new music nowadays?
Stijn: I don’t go to shows that often anymore…
Peter: We meet a lot of cool bands at the shows where we get to play – for example on festivals. We do play a lot ourselves, so unfortunately it’s not easy to go and see other bands in between gigs.
Stefanie: I still enjoy it, though.
Peter: Yes, but how many times do you go in a month?
Stefanie: Not that much. But I mean, if my favorite band comes, I will always buy that ticket.
Are you planning to see some bands playing tonight?
Stijn: I would love to see Beach Fossils. But for me, it’s also nice to go check out bands that I have never seen.
You can check out Then Comes Silence
Stijn: Oh yeah, we heard them on soundcheck. They play before us.
Peter: I think they’re from Sweden.
Yes, they are.
Peter: I did my homework (laugh)
Stijn: We have to check them out then because they sounded great on the soundcheck.
We have a question for you, Stefanie – is it hard to be a woman in a rock band? Recently I have read an article about female DJs and how they have to work twice as hard as men to be noticed in the music industry. Can you somehow relate to this?
Stefanie: I don’t see it, but honestly I am not thinking about it, maybe that’s why I don’t see it. I think it also goes for boys – they should work harder as well (laugh). It’s the same. The only thing I have a problem with is my long hair because we have balls of hair flying everywhere (laugh). But honestly, if someone doesn’t like it, they can go away.
And how demanding physically is it all for you? Not only as a woman, it’s a question for all of you. It’s been almost seven months since you released your album, so you’re touring, so you’re doing a lot of gigs…
Stefanie: I think for all three of us this is the least of our concern. I think we are mostly concerned about everything that’s going on in our homes. Girlfriends, boyfriends… We know, that touring is what we want to do, but we can’t stop thinking about them.
Peter: When we come back home and we have free time, we have to combine everything. You come home late, you’re tired, and still, you have to remember about your job, e-mails…
Stijn: And sometimes you’ve got family, so you have to combine this as well.
What do people at your work think about your music? Do they take it seriously?
Stijn: I can answer for Stefanie and me – I think they have to take us seriously because we are both working at the music school. We are surrounded with musicians on a daily basis; owners of this school are actually Stefanie’s family.
Now, important questions – what are your plans for the future? New album perhaps?
Stefanie: We still need some time of course; the second album is a real test. Usually, when you do your first album, you have some material ready, but now we have to start from scratch. We started writing; it’s going to be very hard, but hopefully rewarding.
And then there’s the pressure?
Peter: When we are not recording, I understand that the pressure is on, but the moment we go into the studio and we’re discussing our music – I don’t feel the pressure. We are not like “oh, we’re doing this riff, will people like it?” No, all I care about is whether Stefanie likes it and will Stijn like it. And if we can play it live (laugh)
Stefanie: Peter is always chill about it, I am more stressed out. I think the first album makes it more difficult now, because we may think that something is too heavy or it’s not our style because our first record sounded a certain way. I think it will be a different experience.
Peter: Of course it’s going to be different! But it’s true what Stefanie said, I am the least stressed out because I know how good they are.
Awww, that’s so nice!
Stijn: The thing with this new record is, that I don’t want to get lucky with it, you know? I wouldn’t like to make something and then play in bars in Belgium. And if we don’t like our new record, I don’t care, we’ll do another one.
Stefanie: Record is always for you. It’s a selfish thing to make a good record for you, but I think everyone can agree. I want to like it.
Peter: So true. You cannot make a record for other people. How can you know what other people like?
Speaking of new material – is it really going to be a brand new thing, or is there any music from your past that you haven’t used and want to use it now?
Peter: There are some parts that we started to play, I believe 3 years ago – we tried it one year, and another, and yet another, and now we’re trying it again. And maybe on the fifth year, we will be like: yeah finally, we have this luminous idea! (laugh)
Stijn: It happens sometimes that I play something that I have been working on 10 years ago with some other band and I forgot about it…
Stefanie: But that doesn’t always work out, does it? Often it’s just repeating the same thing which we know it’s not going to work… We have to ask ourselves if we really know what we are doing (laugh)
Peter: But it’s easier to go back to what you know… It was difficult in the beginning with this…
Stijn: And sometimes you have some ideas, you start playing something for the rest of the band and they can simply say no. In the beginning, it was hard, to be honest, but now we can say something is bullshit and it’s fine.
Stijn: It’s a good way of working because I used to be in bands with people who made it really hard to criticize something that you have been working on for 2 weeks or so… And you really hope it’s going to work out.
Stefanie: I feel so bad for you! But I also worked on something for 2 weeks and then you say “yeah, looping is cool, but not for our band…” (laugh)
Stijn: At the end of the day it’s fine, because if I like it and they don’t like it, then there’s no fun in playing it, it’s always better if three of us like it. We have to work together to make things work.
Małgorzata Ostoja Domaradzka & Agata Hudomięt