SPOTLIGHT ON BOOGIE BELGIQUE - CRASH Magazine



MUSIC

SPOTLIGHT ON BOOGIE BELGIQUE

By Roisin Breen

After a five year hiatus, electro group, Boogie Belgique, are back with an exquisite twelve-track LP that spans genres from trip-hop to nu-jazz. The six-man band consists of founder Oswald Cromheecke; vocalist Emily Van Overstraeten; trumpeter Cedric Van Overstraeten; pianist and multi-instrumentalist Aiko Devriendt; saxophonist Ambroos De Schepper, and drummer/ percussionist Martijn Van Den Broek. Both musically and politically drawn to the 1930’s, their sound is at once melancholic and exhilarating, reminiscent of the turbulence of the era. They blend beats, rhythms and instruments, experimenting with new production techniques to construct the Boogie Belgique universe. Ahead of the Parisian leg of their tour, the band talked with Crash about the making of the album during one of the most unprecedented moments in modern history and their excitement to be back on stage

TALK TO US ABOUT MACHINE… 

We have been working on and off for five years on this album and we are very proud of what it has become. As a follow-up album after Volta, we wanted to go much deeper into the world of Boogie Belgique & perfect our trademark sound, while experimenting with different genres, atmospheres and song structures. To us, Machine is the first album where “beat-making”, “songwriting” and “live music” has really come together. It’s a sound we have been looking for for many many years. 

We were right in the middle of recording the drums for Machine when the first lockdown happened in Belgium. We tried to cope as much as possible by working remotely but as you can imagine, you lose a lot of human interaction, which is essential to writing music. Therefore, some of the tracks we were working on were put aside for a long time, while we worked on others. Although these times were tough, it was interesting to see how some tracks changed when we could work together again. Some of the tracks took shape over a time of several years and evolved to completely different results than the ideas that we started out with. In this album we also avoided the use of samples and found new ways to record, mix and build a song without losing our core sound. All these things were possible due to the lockdowns and the time they gave us to think and experiment.

The general theme of the album also took form under the pandemic and its aftermath. Elements such as slowing down in life and enjoying simple things, the danger of never-ending growth and the importance of fighting climate change were hugely influential on us. In our own way, we tried to bring these themes into our songs. But as with all of our music, we tried to keep much of the mystery alive and let the audience interpret the songs how they want. For someone a track can work as a breakup-song, while someone else uses it on a dancefloor.

IT’S BEEN FOUR YEARS SINCE YOUR LAST ALBUM! WE’VE MISSED YOU! WHAT HAVE YOU ALL BEEN UP TO?

Before the Pandemic we already were working on Machine while also working on the Lure of Little Voices EP in cooperation with Ian Urbina, Pulitzer prize winner and journalist with the New York Times. This project would work as a soundtrack to his book Outlaw Ocean, about lawlessness on the sea, modern slavery & overfishing. We saw it as a perfect opportunity to work for a good cause & experiment with a more cinematic approach of making music. 

Besides that we have worked on a standalone single Rhythm, done several remixes for artists like Caravan Palace, Morisse Monty and Brazilian musician Afterclapp. On stage we had the chance to play all over Europe (France, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Switzerland,…) where we improved our liveshow and worked on our core sound for our new album. It was really tough going through the Pandemic as artists and we are really happy to see the end of it! We can look to the future again & are really excited about it!

YOUR FIRST ALBUM, BLUEBERRY HILL, WAS RELEASED IN 2012, TEN YEARS AGO… HOW HAVE YOU EVOLVED AS A GROUP SINCE? 

I (Oswald Cromheecke) started out alone, back in 2012, while studying illustration and animation in Belgium. From that point on Boogie Belgique was born and the music found success on platforms like Soundcloud & Bandcamp, eventually picking up some live gigs. I totally lacked any experience on stage so I asked my best friend Cedric (who played the trumpet) to join me on tour for a DJ-set accompanied by the trumpet. When we started working together, I immediately noticed the musical improvement of adding a live instrument. Together we had the dream of expanding Boogie Belgique into a full live band, inspired by other groups like Bonobo, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Chinese Man & the Cinematic Orchestra.

That is when we invited pianist and multi-instrumentalist, Aiko Devriendt & drummer and percussionist, Martijn Van Den Broek to join us on our musical quest. After some successful tours, we invited Ambroos De Schepper on tenor & soprano saxophone. And finally, we started working with Emily Van Overstraeten, known for her soulful vocals on our most known track “Every Time”. With this collective we are now touring Europe & presenting our new album. We each have our own role in Boogie Belgique and try to reinvent ourselves as much as possible. In my opinion, there has been a big evolution in our work, where we really tried blending the beatmaking aspect of Boogie Belgique with the live and organic element. 

IS IT STILL JUST AS MUCH FUN TO WORK TOGETHER AS IT ALWAYS WAS? 

Writing music and performing can be a difficult and long process but we always find a way to make it work. It is important to note that every member of Boogie Belgique is also a good friend. Some of us have known each other for many many years and I think that this is one of our biggest strengths. We are involved in each aspect of running a band and care deeply about every track that comes out. Of course there can be arguments and friction, but there is nothing on which we can’t find common ground. 

WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS LIKE FOR COLLABORATING? A LOT OF STUDIO TIME TOGETHER, OR MORE INDIVIDUALLY WORKING ON THINGS? 

As the band expanded and we started working with the six of us (Aiko Devriendt, Emily Van Overstraeten, Martijn Van Den Broek, Ambroos De Schepper, Cedric Van Overstraeten and I), we noticed that everyone has his/her strengths. Mostly, I started out alone by creating a basis (or a sort of skeleton) for the song after which we started working together on building it into a proper song. Some tracks were made by two of us, while others involved the full band with each his/her own role. We always try to find a good compromise or middle ground where we try to respect each other’s opinion and input. Also, a shout out to Jussi De Nys aka Morisse Monty, who mixed the album and even wrote on some of the songs. He really helped us in the process and with tying some of the songs together.

ARE YOU EXCITED TO BE BACK ON TOUR? 

We absolutely are! Playing for a live audience felt like a lifetime ago. The shared energy between the crowd and the band playing is such a beautiful thing and something we have missed dearly. 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM BEING ON STAGE?

I don’t think we have one particular favorite moment on stage as there have been so many great ones. But one thing I do remember very clearly is one particular show in Paris where we were headlining and the moment we started playing, the whole crowd started singing along. They seemed to know all the lyrics and were even chanting along with the horn riffs. 

During our last tour, we noticed that people are more enthusiastic than ever. An awesome feeling when you hear that people even know your brand new songs, which have only been out for a couple of weeks. 

WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE CITY TO PLAY?

That’s a really difficult question because every city has its own character and flair. Even the audience can be really different from city to city. It has been amazing to travel all over Europe and Africa and get to know our fanbase, which is really spread out. We can’t wait to discover new countries and cities all over the world.

A DREAM STAGE YOU WANT TO PLAY ON? 

In the past, we had the chance to share the stage with really great artists like Thievery Corporation, Bonobo, Mulatu Astatke, Goldfrapp, Groundation, Selah Sue, Poldoore, Proleter, … Since Covid, this all feels like a lifetime ago!

We won’t dare to ask for too much, since times are still difficult in the live circuit, but we definitely dream of doing all these things all over again and more. We love headlining in clubs but are also looking forward to playing bigger festivals. Fingers crossed! 

WHERE DOES THE FIXATION ON 1930S MUSIC ON THIS ALBUM COME FROM?

As always, the 1930’s has had a big musical and aesthetic influence on Boogie Belgique. Both in music and in our artwork. I personally love most of the style and music from the 20s-50s. Of course, it was a turbulent time with a lot of dark events which shaped the world today. For music, the rise of Jazz and all its forms really changed the world. Giving way to all the music we know and love today.

Machine is meant to be escapist. In the 30’s, music fans danced their troubles away through exuberance, fantasizing about a better tomorrow. We want to take the listener inside the world of Boogie Belgique’s Machine, a fantasy world with a light and dark side inspired by the best and the worst things of that era.

ARE YOU ALL STILL BASED IN BELGIUM? WHERE ABOUTS? DO YOU FEEL A STRONG CONNECTION TO YOUR COUNTRY? 

We are still based in Belgium and are mostly working in Brussels. It is a great question because Belgians are a rare breed in this regard. We definitely feel a connection to our country, but the average Belgian is not as patriotic as let’s say a Frenchman or an American. For us, nationalism can be a weird thing as we are naturally more skeptical of everything Belgian. Belgians love underestimating themselves & complain about everything that we are as a country. I think we can even say that most Belgians feel as much European (or even world citizen) as they feel Belgian. 

Most people in Belgium share these feelings, which funnily enough actually connect us more than we know. So yes, you can say that we love our country & we feel a connection. But in our own weird Belgian way 😃

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TRACK ON THE ALBUM (MINE IS « HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN »)? 

Really difficult question since we love and stand by every track on the album. 

If we really have to choose, I think we would pick “Mercury”, the first track on the album. This song contains both nostalgia and drama. I also loved making the music video. Using old footage like a collage, building the world of Machine in the Boogie Belgique universe was really fun.  

Another one that we would like to highlight is the song “Risk”, where we cooperated with singer Yassin Joris. The writing and arranging of “Risk” were long processes where the basic idea was written in 2017. The song totally changed during the years with different toplines and unused riffs. But it never clicked… That was until we started working with Yassin who wrote and sang the vocals on the song . We are very happy with that co-op & his professionalism and enthusiasm. Crazy to see how a track which felt stuck at the time, absolutely came through in the end and is now one of the main tracks of the album.

PROMISE US YOU WON’T GO AWAY AGAIN FOR FOUR YEARS! WHAT’S NEXT? ANY UPCOMING PROJECTS?

Since Machine was released we have already started working on new tracks. We have a lot of plans for 2023, but for now we will still keep these a secret. Although we can say that we are building further on the album and the mindset that came with it. Stay tuned!

QUICK FIRE ROUND

TEA OR COFFEE?

Coffee

BRUSSELS OR PARIS?

Too difficult… But let’s say Paris

NETFLIX OR CINEMA? 

Netflix

BEACH OR POOL?

Beach

SUN OR SNOW?

Sun

KETCHUP OR MAYO?

Mayo

BEER OR WINE?

Wine

 

Boogie Belguique will play tomorrow 29th November 2022, at The Trabendo in Paris. 

Discover more at letrabendo.net

Listen to Machine now on spotify.com

@boogiebelgique

 

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