It sometimes feels impossible to keep up with all the new artists releasing albums at the moment, but recently there was one band who gave me a very unique sense of excitement when I put their CD into the player and hit play. The band is called Balthazar. Last year saw “Applause”, their debut release, hit records stores across Europe from their native Belgium. As soon as I listened to their record, I was hooked by their fresh, young talent. Most of the Belgian music I had listened to previously had registered in the darker and more negative end of the spectrum, however Balthazar have taken this sound and incorporated ideas of youthfulness and the modernism of a new generation. Moreover, the songs are written in an intoxicating style and their live shows show a level of maturity which belies their young age. As this band interest me so much, I decided delve a little deeper and to pose some questions to one of the band, Jinte Deprez.
Firstly let me say congratulations on the release of your debut album, “Applause”, last year!
Prior to the album’s release, you had already toured thoroughly and even been able to play at some pretty big European festivals, has the album release changed this situation in any way?
It’s a European release in fact. we only want to release records when we are able to go touring, so we’ll see what the future brings. But it was a big deal to get out of the borders of Belgium, our home country. To spread the music we made to a bigger area is really satisfying, to go touring to countries and cities we hadn’t been to yet is a superb advantage to this, we like other scenery. Being able to play on bigger music circuits certainly influences your approach to music making in a good way.
Many of us first became familiar with Balthazar because of your tour with dEUS. What did this opportunity bring you?
It’s great to support a big band and see how they tour and play their shows, and so we learn from it. dEUS is one of the biggest Belgian bands and we grew up with their music, so touring with them was really exciting. I think that the music we bring is in a way influenced by them, not that we copied them of course. But I can understand that an audience that comes to see dEUS also likes our music, which is why this tour was great for us, we had a lot of nice replies. Also from dEUS, extra points!
Regarding you music, what is the creative process like?
Do you have a specific song-writer? Or just all get together and let songs grow organically?
The music is written by Maarten and me, we both write songs separately, but they develop into Balthazar songs played by the whole band. Having two songwriters makes our music more interesting I think. The songs are sung by the one who has written it so you won’t get tired of one voice. It’s true that there are some differences in the way we both write songs and the way we sing or what we sing about, but we see that as an extra. In the end, the band sounds as one.
Members of the band can also play other instruments, like the violin and trumpet, which hints at quite a long musical history before Balthazar. Can you tell me a bit about this? How did you all get into music?
We all had some classical lessons in several instruments when we were young, like the drummer did some trumpet or I played violin whereas I play guitar in the band. It doesn’t really matter who plays what instrument, as long as it sounds nice and everyone is enjoying what he’s doing. It’s nice to have these extra opportunities, like we can play with two violins if that’s what the song needs. It creates a free atmosphere in arranging our songs.
I’ve seen some articles describing you as a “live band” and I must say the footage of your live performances has really blown me away. How do you feel about being described in this way?
A live performance is very honest in what the band stands for. On a record, you can do everything you want, record extra instruments, quantize the drums, tune the voices, etc. I don’t judge this though, but you don’t have these opportunities when you play live. So we’re really happy that our live performance is something people remember and talk about, we work hard to make it sound the way it should be and to translate the arrangements from our record in an interesting way. Because a live performance is a whole different world to a studio performance, so it would be a shame to not do the best we can with that. Whereas we really like to play our music live, it’s not that we’re big entertainers, with lots of stories in between the songs and big gestures, but the music speaks for itself I guess.
Does the title of “Applause” suggest at a sound you hope to hear when you’re playing on stage? Why did you decide on this title?
No, not at all. We chose for the title because it’s so bombastic and big, whereas we like to think of our music as being subtle and empty. So for us, it was obvious that it was an ironic title. Not too many people get it though, but that’s okay, we still think it’s a beautiful word.
You went to L.A. in order to mix the album, how does it compare to mixing in Belgium? Would you do it again?
The musical tradition is way bigger there, so that was interesting for us. The vibe is very different, because so many great artists did their stuff there. There’s nothing wrong with Belgium, but the gear and the knowledge is on a different level. We went there to look for the clash between the American way of mixing and our European music. And how that sounds, well, that will show on the second album.
Can we have some clues about what we can hope to hear on the second album?
I think we don’t really know how to explain. We’re very enthusiastic about it! But maybe it’s a record you should hear a couple of times to know what we intend to do. It’s a more cinematic sound without losing the poppy touch, the last song is like a soundtrack from a French movie. It’s just the next level in our music making, as well as in making lyrics and the way we sing. We like it a lot, and we hope you will too.
Do you hope to play in Japan one day?
Certainly! Like I said, we like traveling. Japan is something European bands always talk about, it seems to be a great experience. So give us a plane and we’re there.
I’m looking forward to the new album and hopefully seeing you in Japan soon. Thank you.
It certainly seems that the new album will show another side of Balthazar. The “excitement” which the band bring to their fans is not a roller-coaster of emotion, but rather a slow, creeping feeling as they envelop their crowd slowly like hot magma…It is already consuming me with the expectation for their new album.
For more information please visit the Balthazar official web site.
Words and translation : Shiromoto Sanae
August 20, 2012