At Zürich Openair I interviewed Marteen Devoldere and Jinte Deprez, respectively singer and guitarist of the Belgian indie-rock band Balthazar. I had previously seen them in concert at Les Docks in Lausanne in April and really liked them. They were so kind to agree to have a chat with me about their last album Thin Walls, the Belgian music scene, the meaning of touring and live performances and so on.
Thank you to Marteen and Jinte for the friendly chat and big thanks to Jennifer Ibanez from Musik Vertrieb for making this interview possible 🙂
The Liberation: Your two first albums Applause (2010) and Rats (2012) won the Music Industry Awards as Best Album. I wanted to know if there was any pressure in writing your third album Thin Walls.
- Jinte Deprez: Erm not pressure. I think actually we mostly write the music for ourselves, so of course we have inner pressure. Yeah I mean, you never know how the audience will respond to an album you make. We just try to be what we want to do and make it sound as we want to and then hope the audience agrees with it. The Awards, I mean, it was especially nice for the first two albums so a lot of people got to know us, those are the words. But it’s not a core or something to us, we just try to make the music as honest as possible then you can’t do anything wrong I think.
- Maarten Devoldere: We take time. We only want to release the new album if we personally think it’s better than the last one. So in that sense we’re kind of at ease in the sense that we’re not gonna release it until then, so it doesn’t give us pressure. The only thing is that it might take 10 years for the next one, you never know when you feel ready, so not much pressure.
The Liberation: Ok, good. And how has Thin Walls been received so far by the audience?
- Jinte Deprez: I think good! (laughs)
The Liberation (laughs)
- Maarten Devoldere: Yeah.
- Jinte Deprez: The older we get the less reviews we read! (laughs) But yeah I mean it was all right. It’s an album that is maybe more accessible I mean radio wise or something. That’s something we felt right away that we could give something to the radio and they would be like ok we can play it. So it was received well, it still has to grow I think cause during our live shows the songs are still growing and that was something we noticed with the other albums and the songs keep on growing. And yeah I think everybody is happy. Are you happy?
- Maarten Devoldere: I’m very happy. We’re very happy.
The Liberation: That’s important! This is also your first album which was not produced by yourselves. In which way was it different for you?
- Maarten Devoldere: It was fun because we could be very irresponsible you know. Because we made this kind of record we wrote it on tour. We wrote the songs very intuitively, from the belly and we wanted to record them in that way as well. So if you produce it yourself you are responsible for all the technical stuff going on in the studio and it brings a lot. You have to be very consistent and you know…
- Jinte Deprez: Inter task
The Liberation: Yeah
- Maarten Devoldere: And now we were like “If we find the right man then we can have fun in the studio and not think too much”. And that’s what we did, basically Ben Hillier was the perfect guy who understood which direction we wanted to take. Because the first two weeks we were super control freaks about every sound, then we were like “Do whatever you want we trust you” and that was a relief.
The Liberation: So you had to think a little bit less about the rest…
- Maarten Devoldere: Yeah!
The Liberation: That’s good! You come from the Flanders is there competition among indie rock bands?
- Jinte Deprez: In the Flanders?
The Liberation: Yeah, cause I’m not familiar with the music scene there so I was just wondering…
- Jinte Deprez: Yeah it’s not competition I mean it’s just nice to see that in the last few years there are more Belgian bands who are able to tour in Europe cause otherwise everybody’s trying to play the same festivals. You can go to Zürich and play (laughs). Last weekend we were at a festival with some other Belgian bands which was really cool in Slovakia and it was all friendship there.
- Maarten Devoldere: Like your own genre or something. Everybody does different stuff we’re not gonna feel competition with bands who have another genre. We always try to create our own world and have our own sound cause then it’s very easy to be the best band in your own world.
The Liberation: That’s true. Fair enough! What does going abroad and play for fans and people mean to you?
- Jinte Deprez: It’s kind of a celebration that you made an album and that you can spread the word (laughs), something like that, spread the word slash party and dance to your music every night. And I mean it’s nice to see that people relate to it. It’s always very nice to see that people buy tickets to see the music you make or the latest music you made.
The Liberation: Ok, yeah. How does your composition process work in general? Do you come up with the lyrics first or with the music?
- Maarten Devoldere: Oh the music. Yeah, in fact we’re pretty lazy in lyrics writing so that we write them like in the last weeks before we go into the studio because we need to get it done you know. And then we write the lyrics you know like at the very last minute. I mean because we try to do it well and it’s not like it’s not important but mostly I definitely spend way more time in making music and melodies than on lyrics.
The Liberation: Ok. Are you already thinking about new material you want to record?
- Jinte Deprez: Yeah, no. No, not really specific. But we don’t stop writing I think. It’s an on going process and it doesn’t stop when you release an album. But of course I mean you only really think about it and about that context when the time has come to make a new album. So now it’s still…
- Maarten Devoldere: It takes sometimes to break with the last record because you don’t wanna repeat yourself and you want to add something fresh to the band. We keep on writing songs and melodies and stuff like that but I don’t think we know in which direction the fourth album is gonna be. That’s normal.
The Liberation: Yeah (laughs)
- Jinte Deprez: It’s only been six months (laughs)
The Liberation: Yeah exactly so you still have time (laughs)
- Jinte Deprez: Yeah
The Liberation: Which bands inspire you the most and with which bands would you like to share the stage?
- Jinte Deprez: It’s a hard question cuz, I don’t know about you (looking towards Marteen) but I listen to so many bands and they all inspire me in a small way. It’s not like one particular band because then we’d just sound like a copy. But it’s really wide, it goes from really oldies like Bob Dylan to Beyoncé. I would really like to share the stage with Rihanna. But then again I’m very scared.
The Liberation: Why Rihanna?
- Jinte Deprez: Why not?
The Liberation: Yeah why not? (laughs)
- Jinte Deprez: Why not? It would be fun. But I’m also very scared of her so I don’t think… We’ll see
The Liberation: It would be challenging!
- Jinte Deprez: It will be challenging, that’s for sure!
The Liberation: (laughs) Will you have the chance to check out some of the bands playing today?
- Jinte Deprez: We were just checking who was playing. We will go partying at Fatboy Slim probably. And the rest of the bands I’m not sure. Aurora plays before us in the Tent Stage.
The Liberation: Yeah.
- Jinte Deprez: Maybe I’ll check that. See it’s always like after the gig you just walk around and see where it’s fun.
The Liberation: Cool! Thanks very much I’m done!
- Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez: Ok Cool!