“The only thing our audience should be busy with is the shaking of their legs.” Bombataz’s solid contribution to the Belgian funk jazz scene

In anticipation of this year’s BOUGE B, an innovative dance and music festival held annually in deSingel, we speak to some of the talented dancers and performers showcasing at the event. BOUGE B was originally founded in 2008, and has since developed from a contemporary dance event to fully-fledged dance and music festival and continues to grow and evolve every year. Combining music and dance to explore new means of presenting differing art forms and thus creating a platform for the audience to fully engage with the experience, this year’s Club Edition is sure to palpitate the senses.

In this week’s mini-series, The Word Magazine sits down with guitarist and vocalist Vitja Pauwels and drummer Casper Van De Velde of Bombataz. The Brussels-based, four-man fusion jazz outfit are keeping the art of improv well and truly alive thanks to their commitment to old school jam sessions whilst using contemporary elements, from hip-hop to sampling.

Can you describe your practice as a musician? How would you define your music and where do you draw your inspiration from?

Casper: As a band we try out new sounds, grooves, vibes that we’ve stumbled upon and blend them together. When something fresh comes up, the first ten minutes are usually very exciting. This kicks off our practice sessions: creating structures, arrangements and songs.

Vitja: You could describe us as improvisors: when we play together we seek out something new and refreshing. Even though Bombataz’s repertoire is generally pretty fixed and arranged, it never sounds the same twice. Everything depends on the interplay, the interaction and energy at that very moment. We draw inspiration from plenty of artists and styles like jazz, funk, hip-hop, rock, electronic, classical music… If you really want a recipe, it’s got elements of Hudson Mohawke, James Blake, Kanye West and Ambitious Lovers.

What are your respective backgrounds? How did you first get introduced to making music?

Vitja: The four of us were introduced to music-making from a very young age. We all started at local music academies, so enrolling in Antwerp and Brussels’ conservatories came naturally. In time, I became immersed in different styles – classical, jazz, rock, folk music – which helped me gain perspective.

Casper: With a background and education in jazz, we tend to keep an open mind to everything regarding music. Everything is possible – a digital trap groove can match a warm funk guitar and some YouTube sample-based keys.

Could you talk to us about your recording process and your approach to music-making?

Vitja: When writing music, we almost always start from a jam, recording everything to capture new ideas in the heat of the moment. We select the interesting parts from these jam recordings and build upon them. So our music is mostly written together. In contrast with our music-making, our recording process is reversed: our EP ¡Kapao! was recorded with limited equipment in a rehearsal room. More specifically, we didn’t have enough tracks to record together, meaning that we had to record the instruments seperately and build the songs layer by layer.

How do you translate your music from studio to live setting? What are you seeking to express to the audience during a live concert context?

Casper: Creating a special and unique momentum with the audience is something that drives us. The only thing that they should be busy with is the shaking of their legs.

Vitja: I don’t really consider ourselves as a studio band (yet) because our songs are made to be played live first and foremost. Above all, we’re a live band that loves to perform together – and I think we unconsiously try to project this joy to the audience. Make people smile and dance during a show is simply priceless.

What, exactly, will you be performing during BOUGE B?

Vitja: We’ll be performing our songs with a twist, possibly with new material and probably with silly gestures along the way.

Music and dance festival BOUGE B will be taking place on 15th and 16th March at Antwerp’s deSingel. The Word Radio will be handling afterparty duties with 2F4F on the Saturday.