With lyrics howled out in Flemish and packing more energy than a Belgian nuclear plant, Borgerhout-based four-piece Fluwelen Koord’s non-music, no wave art punk is sweaty, guttural and a little rough around the edges. Your archetypical art-college band, the band swapped pencils and paintbrushes for instruments and cheap production gear in 2014, releasing a sold out CD-R first and following that up with their debut single Luxe Poejes, out on cult Antwerp label Ultra Eczema in January of this year. Theirs is a world of unpolished minimal, with their sound always seeming on the verge of collapse.
Can you talk to us about your name? What’s the meaning behind it? What inspired it?
It’s Dutch for velvet cord. It is generally considered a good band name.
How would you describe your music? Where does it have its roots?
Basically it’s four individuals, of which only one was seriously involved in making music before (as a recluse), trying to get mood, sound and words that feel right out of incompetence and energy. People say it’s no-wavey, industrialy performative… What is certain is that it’s all sung/yelled in Dutch (Flemish).
How did you first get into music? When was the first time you started making music?
Bauke: When I was five. My uncle gave me a Casio sa5 for my birthday. I still have it and we used it once with Fluwelen Koord.
Jan: I started doing music at the age of 15. My parents got me a sampler for Christmas that year. Been doing it ever since.
Vedran: With Bauke and Ken three years ago. I was asked to do something for a neighbourhood party. And I asked Ken and Bauke to be in a band two days before the gig. We did a cover of “Op De Baan” a fantastic punk song from “Tedje & De Flikkers”. We played it three times and then my father put the equipment back into the car.
Ken: Bought a guitar at the age of 14 trying to play like Thin Lizzy and making some music with some locals in Hulshout.
What’s your Antwerp like?
Antwerp is really not too bad of a place to be. But for us a place like Stadslimiet has been really important. It creates a constant flow of great people and weirdos stopping in Antwerp and sometimes even staying. For some of us it has also been a significant part of our musical ‘education’. The beautiful thing is that it’s basically a smoke stained, beer floored shoebox, but you can do everything with it. It can function as an exhibition space, become a pseudo-high end gallery with a separate website, be completely emptied for a sound installation or become a crazy all-nighter (with Allon Kaye djing from his laptop, crouched on the floor). This is mainly because of Vaast Colson and Dennis Tyfus (founder of Ultra Eczema) who are the owners. For the rest you have Het Bos, Bagger and probably some more places that pop in and out of sight every now and then.
How do you go about recording music?
There is no fixed way of how the songs come together, it’s all extremely organic. Generally we have some element we want to use, be it a certain sample, a text, something synthy, etc. Everyone starts playing around trying to find something to work with it. Usually this doesn’t happen immediately, though sometimes it does. Often someone’s just fooling around while we’re talking and you just hear it and say “don’t stop playing it.” Then someone else tries something to work with that, or we use something we already had. Basically it’s quite random until we have enough elements to already sense a certain mood, then we can start moulding it. All of this is also communicated in a kind of baby music lexicon, for example: “Can you make something like kkkkchchch kkchch, yes like that but a little bubblier.” We record most things we do on Vedran’s Iphone, play again, record, listen, etc. After some time some structure grows out of this.
Can you describe your recording space for us and the neighbourhood around it?
Our recording and rehearsal space is Ken’s painting studio, based in Borgerhout. A cold and moist space without windows, filled with hairy children’s wallpaper. In the same building you have hippies making furniture and a stuck up design bureau, sometimes we hear a lonely drummer rehearsing but we’ve never located him. Around the corner there is a very good Turkish pizza place and a Bosnian synth shop that only sells mics with a lot of treble.
What do you find the most challenging when recording music?
Bauke: Playing for the group and not my ego
Where do you feel the most comfortable? In the studio or on stage?
Jan: Definitely studio. Being on a stage is new and frightening but I like it at the same time. You never know what you’re going to get. I’m always surprised when people are actually having a good time when we’re doing our performance. It’s fun but I usually don’t know how to react. I got the easiest seat though, I’m always in the back and I can hide myself behind the computer screen a little bit.
Vedran: Generally the studio is this space where you feel that you’re just hanging out one moment and you’re intensely involved the other, so it’s comfortable. There’s a sofa, you have snacks, a couple of beers, you can go have a piss when you want. So yes all these things are much more comfortable than being on a stage in front of people not caring or expecting something. But on a stage there is a different level of ‘comfort’ possible, which is when you get in a kind of trance and it’s just energy, no thoughts. These moments are dependent of the complete atmosphere in the space and are for me the main indicator of how a show went. When I’m not in the zone you’ll see me twitching around, taking uncontrolled sips from every drink on stage, walking in circles.
Ken: Always comfortable.
Do you have any pre-performance ritual?
Jan: Bauke definitely has, but it’s up to him to decide whether he wants to share that or not. I guess the ritual is always the same: lurking around, downing less beers than the others.
Bauke: Getting very sick, and shitting a lot.
Vedran: Drinking and asking if everyone is OK.
Ken: Driving and not being able to drink a lot.
Do you have any habit, good or bad, when in the studio?
Bauke: Smoke a lot, get nervous and emotional.
Vedran: Bringing beers because I came late.
Jan: Getting sick from second hand smoke, being early.
Ken: Being grumpy.
What do your parents think about your music?
Bauke: I don’t know, never asked.
Ken: They never heard it.
Jan: They find it quite funny, especially the CD-R they seemed to like because of the titles and the artwork too. My parents have always been very supportive and they tried several times to see one of our gigs but since we play late in the night and they like to sleep early it never worked out. My big brother likes us a lot actually. He came to one of our two shows in Les Ateliers Claus one time and got hit several times by a friend of us who was dancing very heavily while pumping his fists in random directions.
Vedran: My mom doesn’t really listen to music but she’s really fine with it. She did tell me she was surprised to see how energetic it is live. My father makes a lot of bad jokes (he’s quite the ‘joker’) about it but I think he likes it somehow. He has our rehearsal CD-R in his car. I don’t think he often listens to it but he must have listened to it once. My parents are extremely supportive of anything I do, in the end. They are fantastic and extremely open minded people that function in every context even though it’s completely not their thing.
What’s the most important piece of music equipment to your recording process, and why?
Vedran’s Iphone is the most important. We record all our songs with it while rehearsing and it functions as our memory. Those recordings are usually quite hilarious as well because they’re filled with a bunch of random stuff and jokes. Our first release consisted only of rehearsal recordings from that phone. On one track it’s also used as a microphone.
What question should we have asked you?
We should be answering less questions and work more in de studio. This is our third interview and we have eight songs.
Can you recommend a Belgian band we should be following / listening to?
Hantrax, Yves De Mey, Hiele, Kassett.facebook.com/fluwelenkoord