Music: Interview with Yellow Straps and Le Motel

Though Yellow Straps – a home-grown trio of self-taught bedroom musicians – have long been busy conjuring up a very particular sound in the Belgian outpost of Braine-l’Alleud, it was only when they hooked up with lifelong friend and producer Le Motel that the pieces really fell into place. The foursome got picked up by Belgium’s hip hop favourite Lefto who opened his weekly radio show with their track Pollen.  The rest, as they say, is history – or will be. The Word Magazine sought out and deflowered both Yellow Straps and Le Motel in their very first interview. 

First off, why Braine-l’Alleud?

Yvan: My brother and I live there with our parents.  Fabien grew up there too and lives about ten meters from our house, it seemed only logical.

Alban: Our mother is a designer and her sewing studio is where we rehearse. It was the setting for the Pollen video.

The visuals accompanying your tracks are striking and they fit the music perfectly. What’s your relation to their maker, François Dubois?

Yvan: We’ve been friends with François for a very long time. We spend a lot of time together when we’re rehearsing, when we’re gigging or recording. He really gets the music, knows what it’s about and I think that’s why his style matches the sound as well as it does.

Fabien: It was one of François’ connections, manager Stéphane Bordignon, who was one of the first ones to share our video. That’s how Lefto found out about us. He then invited us for a live recording session during his radio show.

Apart from your introduction by Lefto, I’m under the impression that there are more Flemish connections. 

Fabien: After Pollen went on air we were indeed getting contacted by quite a few Flemish people and producers. Unday records – who take care of Uphigh Collective, among others – offered to bring out a vinyl and we’re currently working on a collaboration with Brihang, a young hip hop producer based in Ghent.

Fabien: We’ve been playing live in Flanders more than in Wallonia. We did a show in Lier recently and based only on the selection of tracks they played in between the live concerts, I noticed the Flemish are way more openminded when it comes to electronic music.

Yvan: Where we come from, people are more into rock music and they don’t really go out looking for unconventional sounds, they just settle for whatever comes at them – the commercial stuff mostly.

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How do you feel about leaving your relaxed studio setting and playing live in front of an audience?

Yvan: The difference is huge of course, but it’s an exciting time for us. We’re getting good feedback after shows and the live aspect makes us sit and work together more often with an intensity that our sound benefits from.

I see a strong UK influence…

Yvan: Yeah sure. In fact, there were quite few people who thought that we were based in London. It’s not something we do very consciously, though. We were influenced by music from the UK, even when we were just doing our thing with Yellow Straps, before Le Motel.

You covered Out Getting Ribs by King Krule, obviously a big influence. How do you feel about the fact that your sound so closely resembles his? 

Yvan: I take it as a compliment. We were working on a specific sound even before we discovered him. After that, we just fell in love with the guy immediately. We went to see him during Les Nuits Botanique and he’s really cool, very young and not the kind of artist who gets on stage, does their thing and gets out. He was standing in the hallway afterwards talking to everyone who wanted to.

You went up to him as well?

Yvan: We did. We once sent him our music as well, but no one responded.

Alban: Dude, we sent him loads off stuff!

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What about other musical influences?

Fabien: Well first off there’s Dream Koala, a French producer based in Paris who really supports us and was one of the first to share our music and get it out there. I love what Mount Kimbie does and of course Boards of Canada. They recently released an album after eight years of silence and I think it’s amazing, definitely worth checking out.

Yvan: I’m into Patrick Watson and lots of small bands like Lucy Rose, but hip hop is a major influence too. I’m quite into Earl Sweatshirt.

Where do your lyrics come from?

Yvan: Up to now, the lyrics have been mostly about our feelings towards music, how we are going to manage to grow as a band, but it’s metaphorical most of the time. Pollen, for example, is about bees in fact.

Fabien: When we are working on a song, we usually make it in one or two days and it’s more about the atmosphere of that day than it is really thought through. I remember hearing the humming of insects that one day and I ended up writing a complete track about bees.

Yellow Straps’ official video for Pollen:

Yellow Straps’ official video for Forget Them:

Yellow Straps performing in their living room: