HOOVERPHONIC: The voice of reason?
Barely a year after the departure of their singer, Alex Callier and Raymond Geerts are already coming back with a new album. And the least we can write is that the Belgian band has never been so inspired and adventurous. Wonderfully eclectic and long in the mouth, In Wonderland opens a new chapter in the most beautiful way. And lets glimpse a host of opportunities for a group yet two decades old. Meet the very talkative Alex and his loyal lieutenant, the taciturn Raymond.
Alex: The separation with Noémie, she made a mutual agreement. It did not work anymore. We had arrived at the end of a story, no longer wanted to collaborate with her. We worked five years with Noémie and we did some very good things. She is an excellent singer. We respect it, but chemistry was no longer there. Before Noemie, there was Geike – who stayed more than ten years, but also Liesje, Kyoko and finally Esther. The departure of a singer, it was not the first time we lived this experience. However, after the departure of Noémie a year ago, we quickly decided not to look for a replacement.
GUIDO: Was this choice dictated by a desire to open a new chapter?
Alex: After working for years with a specific voice by album, Raymond and I wanted to work with several different vocalists. We had some titles that did not work with Noémie’s voice. I’m thinking of Badaboum, God’s Gift, Moving and Cocaine Kids. We really liked these four songs, but they are not written for a singer. After Noémie left, we decided to broaden our horizons. Over the years, we met many talented vocalists with whom the contact went very well. This is how the idea was born for the new album.
GUIDO: Working with several types of voices opens new perspectives.
Alex: Since we started, we’ve written most Hooverphonic songs from a male voice. Most of the time, these songs could perfectly be transposed with a feminine voice. But from time to time, it does not work. In Moving and God’s Gift for example, there are quite strong guitar lines. But once you transpose that, you lose the atmosphere. These are titles that were originally written for Geike. And these are two titles that made us want to release an album with several voices. Both men’s voices and women’s voices. For Badaboum, we find the French singer Émilie Satt duet with an English singer, Litlo Tinz. Badaboum is a song I wrote a few years ago, but the French part could not be sung by Noémie because her French was not good enough. Today we do not have that kind of worry any more.
GUIDO: Badaboum is a surprising title!
Alex: Badaboum is a title full of influences. There is a disco beat and a rather Hitchcockian cinema atmosphere, and it works. We are in a period during which singles have taken precedence over albums, with Deezer and Spotify. People like playlists, compilations. This gives us the opportunity to release a very eclectic album, and to be at the same time very now.
GUIDO: Did you feel it was the right time to get Badaboum out of the drawer?
Alex: Very sincerely, I think it takes a certain amount of talent to feel when you have to take out some things, or leave them a little in the drawers. And I think it’s a quality we have. Badaboum, it was clearly the right time to release it. We like to keep cool things from the past and combine them with a sound of the future. In my opinion, Hooverphonic is a retro-futuristic group.
GUIDO: In Wonderland will surprise the audience.
Alex: We have never hesitated to take different directions. After the first album in full trip-hop period, the second was very different. After The Magnificent Tree, we released Jackie Cane, that was very bombass. Then there was No More Sweet Music and its remixes. And then The President of the LSD Golf Club that was very psyche. Then, The Night Before, rather sixties. We never looked for ease. We have always tried to take different roads. And sometimes, it takes some nerve.
GUIDO: Today, are you a group with variable geometry, like Massive Attack or Archive?
Alex: Actually, it does not matter. Some people are asking us today if we are a producer group. Maybe, we do not care. Basically, what is important is the music. Massive Attack or Archive, these are exciting groups. Basically, it does not matter if the singers who accompany them on stage are the same as on the albums. Or if they will also be on the next album.
“In ten years, there has been a revolution in the arts.”
GUIDO: Apart from Litlo and Émilie, what are the voices on the album?
Raymond: There is Christa Jerome, who is Belgian. We have known each other for quite some time. When Geike left Hooverphonic, we wrote some songs together. Émilie Satt, Tjeerd Bomhof, and Janie Price, I met them in Norway, at a kind of workshop with writing workshops. There were plenty of authors and composers. Cocaine Kids and Badaboum were co-written there with Émilie in one day. There is also the singer-songwriter Felix Howard with whom we had already collaborated at the time of No More Sweet Music. In fact, they all collaborated on the songs they sing.
GUIDO: During the concerts, they will not all be present?
Alex: Some of them will be present on certain dates. We will play six tracks of the album and all the old tracks, as well as pieces a little forgotten. We started the rehearsals, it will be very nice and surprising. Some titles will be completely reworked.
GUIDO: The artwork of the album is very successful.
Alex: It’s a beautiful story. This picture was taken at Boerenmarkt in Beveren a few months ago. I went there with my girlfriend to attend a flamenco concert, between the burger stalls and the shooting ranges. And looking up at the sky, the show was magnificent. The sky was of a very particular colour. And then, there were these lanterns. My girlfriend took some pictures with her smartphone to immortalize the moment. Only later, while we were in the mix of the album, I saw that she had chosen this photo as a banner for her Facebook. This is how we finally chose to use it for the album. It mirrored In Wonderland very well.
Raymond: Today, with a smartphone, there is a way to make photos of very good quality. Ten years ago, we had to call professional photographers for the slightest thing.
Alex: In just a decade, we can really talk about revolution at the artistic level. Whether in the field of photography, video, or recording an album. We made videos for a budget close to 100,000 € a few years ago while the video of I Like The Way I Dance cost nearly ten times less. No more need to book expensive studios. In Wonderland was recorded in our studio, without stress. It’s an interesting time.