The Hooverphonic Story:

In the Members section we look in depth at the individual characters of the band Hooverphonic, here we will look at an overview of the band’s general history. At the time of writing this page in April 2018, Hooverphonic were down to the two founder members Alex and Raymond having hosted a number of female lead singers over their twenty years of writing and performing music. Their next performance was full of surprises.

On 18 April 2018 they opened at the Islington Assembly Hall in London. An events building adjoining the Town Hall of the London Borough of Islington, and the same location where they had performed twenty years earlier (It’s just half a mile from the Arsenal football stadium.) I was in the seats on the top row with my daughter waiting for the show to start, the warm up was around two hours which was becoming stressful but finally they came on stage.

The first surprise came as the band walked on stage and Luka Cruysberghs took her place at the microphone, who was this girl, nobody knew. Alex Callier introduced her as the band’s new lead singer. She had won The Voice in Belgium and Alex had been her mentor on that show, and now she was in London for her first appearance. A few songs in and then came another surprise, Alex announced the band’s latest song ‘Romantic’ and it was performed in London, a world premiere.

Two weeks later the band appeared live on Belgian TV channel Één performing Romantic, and several days after that the official video was released on Youtube. Then followed a tour of the US and many more concerts after that in the typical Hooverphonic events packed schedule. The band was back in the swing of things with a newly discovered singer to add to the Alex/Raymond duo, their drummer and backing guitarist.

Live concerts continued up until the coronavirus pandemic. The band had been pushing through the heats to perform as the Belgian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, a feat that Émilie Satt (former cameo artist for Hooverphonic,) achieved in Lisbon 2018 with Merci (finished 13th with 173 votes,) and again in 2019 when she provided backing vocals for Bilal in Tel Aviv and the song Roi. Alex also wrote the Belgian entry for 2018 ‘A Matter Of Time’ performed by Sennek.

Sennek and A Matter of Time composed by Alex Callier
Belgium’s Eurovision entry Tel Aviv 2018.

By February 2020 Hooverphonic were wholly concentrating on the forthcoming Eurovision in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The song was ‘Release Me’ sang by Luka Cruysberghs. Due to the pandemic both semi-finals and the final due in May were cancelled on 18 March 2020. The event could not be re-scheduled as the Dutch government had banned all gatherings with more than 100 attendees until further notice.

Now the Eurovision had a problem, because the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest disqualify songs released publicly before 1 September of the preceding calendar year, which meant that none of the 2020 songs would be eligible to compete in the 2021 contest, ironically including ‘Release Me’. But the 2021 contest went ahead in Rotterdam with 26 acts from 2020 being permitted.

The Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group (representing all participating broadcasters across the globe,) agreed that songs due to participate in 2020 could not be used in 2021 in accordance with the rules, despite the pandemic, because using the same songs would not be in the spirit of the contest. Rising to the challenge Hooverphonic announced their new song was The Wrong Place.

Alex stated in interview that he had made great use of the time during the pandemic, indeed he revealed enough material for three albums. One of these items was to meet Geike to discuss the 20th year anniversary of The Magnificent Tree album. It stirred some nostalgia. Alex explains that the band has a wide and diverse repertoire and that their new Eurovision 2021 song might be considered a big surprise.

The surprise could not have come any bigger, Geike was back, for many hardcore fans the news would have been tremendous. Luka was out, but according to Alex remains an integral part of the band, one wonders how exactly. A re-recording of perhaps Hooverphonic’s most famous track Mad About You was performed reaching #23 in Belgium in 2020.

Then came Eurovision 2021 and The Wrong Place, they came 19th in the final with 74 votes. The single however reached #1 in Belgium (Flanders) and Sweden, just shows what success Eurovision can bring considering the previous twenty years did not achieve a single higher than #5.

Part 1 (Alex & Raymond)

L to R: Raymond Geerts and Alex Callier

The main driving force behind Hooverphonic has always been Alex Callier. His techno style comes from a background as a sound engineer having studied at the Rits, a school for audiovisual and performing arts founded in 1962 and situated in the heart of Brussels. After that he worked for the Belgian television VRT channel.

During this phase of his developing career he met Frank Duchêne who had also gone through the Rits and he too worked at VRT, and in 1995 together they formed a band called ‘Hoover’.

The name lasted for a year until they were sued by a certain vacuum cleaner company, and so they renamed themselves as ‘Hooverphonic’ . During a three year collaboration they produced two successful albums for Sony Music. Unlike most bands that lay down music and then sign a deal, this band signed a deal just one month after forming, which despite its benefits probably stoked some underlying tensions within the band, having not had the space to develop untethered from commercial pressures.

Raymond Geerts began playing drums and later learned to play guitar. He was in a band from Sint-Niklaas, a medium sized city in Flanders, when he first met Alex Callier and Frank Duchêne who were both predominantly keyboard players. And from then on the Hoover/Hooverphonic experience began.

“I started playing drums but that wasn’t very practical because my parents lived in an apartment, so I began teaching myself the guitar – much easier on the neighbours,” recalls Raymond.

The three artists wrote the track Inhaler and cut their first demo with vocalist Esther Lybeert. It was musician Luc Truck Acker who persuaded the group at this early stage to look for a contract which led to their deal with Sony, but Esther Lybeert decided not to follow and therefore Liesje Sadonius became Hoover’s vocalist for their first album.

Prior to the release of this debut album ‘A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular‘ , the song 2Wicky was recorded with Liesje Sadonius and featured on the movie soundtrack of the 1996 film ‘Stealing Beauty’ (Io Ballo da Sola) written and directed by Academy Award-winning Italian Director Bernardo Bertolucci and premiered in Italy in March 1996. It helped to kick-start the career of Liv Rundgren Tyler, the American actress and daughter of Aerosmith’s lead singer Steven Tyler. The song was also on the soundtrack of an American thriller ‘I know what you did last summer’ .

Some comments on music websites have labelled 2Wicky as plagiarised because it is the same as Isaac Hayes’s ‘Walk On By, ‘ but indeed the song was written by Burt Bacharach and does share sampling from Hayes’ version of 1969. Alex Callier explains it succinctly:

I perceive that sampling is like a collage, like an artist is sticking together his pieces of paper. For 2Wicky we apprehended the sample of Isaac Hayes and Pierre Henry like a colour, a shade supplementary to our lineup. This is pure creativity. “

As for the meaning of the title and lyrics, that has also been a talking point. According to the Urban Dictionary one interpretation for the word ‘Wicky’ is to describe the actions / appearance / all around ‘awesomeness’ of an object and another is ‘slightly more extreme’ . Therefore 2Wicky may be saying that it is the second and slightly more extreme track of the new album, i.e. following Inhaler.

A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular was recorded at Alex Callier’s home studio and first released on 29 July 1996, credited to the band’s original name, Hoover. Inhaler, 2Wicky, Wardrope and Barabas from the album were also released as singles and this album remains the only one with the original recording lead singer Liesje Sadonius. She left Hooverphonic on amicable terms shortly after the debut album’s release.

A temporary replacement was found during 1997 in Kyoko Bartsoen who toured Europe with the band for three months. On her return she continued with a music project that became the trip-hop band known as ‘Lunarscape’ and according to which version you read, either released three albums and split in 2006 or released four albums and split in 2008. However, she returned to music as a solo artist in March 2017.

It was fortunate that Alex Callier’s sound technology background and his meticulous attention to detail coincided with the 1990s techno pop music era. His fascination with sampling and mixing was, perhaps unbeknown to him at the time, in symmetry with the trip-hop music of the time and the new wave scene that was present around Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.

This contrast between precise techno sounds and a more relaxed pop culture shaped the Hooverphonic sound.  They started playing a sort of futuristic guitar style that was known as trip-hop. But their songs had catchy tunes and choruses, and they have placed themselves in almost every other style of music since then. On hearing the scope of their work it’s not easy to classify their music under one genre.

Internet sites have stated that Alex Callier does not like the term ‘trip-hop’ yet on stage in London 2018 he described Hooverphonic as a trip-hop band with an eclectic range of influences. Another website stated that he preferred the term retro futurism. One thing is for sure, the first album was unmistakably trippy.

The second album was Blue Wonder Power Milk released on 11 August 1998 and the third lead vocalist was Geike Arnaert. From this point all of their albums hit the Top Ten Belgian album charts, with most of them reaching number one. Frank Duchêne had stated prior to the debut album: We wanted to get the chance to grow and build up a reputation. Being the hype of the month doesn’t interest us. And boy did they get it right!

The second album was every bit as popular as the first with defining songs such as Renaissance Affair, Club Montepulciano, Eden (a song covered by several artists including Sarah Brightman, and This Strange Effect (a cover of the sixties hit written by Ray Davies of The Kinks). The Japanese album release included the bonus track ‘Neon’ sang by Liesje Sadonius. Four songs were released as singles: Strange Effect, Club Montepulciano, Lung and Eden.

Nearing the album’s completion Frank Duchêne left the band. It marked a significant point for the remaining band members. Up to now songs had been wild and untamed ranging from trip-hop to psychedelic wonderment. With Frank Duchêne gone and new singer Geike an instant hit at just eighteen years old, they felt it was a new beginning even though they had received international acclaim for their work so far, and Geike would prove to be every bit the face of Hooverphonic as Alex and Raymond during her ten year tenure.

One reason for the quick turn-around of female lead vocalists has been attributed to Alex Callier’s strict attention to detail which created tensions in the band and it was the cause of Frank Duchêne’s parting. Alex Callier explained it in an interview:

The problem with Frank was that he wanted to hold the same spot in the band as me. But an orchestra can’t have two conductors.”

In a Belpop episode on Canvas in September 2014, Esther Lybeert, Liesje Sadonius and Kyoko Baertsoen revealed the tensions between them and Alex due to his high expectations. Esther Lybeert talked about his demands, Liesje Sadonius said: I had the feeling that I lost my autonomy,” and Kyoko Baertsoen said: Very soon I realised that they wanted to mould me to my predecessor.”

Future lead vocalists would share similar frustrations; Geike Arnaert said that she saw herself as an extension of Alex’s talent and when she failed to find the right tones would burst into tears. She stated: As a result, there was a tension between us. And singer Noémie Wolfs would leave Hooverphonic due to ‘artistic differences of opinion’.

Part 2 (Geike Arnaert)

Raymond and Alex with Geike Arnaert

The Magnificent Tree was Hooverphonic’s third album and Geike Arnaert’s second. The three band members put together an album that was released on 26 September 2000 and highly acclaimed. The cover shows the band in Kieldrecht, Belgium, standing in front of a ‘magnificent tree’.

Four singles were released from the album: Mad About You, Vinegar & Salt, Out Of Sight and Jackie Cane. And two that were intended for the album never made it: Green and Sunday Morning. It had been Hooverphonic’s most expensive album to date and one of the costliest ever produced in Belgium.

It received mixed reviews from music websites, however within two years 265,000 copies had been sold with 100,000 sales soon to follow in Belgium alone giving the album a double platinum status. Compare this success to the earlier album Blue Wonder Power Milk which at the time of The Magnificent Tree’s release had just hit Gold status with 25,000 copies.

The sharp rise in popularity has everything to do with the great song writing and music of course, but some will argue that it was largely down to Geike Arnaert. The band has contributed as much before and since Geike but one must acknowledge her contribution as a landmark in the band’s history because the band had well and truly joined with the perfect voice for their material.

The current lead vocalist Luka Cruysberghs has drawn a lot of attention because she is just seventeen but similarly when Geike joined Hooverphonic she was just eighteen years old. It seems that Hooverphonic understand that it’s easier for younger singers to be tuned into the band’s frequency. The band’s immediate success with Liesje Sadonius appears to have instilled a philosophy that ensuing singers should follow her template, but new singers invariably want to stamp their own mark.

Kyoko Baertsoen explained that she believed the band wanted to mould her into her predecessor but in every other aspect we see Hooverphonic always experimenting with the new, always striving to remain relevant and it does appear that singers are allowed a certain amount of freedom to interpret songs, so long as the right notes are maintained. With Geike we see a lot of emotion expressed and this is one reason behind her huge popularity.

Much later after she left Hooverphonic to follow a solo career she would state the following:

There were several reasons (ed. for leaving Hooverphonic). As I grew older and wiser, I developed my own character and my own artistic ideas. I tried to bring that out but the others were not open to it.”

It’s sad to note that her solo career has not been anywhere near as successful as her time with Hooverphonic, having released just on album, with only one track that sounds anywhere close to the Hooverphonic sound, ‘Blinded.’ It’s evident that Geike is a singer and performer more than a songwriter whereas Alex Callier and Raymond Geerts are predominantly writers and musicians – not singers. It’s why the combination made such a great Hooverphonic sound and if only Geike could have taken some of that formula with her … if only!

Mad About You was released as the lead single of four in 2000, but on the album it appeared as number two. It is sort of regarded as the band’s No1 song and the one most internationally recognised. Some have commented that it sounds like a James Bond type of arrangement and so fans are always hoping for Hooverphonic to write the next James Bond theme song. I don’t agree, but the song ‘Anything’ sometimes referred to as the original demo of Plus Profond is strikingly James Bond-like.

Above: Geike on youtube – Below: Liesje version

Mad About You has been used in the soundtracks for several films. Just a year after the single’s release it appeared in ‘Driven’ a film written, directed, produced by and starring Sylvester Stallone. And in 2002 the most popular female singer in Hong Kong, Joey Yung, featured it on her album. Although it only reached 23 in the Belgian charts it did much better in Italy reaching number 8 and worse in the UK reaching only the 104 spot.

The Magnificent Tree is an album that you could make a case for every track to be the lead one, it’s that good an album. For example track 4. Jackie Cane, is about one twin sister who aspires to be a professional singer then succumbs to the pressures of fame and returns home. But the other twin sister remains bitter and poisons them both. It’s a song that inspired the next and fourth album ‘Hooverphonic Presents Jackie Cane’ which also featured the song ‘The Last Supper,’ a reference to the Cane sister’s poisoned meal.

One of my Hooverphonic favourites is Pink Fluffy Dinosaurs written by Alex and Geike. Yet I don’t pretend to understand it, I just like the place it takes me to and it’s very trippy. For me it defines the mood they were in when they worked on the album.

The song Jackie Cane was written by Alex Callier and Cathy Dennis. Four years after The Magnificent Tree Cathy Dennis would be listed in Q Magazine (UK) as one of the top 100 most influential people in music. She has had numerous hits and No1s and collaborated with countless writers. To give some idea of her recent talent, she co-wrote ‘Toxic’ for Britney Spears for which she won a Grammy, and in 2008 wrote ‘I kissed a girl’ for Katy Perry which ranks as one of the best selling digital singles in history.

I think the track is inspired but there is perhaps too much restraint in that when the momentum builds towards the end repeating the line ‘Have gone‘ you want to hear more of it, but alas the song has already ended.

As well as venturing into song writing with Alex, Geike also did several covers as well as keeping up with the pace of Hooverphonic song production. The following are strewn across her time as lead vocalist and this list is not exhaustive:

  • This Strange Effect (1998) by Dave Berry (1965)
  • Shake The Disease (1998) by Depeche Mode (1985)
  • Hell’s Bells (2001) by AC/DC (1980)
  • Sad But True (2001) by Metallica (1991)
  • In A Gadda Da Vida (2001) by Iron Butterfly (1968)
  • My Autumn’s Done Come (2003) by Lee Hazlewood (1966)
  • In Bloom (2008) by Nirvana (1991)
  • Femme Fatale (2002) by The Velvet Underground (1967)
  • Cry (2008) by Godley & Crème (1985)

If you ask which Geike song I have played most then it’s Femme Fatale. Yes I know Hooverphonic didn’t write it and it’s just a cover, and even the recording quality suffers a bit, but it is plain awesome. It is one of those songs that if you don’t know Geike you might misinterpret her idiosyncrasies but if you do know her voice then you hear the relaxed vocals and the depth of her emotion.

Andy Warhol was the manager of Velvet Underground and helped produce their debut album Velvet Underground & Nico in March 1967. Track 3, Femme Fatale was written by Lou Reed about Edie Sedgwick at Warhol’s request. Edie was one of Warhol’s supergirls, appearing in several of his films during the 1960s.

The album was a commercial failure and was entirely shunned for the first ten years due to its deviant content. It then gained unprecedented popularity.

In the UK in 1997 it was named the 22nd greatest album of all time by the HMV Group and in the US in 2003 Rolling Stone magazine put it 13th on their list.

Rolling Stone called it the most prophetic rock album ever made and The Velvet Underground & Nico is now widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential albums in the history of popular music. The album contains a song added at the last minute but positioned as track 1, Sunday Morning. How coincidental that Hooverphonic also made a song of the same name that didn’t make The Magnificent Tree album but it appeared as the B-side on the Out Of Sight single CD release, from that album.

As for Femme Fatale, when you compare Nico’s rendition with Geike’s, Nico sounds positively droll. I think Geike may have tried to copy some of that dryness with her version but it didn’t work and her version is far superior. If you fall in love with Geike’s voice then you also love this song and it strangely grows on you.

The band’s first three albums were also released in the U.S. having relative success. If you’ve read so far you’ve seen that Hooverphonic have gone from strength to strength. In addition to a great trio of albums at this point, their music featured on movie soundtracks and countless television commercials. But just as they were breaking the international scene, as they were touring the US in October of 2000, Sony pulled their US distribution.

The year 2000 marked another milestone for the band. Euro 2000 was hosted in Belgium and Hooverphonic wrote the promo music and appeared on TV to an estimated 1 billion viewers. The stadium contained just 50,000 people and Hooverphonic played a song called ‘Visions’ whilst a giant paper man kicked a giant paper ball to officially open the football competition. When the song ended Alex, Raymond and Geike ran off to board a golf-cart and were whisked away.

Above: Visions – This track opened the Euro 2000 games.

The fourth album therefore, Hooverphonic Presents Jackie Cane, is a masterpiece that never made it to the US. Copies of the album were non-existent in stores and only available off the internet albeit it went straight to Platinum in Belgium overnight and won several awards. It was released 28 October 2002 and within a month had reached 100,000 worldwide sales.

The song Jackie Cane had appeared on The Magnificent Tree and the narrative continued across the fourth album. Every track seems to have lyrics that tie in to the story such as track 1 Sometimes where Jackie appears to be telling her sister she wants to go. On the B-side of the single was a track called The Contract. And track 2, One, is about twin sisters. Tracks 3, 4, 5 would seem to refer to her success and then after that it appears to be about her drug addiction until finally the last two tracks say goodbye.

The following year the band released Sit Down and Listen To Hooverphonic. It was recorded with an orchestra and was a collection of their songs including two new songs, Antarctica and The Last Thing I Need Is You, as well as the cover My Autumn’s Done Come.

Album 5 No More Sweet Music followed in December 2005. It was a harrowing return to song-writing mastery. Every track on the album is a hit. And they achieved it all without much help from their record label Sony, so in 2006 they left Sony, citing the lack of support for No More Sweet Music, and continued on without a record label. It proved to be a sound decision. A best-of album sealed the deal. Singles ’96 – ’06 comprised two CDs of all their previous album singles including a DVD of the music videos and a full concert. No More Sweet Music released four singles: Wake Up, You Hurt Me, Dirty Lenses and We All Fall.

Now that Hooverphonic were free of Sony you’d think there might be a lull in creativity. Instead the most creative album yet followed, even the album title is out there; The President of the LSD Golf Club. Here they returned to their psychedelic roots. Released in October 2007 in Belgium and The Netherlands and in March 2008 in Europe, it was an instant hit.

It was the title that Hooverphonic wanted to give The Magnificent Tree but Sony did not allow it. Now they could do as they pleased. Some special editions across Europe included a track called The Perfect Dose and four singles were released from the album; Expedition Impossible, Gentle Storm, Circles and 50 Watt – With B sides Pink Flamingo Dream, August and Cry.

The output of songs and the gruelling touring schedule up to the album’s completion and through to its release was the band’s busiest time. When this sixth album was released Geike Arnaert announced that she intended to leave Hooverphonic at the end of 2008 to pursue a solo career. On 10 October 2008, Hooverphonic announced that Geike Arnaert would be leaving the band.

Geike Arnaert for almost all fans that attended her concerts remains the quintessential sound of Hooverphonic. It’s like Barcelona fans of the mid 70s affirm that Neeskens and Cruyff were the best international pairing in football history. When Barcelona brought Johan Neeskens to join Johan Cruyff in 1974, it leant Neeskens the nickname of ‘Johan the Second’ . When he was asked about being in the shadow of Cruyff he said: I don’t mind being the second greatest player in the world.

Similarly when Geike left Hooverphonic there was a problem for whomever came next. That person would have to be strong to carry off the back catalogue and pull off forthcoming albums. Geike’s legacy is never going away and die hard fans will not be turned easily, but just as new rivers flow and old ones disappear, the life of a band must go on, and of course it did take some time before Hooverphonic would find a suitable candidate.

One of the last performances from Geike also stands as one of her most emotional – Cry. On the B-side of Circles from The President Of The LSD Golf Club, Cry is a cover of a 1985 Godley & Crème track. On youtube one comment from Carlos Pompa stated: Simply beautiful. With Geike’s voice it always feels as if it were somewhat personal! and Loreena Casier stated: In love with the song, in love with her voice, and most of all, in love with her 😀 beautiful!

With this love from fans it’s easy to see why talk has always been about whether Geike would return back to Hooverphonic. I think this is slightly disrespectful to the band and Geike. She did return for a one-off performance with the band but for all parties the Alex/Raymond/Geike trio is behind them. It’s not like Geike needs Hooverphonic to be more famous or the band needs Geike to move forwards, no no … singers go solo, it happens all the time, and bands move on.

Cry – cover of Godley & Crème (1985)

Part 3 (Noémie Wolfs)

Raymond and Alex with Noémie Wolfs

It took two years to find a successor to Geike Arnaert. On 4 November 2010 Hooverphonic announced on Belgian televisions VRT channel, on the late show, ‘De Laatste Show’ that Noémie Wolfs was their new lead singer.

Hooverphonic tradition says an album soon follows for the new singer and this time it would be The Night Before.

The title track of the album is their biggest singles chart success to date. The album soon equalled the success of The Magnificent Tree and it seemed that Hooverphonic had at last returned to their true identity after Sony.

Post Sony, Hooverphonic did not go it alone. In 2007 they signed with Belgian indie PIAS to release album 7 The President Of The LSD Golf Club. Shortly after its release when Geike Arnaert left it must have been a massive blow to Alex and Raymond to end an era that had brought them so much success with Geike. However, both men are such that they probably took the relaxed view that if she wanted to leave then that’s that; if she thought she was bigger or better than Hooverphonic then good luck to her.

There was probably no consideration of the workload and demands asked of her and the effect that had on a young woman. Presumably if you want fame then that’s the price you have to pay. Geike without doubt should have made the decision to leave much earlier, you only have to look at how busy the band were in 2008 to see the stress they must have all been under during that time.

Irrespective of Geike’s situation, the first three singers had come and gone in the first three years and Geike had given them stability. But Noémie offered the band a new direction. After whittling down thousands of applications from around the world to around 1,000, Noémie was selected. She was 22 years old from Scherpenheuvel-Zichem in Belgium with next to no previous musical history. All the sweeter when The Night Before single became Hooverphonic’s highest charting single reaching the No3 spot in Belgium. This release also marked the return to Sony.

Four singles were released from the album: The Night Before, Anger Never Dies, One Two Three, and Heartbroken. All hits in their own right, but the track I have played the most is ‘Norwegian Stars’ albeit every track on this album is magnificent. It cemented Noémie Wolfs’s future success in the band.

Hooverphonic With Orchestra followed in 2012, which included new arrangements of previous hits, and a cover of Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack. If there was ever any doubt that Noémie Wolfs could not equal Geike as lead singer then this was evidence that she had done so.

Hooverphonic have stated that their music was meant to be played by an orchestra and that it’s always something they had in the pipeline. Most of the new album was recorded on 31 January 2012 at Galaxy Studios with a follow on recording session on 6 February 2012 at the Pink Flamingo studio in Sint-Niklaas. Live concerts were scheduled for example at Koningin, Elisabethzaal, Antwerp, 6 March 2012 and the album was released on 23 March 2012.

It was released in Belgium with video included on the CD of the live concerts. Koningin, Elisabethzaal is the well known youtube concert where Noémie has a zebra striped dress and Alex and Raymond wear white suits. As you would expect from a singer on her second album, Noémie looks terrific and her confidence is contagious, she owns the stage, looks remarkably sexy and has an air of je ne sais quoi about her.

Following the release of album 9, the orchestra concerts continued aplenty. Search for ‘hooverphonic prague 5 May 2012’ for a good example concert. It was held at the Lucerna Music Bar which appears to be Hooverphonic’s preferred venue and which is probably the most popular club in Prague with a long tradition.

Lucerna Music Bar, Prague 5 May 2012 live with orchestra

For their 10th album and 9th studio album, the band started with a competition they called Hooverdomestic. From 180 entrants four were selected to lend their house for a day to be Hooverphonic’s pop-up studio. Recordings captured the atmosphere of a house and its acoustic reverb. The project is documented on youtube in a five part series and Alex explains about the importance of capturing reverb and interestingly how they made a unique instrument sound for each track.

Reflection was released 15 November 2013. It was without doubt one of their most remarkable albums not least because they made it with analogue instruments, stripping away the computer effects and even the strings to create a basic rustic first layer built upon with echoing harmonies.

It’s turned out to be a dirty album. Raw, no frills. Simply pure and natural. What we play, is what you get! No cutting and pasting, said Alex Callier.

It resulted in their strongest start from an album; Amalfi, the first single from it, went to No1 just 3 weeks after release. Much later Hooverphonic would say they struggled somewhat to fit Noémie’s voice into their back catalogue but in Reflection the warm setting suited her. Track 5 Bad Weather is as subtle as it gets, with just a piano allowing Noémie’s voice to sail over it like a schooner on a calm sea. Tracks 8.Single Malt, 11.Wait For A While, 13.Copper, 14.Erased, 15.Clouds, all share the same effect. With the up-tempo tracks being 2.ABC Of Apology, 6.Boomerang, 7.Devil Kind Of Girl, and 12.Roadblock.

It’s a matter of taste of course, but most albums have one or two or even three tracks that you cannot stop playing. With Hooverphonic albums it’s the opposite, there are one or two that you do not play over and over and the others are usually terrific. Again it’s down to taste but Amalfi is one of those select few that I do not listen to much, whereas Gravity, Copper, Boomerang, and Roadblock are the best of the album.

With Reflection you can find yourself turning to other Hooverphonic albums simply because the piano is so dominant and you feel you are missing something Hooverphonic’ky’. I don’t get why most reviewers state that Reflection is back to the original Hooverphonic sound because it is as far removed from the traditional way they make music as it could get.

Above: Gravity, Liège, November 2013

Noémie Wolfs decided to leave the band in March 2015 and signed a record deal with Univeral in the Autumn, and releasing her first solo single ‘Burning’ on 3 March 2016. Raymond Geerts announced that after five years the band would be continuing without Noémie Wolfs stating the reason simply as: “It does not click“.

Although it was harder for the group to match Noémie’s style, Alex Callier said that it wasn’t the reason for her departure. In truth their artistic visions were too far apart and although Alex stated it was a mutual decision he was surprised when later on Noémie said that she had decided to leave because of their artistic differences.

Alex Callier commented: We just weren’t seeing eye to eye anymore. There are no hard feelings, and we still talk when we see each other. But the chemistry you need to feel between the band members was gone.

In the same way that we parted with Geike earlier in part 2 with the cover Cry, let’s part with Noémie with another great emotionally sung cover – You Only Live Twice. Fans live in the hope that Hooverphonic will be asked to write the next Bond theme, here we can pretend that that wish came true.

You Only Live Twice – cover
Nancy Sinatra (1967) by Noémie Wolfs
Part 4 (The Duo years)

Raymond and Alex interview following Noémie Wolfs’s departure

Instead of focusing on finding another replacement, Hooverphonic worked with a revolving cast of guest vocalists and wasted no time on their 11th album releasing it on 18 March 2016, just fifteen days after Noémie Wolfs’s debut solo single release.

In Wonderland was yet another No1 hit in Belgium. It brought together several songs they had on the back-burner and some that they felt had not been suited to Noémie’s style and therefore couldn’t perform.

It must be difficult writing hit after hit and see them interpreted by a singer that will get the credit and the glory for singing it well. Hooverphonic have experimented with the male voice for example track 3 Dictionary from Blue Wonder Power Milk. You cannot though, go ahead and substitute songs that have traditionally been performed by a female vocalist and now use a male voice. Particularly when there is an unmistakable Belgian accent undertone from the male voice. There are playwrights and there are actors, scorers and musicians, and in most cases the singer can’t compose and the composer cannot sing.

Perhaps the scariest thing about this album was the pre release taster ‘Cocaine Kids’ of which the video actually features kids snorting cocaine. Some would say disgraceful, or what’s the point in it. The fact is it’s another extension from the mind of Alex Callier. That he can still put out something so unique and dramatic as this is just brilliant.

So the band now a duo, introduce more singers than ever, six in fact on one album. Alex and Raymond have seen five singers come and go but their album experimentation continues and this one is completely different than all before it. Unlike the concept album Jackie Cane in which all the tracks revolved around the same theme, In Wonderland is totally varied with each song being an individual entity neither contributing or aligning itself to the other tracks.

Moving and God’s Gift were written a decade earlier for No More Sweet Music but were not included because it was deemed they did not suit Geike or subsequently Noémie. This time they made it with male voices. Cocaine Kids and Praise Be also feature a male singer.

After years of having worked with one specific voice per album, we were really excited to work with different people. In the past we often attributed super cool numbers starting from a male voice. In most cases, they could be perfectly reworked in a female version, but this did not always work. So often gems remained unused. For us it is an obvious choice to use not only women’s voices on this album.

Personally this album is not the sort of music I listen to. Basically I like the first four tracks on it, that’s all. But I can forgive the band because I like that they are different, out there and unpredictable. Cocaine Kids for example grew on me eventually. But for some it is too far removed, one reviewer on Amazon said: This is not Hooverphonic to the point where they need to change their name.

One guest artist is London-born singer and cellist Janie Price AKA Bird for the title track In Wonderland. As well as in their Belgian studio recording also took place in a London home, a small Norwegian island, and a town near Milan adding a different variation to an already varied album.

It was all looking like Alex and Raymond were setting up to go it alone as a duo. In an interview they were both asked of the possibility of Geike returning to Hooverphonic. They must have heard this upteen times but the diplomatic answer was that you never know what the future holds. It was on this note that when Hooverphonic booked the Islington Assembly Hall for 18 April 2018, I was expecting to see a duo.

Part 5 (Luka Cruysberghs)

Luka Cruysberghs’s first image for Hooverphonic for Romantic

No one really knew what to expect in London 2018 when Hooverphonic walked onto the stage through a haze of blue smoke. Alex and Raymond picked up their instruments and the music began. Then Luka walked on from house right up to her centre spot in front of a tall microphone, then Inhaler took off.

Who was this girl, perhaps a last minute guest singer. When she stuck around for a few songs it was evident she was playing more than a cameo role. Alex Callier then announced that Luka Cruysberghs was the band’s new lead vocalist. That’s how it happened; enthralling.

It was a relief knowing we would not be listening to Alex singing through the setlist. We thought ‘Bird’ might make an appearance for In Wonderland and maybe Hooverphonic’s first male singer Pieter Peirsman had learnt some back catalogue and would sing more than his usual Badaboum and Hiding In A Song. How wrong we were, as during the intro Alex told the audience that they both had won The Voice 2017 and that Luka was now fronting the band. That’s the way to announce a new singer, not in a web post or youtube snippet but to an audience.

Alex also mentioned that Luka was there because he cannot sing. It’s a small point that no one picked up on but it has to do with what we said earlier about male voices. It’s clear the band matured in their duo years to acknowledge their music needs a female voice to balance things out. Alex was being too modest, he can sing and his voice carries through much of their music and particularly in live performances, but he is a genius composer and musician, and you cannot be great at all things.

Islington Assembly Hall, London, 2018 – (Photo credit: Jason Miller)

No one really knew what to expect in London 2018 when Hooverphonic walked onto the stage through a haze of blue smoke. Alex and Raymond picked up their instruments and the music began. Then Luka walked on from house right up to her centre spot in front of a tall microphone, then Inhaler took off.

Who was this girl, perhaps a last minute guest singer. When she stuck around for a few songs it was evident she was playing more than a cameo role. Alex Callier then announced that Luka Cruysberghs was the band’s new lead vocalist. That’s how it happened; enthralling.

It was a relief knowing we would not be listening to Alex singing through the setlist. We thought ‘Bird’ might make an appearance for In Wonderland and maybe Hooverphonic’s first male singer Pieter Peirsman had learnt some back catalogue and would sing more than his usual Badaboum and Hiding In A Song. How wrong we were, as during the intro Alex told the audience that they both had won The Voice 2017 and that Luka was now fronting the band. That’s the way to announce a new singer, not in a web post or youtube snippet but to an audience.

Alex also mentioned that Luka was there because he cannot sing. It’s a small point that no one picked up on but it has to do with what we said earlier about male voices. It’s clear the band matured in their duo years to acknowledge their music needs a female voice to balance things out. Alex was being too modest, he can sing and his voice carries through much of their music and particularly in live performances, but he is a genius composer and musician, and you cannot be great at all things.

That said, the band having made one album as a duo and arranging multiple voices to fill it, had fulfilled another chapter in their story. It must have been a relief when Luka appeared seemingly out of nowhere for them. I say ‘for them’ because she was already a Hooverphonic fan and that was the reason she chose Alex as her mentor for The Voice. As part of that competition Alex and Luka sang Mad About You. So Alex had a good idea what working with Luka was like and how her voice could fit into the band.

Luka Cruysberghs – (Photo credit: Jason Miller)

After the London concert there were some critical comments online stating that Hooverphonic had gotten it wrong or that Geike was better – yes that ol’ chesnut again! Geike was 18, Noémie was 22, but Luka is just 17, please. Remember that Noémie too faced criticism and it took an album for her to feel confident about her role which is evident on youtube in concerts following the Koningin orchestra performance.

Likewise, it was evident in London that Luka was a little shy and reserved and that Alex and Raymond helped her feel at ease on stage. At the end of several songs Raymond leant across to whisper something to Luka, presumably to let her know that she was doing great.

She is there because of her fabulous voice, but maturity will come with experience and only then will we see her full potential, that which Alex and Raymond already see in her now. Her job is to get comfortable with her own style and confident in expressing her emotions through it, a task which I feel she will develop quickly if she is allowed to blossom without the same pressures that previous singers have talked about.

I met Luka in London after the concert and she had the largest smile. She is quiet, polite, attentive and deserving of her fame and future success.

Part 6 (The Reunion)
The reunion between Alex, Raymond and Geike 2020

In what circumstances would an ageing band swap out a 20 something blond lead singer for a 40 something blond lead singer. That was rhetorical because Geike was the rising agent that allowed the band to rise as successfully as it did. As much you might say about Alex’s song writing and Raymond’s riffs, and that’s the point, these three ingredients bake the best of Hooverphonic.

Hooverphonic didn’t win Eurovision 2021 but their fans have as much to look forward now as they ever have in the past. How does Alex Callier knock out so many songs, it certainly has given success to the previous lead singers; Noémie’s five years and Luka’s three years with the band made them successful artists in their own right down to the volume of material Alex churned out for them to perform.

Luka performed all over Europe and the US an released two albums, then just fell short or representing her country at Eurovision, what a start to a singing career. Unfortunate for Luka that a pandemic took Eurovision from her in 2020, but in 2021 it would be a combination of the band becoming stale without live shows and talks with former singer Geike about upcoming The Magnificent Tree anniversary, that Alex and no doubt Raymond too, decided it was perfect timing for a rebirth – new Eurovision song, new singer, new era.

Eurovision Rotterdam, Netherlands, 2021 – (Photo credit: Eurovision)

Geike has rejoined the band at 41. It follows a long solo career since leaving in 2008 after 11 years the lead singer. Exactly 20 years since the release of their successful album The Magnificent Tree, the band re-recorded Mad About You and they felt that it was the right time for a reunion. Alex put it this way:

All three of us felt an urge to start working again. We are still the ‘core of Hooverphonic’ which is for a lot of people the main setup of the band.