Belgian band Balthazar play Sticky Mike’s in Brighton on April 7, following on from the release of their new album Thin Walls which they recorded in Lewes
The album emerged from intensive touring, a period when they were all living in each other’s pockets. It comes from the band’s two songwriters Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez. Completing the line-up are Patricia Vanneste, Simon Casier and Michiel Balcaen.
“We have been together for about nine years,” says Maarten. “We started at high school. The first years we were just fooling around like a typical high-school band. We released our first album five years ago, and that’s when it became serious. It is full time for us now. It’s OK. We did very well in Belgium and the Netherlands from the first record and released it in the rest of Europe. France and Germany followed quite quickly.
“I would say the music is alternative pop music. It’s quite a minimal approach through the arrangements. It’s very atmospheric. We have heard a lot of people saying it is very cinematographic. They are pop songs, really – four-minute pop songs. There are two of us that write the songs and two of us that are singing. We are a bit like The Beatles. The Beatles are important to us. I think The Beatles should be an influence on any rock ‘n’ roll band on the planet. We love their records, how much they put out in just nine years. We have been influenced by them, but there are a lot of other influences, a lot of old 60s classic bands such as Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Serge Gainsbourg, people like that. We try to combine those influences, but I suppose as song-writers we are always looking at how those classic pop heroes wrote their stuff, how they wrote songs that became timeless. I suppose we write about things that are close to you. It’s about our own little world and things we come across as 27-year-old people. There is a lot of writing about girls and stuff like that. We don’t really write about social or political stuff. It is much more personal than that.”
Their Brighton date is their first on a biggish tour, but certainly not their first in the UK: “We have done support tours in the UK before, and we also did our own tour. The UK is a good place to crack for continental bands or for Belgian bands when you think about all the musical history there is in the UK.”
As for the new album, Jinte and Maarten had rented rooms in an old monastery next door to each other, and the thin walls between the rooms meant they could hear every idea the other was working on: “If he had a new melody, I could hear it before he’d played it to me,” Maarten says, “so I had an idea for a song before I’d actually heard it properly.”
The monastery would be home for the two of them for a couple of days here and there before they hit the road again where hotels and their tour bus also became song-writing workshops. “We had to find a new way of writing on this record.”