At this point America’s only about 20 minutes into their first date with Soldier’s Heart… but it’s going well so far… very well, in fact… The Belgian band has been at it since 2012 and released their self-titled debut EP this June. The four-song collection is most easily (and regularly) characterized as dream pop, but also seems to borrow a lot from ‘90s R&B and Trip Hop. In a recent piece for Galore, the band rattled off ten of their all-time favorite tracks, which included numbers from Lou Reed, Jenny Hval, Lana Del Rey, Connan Mockasin, Portishead, Aaliyah, Warpaint, Suicide, Darkside, and The Beatles… so yeah, that kind of raises more questions than it answers… Well, I also recently got a chance to chat with all five members of Soldier’s Heart, who gave me a delightful tag-team-style interview about what they’ve been up to for the past three or four years and their upcoming string of Belgian [for the most part] Festival appearances that begin on August 4th.
Izzy: This band is still relatively new. What have been the highlights so far?
Laurens: We did a really nice European tour with Balthazar, our first real tour experience, playing almost every night for three weeks in some of the best venues in Europa was amazing. We had the chance to do some other really nice support acts, Youth Lagoon, Willis Earl Beal, dEUS, Polica, Crystal Fighters, etc. Being able to meet bands we admire is pretty exciting.
Izzy: How is it that you all came together for Soldier’s Heart?
Benjamin: Sylvie, Laurens, and I met at art school where we joined a band. That band disbanded pretty quickly though and we founded a new one with the three of us. When we started playing live shows and competing in live show contests we asked Jasper to join. Jasper had previously played in another band with Laurens. After a while we felt we needed a bass player, that’s where Ferre came in.
Izzy: Have you had any particular favorite reactions to your work?
Sylvie: Reactions we get often and like to hear are that our songs put a smile on peoples’ faces—and that we should play in California. Another good one is that people seem to point out and like the combination of the boys’ on-stage frenzy with what is described as my more mysterious presence…
Izzy: On a related note, have you noticed any patterns in the kinds of people who most like, or best “get,” your music?
Ferre: I think mostly people between 20 and 30. But we’d hate for our music to be categorized like that, we love every fan. At live shows we do notice a lot of male fans, probably this has something to do with Sylvie’s live performance.
Izzy: What would you consider to be your most significant collective influences, whether musical or from other aspects of life or artistic mediums?
Laurens: Each band member comes from a different background – Ferre studies graphic design, Jasper music production, Benjamin studied acting, Laurens fine arts, and Sylvie has done modeling. So everyone has different influences but in the end they all come together, and we influence each other.
Izzy: I really love your EP, but I especially love “Honey.” It reminds me of a combination of really great elements of the mid-‘90s which I can’t actually entirely piece together. How did that track come about? Is it anyone in the band’s favourite?
Jasper: I remember when we were working on that track, our neighbor across the street was yelling at us to lower the volume. It was a sunny day and we were pumping the beats through an open window. In the chorus there’s a vocal sample of Benjamin going, “aaah.” That sample always reminds me of our angry neighbour [laughs]. Live, we play “Honey” as an extended version, at the end there is an improv part with a heavy four-to-the-floor beat. Every one of us is going all out in that part, and it’s my favourite part of the show.
Izzy: I’m a big fan of your music videos, which strike me as being very cinematic, so I’m curious: What are the biggest influences behind the visual elements of Soldier’s Heart? Are there any visual artists or works of visual art you’re especially into or inspired by?
Sylvie: For the video for “African Fire” and “New Housie,” we worked with a young video artist and a very good friend of mine, Stef van Looveren. The main subject of his work is the manipulation of the digital era, and losing a sense of connection with reality. We think the combination of our sound and his visual imagery works well, for instance in “African Fire,” where the inspiration from Surreal artists (with an obvious reference to Rene Magritte) matches the dreamlike feel of the song.
Izzy: You have a number of upcoming shows in Belgium. What can be expected of the live experience?
Ferre: We try to translate our music into more danceable versions on stage, and you can see us dancing for life while trying to play everything right. We will be working with visuals in the future as well.
Izzy: And are there any bills you’re especially excited to play or bands that you’re especially excited to get to see or share a stage with? You’re playing a lot of pretty major festivals.
Sylvie: We’re especially excited to be playing Pukkelpop this summer—sharing the bill with Little Dragon, Father John Misty, Fat White Family, The Soft Moon, War on Drugs, Tame Impala, Son Lux, etc.
Izzy: Finally, I understand that there’s a full-length in the works for next year. What can be expected of that? Is it basically an evolution of your latest EP, or can we expect you to be experimenting with some new sounds?
Benjamin: Yes, we’re definitely trying out some new sounds. The EP is only one side of what we are at the moment, so the scope is going to be larger. We’re working hard to take the production and the songwriting to the next level. We’re still in the middle of the recording and writing process, so it’s still taking shape.