Finding new music is fun. I love just surfing the web looking for new tunes, exploring new styles, and finding that next big thing. But the band sitting with me today actually came to me; I didn’t have to look hard. I was sitting at my desk one day and I received an email from the lead singer. She was asking me if I would take some time to listen to their sound and give some feedback. As soon as I heard them I knew that not only did I want to learn more about the band, but I wanted to interview them. It is rare for me to find a band with a female lead that I enjoy. The lead vocals are just so fitting. Their sound takes me back to Friday night, sitting in the bleachers, watching a football game. It is calm, soothing, relaxing, and something you can throw on while doing homework or something you can blast while driving down the road. I just can’t get enough of her voice; it’s that good. These guys come from Brussels, so unless you live in Europe you won’t be seeing them on tour very soon, but I highly suggest you give them a listen. They have serious potential and I can’t wait to see them grow. It is my pleasure to sit down with Chloe & The Lonesome Cowboy.
Is your name really Chloë? And is the cowboy really lonesome?
(Chloë) Yes, it’s my real name and I’m quite happy with it. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
(Bram) And no, I’m not that lonesome. Although our band name started out as a joke, I think it perfectly describes what we are and what we do.
Chloë, I absolutely love your voice.
(Chloë) Thanks! I have been practicing a lot and I maintain my voice very well. In school people used to call me “little juke box” because I couldn’t stop singing. After a while my class mates started to request their favorite songs and I just kept on singing. I do think the art of singing is sometimes underestimated, so it’s nice when someone really appreciates it.
(Bram) We try to tell stories with our songs and Chloë’s voice is the absolute middle point of our music. Every other instrument we use is just there to support her voice, nothing less, but certainly nothing more. In the beginning we tried to work with a full band, but the more musicians we got on board, the more her voice got lost in the band. Being only a duo allows us to give her voice the space it needs.
How long have you guys been performing?
(Bram) It must be almost two years now. I am actually a bass player and when we decided to perform as a duo I had to learn the guitar, the drums and the piano all at once.
(Chloë) And the glockenspiel!
(Bram) Indeed, the glockenspiel. Anyway, because I live in an apartment, the only place where I can practice my drum skills is on stage. That’s why we have been focusing on performing a lot, so I get to practice more! Lately, I’m starting to feel alright with my “new toys”.
(Chloë) I’m a singer, Bram’s a bass player, we know our instruments, we just don’t know all instruments. No, really, it’s never been our ambition to be perfect musicians from the start, apart from the singing maybe. Besides, the learning process, the search for a direction… it’s all part of the story and the concept. Most bands practice for two years in their basement before they get on stage, we decided to hit the road from the very beginning, which was very confronting, but also very interesting. We learned a lot from it, and we still do.
What would you be doing if you were not performing?
(Chloë) I would still be singing, of course. Music is an essential part of my life. And, apart from music, I’m always busy, always trying to do something creative.
Do you have jobs outside of music?
(Bram) Chloë just finished a master’s degree in Cultural Management, after she got master’s in Philosophy and Journalism. And I work as an engineer. It may seem like a strange combination, but the contrast between my day job and my musical life is very interesting. It allows me to observe everything in the right perspective.
Do you write all your own lyrics?
(Bram) Chloë writes all the lyrics.
Where do you get inspiration for a new track?
(Chloë) I like to observe human relationships. In real life, movies, books… I try to think of a story or a conversation when I come across some interesting relationship and I put it in words. Lyrics happen to me, sometimes I can’t control it, and I hear music in my head as well. Besides relationships, I sometimes come up with some tale, I don’t know where it comes from, it seems to just present itself to me, like War Doll or Mary. I wrote those songs, fairy tales even, in three minutes.
You have some great concert poster designs. Who does all your graphic design work?
(Chloë) That’s Bram’s doing. He takes care of all the graphic design, from posters to our MySpace layout etc. For the artwork on Right at The Sun we worked with Emelie Bryon.
What is the best concert you have ever been to?
(Bram) Difficult question! We just went to a Beach House concert, which was very nice. And earlier this week we’ve seen The National, one of my favorite bands. But the best ever… it may be Sigur Ros.
(Chloë) Yes, Sigur Ros played at the Pukkelpop Festival, two years ago, and they managed to silence a crowd of 20,000 people. I absolutely adore them, but I prefer the Leonard Cohen concert, last year.
What is the biggest crowd you have ever played for?
(Chloë) I think around 200 people. We have a very intimistic sound and setting, so we mostly play for about 50 to 100 people. For a while, we even feared bigger stages, we thought we’d lose the intimistic atmosphere. Fortunately we were wrong, even on bigger stages we got really nice reactions from the audience.
(Bram) Let’s say we’re lucky Chloë has a large and proud family! There’s always an uncle or an aunt around. In the beginning we sometimes had to play for very few people, just like any other new band that is just getting started. But the more you play, the more you see people coming back and the more you see the audience grow. That’s also one of the reasons why we decided to get on stage immediately; you don’t build up a fan base from your living room. Also, the feedback of the audience is sometimes very useful.
You guys are from Brussels. Have you been to the United States before?
(Chloë) Not yet, but we’d love to visit the States. I used to have a New York phase for a very long time. I still want to go there, but lately I also got interested in the south of the states, I don’t really know why, maybe because of series like Carnivale, Deadwood or True Blood; I just like the accent, the heat, the dust… I reckon the south is probably more than southern accents and dust, so I just want to go there and find out. Actually our song The Place Where You Were Born is based on heat and dust in a county far, far away.
How did you and Bram originally meet?
(Chloë) We met in an other musical project. But we didn’t have any input in that project, except for singing other people’s lyrics and playing other peoples’ bass lines. It really didn’t feel right, so after a while we both needed a break and left for London.
(Bram) Then Chloë told me she had lots of songs and lyrics of her own and she wondered if we could go on with that, with just the two of us.
(Chloë) I remember singing them in Hyde Park. The squirrels were our audience!
(Bram) Back in Brussels we immediately started recording and in a couple of weeks we finished five songs.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
(Bram) I have a lot of respect for people who really stick to their heart when making music. I think Nick Cave is one of the greatest artists of the last 20 years. He completely follows his gut feeling and he’s got something to tell.
(Chloë) I listen to a lot of music. First of all, I just like a good tune. Whether it comes from Led Zeppelin or Nelly Furtado, I don’t care. Second, I also like good lyrics. Leonard Cohen, Guy Garvey (Elbow), Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Paul Banks (Interpol)… they all write these amazing lyrics. Third, I tend to listen a lot to female vocalists like Björk, Joan Wasser, Chan Marshall, Hanne Hukkelberg and even Cecilia Bartolli!
I assume you speak English?
(Chloë) Yes we do, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation! (Laughs) People sometimes ask why we sing in English. Well, we can’t help it. We’ve been listening to Anglo-American music, which is a very rich tradition, all our lives. I did write some poems in Dutch when I was younger, but I never managed, or tried, to write lyrics in Dutch. I don’t think I hide behind the English language, because I disguise my lyrics anyway. I don’t think anyone knows when I’m singing about them. And trust me, dear friends, I do sing about you!
You guys are on MySpace. You are also on Facebook. How do you think social media sites like this have helped the music industry?
(Bram) That’s a very difficult issue we often discuss. I think it has both a positive and a negative impact on the industry. On the one hand it has never been easier to spread your music, and not only to your local neighbourhood. One mouse click and your songs are available worldwide. The downside is that there’s suddenly an enormous amount of bands, which makes it very difficult to stand out. Music seems to become a disposable article. Today the crowd adores you, but tomorrow there’s a new hype and the audience hops on to the next big thing. I think today there are few bands which will have a career of 10 or 20 years or even more, like it used to be before the digital age.
(Chloë) Music is not only disposable, it’s also “free”. The digital revolution made it possible for people to download songs illegally. There’s less money for more bands. As a band you have to work harder to get attention from the industry or from the audience. We put a lot of work in our MySpace and Facebook page, because you have to constantly attract people and keep their attention. But we try to be honest in what we do. We don’t surf on the latest hype wave, we’re consistent in following our heart and we notice people appreciate that. In that context it’s a positive evolution to be able to connect directly to fans via the Internet.
Describe your genre in one word.
(Chloë) Alternative pop? Oh, that’s two words.
(Bram) I always find it difficult to label our music.
I love Paris. I spent quite a bit of time there when I graduated from high school. Does living in Europe make it easier to travel to places like that?
(Bram) Oh yes. Paris, for instance, is only three hours away from Brussels. We recently played some shows there and it was very easy to just get in the car at noon and arriving at the concert hall a little later, in a completely different setting and country.
(Chloë) It makes you put things in a certain perspective. The music industry is very focussed on single countries. A band can be big in one country and unknown in another country, only hundred miles away, all due to a marketing strategy. We tried to think beyond those borders from the start. It’s not easy, but we just travel around and try not to focus on language or country borders.
I know you guys have not been together for very long, but any word on a full-length disc anytime soon?
(Chloë) We just released a debut EP Right at the Sun. For now, we’ll be focussing on touring and writing new songs. But a full album certainly is the next step.
(Bram) We very consciously decided that our debut would be an EP, not a full CD. We had enough songs to record a double album, but we wanted to discover the right way of working and recording first. And indeed, during the recording of the EP we learned a lot. That experience will make our first full length disc much better than if we would have made it now, already.
Who does all of your booking?
(Chloë) We do. We spend a lot of time in doing our bookings, but it’s all worth it. People appreciate the direct contact and the last year we got a lot of spontaneous requests too, that lightens the work.
I have to say thanks to Kashmere Hakim. He introduced you guys to me. How do you guys know him?
(Bram) We’ve done a project together, called One Man One Guitar. A concept that brings together ten singer/songwriters on a couple of nights, which afterwards results in a compilation album.
What does a typical Friday night look like for you guys?
(Chloë) There are mainly three options: music, friends or couch! (Laughs)
(Bram) People often underestimate how hard we work for this band. So the moments that we’re not playing or booking or whatever, we just like to relax.
Tell me a little bit more about Right at the Sun.
(Chloë) We recorded eight songs, with producer Evert Baeyens. It was a very nice recording process; it was very at ease and intense at the same time. We took our time to sort out the right atmospheres, songs, instruments… but we also had to concentrate and work hard to get everything right. The title Right At The Sun refers to the only sentence on the EP we don’t sing, but whisper. It refers to looking for contrasts, to wanting to grow – without burning ourselves, to getting on a higher level. It also refers to our melancholy, airy music.
(Bram) Hence the balloons on the inside of the album.
You guys have a ton of great photos. Who does all your photography?
(Bram) The band photos on our MySpace and Facebook are made by Barbara Peremans. She’s specialized in music photography and we’re very happy to have worked with her. She knows how to capture a certain emotion in every picture. Her pictures are very honest in a way, so it fits perfectly with our music. Check her out at online for more samples of her work.
Do you have a favorite venue?
(Bram) We live close to the Ancienne Belgique, a very popular venue in Brussels and Belgium, so we often go there.
(Chloë) I like the The Botanique too, a concert hall in a botanical garden, with a lot of plants inside and outside the building.
(Bram) They even have aquariums with fishes in the corridor!
(Chloë) It’s a rather small venue, but I really like the artists who play there.
If you could live anywhere else in the world where would you go?
(Bram) Definitely somewhere up north… I’ve always felt attracted to Scandinavia. My ancestors were certainly not cowboys but vikings! I always feel like coming home when I go to Scandinavia, doesn’t even matter where I go; Iceland, Norway or Sweden! Too bad Chloë & The Lonesome Viking doesn’t sound that well…
(Chloë) When I was 17, I had visited most European countries, but none of them had been intriguing like Norway. I can’t explain it, maybe it’s because of the melancholy atmosphere or the impressive nature or the overwhelming peace and silence. Bram and I went to Iceland last summer. It was amazing. People are different, very introvert and calm, a bit distant too, but we’re quite discrete ourselves, so I really liked that. Now I think of it, we actually didn’t see a lot of people. The best part was when we felt like we were alone in the world.
Where do you see yourselves in five years?
(Chloë) I’d like keep on writing songs and I want to learn how to get better, as a songwriter, a musician and a performer. I’d like to record a full album and work with a label or booking agent. We need someone who can help to get us on some sort of platform, so we can get our music out there.
What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?
(Bram) We try to make honest music.
(Chloë) And we follow our hearts and our own ways.
I always let the artist get the last word. Go.
(Chloë) I could say something like, “Add us on Facebook” or, “Go buy our debut album”, but what I’d really like to say is that when I wrote my first songs in my bedroom when I was 14, I never expected that I’d be doing all of this. I’m very grateful that we created a musical project and that people appreciate it. So thank you!