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The Sad Flowers

Het Belgische studioproject The Sad Flowers uit Antwerpen kwam begin november met het titelloze debuutalbum. Melancholie op een bedje van moderne new wave, gothic en alternatieve rock met doordachte teksten. Zeker een wel gesmaakt debuut. Vandaar dat we de bezielers achter deze nieuwe outfit, Jany Claeskens en Jan Ooms uitgebreid aan het woord lieten.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder alternative / pop

The Sad Flowers was formed in 2013 and still is a duo. How and when did you meet each other and how did it eventually turn into a musical cooperation?
Jan: To celebrate the 150-year jubilee of our employer a competition was organized to make an own version of a celebration song. Jany was involved early on and had a clear view on how to approach this. To record the vocals on top of the instrumental version they ended up in my studio “The Compound”.

Jany: Although working for the same company for over thirty years, yet never meeting before, there was an immediate match. We knew right away our love for music went much beyond this fun project.

Jan: The version we made for our company’s site was one of the runners up in the contest, but the alternative doom version that Jany had made reflected our musical preferences much more. That became our real first cooperation as a duo and led to the recording of a number of covers in the same style, including their own video clips. But it was quite clear we wanted to create our own songs using our own found style.

You are influenced by a wide range of genres and styles, although I’d say that dark wave and gothic flavours prevail on the album. Can you go a bit deeper into the background, favourite artists and leading styles of both musicians?
Jany: There are so many musical styles I like to listen to, you could call me musical gobbler. Genres ranging from hard rock, progressive rock, blues, blues rock, heavy metal, rock, AOR to folk, you name it. From AC/DC to ZZ Top and anything in between that can be referred to as music. Certain genres were more of an influence on our music, but I can’t point to just a single one. There’s too many to name…

Jan: Jany is indeed a walking musical encyclopedia. Me, I always have had a preference for the melodic stuff. When punk was big, I was listening to glam rock and neo Romantics formations, electro pop and American rock. But in all these genres the vocal parts spoke to me the loudest. My idols were vocalists like Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel, Robert Palmer or Colin Vearncombe.

Making three singles and video clips were the first steps on your way to recognition. Please tell us a bit more about these first achievements?
Jany: Our first songs as The Sad Flowers were the first steps in fleshing out our own sound, recording and production. Covers of new wave songs, but with our own dark sound. To get our music out and find an audience we produced our own video clips as well, which did get quite a good response. Producing our first three singles led even more to finding our own sound.

When did the idea of creating a full length pop up in your minds? What were the first developments in that direction?
Jan: Working on the covers and our first singles was showing a lot of possible directions we could take this. For example, for the first single ‘Schmetterling’ we opted for a German version. But we both come from the era of the Long Play. We bought albums of our favorite groups. While writing more and more songs together, different from each other but with our own sound, some of these seemed to fit together. We started to select the songs that would fit into the concept you can hear on The Sad Flowers.

Although there are catchy songs on the album, most compositions are longer and slower. Are these the moments when you can use more emotions than in compact songs?
Jany: Atmosphere and emotion are of huge importance in our songs. As we wanted them to become part of a concept album, we didn’t feel the need to edit them into radio friendly versions. We chose to take the time to convey the feeling, in a bigger picture than the songs on themselves. As with the LP’s of the past you need to take the time to listen. We don’t want to produce muzak.

What can you tell about the lyrical contents?
Jan: Usually we start from a musical idea and a working title that fits the initial feel. We talk about experiences we have had, frustrations or worries and start writing them down. Over time our first working drafts develop to make it stronger, or to better fit the music. Songs can go through some iterations, but the best songs seem to write themselves. As if we were just tuning into some muse.

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More precisely, a track like ‘The Autumn Of Life’ is one of the strongest moments. Can you tell a bit more about this song?
Jany: When coming to a certain age, with things that happened in your personal lives, you start evaluating what you experienced, what you have done, what you didn’t do or postponed. Things you might never come around to any more. Things you regret but never will be able to set straight. Realizing that can make you very melancholic. That’s what we wanted to express in ‘The Autumn Of Life’.

Is there another song(s) you’d like to mention and tell more about, because it has a special meaning to you?
Jany: All songs have a special meaning, they came straight from the heart and express the emotions both in music and lyrics. They’re all very dear to us. It varies from one moment to the other, but to me ‘Liar’, ‘Hate’ and ‘The Calling’ are my current favorites. But that can change over time.
Jan: Same for me. We might have quite different experiences we thought about when writing, but the emotions were very similar. ‘Never Mind’ has always been one of my favorites. But also ‘Hate’ and ‘Liar’. In these songs, we try to express both sides of the story.

You did (almost) everything yourself. So tell us about the recording process at the Compound Studios?
Jan: We typically start from a rough musical idea that one of us proposes. The themes that Jany had written were usually solid demos already. Sometimes the atmosphere of the demo, in other cases the working title, leads to us brainstorming about the lyrics. We import the basic tracks into the digital audio workstation to create the initial mix. While developing the lyrics we also work on the arrangement of the song, remove or add sections or try a different tempo. Most of the times the creation of basic lyrics, arranging and recording the lead vocal track takes us about a day in the studio. Jany: At the end of that day we have a first working version we can audition. The next time in the studio we add more instruments, backing vocals, solos and effects etc. and start to develop the mix. We re-record the vocals and other parts as the song becomes more mature, more familiar. Jan has also done the mastering of all songs for the album at The Compound. But the whole process is quite a joint effort. It’s a real collaboration where we inspire one another and bring our personal tastes and influences, until we feel the song is ready to be released.

Extra kudos for the beautiful artwork and booklet! Can you tell a bit more about it and about the artist Mieke Janssens?
Jany: Through the internet I got to know Mieke and her graphical work. We told our ideas and the items we had on our minds to reflect the mood and the songs and asked her if she could capture that in an album sleeve. The graphics matched the mood perfectly, we’re very pleased with the outcome.

Are there plans for more video clips?
Jan: Always... But time and resources are limited. They were a nice vehicle for our first covers and singles, but they took quite some time to shoot and produce, since we have done all of these ourselves too. Time we wanted to spend more on the writing and recording of new material.

The Sad Flowers is a studio project until now. Are there plans to play live some day?
Jany: Maybe when the time is right. We love playing live and have done mostly covers. But just as with the video clips we want to produce something exceptional that can make us proud. We would need quite a solid band to play these songs live. Using electronic stems could be an option, but again it would really need to come across. For now, we are fine as a studio band.

What are further plans? Can we hope for a second album?
Jan: We have already started writing new songs, and still have a few that could fit a follow up. We do appreciate the nice feedback we’re getting on this album and hope to build a core of supporters. So, if all goes well, we will definitely go for a second album.

If there is anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do it right here…
Both: Thanks to our early supporters, to the new people in our audience. We love your support and hope you keep spreading the word about “The Sad Flowers”.

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