Recalling a sound from another era, Whispering Sons and their Endless Party EP finds an appropriate home in 2016.
It’s all from memory. The year is 1981 or thereabouts. A heavy amount of snow has fallen from the night before and left a rather grey stain in the sky above. The only comfort is the fact that the glare of the snowfall helps to illuminate the dull surrounds of the nondescript industrial town, but it remains incredibly bleak nonetheless.
Fast forward to the present and such imagery immediately springs to mind once the claustrophobic and desperate sounding post-punk noise from Belgians, Whispering Sons, reverberates at an intense rate and sounding as if it was built during the early stages of the aforementioned decade.
With ‘Endless Party’ being the title of Whispering Sons most up-to-date recording, released in 2015, it offers a collection of six tracks that appear to confront various fears and anxieties, compellingly told via lead vocalist Fenne Kuppens and the rest of the band comprising of Sander Hermans (synths), Kobe Lijnen (guitar), Lander Paesen (bass) and Sander Pelsmaekers (drums). Such an example can be gleaned from the striking chord of opening song ‘Shadow’ that really grabs the listener by the lapels as it peels back the years via its skeletal guitar sounds, tumbling drums, and scraping the depths vocal, all of which are awash in icy synths and suggesting nothing but a dystopia.
It remains the energy of this EP as well though, expertly handled by all concerned here, as it is used to articulate the previously mentioned uncertainties whether in relationships or in terms of wider society in general, but also as a means of escape via the songs ‘Time’ and ‘The Night’, with both tracks seemingly taking aspects of The Chameleons, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Sound for example.
Considering the ongoing uncertainty of the European stock market and unemployment levels fluctuating constantly, various urban areas experiencing much decay once more as they did at the beginning of the 80s with the UK as a prime example, the music coming from the underground often reflected this bleakness via an indie post-punk sound that sometimes held gothic undertones depending on your influences of course. The timing of Whispering Sons, therefore, could not be more appropriate, due to their apparent ties via their music with this particular period in time.
So without further hesitation Famous Last Words (FLW) dispatched its questions to Belgium, with great emphasis placed on the word ‘claustrophobic’ highlighted at the top, in the hope that the band could shed some light on their current EP ‘Endless Party’ and what appears to the outsider this fixation with early 80s post-punk music.
“Claustrophobic is the right word to describe it all,” is the reply from Whispering Sons in relation to the overall atmosphere of their latest record. “All the elements of the EP add up to this very confining and oppressive feeling. It was not something we planned on, but it is an overall atmosphere that grew throughout the creation process. The title and artwork are the final synthesises of this. It has a lot to do with the lyrics as well. They are all autobiographical and very introspective. A recurring theme is, in a way, escapism, and the tension between the inside and outside. Escaping from it and facing up it. Hiding away in the safe cocoon of your mind, instead of feeling your vibrant surroundings. Very claustrophobic indeed.”
With the atmosphere of your latest EP established, how would you describe Whispering Sons’ sound?
“Well, we actually thought very hard about a sentence to describe our music. After a lot of headaches, we came up with this: Belgian post-punk breathing dark and atmospheric sounds. We are quite happy with that.”
Who do you regard as influences in terms of your music (There seems to be a close resemblance to Joy Division to cite one example)?
“A lot of bands within our genre probably draw inspiration from bands like The Cure or Joy Division because they represent a big part of that scene. A comparison with these bands is therefore easily made. What we try to do is mixing old and new together into something that hopefully sounds bold and interesting. We all have our personal inspirations from the 80’s like The Cure, The Chameleons, Cocteau Twins or Lowlife (to name a few); but we are equally inspired by more recent musicians like The Soft Moon. What better compliment can we get than a person who loved post-punk in the 80’s telling us that he nostalgically relived those days during our gig?”
Was the 80s a particular favourite decade for Whispering Sons?
“We are all interested in the music from the 80’s. The cool thing about post-punk is that the spectrum of bands is immense. It ranges from heavy guitars to minimal synths and from ice cold sounds to almost a tribal feel sometimes. That’s what attracted us to this scene, but also to darkwave, coldwave, synthpop or shoegaze. We all have our different favourites, and our love for music goes far beyond the genre; but we indeed have a special affiliation with the sound of the 80’s. That’s also what we incorporate in our music.”
Backtracking a little here, where did this all begin for Whispering Sons in terms of how the band got together?
“Back in 2013, the four of us (Sander, Sander, Lander & Kobe) got together to start a musical project that would later turn into Whispering Sons. At the time we had no big plans to actually do something with the few covers and early songs we came up with and because we were missing a singer, it all sounded quite primitive. We actually started out as Whispering Sons from the moment Fenne joined the band, taking our name from a song by the Danish band Moral. In that setup we started writing our own songs, building on the shared interest for post-punk. Since then, we have released a demo-ep and ‘Endless Party’.”
Regarding your current EP, ‘Endless Party’, can you provide some background details regarding the whole recording process?
“We started the recording process in the beginning of July , and recorded the EP in our practice space last summer. During the first days, we concentrated on recording the bass and programming the drum and synth parts. After a holiday break we finished the guitars, synths and drum sounds. The vocals were covered in August and September. Finally, the EP was mixed and mastered at the end of October.”
Did you encounter any problems when recording the EP or was the whole recording experience a relatively smooth process?
“Since we’d decided to record the EP ourselves, the programming part was a bit trial and error. But overall, looking at the days we worked on the record, the process was relatively smooth.”
Why the decision to record an EP first and not say a single followed by an album?
“We had written these songs and had been playing them live during the first half of 2015. Because these came from a similar moment in time, we combined them into a whole, which resulted in the ‘Endless Party’ EP.”
What is your current favourite song from the EP and why?
“I think I can freely say that the song ‘Insights’ has a special meaning and stands as the most important track on the EP, especially when we play this one live, the intensity of the song becomes real, ” answers Fenne.
FLW is very impressed with the EP and, at the moment, the songs ‘Midlife’ and ‘Shadow’. Therefore, can you provide some details as to the meanings of these two songs?
“We like to leave meanings and interpretations open to listeners. We know of course what the songs mean to us, each individually. But the feeling or the atmosphere that they try to evoke is more important than what we might or might not have been trying to say. As for these two songs, however, and the overarching theme of the EP in general, we can safely say that it is about this sort of escapist idea. ‘Midlife’ is a very nervous and repetitive song, like you’re on the edge of something, waiting for a final resolution, whereas ‘Shadow’ is much more threatening and plays more with suspense.”
If you could have one thing right now, what would it be and why?
“A slice of cherry pie and a cup of coffee (Hmm…sounds like Special Agent Dale Cooper is taking a break, FLW).”
As a band, do you see yourselves as outsiders in terms of the whole music industry, and is your music about trying to change anything in particular?
“I don’t think we regard ourselves as outsiders. Sure enough, we’ll never top ‘mainstream’ charts, and that will never be our intention, but there is a vibrant international post-punk scene and certainly there will always be people around the world who embrace more dark, introspective music, especially in these times of one international crisis after the other. As for trying to change anything, I think the Whispering Sons’ project is more like a mirror we hold up for ourselves, trying to convey our personal demons through musical form. If it affects any change in the music scene or society in general, then all the better, but mainly we do what we do for ourselves.”
If you were not involved with Whispering sons, what would you be doing now?
“I think that most of the band would be doing something related to music, I’m sure of that,” Fenne replies. “Possibly somewhat more in his/her own way of course. Nevertheless, I think we can say as a band that thanks to Whispering Sons every one of us has improved music wise.”
What’s next in line for Whispering Sons?
“In the first part of this year, we will mainly concentrate on playing a lot of shows in support of the EP. Also, we just started writing new songs, so hopefully we can start recording again in the summer.”
Finally, is there an overall philosophy that Whispering Sons live by?
“I think we tend to shy away from applying grand philosophical narratives in our music, and in our lives. If there’s any code we live by, it’s our shared love for music.”
Whispering Sons’ ‘Endless Party’ EP is out now on Wool-E Tapes
(Photography courtesy of Bram Scheerlinck)
All the elements of the EP add up to this very confining and oppressive feeling. It was not something we planned on, but it is an overall atmosphere that grew throughout the creation process."
FLW - From the Tapes
Always check the label first. A definite case of mistaken identity for Whispering Sons when the band submitted their first demo and ended up with a whole new image!
“Back in 2014, when we self-released our first demo, we went to a local company to have a number of CDs made that we could sell. When we were notified that the production was finished, we went to collect them and proudly inserted one of them into a laptop to test if everything was in order. Imagine the look of horror on our faces when it turned out the songs on our first post-punk demo were wrongly labelled as ‘Hero’ by Enrique Iglesias and other Latin American pop and salsa songs. Fortunately, it was just an error on iTunes’ part and it was quickly fixed. Though, we’ll always remember it as ‘that one time we almost turned into a salsa band’!”