Ghent band Nordmann aren’t your usual group of musicians. Fusing together jazz and rock of all varieties, this four piece have developed a following hungry for some experimentation. Having recently released their full-length Alarm! we decided to find out a bit more about the guys.
HUNOW: Congratulations on your new album Alarm! How long has it taken you to complete the record?
N: Thank you. We started working on the material in the summer of last year and we recorded in September.
HUNOW: You’ve been together since 2014, how did the band initially come about?
N: It was actually by coincidence. We all studied music in Ghent, Belgium, and we knew one another from the music conservatory and in the pub. One night the four of us were sitting at the bar and we were asked by a friend of ours who organises concerts if we would like to host a jam session a couple of days later, as the band he’d lined up had cancelled. We thought: “Why not?” It was fun and we decided to keep playing together.
HUNOW: Your first release, a self-titled EP, was well received. Did you feel any pressure making your first full-length record?
N: In the studio we were aware of the attention we would receive when the album was released and that we might hear some negative reactions for the first time. In the studio you have to put those ideas out your mind and focus on the moment. As it happens the reactions to the album and release concerts have been very positive.
HUNOW: You’ve said your music is created with a “specific vision”. Can you elaborate on that? What was the vision for this record?
N: We wanted to create something authentic and as live as possible. We wanted to record music that we could play as convincingly at a concert, so without too many overdubs, cuts and other studio techniques. We are a live band and on stage there is just the four of us. I think we captured this live feel on the recordings.
HUNOW: What’s your approach to songwriting? Your music sounds as though it’s a real group effort, do things happen naturally from just playing together?
N: Mostly one person brings a new song to the rehearsal. Often this is a melody, baseline or an idea for a groove but without a definite structure or arrangement. We play the song in the rehearsal; we try different things out and this is how the arrangements come about. It’s an interesting if time-consuming way of working but it works for us. Even then a song can become something totally different live, as there is a lot of space for improvisation in the music.
HUNOW: There are so many different layers to your music. It’s often very dark and moody but at times very sweet and melodic. Where do you draw your influences from? Does each band member bring something different to the table?
N: If I listen to an album or if I watch a concert I like to hear contrasts. The tunes on the album are sometimes in very different styles but I find that we create a coherent whole through our sound as a band. Everybody in the group has an eclectic taste in music and you hear this on the album. People hear everything from free-jazz to surf-rock in our music and that’s great!
HUNOW: You’ve made a very unique sounding record. What sort of audience would you say your music attracts?
N: We have the good fortune to be able to perform for both a jazz and a rock audience. We don’t play three minute pop-songs and I think our music attracts an audience that’s tired of the commercial radio music and one that is open to experiment.
HUNOW: You won the Belgian Muziekmozaïek Jazz contest in 2012 and have placed very highly in other contests. What would you say the live experience adds to your music?
N: The successes at the contests and particularly our second place at Humo’s Rock Rally opened a lot of doors for us. The music that we play is best heard live. We enjoy experimenting on stage and taking risks.
HUNOW: You have a fair amount of live shows coming up. Are there any future plans to tour the UK?
N: We have plenty of shows coming up in Belgium and Holland. We would love to come and play in the UK and I would particularly like to play in my home city of Newcastle.
HUNOW: What else should we expect from Nordmann in the coming year?
N: In the summer we will be playing at a number of festivals. We are always working on new material and it won’t take too long before we’ll be in the studio again.
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