VRWRK used to be two Belgian guys (Thieu Seynaeve and Jergan Callebaut) making electronic music, but lately there’s a new kid on the block. He’s from London and his voice is as soft as the baby cheeks of an angel. Salem Khazali joined the group as a lead singer and it’s the best thing since frozen yoghurt. VRWRK released their album in October 2017. They played two of Europe’s biggest festivals – Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop. We sat down with (two of) them and chatted about their new single “Wait It Out”.
VRWRK (Meaning “vuurwerk” the Dutch translation for firework. Noun: firework; Plural: fireworks. Definition: a device for producing a striking display by the combustion of explosive or flammable compositions. A display of fireworks, a display of temper or intense conflict, a spectacular display.)- Merriam-Webster.com
How would you describe “Wait It Out” to someone who has never heard it?
Thieu Seynaeve: I would tell them how the song ignited. Salem, our singer, used to see a girl before we made our album. They broke up and he was heartbroken. This was when we started writing the album. Towards the end of writing the album, Salem bumped into that girl again, after all that time. Since she’s a model and spent a lot of time in New York.
One night, he was going out in London when they saw each other. They immediately hit it off again. After that, we kind of just wrote the song about waiting it out. You never know what happens in the long term, certainly not when love is involved. Which is why the song builds up slowly to some kind of euphoria. Our entire album sounds a little brokenhearted. At the end of the album the atmosphere lights up a little. It’s hopeful again. It actually sounds like a really heavy sex party with some kind of anticlimax. It’s also just about finding old love.
Jergan Callebaut: Thieu really described it well. To me, sound wise; it’s like a universe colliding.
Thieu: Some kind of battlefield.
When you played the Ancienne Belgique, this song was the last one of the set, before the extra songs. It made me feel like I hadn’t danced enough. “Wait It Out” makes you want to surrender yourself to the music and to the emotions. You actually want to cry, but you also wanna dance and laugh. What does the song do to you when you perform it?
Thieu: Actually, it does almost the same things to us. The song originally wasn’t going to be on the album. We wrote it just before Pukkelpop. When we played it at the festival, we had some tears falling. Afterwards, everyone came to us asking what that new song was. Everyone was amazed by it. However, to us it’s really always the last song of a set that feels like a relief. You put so much energy in it. You then got to that point of the set when you think “Alright, one more song and it’s done. We did it. Straight to the finish line.” I guess when a song like “Wait It Out” is the last song you play, it gets really emotional with all the energy you put in it.
Last summer was quite busy. You played a lot of festivals and shows. Will that also be the case this year? Or will you focus on making new music?
Jergan: We were thinking of focussing on new music. Our album is a little bit more pop than people expected. “Wait It Out” is actually the vibe we start our next album with. We pick things up right where we left them.
Since Salem joined the group, there are a lot of things happening. How do you influence each other? And how does the fact that you now live in London influence your music?
Thieu: With the last album being made in Belgium, we got a mix of our Brussels electronica and Salems London vibe combined with his pop and soul feeling. It’s just now that all of our different vibes are really melting together and it’s nice to see the evolution. We still have a lot of influences from the Brussels electronica scene. Since we’ve been living in London and going to a lot of concerts with Salem, we discovered an entirely different side to music. Music is very accessible here! For example, we’re huge fans of Four tet and one of my friends sent me a text saying Four tet would let a few people in at a listening session of unreleased music. So we went and it was such a unique and easy moment. You really feel like you’re a part of the music scene here.
Jergan: Another thing the band seemed to have picked up whilst living in London is the fluency of British bands and their audience. Whether it’s an electronic concert or a rock concert, there’s a lot more conversation between the artist and the audience. In a totally different way than in Belgium. It’s something really interesting and it surely has influenced our live sets, because we’ve been playing a lot of shows here. We just had to conform ourselves to it.
I also noticed you had some New Wave and Depeche Mode influences.
Thieu: A lot of people have been saying this. Now that I think about it, I never really listened to a lot of Depeche Mode. Although, one of the first cd’s I ever got was one by Depeche Mode. So yeah, maybe unconsciously. We are huge fans of 80’s music and their synthesisers. All the synths we use are analogue, all made in the 80’s and those synths give us that new wave, Depeche Mode sound.
On the artwork of “Wait It Out” you see a girl who’s tying up her hair but her face is covered with yellow tape. What’s that all about?
Thieu: Well that’s actually the girl Salem and us wrote the song about. Since she’s a known model, she didn’t want that picture to be used. Because it is a picture from before she was a successful model. So we basically just pasted something over her face. She might still be mad at him for using it, but no one could ever tell it’s her.
How much time does it take for you to know what artistic path you’ll take and what the artwork will look like?
Jergan: We always see some kind of cinematic images in front of us when we’re writing songs which makes it easy to know what you want for your artwork and music videos. I even dream about our visuals and what they could be like for VRWRK. It’s like an entire screenplay, it’s no longer just music, it’s really about telling the entire stories. We played a lot of cinemas in Brussels and we probably will bring a lot of visuals to NTGent on 30th of march.
“Wait It Out” is a 7 minute long song. Which is a risky move, radio wise. Nevertheless, it’s worth the risk and the song is a true work of art. Listen to VRWRK’s latest song on Spotify.