ENFNTSTERRIBLES

COVER STORY: Oscar and the Wolf Shimmers in Dark Fantasies

It’s a sunny day in September when we first meet Max Colombie, singer of Oscar and the Wolf and star of our new cover story. He joined us on set at the iconic Villa Empain in Brussels and the inspiring Herkenrode abbey. The art-deco villa is the setting of our new digital cover, which centers on self-reflection and holding up a mirror to yourself. These two themes are the key elements of ‘The Shimmer’, Oscar and the Wolf’s third album and most personal project yet, which came out last week. 

The last time we met, we saw each other on a set at Villa Empain and Hans Op De Beeck’s installation ‘The Quiet View’. How are you looking back on the shoot?

To be honest, I’m not a super fan of doing photoshoots because I find it difficult to be in front of a camera. It’s the same when we shoot a music video. I’m always too aware of the camera, and it’s a bit exhausting to do. But I do like to see the results in the end. If I had to choose between shooting and being in the studio, I would definitely prefer to be in the studio. It’s not a horrible job either but being on stage or making music is more my thing. That’s something personal.

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Valentino top, shoes and trousers. Louis Vuitton coat. Alan Crocetti earring.

The theme of the shoot was self-reflection. Are you very critical of yourself?

Absolutely. I’m a huge perfectionist when it comes to the things I do in my job, how everything like the clips looks. That’s also why I started to direct everything myself because it makes me more at ease and just helps me translate my thought process better into imagery. I’m not super self-critical on a personal level since I’m really doing my own thing. I’m very chaotic, and it doesn’t always run smoothly because I don’t have a very rational mindset. The world is made for rational people, which doesn’t always make it easy for me to be self-reflective.

“The world is made for rational people, which doesn’t always make it easy for me to be self-reflective”

Were you always a perfectionist, or did it grow when your career succeeded?

It has grown throughout the years. In the beginning, I wasn’t thinking a lot about stage presence because I thought that it was just singing some songs. It grew because I always rewatch everything to see what I can do better and where the flaws are. With looks as well; I often try to see what I can improve, make mood boards or collages and bring together different textures. It’s a lot of preparation and not just some random things. That’s something I learned in the past few years.

Do you already start working on concepts while writing the album, or is it a process that starts when the recordings are done?

While working on music, I get into different characters and already start to get ideas of how I want it to look—who I am aesthetically.

The new album The Shimmer feels like a mixture of your first projects and the last album Infinity. Was it a conscious decision to bring both worlds together on this album?

It’s always unconscious. I always start to make something without thinking of what I did before. It’s more an instinct instead of a choice.

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Montblanc pen. Dior Homme coat. Saint Laurent shirt. Alan Crocetti earpiece.

After all these years, you’re still working with your producer and musical genius Jeroen De Pessemier. Have you found your musical soulmate in him?

He’s my soulmate. Jeroen makes me feel like I can be everyone and everything. There doesn’t exist any shame and words like “normal” or “weird” don’t exist. He gives me the feeling that there are no borders, which is very important for me. He also translates everything I want so well technically and feels me on an energetic frequency. I don’t even have to say much, and he knows what I want.

“Words like ‘normal’ or ‘weird’ don’t exist”

Were you more comfortable while making the album compared to the writing process of the previous albums?

The writing process went pretty smoothly because I knew what I wanted. We have been working together for so long, so we know how things work out best, which arrangements match. It all runs smoother and more pleasant. It’s less blood, sweat, and tears but more having fun together.

We noticed that some songs of The Shimmer are longer than five minutes, which became a rarity in the industry thanks to a new way of consuming music. Was that something you did on purpose to tell a whole story?

We just see what works best for a song and if it needs to continue to tell the story. We work on music without having streaming platforms in mind. If we need to, we can always make an edit afterward. We don’t think about that, and that allows us to be freer.

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Dior Homme shoes, top and hat. Ann Demeulemeester trousers. Cartier necklace and rings. Ann Demeulemeester belt.

The songs on the album, like the intriguing “Ghost of You”, feel way more intimate. Do you write your lyrics before or during sessions?

Both. I often sit in the studio and get ideas when we’re working on an instrumental. Other times, I’m just at home and write down stories, powerful sentences, work on collages, search for synonyms… I always have a poetry book. I see myself as a beatnik generation and write a bit like Allen Ginsberg about things that do not always make sense. I always try to write things that come across as powerful and use specific words.

The general feeling we get from your music is romance and melancholy. What kind of feeling dominates when you write?

I really need to get into a character—or it’s something that happens naturally. Music just comes out then. When it’s a sunny day, I feel like a specific character, and I want to make a specific song. It always varies.

Can you define a character as an example?

In “Nostalgic Bitch”, I feel like a vampire from Only Lovers Left Alive that lives forever and needs blood to survive. I’m totally obsessed with immortality. In “Oliver”, I’m a very mortal character that lingers in a small village in France where I grew up and wear a beret. I like to be things I’ll never be.

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Would you say that you’re a different person on stage? Is that somehow a character too?

Yes, and that’s a must. It’s a character that I created, and I see it as something honest. I often ask myself to what extent it is a character when it’s not really played but comes from within yourself and still imposes yourself to it. It’s no one else that told me how to be on stage. It’s a character that’s necessary for me to get the courage to be on stage.

“I don’t want to walk to the Main Stage; I want a Mercedes to drop me off”

I always transform five minutes before I go on stage. It may sound a bit crude, but I have high demands at that moment. For example, I don’t want to walk to the Main Stage; I want a Mercedes to drop me off. Otherwise, I don’t feel like I’m worth performing on that spot at a festival. At that moment, I want to have a driver just like Rihanna just to believe that I own my slot there.

Speaking of Rihanna, you’ve performed at Pukkelpop in the same year as her, who’s one of the artists you look up to. Was that the moment where you realized you achieved something big? What other moments were milestones for you?

There are a few milestones. I couldn’t believe the first show in the Ancienne Belgique (editor’s note: a famous concert hall in Brussels) because we went from the AB Club to the main hall in four months. Another milestone was the first Sportpaleis (editor’s note: a famous event hall in Antwerp) and, of course, sharing the line-up with Rihanna at Pukkelpop was probably one of my favorites because I’m literally obsessed with her.

Have you seen her show at Pukkelpop?

I didn’t go because I didn’t dare. I was afraid that I would get too intimidated to perform on the same stage two days later. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the guts to get on that stage after her.

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Montblanc notebook. Valentino top, shoes and trousers. Louis Vuitton coat. Alan Crocetti earring.

Tours are a very intense and different lifestyle, which often leads to post-tour depression. Do you fall into a big black hole when coming home after performing for weeks?

That’s a mixed feeling because you look forward to going home, but once you’re home, you feel like there’s something missing because there’s a radical change in your routine. Change is always difficult for a human, and I often don’t know what to do when I come home. It gives you the time to let everything sink in, which also makes me enjoy it afterward.

You’re heading on a huge European tour next year. Do you already know how you’ll put together the setlist?

It’s The Shimmer Tour, so we’ll definitely perform the album. I’m still considering which songs of the previous album I want to do live, and I like putting the puzzle together to create a show. It’s also nice that the setlist changes when we go to the Middle East compared to the setlist from Europe. I just know that a different show works way better in the Middle East.

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Dior Homme trousers and boots. Ann Demeulemeester top. Cartier bracelet. Alan Crocetti earrings. Stylist's own hat.

Do you know where your popularity in, for example, Turkey comes from?

I really don’t know. A year after it exploded in Belgium and The Netherlands, we started to boost in Turkey, and a bit later we were getting a lot of listeners from Tel Aviv followed by Georgia, Egypt, and Iran.

Are you happy that you were able to reach these regions?

I think I’m more excited that it does well there because Germany or the UK is so reachable physically. I also really love it there. The food is better, it’s hotter, the people are prettier. It’s just very special, and I’m super thankful I have fans there.

In Belgium, people often say that your music has something oriental. Would you define it like that too or how would you nuance that?

I’m not thinking about specific labels for my music. Sometimes, I feel like I want to sound like Chinese pop with these really high voices and do these high notes as well to create a hook. That’s sometimes a reference. I also noticed that I lean towards making some synths or guitar sounds Arabic, which is something we do consciously.

What were the artists you grew up with and shaped you as a human?

Sade as a kid or Laura Pausini. “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt also really shaped me. Later, I became a fan of indie acts like Bon Iver, Kings Of Convenience, and Lykke Li. Nowadays, I listen to everything. From mega poppy to super indie: that’s who I am, and sometimes I don’t know which one out of these two I really am.

Who’s your ultimate pop crush at the moment?

Rihanna!

Let’s hope she’s releasing new music soon …

It’s taking long, but she’s also showing so many guts by not releasing anything. Sometimes I think it’s a bit like a good movie, where everyone wants a sequel while the movie itself is good enough without a continuation.

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Alexander McQueen cardigan, trousers and belt. Alan Crocetti earpiece. Max' own necklace.

Rihanna is also an artist that keeps herself busy with expanding her brand. Would you like to do something creative that isn’t necessarily related to music?

I started directing my own music videos, but that’s something I only see myself do for my own projects. I’m not very business-minded. I love to work on the brand ‘Oscar and the Wolf’, but I don’t think I would be able to do that for someone else. So no, I guess I will stick to making music.

How do you see Oscar and the Wolf visually in this new album era?

It goes from dark and ice to summer and flowers. It always depends on how I feel at that moment. I want it to feel very seasonal, and it should always be related to a season.

Is that why you release The Shimmer in October, at the start of Autumn?

No, that’s a choice made by the label. (laughs) In the Middle East, there are no leaves falling from trees at the moment. We didn’t choose the release date from the perspective to follow the weather because that would only apply to Europe. It’s always summer somewhere. It shouldn’t matter when you want to release something.

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Valentino top and shirt. Ann Demeulemeester hat. Alan Crocetti earrings.

You already achieved a lot. What is still on top of your bucket list? Are there specific venues you want to perform in?

I don’t like to set up too many goals for myself, because I’m afraid it would make me too greedy or egoistic. I just let things come towards me and work as hard as possible to make Oscar and the Wolf as authentic and honest as possible (audio)visually. It’s dangerous to set yourself an ultimate goal because you’ll always want more once you reach that. Maybe you can also get depression because you don’t succeed in your goals or don’t get past your first step. You can only go down from there, or at least there’s more risk that it happens. I prefer to embrace every possibility I get and see if it resonates with me. It’s important to have fun.

“I just let things come towards me and work as hard as possible to make Oscar and the Wolf as authentic and honest as possible (audio)visually”

Is Oscar and the Wolf a childhood dream come true?

Absolutely. I worked so hard for that without even knowing and never expected it could become my job to make music. I still can’t believe it. As a 16-year-old teenager, I made music in my bedroom and even put an applause track underneath tracks to pretend there was an audience. I also don’t want to think too much about my fortune because I don’t want to become lazy. I’m still critical and want to get better with everything I do. Maybe, I don’t think enough of all the things I already achieved, and I have to learn to appreciate my achievements.

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Montblanc watch. Alexander McQueen cardigan, trousers and belt. Louis Vuitton boots.

Maybe this album will help you with that, especially after this period of isolation. A concert is maybe the ideal setting for that because it brings people with different backgrounds together, and it doesn’t really matter who you are…

The most important thing in performing for me is that everybody feels comfortable and that they feel that they can be who they want to be. I want that unity. I don’t want my fans to have fights but that they feel togetherness. It’s not just a concert, it’s something very symbolic. It’s bigger than the music. It’s about sharing a moment and is much more than a concert for me as well. It’s maybe weird to say, but to me, it feels like a family.

Oscar and the Wolf’s new album ‘The Shimmer’ is out now on all streaming platforms. 

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine

Dior Homme trousers. Ann Demeulemeester top. Cartier bracelet. Alan Crocetti earrings. Stylist's own hat.

Photography by Lennert Madou
Creative direction by Angela Vanderstraeten
Production and co-creative direction by ENFNTS TERRIBLES Studio, Dries Vriesacker
Styling by Tom Eerebout
Makeup and hair by Sanne Schoofs
Light assistant Merlin Meuris

Production assistant Lisbeth Urey
Set assistants Veppi Lorenzo, Isa de Boeck, Maxim Meyer-Horn

Interview by Maxim Meyer-Horn

Special thanks to Montblanc, Villa Empain, and Hans Op de Beeck 

Oscar and the Wolf cover shoot with ENFNTS TERRIBLES Magazine
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