Lifting the veil from Brussels' latest pop-synth enigma
As one of the highlights of the Spring concert agenda is approaching we decided to hit the road with Botanique as our destination. We met with Thomas Konings and Olivier Vanhalst, two third of Paul-Henri Wauters’ team of masterminds behind the ever-exciting agenda at Bota. For the pair Les Nuits means multiplying tabs in their browsers on a daily-basis in an attempt to listen and discover as much as possible until D-day. As we sat down, we quickly realised we were facing chatty phenomenons, so instead of beating icebreakers we went straight for the nitty gritty details about the logistics behind the curation of Bota’s agenda.
Interview by Julien Van de Casteele
Photos by Sasha Vernaeve, shot at Botanique, Brussels
What media do you use to keep yourself up-to-date with new musical trends?
Thomas: ooh… [laughs] So many…
Olivier: As many as possible; word of mouth, national and international blogs, I was going to say paper magazines but it’s actually almost not true.
T: SoundCloud. I am a bit ashamed, but I use quite a bit of the Spotify playlists to stay up to date of the bigger trends.
O: It depends on whom you’re doing it for; work or yourself.
From time to time we try to add our personal touch
Does it mean that you’re also looking out for music that you wouldn’t have been into in the first place?
T: Yes, clearly [laughs]. But it’s necessary.
O: We have to be open to anything, and it’s a continuous process every day. We are working with a base that has been at Bota long before we joined, which aims at remaining up-to-date with the big trends. And then next to that we try to add our personal touch from time to time.
Do you feel that Botanique provides you with that freedom to explore these new avenues?
T: Bota has the luxury of having a history of multiple genres and audiences, which allows us to pick things very diverse. Les Nuits is a great representation of this diversity.
O: Our programme will also depend on what gets suggested to us. Some people might ask us why aren’t we doing dub nights or heavy metal nights, but if we were presented some great lineups I don’t think anyone would stop us from booking them. There are very few restrictions.
I think the format of our rooms are quite unique, there’s a sense of being much closer to the performance
What is Botanique’s biggest strength in the music venue market for you?
T: The venue and its rooms. That’s what we hear from artists that come by.
O: We hear that a lot from international ones. Local artists sometimes realize this a lot less [laughs]. Rotonde is a highly requested venue by visiting artists who could be playing in larger rooms.
T: I think the format of our rooms are quite unique, there’s a sense of being much closer to the performance.
I am guessing you guys are fully focused on Les Nuits atm. How are things shaping up?
T: The programme is almost done. There are still a few tweaks we need to do here and there, which sometimes can be the most difficult part.
O: Programming Les Nuits does not compare to programming for the normal season.
O: We have thirteen nights in a row, every time in four rooms, and we have to make sure that the Orangerie of the first night is not in competition with the Rotonde of the first night. So you have to make sure they cater to a different public. Basically we have to find balance points at many different levels.
T: Rooms competition-wise, diversity in general, having Belgian bands, headliners for each room, …
O: It’s also very different than a summer festival where people travel from one stage to the other. Each room will remain its own ticket office and will need to be attractive to a specific audience.
Among all these Les Nuits gigs, which ones are you guys looking forward to checking out?
T: For me the gig that I can’t wait to see is Vessel; the album he recently released on Tri-Angle is just amazing, I’ve never heard something like it. It’s between Oneohtrix Point Never and Lorenzo Senni. It’s refined and energizing at the same time. And then you’ve got coucou chloe playing the same bill, which will make it perfect.
O: Yeah, it’s the evening from our hearts. For my part I would say the evening with Ho99o9 and Flohio. A great scenic explosion to expect! Same for that evening with Nihiloxica, Monolithe Noir and Pongo. To be honest, I think that every day has a great lineup… Among the Belgian bands, there’s the release parties for Run SOFA’s new album which promises to something quite unusual for Belgium and Martha Da’ro who is – according to me – the ‘next big thing’ coming from Belgium. But don’t get us wrong, the majority of the bands performing are bands that we have chosen, they haven’t been selected by default.
Do you guys have the same music interests?
O: We meet in a lot of areas. It’s quite rare that we disagree with each other. But we do have our own fields of explorations.
T: Yeah, I am a lot less of a metal-head [laughs].
O: I have my dark sides. But it also allows us to complete each other.
It’s quite rare that we disagree with each other. But we do have our own fields of explorations
How does a typical day look like the office?
T: Arriving late and leaving late. Listening to music constantly and replying to emails every minute.
O: Trying to listen to everything that’s being sent to us [laughs]. My screen is made of dozens of tabs with things to listen to.
T: Yeah, I stopped doing that because it stresses me out too much.
O: And after four days I realize I won’t get to listen to all of it, so I start from zero, close all the tabs that aren’t crucial. So yeah, it’s a mix of things we have to listen to for work and things to expand our knowledge of what’s going on in the scene.
T: I’d like to add that French emails are always so long, talking and talking about the music and so sometimes I skip them thinking Olivier will take care of them [laughs].
Not that I want to complain about it, but it took us 43 exchanged emails to nail down a date, and about 15 new ones to understand where this interview was going to take place.
O: [laughs] I did it a little bit on purpose.
T: Ah yeah and I didn’t want to take any initiative.
What are bands we should keep an eye on?
O: For me, it’s Brutus. It’s the best Belgian band of the moment. Their latest single ‘War’ is a bomb. This weekend I played their live session in a loop on the video projector with my two year-old daughter banging in front of it. There’s a post-hardcore kinda feel to it.
T: Kai Whiston, S10 and Dis Fig.
Les Nuits takes place from 25 April till 05 May at Botanique, Brussels.
Following concerts are free for members:
Vessel + ssaliva + coucou chloe, 24 April
David Numwami + Lomboy + Judith Kiddo, 26 April