in the Category: music
Follow a t’ai chi course, have a conversation with your cat as an equal and add a Chinese jelly dessert to the party – you might end up feeling like Partners. That’s what Partners want you to be: liberated like the night. The duo are afraid of the dark yet their upcoming album, City of Freaks, underlines the night’s freedom. Excess, alcohol and undressing: in the dark it’s all acceptable. When we had tea with Femke Fredrix and James de Graef it was daytime – and for once, we weren’t the only ones asking questions. What came first, dirty water or the philosophy of tea? (James) Why not unleash our inner freak every day? (Femke)
Interview by Milena Maenhaut
Photos by Partners shot in Ghent
You two are abroad a lot.
James: We like to travel. We went to China for five weeks this Summer. We love getting to know new things, like food.
Femke: We love Chinese food. Our trip to China became a ‘Partners dessert tour’. We’ve tasted a lot of crazy jelly desserts in weird pastel colors.
James: Yet those desserts aren’t chemical at all. They are made of natural ingredients, like papaya seeds.
I saw on Instagram that you followed some kind of martial arts course there.
Femke: That’s right! It was amazing. We followed courses in Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan and learned the 18 form movements. Tai Chi teaches you how to be more aware of your body. It was super intense. Even just by standing still for a long time in a certain position we were soaked in sweat.
James: It was the climate too. It was very hot and humid in China. We lost a lot of water and had to keep drinking. As tap water isn’t purified, we had to boil everything and drank hot water all the time.
Femke: That’s part of their philosophy, too. Cold drinks ask to much energy from the body to digest.
James: I wonder what came first, dirty water or the philosophy of tea?
I wonder what came first, dirty water or the philosophy of tea?
Your shows are quite dynamic. Do you lean on your martial arts experience when performing?
Femke: We do! I went to China last year as well to learn Tai Chi. When I came back, I taught James and Tai Chi became part of Partners. The body language of Tai Chi is very beautiful. Every movement is mastered and goal-oriented, which is quite interesting on a performative level rather than just moving your body without purpose. Moreover, we’re dressed in white suits on stage, the kind that are worn in Tai Chi. They’re designed by Hannah Vanspauwen, a friend of mine.
Daisy Darkpark seemed to be a character in the music of Partners, yet recently she got a life of her own.
Femke: She is still a character in Partners. But I also make solo music and it felt right to perform as Daisy rather than as myself. She’s the embodiment of my crazy side.
About City of Freaks, your upcoming album: you have already played ‘The Night’, which was released as a sneak peak, live, right?
Femke: Yes, like all the songs from City of Freaks. We released Faust without ever playing live. When we got asked to play, we didn’t just want to translate Faust into a live set-up. We wanted to keep on creating, so we started making new songs while performing, which resulted in City of Freaks.
Since ‘The Night’ talks about fear: what are you afraid of?
James: We’re both afraid of the dark.
Femke: City of Freaks is set in the dark. The night intrigues us as it can create exciting dynamics between people, which can be scary too.
James: Yet we shouldn’t be afraid at nighttime because we’re all different persons when it’s dark, which has some ethical consequences. The beautiful part of the night is that you’re able to forget who you are in real life for a while. Hence, ‘have no fear’.
We’re both afraid of the dark
Is Partners your nocturnal alter ego, a way to forget who you are in real life?
Femke: It’s rather an exaggeration of who we are. When we go out dancing, we’re already expressing ourselves somehow like we do in Partners.
What does ‘freaks’ in the album title refer to?
James: Whenever the night arrives, we all enter a different world. The masks of daily life fall off and another side of us emerges. We’re all freaks but our inner freak only wakes up at night.
Femke: City of Freaks is about transgression.
James: The night legitimizes certain transgressions as it allows us to ignore social conventions, often related to alcohol. Undressing in public, for instance.
It reminds me of Halloween and carnival, holidays where people can go crazy within a legitimized social framework.
Femke: Being able to transgress can be liberating but unfortunately, we don't always find spaces to do so. Why not unleash our inner freak every day?
I can’t skate at all, as you’ll see in the clip
You recorded a clip on an ice rink, are you two ice skaters?
Femke: No. I can’t skate at all, as you’ll see in the clip.
Femke: Everybody skates around me while I’m standing still.
James: (Laughs) It’s super cute.
Will the album be accompanied by a movie, like Faust was?
Femke: Yes, all our videoclips should become one story, one film. We’re still working on it, but we do want to release the clip for ‘Northern Light’, which we recorded on ice, in January.
Where do you get visual inspiration?
Femke: I like Derek Jarman. His films and video works are very theatrical, which is interesting to translate to performance. He made beautiful paintings too and worked with a lot of cool musicians. I also get inspired by the works of Ensor, Bruegel and Bosch. Dynamic paintings with lots of details featuring freaky faces. Styling, the way color, light and texture collide matters a lot to me.
James: I love how images can evoke so many things, so many references and atmospheres. City of Freaks uses imagery à la David Lynch and Singing Detective, a British show which is kind of a psychedelic pseudo film noir.
Do you watch horror, too?
James: No. It’s too scary. As a kid I used to watch it a lot with my parents, though.
Femke: I'm intrigued by the sounds rather than the imagery. I wonder how horror would be translated into music. The Shining would be cool to sample, although it’s more of a thriller (‘Here's Johnny!’).
Since you’re featured on Sound Of The Belgian Underground, I have to ask: who are your favorite upcoming Belgian artists?
James: For sure.
Femke: BRENNT is the solo techno project of Brent Vanneste, the singer of STAKE.
James: I think he just presses the play-button and starts screaming, very cool. I like Youff too.
Femke: Youff is also one of my favorites. There is so much energy in their music and the singer does some crazy things with his voice. We both love the DJ sets of upcoming DJ Crat. Lastly I’d like to mention FULCO. I saw him play at Pukkelpop this year for the first time and it made me smile. I believe it was his first show as well. (Laughs) Hey, except for Crat who is based in Brussels, the bands we mentioned are all from Ghent (and all male. Uhhummm).
The Sound Of The Belgian Underground with Partners
26 Jan - Ancienne Belgique, Brussels
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