Before you know what life really is, you must feel the future of a pursuit dissolve. Change comes with its own quality, lessons and opportunities so that the “next” takes its course.
When I started working on this text, many changes had happened to me. And to many of you, well, obviously to the entire world. Some people are making out, others are fighting. That said, the music never stops but those beats, they change. I can now tell you about the lovely Belgian musicians who have just recently reinvented themselves. The band who had inspired me to look into the music scene of Belgium and to unexpectedly explore some hidden depths of it. The band are Jonathan Dhuyvetters (Drums), Lennert Jacobs (Bass, Synth & Guitar), David Defrenne (Vocals) and Wesley Buysse (Bass, Synth).
© Public Psyche
An Introduction: Public Psyche
Their band name was once Rape Blossoms. And with this modification, everything we knew about their previous music wanted to be readdressed as well. The new-name-première album “No New Violence” is kicking the past’s ass, it’s complex. Perfectly blending the right amount of Kraut, something filthy and psych rock whilst still consequently remaining minimal and confronting you from some colder darker place. Definitely no longer a pure genre-specific scenario and quite unique. Hence, the transition from Rape Blossoms to Public Psyche feels like hiding the safety blanket and running far beyond the last output. That is not to say the previous sound of e.g. “Ruinenlust” was not intoxicating, but “No New Violence” transcends the former post punk zone. Their music has now become a captivating force, sung with more subtlety, in service of deepest longings, and played by its own styles that have smelled some soundscapes of the world.
“We can sound the music in the people around us simply by playing our own strings, for the ones who sing life into broken wings.” Andrea Gibson, say yes
Rather than mentioning other bands as possible influences (in all its name dropping and categorization worship) or scrutinizing this particular change against others in music history, I’d like to just think about their new collectively conscious incarnation as: beyond-compare lofi wearing a Psych perfume, fused via some sex and Kraut glue. And hope that sounds precise enough for you, dear readers, if not it’s clear for me.
A Review: Public Psyche “No New Violence”
New Days. What a beginning. A melancholic synthetic piano line is pushed away by medium-tempo drums and low-buzzing noises. The song moves further into dark sequences, then all drifts away into nothingness together with David Defrenne’s almost whispered voice. I played it over and over for a while … taking sips of a drink, thinking. I’m kinda associating the lyrics with 2016 / 2017 – which was basically a sad crash period. Strength is not always rooted in being well, or with winning. I found some peace in this song. Glad there are such “New Days”.
Bleached. One of the less delicate moments on the new output. An uptempo motoric Neo Kraut entry with distorted overlayed streams of vocals. Synths ripple through the song like a stroboscope. Cut-the-shit psych rock guitars are added and raise the overall intensity level. Like the earth opening up and swallowing all that you once believed in (or the other way around).
Elevator. Repetition repetition repetition… firmly on suspenseful crossroads. Going up and down again between minimalism, a touch of Maghreb percussions and bass-centric fullness. If the song was a colour it might be a dark Moroccan-Belgian blue for me. With this colouring, I feel my heart beating in the same rhythm.
Veil. The first release of “No New Violence”. Lifting the “Veil” … so to speak. It starts small. Almost innocent, even if it turns out, it isn’t. Like a sweet looking moody person that suddenly shifts to wild. Associations of pushing through a dusk filled space until you reach a fabulous Kraut-Resonanzraum with impossibly rich guitars. The alchemy of inversion. Lovely stuff, immediate like.
Patterns. I adore the synthesisers & lush vocal style on this fab song. Somehow on the Danish side in terms of creating a special melancholy. Super-motoric drums with noises, tape delay & bass pop in, and my mind is drifting on with the atmospheric spiraling patterns of the tune. A psychedelic ending is tapping into something beneath, it blossoms and unfolds.
Desire Lines. Save the best for last. “Desire Lines” is the most experimental work and my favourite: A slurry build-up of polysynthetic Waah Waahs, some thrown-in acoustics, snippets of electric guitars, undiscovered percussions. Guest vocals from Sarah Yu Zeebroek melt with David Defrenne’s words and smell each other’s sweat. A very strong synth line sets in and twirls the entire song into a desire-filled great something. Unique and so good.
A Glimpse: Deeper into Public Psyche
I had a chance to speak (via Email) with the singer of Public Psyche, David Defrenne, about the past and the future.
How did the band members tap into their talents? How was the band pushed into its existence?
David: Both Jonathan’s band Penguins Know Why and mine Creatures Like Us were on a hiatus when we started a sassy San Diego Influenced no wave band. The band didn’t last long but the footprints for what was to become Rape Blossoms were set. Wes was in college with Jonathan and a Death From Above shirt got them rehearsing together. I got contacted for a try out; Lennert joined the band some months later. Our first show was in an old strip joint in my hometown at that time.
Did you, David, always love singing? At which (secret) location did you sing as a boy and what?
David: I grew up catholic in a middle small village with my grandparents going to church every Sunday morning. I ended up singing in the church choir at the age of ten. My mother was a ladies‘ hairdresser so I spent most of my time after school in the saloon in front of one of three mirrors flipping through fashion magazines with Michael Jackson playing in the background. Both elements probably had an influence on who I was to become. The first tape I got from my cousin featured some songs of The Cure’s “Faith”, some Sisters of Mercy and some dodgy gothic IBM industrial. At the age of 15 I started listening to hardcore punk, became heavily influenced by the straight edge lifestyle and started my first bands. I’d say my bedroom in front of a mirror was probably the best place to practice moves and sing along to my favourite records at that time.
© Public Psyche
Why this particular new name, why the album title? Did you make a record that sounded like your lives at this point?
David: Public Psyche fits well in a sense that we always loved to play out contradictions and opposing forces. The name of course is a reaction on the name change, but on a much deeper level it feels very now with a shifting attitude of opening up intimate moments to a broader audience and to display more of our lives online. There is a good portion of ourselves in the characters we invent for our songs. Some parts maybe more, but never entirely. I think it is one of the reasons why for the first time I intentionally left out some delay so people would actually hear some parts of the singing. We shouldn’t be ashamed of showing our desires, perversities, …
© David Defrenne
Was the change a maturing point? Or was it all fun-Belgian-games?
David: Nothing is intentionally mapped out. There is a general understanding between the four of us what can potentially become a Public Psyche song and probably with time the sound evolved to a more organic feel. Both music as lyric-wise “No New Violence” is a place that reflects my personal environment of a certain period in my life.
Is it helpful to take the stance of having nothing to lose, to say fuck it … and jump?
David: I see most of my writing as a mind adrift in a sea of its own thinking. Playing music works therapeutically for me. Drawing parallels between repetition and my own periods of rumination.
© Public Psyche
Sarah Yu Zeebroek (Hong Kong Dong) as collab on the album – how come, and can we expect more cooperations in the future?
David: “Desire Lines” was the last song we recorded for the album. When we entered the studio for this one, the song wasn’t even finished. We took a metal crate, put some delay on it and hit the button. Lennert took the session home, deconstructed and put it together again. I think the outcome is very different and still very us. With a different approach of song writing, we came up with a new élan of what could be future Public Psyche material. In Lennert’s bedroom I spoke out some lines Wes wrote down for me and we decided to send it over to Sarah. Sarah sang via her computer microphone apparently. We love her work with Hong Kong Dong. What she’s doing is very punk without being punk.
© Public Psyche
What especially warmed your heart during the birth process of the album?
David: I remember one of the last mixing sessions here in Brussels with Niels (Niels Latomme) who recorded and mixed the album. It was right after the New Year. I was eaten by anxiety, didn’t make it to my job any longer and it was one of the first days I came out my house. It was all mist in my head and I even slept through the mixing. I was there physically but it was ok to be just there. Last night I had a talk with a friend on this. Whether I’m regretting to not have been more involved. I think perhaps for me it was a good thing to let loose and to close a certain period.
How do you deal with this strange in between time, when an album you have worked on is done but it is not yet out there in the world?
David: When we finished recording we had no label. Vlas Vegas was dead (“Starving Vultures”, 2011), Labelman was a one shot (“Ruinenlust”, 2014). To me Hypertension was the next logical step. A dedicated Belgian label with a background within hardcore/punk that wanted to broaden its scope along with us. A dinner out in an Italian restaurant in Brussels and the deal was sealed. Both the mix and mastering happened in Brussels. Anne de Boeck took care of the design process once again and photographer Nana Vaneessen put us on film in Ostend. It the end it’s a very friends and family business and perhaps with this album even more.
© Public Psyche
Did you have a good summer?
David: This summer started really early for me since I was at home and that didn’t happen since I started working 10 years ago. We had our first show in a year early June and were to take off with a couple of more gigs in the weeks to come. Unfortunately the follow up concerts were cancelled for health reasons and things became all quiet again to the public. For me personally it was a good period to catch up with myself. My daily running along the canal kept me in shape and I tried to cut down on other things. At the same time I started writing out the book my grandfather wrote in his youth during both world wars. With the band in the meantime we prepared the release in peace.
In any way, what will time tell us?
David: The weeks before releasing an album are always very exciting. The first feedback we received was very positive, but that doesn’t mean it won’t stay under radar. It surprises me so many people have their own different favourite track on the album. It only proves that our sound can be very diverse and still very us. I sincerely hope this album will get us to see new places. If not financially, then spiritually. It is what I live for in the end.
© David Defrenne