The Belgian garage rock band SONS are skyrocketing. Their shows are loud, dynamic and, for those who have ever seen them live, unforgettable. Just before the holidays we had the chance to talk with guitarist Arno de Ruyte.
Hey Arno, how are you?
Yeah, busy. I just got off work.
What kind of work do you do?
I have a technical background and now I’m working as a project manager for a company. It’s something completely different from music actually. I combine them now.
Do you think there will be a moment where you have to choose between your current job and your music?
Jeez, at the moment it’s not always simple because at night and on weekends I work for the band. And during weekdays I have to – the rest of the band too by the way – work forty hours. Let’s say we have to tour more often, which will force me to cut back on the time I can spend on my job, then I really need to make a choice. But we’re not there yet.
Is that moment still far ahead?
At the moment I’m trying to stretch that for as long as I can. But who knows what next year will bring. It would be nice to go for the music full time. We’ll see.
Were you in Island?
Did you get the chance to travel around?
Very little actually. We arrived late in the afternoon and then we only saw the hotel and the first club where we had to play. A day later we had to play in a hostel for the American radio show KEXP, from Seattle.
So you got recognition from a radio station from “grunge capitol”.
Yeah, we were honored. We were all very nervous for the first gig. [laughs] Then we heard we had to do a session for KEXP; that’s when we got really nervous.
Do you still get nervous for a gig?
That depends. It’s a very personal process for the four of us. Sometimes we have a relatively important show and no one is nervous; and sometimes two or three of us are nervous when we’re a support act.
It really depends on the day and the type of show. Shows outside our home country are special, that’s when everyone is nervous and we experience a healthy dose of stress.
“We don’t ever experience stress as a paralyzing factor”
That makes it fun as well …
Yes of course. You notice that everyone is focused in those moments. It works. We don’t ever experience stress as a paralyzing factor, like some artists.
So you guys are really focused. Do you rehearse during the week as well?
Not every week. We try to rehearse as much as possible but it depends on the amount of shows we have planned. In periods where we have shows weekly, we almost don’t rehearse that much.
From the moment that we’re not performing weekly but biweekly for example, we try to find moments for rehearsing. With our full-time jobs it has to fit everyone’s schedule. It’s not like we can rehearse on a Thursday afternoon. It all has to be done in the evenings or on weekends.
Do you have tips for making your rehearsal sessions as efficient as possible?
Before we started doing shows we already spent a lot of weekends in the rehearsal space. Because of that we were already adapted to each other. Maybe that has paid off because we were stuck in a little room together for so many hours. In that period we got to know each other musically, which made us really comfortable when we started doing gigs.
What does your rehearsal look like?
We mostly practice on Friday evenings. It can take long. We don’t write a lot when we’re apart. We can start rehearsals around eight on a Friday evening and go on until three or four in the morning.
So, long sessions?
Yeah, that works well for us. We like playing a lot and long. In the beginning you’re just writing songs, but after a while you’re starting to try out stuff and you start jamming. That’s when the fun starts.
Do you record your rehearsals?
Yes, since last year we try to turn that into a habit. We a microchip in the rehearsal space, that makes sure we don’t miss anything. There are times when someone plays a riff out of the blue; and if we don’t record it, there’s a possibility that we forget it in half an hour.
Do you have time to listen back to everything?
Yes we try to listen back to as much as possible and cut out the fun bits. It makes our rehearsals more comfortable, knowing that it’s all being recorded. It a security measure, making sure we don’t forget anything that we’ve already done.
So that’s a tip?
Yes, that’s definitely one of my tips. Try to record as many ideas as possible that you can listen to them later. Sometimes you’re satisfied with something one day and the next day you’ll think it’s not good at all.
If you record, you can listen more objectively. I’ve noticed that I sometimes romanticize the memory of a song; and when you’ve recorded it you can listen to what actually works and what doesn’t. And yes, there are times when it just doesn’t work, no matter how good your memory sounds.
If you come home late in the evening, do you get out your guitar to play a bit?
That depends on the band and the period we’re in. The last couple of weeks I take out my guitar at home. Sometimes I’m inspired, like now just after our weekend in Island. Then I’m triggered more easily to get out my guitar. But there are definitely weeks where I don’t get out my guitar after work at all.
“We’re just a regular garage punk band”
Do you have clear rehearsal routines?
Yes, I think there’s a certain routine to it. Maybe not something typical, like playing a few songs first. Just like any other guitarist, I have a few scales and licks that I play standard just to get a feeling for the guitar. I’ve played them hundreds or thousands of times, so they feel familiar. Before I know it, I’m looking for other things to play after that.
Was there a moment in which you encountered certain knowledge about the guitar, that made you look at it a lot clearer than before?
Yes I think so. It has been a long time ago. I used to take lessons, which made everything go a little faster because I learned a lot there. If you find out something for yourself though, from a song you hear somewhere for example, then you start to puzzle to find out how it works.
Suddenly, you’ve discovered a new technique or a kind of riff of chord. Then you start to play differently from what you’re used to. I play in standard tuning a lot, but now I have one guitar at home tuned in DADGAD. Now I’m experimenting with that.
Do you have favorite chords or keys that you fall back on a lot?
Our guitars are mostly tuned in standard E and we play a lot on the lower E string. We’re just a regular garage punk band, so to say. We keep it real simple in the beginning. We play a lot in A or D.
Do you have a few tracks that people can try to play along?
”Ricochet” and ”Waiting On My Own”. Those are the hits that we had. I personally really like the opening riffs. Those are melodies that came out of my fingers really intuitively so I think there nice to play. “I Need a Gun” is another song that’s nice to play live because it has a lot of different notes. Those three are good for practicing I think.