Backstage with Whispering Sons guitarist Kobe: ‘creating a great image is nice, but if you can’t make it happen live, it’s a shame.’

The band Whispering Sons from Belgium plays hypnotic post punk. During Eurosonic they were our guests for a session. With the festival season rapidly approaching we decided to call the band, just to check in to see what they’re up to these days. Guitarist Kobe answered the phone.

Photo by Jasper Bolderdijk

Hi Kobe, how is it going?

Great! These are busy times. We all work full-time, so the run-up to the upcoming festival season is crazy. A few weeks ago we drove to 3voor12 in Hilversum and back just for a radio performance. It’s quite the journey, but on the other hand it’s also a great opportunity to reach more people with our music.

And the festival season hasn’t even started yet!  

No, that’s right. It’s getting really busy. We’re playing at thirty festivals throughout Europe this summer, including Best Kept Secret, Sziget, Rock Werchter, and Dour. That’s an average of three shows a week. In the autumn we will continue touring with the album “Image,” so we are very busy until the end of the year.

Do you listen to a lot of other music besides your own tracks?

Yes, I certainly do—all of us do, by the way. Luckily I have a job where I can do that without bothering anybody. So I’m listening to music from nine to five. I know most of the artists who perform at festivals like Down the Rabbit Hole and Best Kept Secret. Lately I’ve been listening to Cate Le Bon a lot. But I like a lot of different musical genres.

Do you have favorite chords you like to fall back on when you’re writing songs?

I often come up with an idea, something small. That can be a melody or a guitar riff. Often it’s in minor, that’s what I prefer. This creates a more melancholic atmosphere. I like to use chords like Gm and Bm.

Is the guitar your first instrument?

No, I first played the piano for a long time and I learned all the music theory on that instrument. I also still own that first piano—you don’t just throw out something like that. I started playing the guitar when I was fourteen. I’m self-taught for the most part. Around that age was also the time I started to listen to rock music a lot.

Photo by Jasper Bolderdijk

So you are self-taught on guitar. Do you have a specific style of playing?

I would describe my style as melodic. It’s funny, because than we come back to those years of playing the piano. My style is like the right hand on the keys. The left one does the rhythm and the right one plays the melody.

You still have your first piano, but did you also hold on to your first guitar?

No, I don’t own that one anymore. It was also a very cheap guitar, and often it’s more of a hindrance to your development than it helps you. That’s why I got rid of that instrument at a certain point. I think that is often the case with first guitars.

What do you find most challenging about the music industry?

I find it very challenging that you have to remain relevant in many areas all the time. More so than it used to be. Because of the internet everything goes very fast and you have to work to be remembered. You have to maintain social media channels and it seems as if you have to produce new music faster and faster every year.

Additionally, performing is still very important and time-consuming. The challenging thing for me is that you have to juggle and combine all these things. The creative part of music also seems to give way a bit to how you present yourself as a band to the outside world. This is also time-consuming, but necessary.

You are touring a lot with Whispering Sons. Do you have any awesome stories from the road?

That’s a difficult question. Of course, a lot of things happen on tour and a part of it is very funny—at least we like to think so. I sometimes catch myself telling something and people are looking at me funny, like: ‘riiiiight … and the funny thing about that was?’

Photo by Jasper Bolderdijk

In other words, you should have been there.

Exactly. But there is one story I like a lot. During our last Swiss tour, two out of three backstage rooms had beer on tap. Tapping your own beer is different from drinking from a bottle or a can. So that was pretty cool.

After all, you are still Belgians when it comes to fresh beer.

Certainly!

The ladies of Gurr told us that, as fan girls, they once met Dave Grohl in the backstage. Have you ever shared a backstage with a colleague you’re a fan of?

Not someone like Dave Grohl. We did do a tour as support act for The Soft Moon. That’s a post-punk band I really like a lot. The first night I was really nervous, maybe a bit starstruck. But they are very nice people, so I calmed down quickly.

This year we play at Rock Werchter, together with The Cure. That’s a band I’ve listened to a lot and I think that is also fantastic. But I don’t think I’ll go and talk to them. That seems a bit weird to me.

What kind of advice would you like to give beginning musicians?

For beginning artists it is very important to play live a lot. Maintaining social media and creating a great image is nice, but if you can’t make it happen live, it’s a shame. So play as much as you can for other people. Also, don’t forget to enjoy it—even if you’re booked for almost no pay and you’re playing an empty venue.

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