This STUFF. interview was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Jake Willis
Belgian group STUFF. (yes, with capital letters and a full stop to follow) have been tearing up the Belgian music scene for some time now. Having just released their self-titled debut album in the UK they have recently been playing various gigs and festivals, treating the Brits to their particular type of music.
Their music has no genre, or perhaps it’s better to say it covers such a large variety of genres that none are quite fitting of its unique sound. Their experimental/jazz/funk/glitch-hop/trip-hop/hip-hop/electronic fusion is best described by drummer Lander Gyselinck in one word: badass. He explained how the name of the band was fittingly chosen to encompass the variety of their influences.
‘It’s hard to cover the loads of music we play. So let’s just call it stuff and we can do whatever we want to do. It’s also (the name of) a tune by Miles Davis on the album called Miles in the sky. It’s a pretty cool tune and it’s from the era where avant-garde jazz started changing because of the influence of electronic music and rock music, the influence of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix… it’s kind of a parallel with STUFF. because we’re influenced by beat creators and producers (and of course Miles) but we’re still a band.’
STUFF. started out playing in monthly jam sessions at a ‘a kind of a funky, crazy club’ in their hometown of Ghent called the White Cat. It was here that the band started to grow from jamming to songs they all enjoyed. Gyselinck and band-mate Dries Laheye remember it as a time that helped shape the band into what it has become over the past 4 years.
Gyselinck: ‘We started our sets after midnight and went on until 5 or 6am. We used to play every month and sample existing tunes out of hip-hop, pop or electronic music that we liked and that was where we improvised; in that way it all came from a jazz way of thinking. But we had an audience that was dancing, going crazy, drinking… heavy night life.’
Laheye: ‘It influenced our music because at first we didn’t have a plan for what it would be. We had some basic elements to start with, but I’m sure that was the basis of the music – the vibe between the party people and what we were doing kicked us into broken party music, the broken beat scene.’
Listening to the music of STUFF., and even more so seeing them play live is a memorable experience, and it’s best to always expect the unexpected in everything they do. They say they are allergic to predictably playing the same songs in the same way, and doing so would make them unhappy musicians.
Gyselinck: ‘There’s much more energy in the live show, it’s hard to describe. Our music is very open and very sensitive because we mean a lot to each other and if you can feel the energy of the audience, it can be like almost a sixth player in the band. For us it’s a way to play the tunes and have the improvisation part of it, but also have little nuances different than the last gig, or have totally different pieces in between which are totally killing it. If we are surprised by each other then the audience definitely is.‘
Another element which makes STUFF. stand out from other groups is their use of an ‘Electric Wind Instrument’ known as an EWI. The EWI is played by Andrew Claes and creates a sound that is unlike anything else out there. It creates the general focus of their instrumental music by taking on the melody lines. Gyselinck and Laheye discuss the importance of their instruments and set up:
‘The EWI is basically a midi controller with breath control; it’s like a synthesizer but with the technique of a saxophone instead of a piano. It’s great, very specific, and it has such a range that it can go so easily from low to high notes. Then we have drums, bass, and turntables which also have a very percussive role and can add layers of acapella, rap, singing; vocals. We also have keys which can be very space-shippy.’
STUFF. have been focussing mostly on gigs and festivals lately, but they are absolutely itching to find time to start creating more music as soon as possible. Their future plans seem exciting and hold great potential for the evolution of the band.
Gyselinck: ‘We’re artists in residence in Antwerp from 2016 and we’re actually working on a special project; we’re still figuring it out, but it’s going to be a more hybrid version of STUFF. with the strong influence of electronic music. It’s a different kind of STUFF. From that repertoire we will build our new album. Which form will it take? Wow. I don’t know, but it’s going to be pretty badass.’
Their live set features songs from their album, as well as some of their own interpretations/remixes of other tracks (their version of Little Dragon’s ‘Pink cloud’ is worth a listen). Although they still manage to make each performance different, new music will certainly be worth the wait; we will have to wait with great anticipation to see what comes out of their Antwerp sessions early next year.