Music about fungal physics and conversations with cats

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Are you tired of listening to your familiar playlists again and again? Then, you need to go to Overdrive festival on 18 October in Leuven. Two Leuven-based concert organisers, Het Depot and Inuit, are joining forces for the brand new festival, bursting with young Belgian talent - an opportunity that upcoming musicians seize with both hands, according to the band Nona Problemo.

Hi Nona Problemo! You will soon perform at Overdrive festival. How important are such opportunities for young bands like you?

Sigi Willems (singer and keyboard*): They’re really necessary. Since the pandemic, there is an excess supply of enthusiastic new bands, but the cultural sector is struggling. Therefore it’s not easy to get many stage opportunities. Moreover, a festival like Overdrive, with great aesthetics and graphic design, attracts music lovers from all over the country. And it’s a showcase festival, which means there will be bookers in the venue. That opens a lot of new doors.

Jenske Verhamme (bass): So far, we've mostly done smaller gigs, in youth clubs or at parties. Our biggest performances were at Het Depot, during the finals of the Sound Track competition and as a support act for the Ukrainian band, GO_A.

S: That band once participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, which is secretly also one of our dreams. [Laughs]

*The two other band members, Tijs Fastré (drums) and Nona Huysegems (guitar), were not able to attend the interview.

It’s our secret dream to participate in Eurovision

Overdrive is a showcase for fresh talent and Nona Problemo certainly is new: the band came into existence in 2021. How did you start during Covid?

S: I was already part of the band Hugs Of The Sky and during the lockdown, I’d written several songs that didn’t fit within the aesthetic framework of that band. That’s why I asked some friends if they felt like starting a little project together.

J: We did and we started the band in between lockdowns.

S: Luckily Covid was not really a dealbreaker. In the beginning, we put on face masks during rehearsals but the situation was no longer so bad.

J: The only disappointment was that I was ill during the promotion day and photoshoot that preceded the final of the Sound Track competition.

You decided to enter Sound Track just after your start as a band.

J: Yes, we’d been playing together for six months and we only had half an hour of material. [Laughs]

S: Still, it seemed like a good idea to use competition as a springboard to launch the band.

J: It was also a nice goal to work towards for ourselves. It gave us the first deadline to prepare for gigs and create a nice setlist.

We entered the Sound Track competition with only half an hour of material

It indeed proved to be a good stepping stone: you were one of the 18 winners of Sound Track 2021. Did that have much effect? 

S: Above all, it increased our network. For example, Sound Track organises boot camps to bring together young bands and people from the music industry. That's how we met Bert Vliegen, the producer of our upcoming EP.

J: We also got to know bookers from venues like Kinky Star, Het Depot and Club 9.

S: That's just how the music industry works: you need to know the right people.

Thanks to Sound Track you can also rehearse at Het Depot for free. 

S: Yes, that's very nice and Het Depot is a partner of Sound Track, so we can always go there for advice or financial support.

J: Because of that financial and technical support we started making bigger plans, for example, an animation video for our first single.

S: Moreover, Het Depot is the rehearsal space for other cool bands, which we sometimes see in the canteen. Or we update each other on the plans of our bands when we meet in the lift.

J: I really like that social side of the music industry. It's a nice feeling to belong to a network.

It's a nice feeling to belong to a network

Het Depot will also be the venue of Overdrive festival, where you’re announced as a 'radically naive indie wave about fungal physics and rancorous conversations with cats'. What music can we expect?

S: We describe our music as eco-wave. The ‘fungal physics’ and ‘conversations with cats’ refer to the fact that we want to adopt new relationships with living beings. These ideas are reflected in the lyrics, which are about climate change for example. And ‘naïve’ refers to the childish curiosity and hopefulness of our music. Our lyrics talk about our belief in the social creativity of human beings, which we absolutely have to tap into to change the current political economy of our world and tackle climate change.

Can you give an example of such a song?

S: Our first single Sci-fi Submarine was released on 07 October. It talks about the public transport of the future: submarines. Science fiction is a way to trigger our childish curiosity. Science can open many possibilities, but imagination stays crucial: the ability to imagine other worlds and alternative relationships with living species. These messages do remain a bit cryptic though. Even our Facebook posts always have some chaotic verbiage. We sneakily want to indoctrinate the youth. [Laughs]

We sneakily want to indoctrinate the youth

Did a long process precede the release of that first single?

S: I wrote the song in June 2021 and we started rehearsing in September. This summer, we entered the studio and made a music video together with two friends who recently graduated in animation at RITCS.

J: It's exciting to finally release the single, but I'm confident that it will be noticed. We’ve spent a lot of time preparing the promotion: we wrote to a lot of radio stations and music magazines. It’s nice to see everything coming together now.

Will it get busy during the coming months?

S: Yeah. We’ll release two other singles at the end of November and in January. In February 2023, our first EP will be released.

J: We’ll also keep rehearsing once a week, sometimes twice.

S: We want to start expanding our oeuvre because we are getting a bit tired of the old songs.

J: So that is next on the agenda: jamming to explore a new repertoire and keep renewing our sound.

S: And from next week we’ll be on stage again. We’ll be performing almost every weekend for several weeks. Exciting!


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