Q&A with School Is Cool

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Photo courtesy of School Is Cool

School Is Cool is an alternative-indie band from Antwerp, Belgium. The band's name started to rise when they won an important Belgian Rock contest called Humo's Rock Rally back in 2010. They've sold over 17,000 of debut album Entropology in Belgium and now they just recently released a new single called The World Is Gonna End Tonight. The song has a pretty dark feeling in it. The string play is just, really catchy. 

Check out our Q&A with the lead singer Johannes.

Who makes up your band?
Well, there's Andrew, our percussionist. He's also an actor and an enthusiast of all things nerdy; then there's Nele, our violinist/keyboardist. She also does backing vocals and maintains an impressive youtube-blog of covers. Toon, our bassist, keyboardist and backing vocalist, is studying to become a producer or at least a great studio engineer. Our drummer Matthias studies philosophy at the Antwerp University. I'm Johannes, I play the guitar, I sing and I write the songs, and that's pretty much all I do.

Where are you guys from?
We’re from Antwerp, a medium-sized town in the north of Belgium.

Who’s your music inspiration?
I think everyone in the band appreciates Arcade Fire a lot (when their last album came out we listened to it in the van for weeks on end) and apart from that our biggest influences are The Dodos, Pixies, Kate Bush, 80's Paul Simon (Graceland) and 80's Kate Bush (The Dreaming, Hounds of Love). We're big fans of the typical 80's sound, but we also love what a lot of contemporary bands are up to.
I don't know about the others in the band but I started to play guitar listening to Nirvana (learned all their songs!) but I first realized I wanted to start a band when I listened to the Pixies.

How did you guys form the band?
I wrote and recorded some songs on my laptop and entered them in a competition in Antwerp, our hometown. When I got selected (to my surprise) I only had Andrew (with whom I played in an other band called Leafpeople) to play them live on stage, and some days before the first round of the competition I realized I had to get more band members. So I called Nele (we used to play in a folk band, Orbal) Matthias (I knew him from university) and Michael (Andrew's brother, also from Leafpeople). At our very first gig Matthias didn't show up, and to this day we don't know exactly why, but we got some funny song-introductions from it =)
Later we entered into Humo's Rock Rally, which is a huge competition in Belgium. And, to our lasting surprise, we won. Which helped us a great deal. That must've been our 6th or 7th gig or something. So it all went pretty fast initially.
More recently Toon joined the band after Michael left to pursue his filmmaking career, so that's how we got into our present constellation.

What's the story behind your band's name?
The name came from my myspace profile, and we haven't been able to change it since, because that would pretty much undo everything we've worked for =)
But I like the band name, it's a sort of ironic or maybe even cynical joke-y title, because it's so lame. When I first thought of the band name it sounded like a motto the ministry of education would put on a really tacky breadbox with a drawing of a dog with a saxophone and sunglasses or something. Plus it was kinda cool to have an ironic band name at the time.

How do you describe your music?
I think the term ‘indie’ or ‘alternative’ is a very hollow concept these days. So to admit we make ‘pop’ music would be the most honest answer. Baroque Pop is, I’ve been told, the most succinct and relevant genre-description. But we also use a lot of punk, 80’s dance and new wave influences.

Your single The World Is Gonna End Tonight just came out recently. Why did you guys pick that song as the single? And tell us a little bit about the song.
Usually I write lyrics in an intuitive way without a fixed idea of what the song will be about or whatever, but usually when the song is about 75% finished, I suddenly 'get' it, and I finish it knowing what the song is about. TWIGET is about the world ending (obviously), but that's not the most important thing, really. It's about the mortality and shortness of everything important, which might just be the very reason it's so important. It's a bit 'philosophical' but I think I managed to make it easy to understand or at least not necessarily understandable. I don't like to make things to clear or to moralistic in the lyrics, so it doesn't influence the way people listen to the music.
The music could be described as a combination of heavily compressed drums and baroque strings. We got a professional string quartet to play with us on the album. They were lovely.

What kind of bands are guys into at the moment?
I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music as a sort of self-study thing but I think the contemporary bands we most like right now are (apart from Arcade Fire) Alt J, Anna Calvi, Death Grips, The Dodos.

What would say is your best achievement so far?
I think we’re very happy with the production of the album and the collection of songs we constructed. And the way we play it live seems to work as well, we like doing it.

If you could collaborate with any musician, who would it be and why?
I would love to play in Feist’s band. I think she has one of the best ‘sounds’ of the moment, and

If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be?
L’Olympia in Paris, or the Brixton Academy, I guess!

Tell us 5 random facts about your band
1. On our first gig ever, we were billed, due to a terrible misunderstanding, as ‘Billen’, the dutch word for ‘buttcheeks’.
2. On our second gig we fcked up the chorus to ‘In Want of Something’ and I ended up singing the last line ‘We fear the coffin’ 17 times in a row before we stopped the song awkwardly. That was my birthday.
3. On our third gig, our drummer Matthias just didn’t show up. We ended up using the situation as a song-intro: “Matthias, if you’re not dead: fck you.”
4. We recently played the Game Of Thrones Boardgame when on hotel in Paris. I won. Meanwhile, our lighting tech guy and our backliner got into David Lynch’s nightclub ‘Silencio’.
5. All other facts about the band are perfectly specific and not random at all =)

What's your best on-stage experience?
We’ve had some amazing gigs at home in Belgium. For example: Pukkelpop 2010 had one of the most ecstatic crowds we ever played to. They jumped up and down for about an hour and nearly tore the tent down. Once we had to go back for a third encore when we played in Genk. That was pretty cool as well.

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