Rhythm and Melody, Passion and Friendship
Five friends, five musicians and a wall of sound. They have been playing music since they were kids and some of them have a bond that goes back to their childhood. Positive vibes and the ability to converse about nearly everything is what we took away from a conversation with the five artists in their rehearsal space, a short drive from Brussels.
Where exactly does the name Millbrooks find its origin?
Fré: It stems from Meulebeke, which is the village where most of us grew up. Millbrooks is a mashup, a kind of bastardisation of the Flemish name of the village. Giel, Fré and Alex started the band ten years ago and a bit later Yves and Lowie joined. The band had a different name back then, bringing music from a different genre.
Yves: When I joined in 2010, the old name stuck for a while but eventually changed to Millbrooks.
Lowie: The first years I joined, I feel we were still looking to find our own sound. It’s only in the last two years that we truly found ourselves and in a sense, became more professional.
Fré: We were ready for a 180° turn into a direction that felt right for us.
The band sounds like a very well-oiled machine. What’s your secret?
Giel: We can easily talk to each other and share our thoughts, frustrations, worries and so on without starting a fight. That has been crucial in our story. Fré: We also don’t experience a lot of pressure, pushing us to make this or that decision or a label that expects deliverables at a specific time frame. Lowie: Every Friday we rehearse; a moment to which I am looking forward all week. Besides the gigs we play of course. I only joined Millbrooks a few years ago, but before that I used to play in a punk-rock band with Alex and Fré, the two brothers in Millbrooks. (all start laughing) Alex: Oh yes, that part of my life. (smiles) Anyway, I really appreciate the well-oiled part because we have been working on fine-tuning our setlist and live sound.
Why do you play music?
Alex: For me, Linkin Park was the main reason. The depth and feel of their guitars had a huge impact on me. Until then, it was mainly the lyrics and vocals that pulled me into a song or artist. After that, I was introduced to the instrumental aspects of a song and started playing myself.
Lowie: I started at sixteen, which is quite late, but out of pure fascination for drumming. I was amazed to see some drummers pull the most mind blowing things out of their sleeves, and I guess I kind of wanted to see if I had the skills to do the same.
Yves: It’s an evolution. When you start listening to music as a kid, you don’t really know what to listen to or what you like. The older you get, the more you get to know yourself as a listener and for some of us as a musician. It’s an awareness that grows. I feel that in any given parallel universe, I would be a musician –of some kind (laughs).
Fré: Punk rock is what I played when I first picked up a guitar. Afterwards I leaned more to Slipknot. In high school I started listening to a bigger diversity of music. Expanding my horizon.
Giel: One band that we all share and that was a very important inspiration to each one of us at some point in time, is Artic Monkeys. Nick O’Malley is a very direct influence for my style of playing bass.
Who are Millbrooks’ main influences?
Yves: The eighties are very important to us. Bands like Toto, Duran Duran, U2, had a sound back then we really dig.
Giel: The eighties is the era that is in my opinion the worst taste-wise but at the same time the most genius time in its musical inspiration.
Lowie: I have to say that I am losing interest in the music that is being released today. Hard to find something that really inspires me, while in the past I have almost never been disappointed by Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam and Queens of the Stone Age.
Giel: Almost everything has been done in every genre so blends are the logical outcome. Fusion is everywhere. Musicians equally found clever ways to mock or parody genres that were huge in the past, which is really interesting.
What is one word that would describe the Millbrooks sound?
Yves: Can I give 2? Melodic - harmonic.
Giel: There’s a lot happening in our songs but all sounds for some reason blend together. Sometimes it’s a hassle to make the loaded, busy melodies work together but somehow we always find a way. The last two songs that Yves wrote were a challenge.
Lowie: We locked ourselves up and wrote together for a week, which was very useful. We create songs with building blocks. We start with a base and add blocks here and there and we can easily remove them as well. There’s a lot of recording during rehearsals, which we listen to in the car or at home.
What’s the most positive thing that happened so far for Millbrooks?
Lowie: Being part of the contest De Nieuwe Lichting by Studio Brussels. It really helped us to get more gigs going this year.
Alex: And have some airplay on the radio. That was a box to tick on my bucket list. (all laughing hard)
Yves: Things to do before you’re thirty!
Lowie: It also helped to put our work in perspective. We were confronted with a lot of different music in the contest that was a lot better compared to us but, luckily, also the opposite. So it kind of helped us like a benchmark.
Giel: Going on a trip together for one week, work together, crash together, have plenty of talks about a lot of topics helped us bond more as musicians. That is even more important than the contest to me personally.
What do you hope that listeners feel when they hear your music?
Yves: I hope they hear the depth that we put in each song. We try to give a song more than just a beat, some guitars and some words.
Giel: We play rock but it’s not just that. It goes deeper, at least from our perspective. During a gig we really give all we have, while really trying to share the stage. As in giving it to each of us separately to stand out in a specific part of a song. Those are also the moments we look into the crowd to see the faces.
Alex: I’m happy if the audience can feel what I feel when standing on a stage. I don’t really know how to transfer that, but showing the passion of your play is probably half of the work.
Fré: The way the audience reacts is inarguably important. You want to see feedback, some noise, some movement. And once it’s there it gives that YES-feeling; “this is going well!”
X This conversation had place in the fall of 2017
X Interview and photography by Johan Bockstaele
X Images captured with a Nikon Df
X Interview conducted in Dutch, translated and edited by the clever ZOTEYE minions
XX Follow Millbrooks on Facebook