A few weeks ago i received a CD from Cecilia::Eyes, titled 'Disappearance'. It completely blew me away, as you can read in the review I wrote about it (by clicking here). I've heard about this band a few times before but never really got to hear their music yet. Disappearance changed all that, I actually went to bandcamp and bought the LP version. Because Merchants of Air doesn't have a 'band of the month' section yet, I decided to send a few questions to Cecilia::Eyes and make my own little 'band of the month' article...
Cecilia::Eyes started out in 2004. Did the band or the sound change much in those 10 years?
Christophe: In 2005, we recorded our first EP Echoes from the Attic in a studio in the countryside, in nature. We were young and carefree and undemanding at that time, our goal was to release an EP and do some concert dates without really knowing where we were heading to. All we knew was that we were heaving fun playing together every week in my attic and most importantly, there was no need to add a voice on our compositions …
Things then quickly evolved and we wanted to go in long format and compose and make new songs with more conviction for our project to become more professional.
Then in 2008 we recorded our first long album Mountain Tops Are Sometimes Closer to the Moon in a big studio in Brussels. Our goal was to obtain a pure and gross sound, and we had them both, and we recorded a lot of guitars in stereo with tube amps. A large mixing work was done to give it that unique sound.
Our second album Here Dead We Lie was preceded by the integration into the band of Gauthier (guitar). The sound of his guitar, his technical knowledge of the effects, of computers and samples (in addition to our musical bond) have contributed to breathe new life into cecilia::eyes.
After a few months of rehearsal and a great inspiration (some pieces of Here Dead We Lie have also been composed during the studio session recording for Mountain Tops), the album was recorded at the same location and under the same conditions as Mountain Tops … but that was mixed completely differently by Rudy Coclet who gave it a more floydienn key with a muffled drum and a less crystalline sound.
Finally, Disappearance was meanwhile composed and produced differently. The new songs have been proposed mainly by Gauthier (guitar) and myself from samples and melodies of our two guitars (Loreta, Bellflowers, Lord Howe Rise) and other instruments were grafted naturally around these initial ideas. The album was difficult to deliver, because of its lack of cohesion and inspiration, besides the difficulties in scheduling rehearsals due to our professional and private life (family, children), which is why it took four years to compose.
The album was then recorded in Rubens Studio (Brussels). We gave a lot of specific guidance to the sound engineer when mixing because we already had in mind a very clear idea of the final result, which is why the recording, mixing and mastering have lasted for almost a year.
Today Disappearance is the album that looks the most to ourselves, emotionally, and it’s the album I’m most proud of artistically, because finally it makes a returning to our teenager musical and sonic first love.
Speaking of changes in 10 years, did you notice an evolution in the post-rock scene?
Christophe: The danger is that this kind of music can quickly become boring and you sometimes feel like all the post-rock bands just clone themselves. Personally, I'd rather listen to old albums of Mono and Hammock that are rough, without arrangements and strings but it's just subjective.
How about influences. Bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky seem pretty clear but are there others?
Christophe: Not post-rock in fact. I listened to my first Godspeed three years ago and I bought my first Mono album about seven years ago. Journalists make quick shortcuts immediately associating cecilia::eyes to familiar post-rock. Today, after four albums, the public finally realizes that our musical influences lie elsewhere than in the post-rock, sometimes in Pink Floyd for some of us, sometimes in the new wave for others, and for myself exclusively in the shoegaze movement. It is strange that no one has noticed that before. When we were teenagers in the 90s, we rather listened to The Cure, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride. Only after that we arrived to the first pieces of Mogwai and the like. and today, each of us has a wide range of musical influences that are not at all found in the post-rock. The other members of cecilia::eyes listen to many different things, from drone to progressive rock, from math-rock to new-wave or from experimental to dream-pop … We are not completely closed to other musical styles. The classification does not matter to me as long as what you listen inspires you and allows you to live or relive emotions or pleasant sensations.
Living in Flanders, I rarely hear about bands from the French side of Belgium. Do you know a lot of Flemish bands? And do you have an explanation for this lack of communication between Walloon & Flemish music-promotors, bands,…? And second, can you give us some good bands from your side of Belgium?
Gauthier You know there’s a very good “post rock oriented” label in Flanders called Dunk!Records, and each year they organize one of the biggest “post rockfish” festival in Europe. Some good bands are on it you should have a look here: www.dunkrecords.com
I don’t think there’s a problem between Walloon & Flemish promoters, the problem is that promoters want to make money, and people only listen to POP/ROCK and radio-shit music (Pure FM, the number one radio in Wallonia, is so boring, to stay polite). So today post-rock and shoegaze are completely underground music even if lots of people like it. You know, some years ago we were invited to Pure FM for a live interview with Jacques de Pierpont (Ponpon). This was the only “underground” show that still existed on this channel and it was a very good one… They have removed it from the programming a few time ago…… so stupid.
And there was a time were MTV used to be a Musical Television (with even some good stuff like 120 minutes, headbanger's ball,…). Maybe we are getting old, like our music...?
It’s great then to meet some people like the ones behind Merchants of Air who appreciate same stuff we do, and try to tell people. Thank you. Hopefully we still have good reviews coming from everywhere…
Disappearance is a world class album. Is Cecilia::Eyes on their way to the big stages and theatre venues?
Christophe: Thank you for that! We already had really brilliant experiences: opening for Lliketrains in 2008 and 2011, opening for Cranes or A Silver Mount Zion in Belgium, playing two times at Dunk!festival, meeting members of Slowdive,…
Curently, we all five work full-time, we have families and tons of complementary activities. I think like every artist, we kinda would like things to become more professional and that we can live from the artistic activity. But with our family obligations (besides the economic crisis), we must stay lucid and responsible … We’ve already been playing toghether for ten years now and we always did it with the utmost passion and utmost dedication. But today, for reasons of credibility, conviction and personal commitments when we have any opportunity, we analyse it more maturely than when we were 20 years old. We have become less inconscious by the force of things … This does not mean that we are not willing to go as far as possible, if it's really worth it, but certainly not at the expense of our families and of those we hold to heart.
We now plan to organize a European tour but we do it ourselves because we don’t have any booker or manager. It’s not easy and it costs a lot of money. So we’ll see what is possible or not.
Where did you get the name of the band?
Christophe: The etymology of "cecilia" means “blind” in French. So, this is how you can feel the music when you close your eyes. For us, music is a matter of feelings and emotions. That's what we wanted to say through this character.
Writing post rock songs doesn't seem to be easy. How does the writing process develop?
Gauthier: Usually one of us comes with an idea, an improvisation, and we start creating something from that, but on Disappearance, the process was a bit different. Some of the songs were created only from a sample idea (Default Descent, Reign) and then we did build something together on this. Some other songs (like Bellflowers, Loreta and Swallow The Key) were started at home with Christophe and myself. Then with this "first scratch" of a song we went to the others and we arranged/changed things together with all the instruments. Isolated Shower is in fact the oldest composition on the album. This was an old song (I think the first recording is from 2010) and we found it interesting to re-work it.
What the story behind the titles? I can imagine it’s not always easy to come up with a title for an instrumental song.
Bellflowers: first name was “Bells” due to the samples at the beginning of the song. Then Chris changed it to Bellflowers (it reminds him of his favorite band The Cure I think ;-) ).
Lord Howe Rise: This is an underwater-shelf extending southwest from New Caledonia to the Challenger Plateau west of New Zealand, and it sounds great :-).
Loreta: is the name of one of our best friends' wife in Romania, Doru, who invited us to play in Bucharest and Brasov a few years ago. He's the man behind www.kogaionon.com.
Swallow the key: because Christophe’s dog (Calla) swallowed one of his USB-keys including a lot of pictures of our previous shows (I think he did find it back somewhere after).
Default Descent: is written on something in our rehearsal room to lift the curtains up and down.
Isolated Shower: you can hear it pronounced in the sample coming from a weather forecast.
Reign: I don’t remember, I think it just sounded cool for that one… :-)
What are the musical backgrounds from the members?
Christophe: Mostly shoegaze: Slowdive is my favourite band of all time. I love “Tunnel Blanket” from This Will Destroy You, Strata Florida, Hammock, IIiketrains, Cranes, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, Sailors With Wax Wings, The Besnared Lakes, Jakob, Gregor Samsa, Air Formation, Aerofall, Nothing… My biggest dream is to play with Slowdive one day …
Gauthier: A lot of things but I always come back to shoegaze and noisy things. Actually I'm listening a lot of Slowdive's recent live performances. I also listen a lot of movie soundtracks (Thomas Newman, Jery Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer,...)
Pascal: Yes, a lot of things too... From classic rock to drone music...via shoegaze, of course... the only restriction is the emotion I can feel with...
Pictures taken from the official facebook page