Mass VI is one of the best albums of 2017. This is because Amenra‘s music is real and comes across as brutally honest. The band is now on tour across Europe. I attended their show at the end of January 2018 in Berlin during the CTM Festival and it was a truly captivating set. Their sound takes your breath away. Amenra don’t chat. The visuals immerse you in an intense dark dimension where the music is intense, visceral and totally alive. Before the show I talked to Colin H. Van Eeckhout (vocals) about the tour, the album and how hard life can be. You must not miss one of their live shows.
Amenra kicked off 2018 with a big European tour: France, the Netherlands and today we are here in Berlin. How’s it going?
CHVE: It’s cool. We’re happy to do a couple of shows before the tour with Boris. We always like to be on the road. We know how everything works and we’re happy we can do some of the bigger European cities before we start the tour. It’s handy, because we’re from Belgium. We live so central. It’s easy for us; we just travel around a bit. So it’s all going really great. We sold out a lot of shows. It amazes us.
Is this your first gig with Scott Kelly?
We’ve played together before. I did a tour with him solo. But this is the first time we’ve see each other in a long while, so it’s going to be nice.
And what about Boris?
I haven’t met them. I haven’t seen them. I haven’t really even heard them. Voilà.
So you and the other guys are sharing this experience together. How is it spending so much time with the same people?
Oh it’s cool. Above all else, we’re really good friends, so we don’t mind spending time together. Sometimes we enjoy the days when we don’t have shows most of all because we don’t have anything to worry about then. But we don’t have a lot of those days. So it was nice for us to come to Berlin a day early. We we’re able to just hang out last night and have a drink and be fit and prepared for the show today. But we’re good friends and we have a good time and sometimes it’s sad when the last note of a concert hits. We like to hang out and talk with people or get to know new people. But as soon as the last note plays, we have to take care of all our stuff and take it off stage, and by that time everybody is gone already. So it always ends up being just us.
Do you live close to your Amenra friends?
Yeah, we live in the same city, pretty much. Half an hour from each other at the most. And we see each other and rehearse every week, and I see a lot of them a couple days a week. We just talk things through or say “hi” or whatever or hang out or write new stuff and meet each other in the studios around the city. It’s easier, you don’t have to plan as much beforehand and fit something into a really tight schedule. A lot of bands live far away from each other and then they fly together to rehearse for a couple of days and then tour. So it’s different for us. It’s just a habit.
Mass VI was released a few months ago. Are you pleased about the response you’ve received from the critics and your audience?
Yeah, of course. We’ve been around now for 20 years and we haven’t really experienced a lot of negative comments. So it’s cool to see that we’re still relevant and people still appreciate what we do. It has been received really well.
I’m deeply in love with your album…
Yeah, apparently a lot of people are. And it’s rewarding to hear that. It’s interesting. We’re really happy. And the longer it takes for people to get tired of us, the happier we are.
I think that’s because your music is truly honest.
I think so. We try to be as honest as possible. And I think that whatever style of music you play, you feel that. You feel that it’s honest. And it translates itself into accessible or understandable music. You know where it comes from.
The writing process of Mass VI changed your way of creating songs.
Mostly because we have less time now. A lot of us have children now and a lot of stuff do. And we have full-time jobs. The jobs a lot of us had came with bigger responsibilities, so we had less time to just endlessly jam and see where we ended up. So the guitar players did a lot of homework, especially our bass player, Levy: it was the first time he wrote on a record and he did a lot of work. He did a lot of the writing. So he put a big stamp on the music of Mass VI. We get together and analyze the parts and try to puzzle it a little bit more until everybody really connects with it. And then we’re set.
In your lyrics, there is a lot of darkness and regret, even pain. And I’m truly impressed by your honesty and way of writing. What inspires your songs?
A lot of things that just happen around me, you know. Even talking with friends about life or about shit that is happening in life. And I think about that stuff and I give it a place or a voice. And things that happen around me with my family and the people I love, what’s happening with the band members and the people they love. We keep it really close to us. It’s not that we really analyze the world and politics and all that is happening in the world today. We don’t really attempt to do that because I feel I can be more honest and more relevant about the stuff that is closer to me.
So do you think that, in a way, all this darkness is a consequence of living in this society right now?
I think it’s a consequence of life. I think the problems we address in our music are problems that were here already hundreds of years ago. It’s a universal thing: love, loss, the pain of life that you sometimes endure and have to find ways to cope with and get over and move on from. It’s hard, and it’s hard for everybody. And people are always looking for ways to manage life. You have your parents that try to guide you, but in the end they’re also still looking for answers. They don’t know anything. When you’re a child you think they have all the answers and know everything, but they don’t. So that’s interesting.
Where do you find the strength to write and sing about something so special and private?
I don’t know. I come from a straightedge, hardcore punk scene where you had certain topics like vegetarianism, politics and anti-fascism and the usual subjects. And that was what we worked with then. But after a while, I realized I care about this stuff but I care about other stuff more, which are those things that are closer to me. And then it shifted.
It’s a natural process. You start with something and then you feel something and you change, because your life changes.
Yeah. We were 16 years old when we started and we followed the rules of a certain scene and it made sense. But then you grow up and you analyze what you really care about and what keeps you busy more than anything else and that’s what you start writing about. And you also had this evolution in our scene back then. It started to change into metal core. I was more screamo.
Are you talking about Belgium?
Belgium and the Belgian hardcore scene that we lived through in the 90’s. We tended to go more into that power violence, screamo stuff that had more emotional lyrics than the usual. And the metal core was a little bit more macho, tough-guy lyrics in some ways. And I kind of realized I don’t really care about that stuff, so I’m not going to follow that lead.
Do you think that in all this darkness there is some hope?
Yeah, of course. That’s what we live for. That’s what we work with and that’s what we live for. It’s recognizing the beauty in everything. Even in the darkest and shittiest moments in life, you can learn and see beauty in the smaller things. And you realize there is beauty and that happiness lies in mere moments or minutes sometimes. But it is of a certain magnitude that is not comparable to darker moments.
What do you think is necessary for a positive change in this world?
Belief, I think. Belief in the human race, in the goodness within people. I think it starts within yourself, and if you live with a warm heart and are kind to people, I’m pretty sure you’ll be disappointed sometimes along the way, but I do believe that you’ll spread that flame and inspire people to do that as well. And live by that warmth and love, you know. I think that’s important: for people to be compassionate and comprehensive of different situations and backgrounds. It would be good for people to have a little bit more heart and trust more in the heart than in whatever else. I mean belief not in terms of religion, but more in terms of hope. Belief in that there’s hope and we can all make a change. That is the key I think.
And what do you expect for 2018 in both the music and political scene?
I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball to look into. And I try to address people in a way that they live their lives as good as possible. But what 2018 will bring politically, I don’t know and I don’t really care about it. Because we can’t really change much about it unless we all work together and there you need that heart again. I think it starts within every human being. It wouldn’t make sense for me to start philosophizing over politics and the future. There is a tendency towards the evolution of the right wing. I believe that it’s our job to prove otherwise and help people to realize that there are other options to thriving on hate and division of the human race. But like I said, those things don’t really have anything to do with Amenra.
And for Amenra what do you expect this year?
We just carry on what we’ve been doing since we were 16 years old. We try to tell our story as honestly as possible and to share our vision with a lot of people and try to get people on board. And being honest and helpful and fruitful in their ways. And we’ll play as many shows as we can, obviously.
Are you working on or are you involved in other projects right now?
The next thing that will happen is that we’ll record a full album with Scott, who is playing here today. Mathieu, our guitar player, Scott and I will record an album for Absent In Body. We put out an EP for Absent in Body a couple years back. And now we’ll do the follow up, a full album.
If you had one wish for 2018 what would it be and why?
I don’t know. That everything goes well with everybody. Some of us had a lot of shit to take in last year and we’ll have to find a way to make it work again. Some of us lost people who helped a lot in taking care of the kids. So it’s going to be hard for them to find a way to be able to leave home as often. I wish for happiness and health to all the people involved in the band. The amount of shows is not really relevant. We try to do as much as we can but we’ll try to do good towards our families as well and be home whenever we need to be home.