Interview with FOLLIA!

Follia!

We had recently wrote about the third and self-titled album by a Belgian experimental jazz ensemble Follia! In the interview below, the band tells us about their mission, the album, and future plans.

How did you go about forming Follia!, define its mission and let us know, what does the name of the band refer to?

Follia! came into existence in 1999 when its founding members Johan Fernand Decancq and Sammy Lee Daese were invited by Dranouter Folk Festival to play two shows in Transylvania (part of Romania). Sammy Lee being very much a jazz man whereas Johan was more into folk, the result was a fresh new progressive sound. Very “follia!” indeed from the start!

Johan and Sammy Lee invited other jazz and rock musicians to join the band.

Very quickly, follia! became a lively band, a welcome guest to many festivals and dance parties.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your self-titled 3rd album, and the themes it captures. How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

There were plenty of  ideas and it took some time to piece everything together.  All music and lyrics are self-composed.

The band aimed for a CD with more singer song writing, whereas the previous two CD’s were more instrumental.

Much of the lyrics written by Anne-Lies, (band member Johan’s wife)  and ex singer of Follia!; Pieter Decancq, are about how fragile life is, the fact that we have to enjoy the moment, but also about the way we humans (mis)treat our planet. In those songs the lyrics define the music

Of course follia! being follia!, we have a slightly absurd tune called “dabba dabba” for the fun and a song titled “Marieke”, which is about a medieval prostitute trying to escape her sins (“the devil”) only to end up dead. (lyrics: Anne-Lies, music: Sammy Lee).

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected or is it an organic outgrowth of performing them together?

The third Follia! Album is a studio project which we started recording at the Wild Boar studio in Ghent while we still did some heavy duty touring with previous releases. We have more than a decade (16 years) of experience playing LIVE, something we tried to capture on this album. The rest of the recordings and mixes were done at Gabor’s studio.

Nevertheless, most of the songs were repeatedly tried out live before finishing the recording.

Follia! has produced a strong folk album with a lot of variety. Call it progressive-folk?

Follia - Follia!

Follia! is a seven-piece band. How much each of the members contribute creatively to the album?

The main work was done by Johan, Gabor and Sammy Lee. They set out the structure of the songs and the general sound of this CD.

All of the music and lyrics are our own compositions. Often these ideas are born in the minds of the author or composer first and subsequently proposed to the band.

There were a lot of rehearsals and test-recordings, giving all members the opportunity to add their ideas and creativity to the music.

Jonathan Callens (drummer) and Jouni Isoherranen (bassist) were masters of the groove.

Indra Boone, the brand new singer, who only joined the band early 2014, definitely put her own stamp on the CD.

Describe the approach to recording the album. How long “Follia!” was in the making?

It took some time to record this album. Pieter Decancq, the previous singer (and brother of Johan), left the band after the first recordings at Wild Boar Music to pursue his own projects. After his departure, the band auditioned some singers, but never really found ‘the one’, until Indra came along.

In the meantime, the band kept on touring.

Indra literally came to the band in a dream, as Gabor woke up on tour in Transylvania in 2014, with only one question on his mind: “Why on earth did I never think of Indra before?

Indra auditioned and it was immediately clear she was up to the challenge, handling any follia! style with ease.

How do you go about channelling this inspiration into writing? Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Channelling the abundant flow of inspiration in the band, is indeed one of the most difficult challenges. Although influences are many, it is the goal of the band to be original.

We can mention many artists. Gabor joined Follia! because he heard the acoustic version of Iron Maiden in follia!’s music. Sammy Lee is a jazz guy, influenced by Miles Davis, Keith Jarett, Coltrane, but he loves the Beatles too! We’d mention Jetro Tull as well.

Although Johan was trained in classical music and only got acquainted with the bagpipes and the diatonic accordion when he was in his twenties, he’s a living library of folk music. There are too many bands from his side to cover this page, and certainly not only folk ones. He’s also the one coming up with a lot of the original ideas which the band turns into songs.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when making “Follia!”?

Again, we would call the “making of” the biggest challenge. We watched a documentary on Queen once and realized, that it’s normal to discuss our ideas longer than a few minutes (laugh).

We are very pleased with this album. The result counts ☺

What kind of gear do you use for recording your music?

Gabor: “ Skip.. The place was packed with tube preamps, Eq-s, compressors and so on…  We could have a huge list. Actually, you just need to have that box with the green buttons on it, if you know what I mean.”

What is your view on technology in music?

Technology helped Gabor a lot in realizing this album as the studio engineer. When he brought the recorded tracks over to his studio from Wild Boar, he was able to present multiple ideas to Johan and Sammy Lee just with the help of the DAW.

Gabor mainly used Propellerheads Reason, by the way, he adores that Swedish logic. There is a reason to call it “Swedish Logic” after all?!

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

It’s first of all music and fun.

Of course the lyrics are meant to bring a message to the audience. The message of this album is about the need for deeper reflection in our lives, which makes the lightness of being bearable after all. ☺

There’s no political message in the music though. When we talk about ecology, we consider it a concern of humanity, not of politics.

Playing live is the best of two worlds combining a message with great joy.

What does the future hold?

Hopefully many international tours. It looks like we’re going to China in September 2016 for some concerts (Nanjing).

We’ll be doing the venues we’ve always done here in Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Austria and Hungary, and hope to add even further to that now.

Visit Follia! website and Facebook page for the most recent news about the band.

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