Artist Interview: The Imaginary Suitcase
Tell us about yourself and your music
I’ve been busy with music since 1992 in several bands in several genres. The Imaginary Suitcase started in 2009 while I was playing in a Celtic folk band named Ceilí Moss. I had written these intimate, minimalist songs that didn’t fit into the upbeat punchy sound Ceilí Moss was courting. And so one day, the desire to play these songs live got stronger than the fear of becoming the zillionth singer-songwriter who moans his small time existentialism over 2 1/2 chords.
I started to roam open mic sessions in Belgium, learning the hard way it is not as easy as I first thought to stand alone without several musicians who will hide your mistakes. My first solo release was in 2010, very clumsy, very poorly recorded, but still it got an encouraging welcome. After that, I released 7 records in 5 years (hey, I had a bit of a back catalogue waiting to be embodied)
How would I describe my music? It clearly can be filed under “folk/singer-songwriter”. A blogger once said I was kind of the son Suzanne Vega and Nick Cave would have had. Which I still consider the biggest compliment I ever received (along with that time a guy wrote he really didn’t like my voice, but was listening to my album for the fourth time nonetheless) ! I pay a lot of attention to melody. I can forgive a lot to a song if the melody enthralls me. I’m just as not-Beatleproof as any man…
The name The Imaginary Suitcase was the title of one of the first songs I wrote. I ditched the song but I loved the image: a suitcase we carry along all our lives, full of our dreams, our memories, and the images of our fantasized lives. If you’re lucky, it is just heavy enough to keep you rooted, for some, it can be a terrible burden.
My lyrics deal with “life, death and the confusing bits in between”. There are lots of things happening in life, mine, people I know, the world in general, that just puzzle me, so I write a lot about that more as an astonished man than a moralizer, though I indulge in no-holds-barred imprecation every now and then. Quite often, my words spring out in reaction to stuff I find stupid, or paradoxical, like the fact most love songs are actually songs about stalking or psychological enslavement when you look closer, or that most well-intentioned songs about political topics are hopelessly whingey and bland. And I LOVE to play the Devil’s advocate every now and then.
Talk to us more about your latest release
It’s been a bit of a chaotic birth… After many personal events two years ago that left me drained out and without appetite and inspiration for some months, I went back to work and gave myself a year to make sure I would be comfortable and have the time to work the songs, rewrite, re-edit and invite some guests I was very eager to work with… and of course I did 80% of the job the last two months before the release. Musicians are really incorrigible…
What inspired you to write this release?
You’ll have to read between the lines as, though most of my songs are born from personal experiences, I never write literally about them, I always cloak and magnify because I’m a bit excessively obsessed by avoiding navel gazing and self-indulgence. But it most definitely is a collection of snapshots of yours truly past two years.
Actually, I don’t like to give keys to the understanding of my songs. I would much rather let the listener digest them and create his/her own emotions. Few things put a smile on my face like a listener saying he/she found something in one of my songs I had no idea was in it.
Any plans to release a video?
I’d love to, so if any of you has an idea, I’m all ears.
Any plans to hit the road?
I’m touring Belgium at the moment (next gigs are in Antwerp, Leuven, Brussels, Beringen, Soignies and Anthisnes) and more dates will hopefully be confirmed soon, including in rather unlikely places…
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
Dunno man. I write songs, I enjoy playing them, I enjoy interacting with the people who listen to them. I’m absolutely terrible at marketing and branding.
Who have you been listening to lately?
Arctic Monkeys, Ani DiFranco, The Mission, Patti Smith, and some very good Belgian bands like Balthazar, Daan, Warhaus and Absynthe Minded.
Tell us about your passions
What gets me out of bed? Well, most days it’s the necessity to drive my children to school.
I lead a totally not rock & roll life: dayjob (music feeds the soul but the belly has demands too), kids (three girls), having a good time with my friends… I do enjoy gardening and cooking a lot, these (and also making love) are activities that have a lot in common with making music.
What else is happening next in your world?
If anyone has tips on how to handle a 13-years old daughter, I’m begging you…
Thanks for an awesome interview, Laurent!
Connect with The Imaginary Suitcase