Most Promising Artists 2019: Bombataz

Pictures by Lars Duchateau

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As with every Red Bull Elektropedia Awards show, we like to put upcoming talent in the spotlight. The Most Promising Artist Award is given to three acts that are deemed to be on the verge of breaking through. Whether it’s making beats, spitting bars or singing melodies, these artists have one thing in common: a promising potential to make it big in the music scene.

It’s always refreshing when a band takes a little bit of everything and mashes it up in one diverse live performance. Funk, hip hop, soul, etc. It doesn’t matter when Bombataz are on stage. In true jazz-fashion, the Brussels-based quartet consisting of Vitja Pauwels (guitar and vocals), Hendrik Lasure (keys), Ruben De Maesschalck (bass) and Casper Van De Velde (drums) has a background in jazz, they have an unconventional approach to making free-spirited music. As their debut ‘¡Kapao!’ EP hit the digital shelves, it became clear this young outfit can do what most others can't: keeping consistency while exploring all groovy corners of the musical universe. With a strong focus on live performance, it's safe to say it won't be the last time you hear about Bombataz.

I would ask what kind of music you guys make, but you don’t strike me as the type of musicians that put a label on their music…

We don't like to name genres indeed. By not putting a label on our music, we keep our options open, and we enjoy more freedom during our rehearsals and shows.

What kind of music do you listen to?

Anything that has a strong live and danceable element in it. We're not very fond of too many computers in music. If it's a band that can play a groovy live set, we're interested.

How did you guys end up in a band together?

Vitja, Ruben and Casper met each other at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp. The three of us got together to make music, and soon we realized we could use some synths. Casper was already playing with Hendrik in SCHNTZL, so we just invited him to join our band. That's how we got together.

By not putting a label on our music, we keep our options open, and we enjoy more freedom during our rehearsals and shows.

Does your background of the Conservatory influence the way you approach the production process?

That ‘openness' we were talking about certainly has its roots in our jazz education. We never have a specific style or song in mind when we jam, and we build our tracks without a clear blueprint. Our songs are always formed through jamming and improvisation.

In many ways, your music radiates optimism and positivity. Do those words accurately describe your daily attitude in the studio?

Well, we try to approach everything with a positive attitude, but we are just as susceptible to the occasional little anxiety as any other group of young guys. The group dynamic is very dependent on our mood. If there's one of us that doesn't feel it, the whole vibe can suffer from that, and you will be able to hear that in our output of that day. That said, the same is true the other way around. If we end up with a happy track, you can be sure all of us had a very positive mindset when we recorded it. Our music is not always a reflection of how we feel in life. What we end up making can also be an ideal of what we wish we felt like.

So is all the music you make a result of jamming? Or do you guys ever come to the studio with a certain plan in mind?

Sometimes, someone has an idea that we try out first. We then settle on a loop, which we repeat over and over until everyone finds his role in that track. After a while, we'll feel like doing something else, and we take a break. During these lapses of concentration, new ideas are formed. We then take those with us in the rehearsals for a reinterpretation of our first drafts. In the end, that's how most of our music is made.

In which environment do you thrive more: in the studio or on stage?

We think the focus in each case is different. In the studio, the aim is to work precise and goal-oriented, while on stage, the vibe is the only thing that matters. When you're doing shows, you need to transmit a level of energy, regardless of any imperfections. You know that this particular set won't be listened to again afterwards, so the details don't matter as much compared to the energy and presentation. In a studio, you know that every little thing will be recorded for eternity, even if you don't fully agree with the way a particular element is played. That's why some level of communication between us before we record is pretty important.

When you're doing shows, you need to transmit a level of energy, regardless of any imperfections.

You guys sing in four languages: English, French, Dutch and even Spanish. Why?

That’s the result of a combination of many things. Sometimes a song sounds better with a particular language. This approach originates in that carelessness that we mentioned. This multilingualism is an excellent way to reflect the reality of the environment that we live in every day. That said, it's also just hilarious to sing in Spanish while none of us is actually able to speak a word in that language (laughs).

Your free-spirited approach to making different kinds of live music is found in other Belgian bands too, like Beraadgeslagen and STUFF. We are assuming it's not the first time you are being compared with them? What's your reaction when people tell you something like that?

Artists and bands will always be compared to other artists and bands, that’s pretty understandable. We get why people see similarities between us and STUFF. They also have a background in jazz, and they have a very experimental and jam-like approach to their music, which we value in them. Then again, it's not like those are the only bands we listen to. But when we stay true to ourselves and to the music we want to make, it will always be something unique.

Where do you want to be in 5 years from now?

We grow pretty slow, but that's ok. We feel like we're really on the right track. Playing abroad is definitely on our wishlist, and if we're allowed to dream, a tour in Africa would be amazing. It doesn't matter where we end up or how we get there, as long as our career is anything but ordinary.