Longing for an untouchable love: the YellowStraps interview

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Mellow electronica with smooth vocals. The brotherly duo YellowStraps is about to release a brand new EP that marks a new chapter in their lives.

When Yvan and Alban Murenzi uploaded their first beats to Soundcloud from their bedrooms in Braine L’Alleud, they did so without any expectations. Slowly but surely, they gained some traction – even winning a Most Promising Artist award at the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards in 2014. Yet, we had to wait until now before the duo leapt forward, solidifying their new sound in a brand new EP and a big European tour. In their own words: "it's all coming together now". 

Coming with a new EP and tour this spring: what can we expect?

Yvan: “This EP marks a new chapter in our development as artists. We have expanded our setup with keys, drums, etc. - aka, a full band now, as opposed to just the two of us in our bedroom. We have become a grown-up version of YellowStraps, able to deliver a bit more punch now, both in the studio and on stage”.

Alban: “We love the interaction with the musicians; it made us learn many new things, but mostly, it's an entirely different mindset. Before this EP, we didn't structure our music in the same way. We made music purely for fun, you know? Only since last year, we stepped up our game and decided to go all in. In that sense, it feels like a welcome step towards becoming a more mature band”.

We don't want to overthink too much. We just want to release stuff and move forward.

So what’s your chemistry? Who does what in the studio?

Yvan: “Alban is the producer amongst us, and he composes the beats and the melodies. After he lays the groundwork, we ping-pong our ideas and do the mixdowns together. Being brothers has always made it easier for us; we always have the same vision. Our tastes are generally similar, so it makes working together so much more efficient. The same can be said about our longtime friends, like Le Motel, who we’ve know from for over 20 years already – we’re all from Braine L’Alleud. Swing is another homie we regularly invite for a casual jam”.

Alban: “We don't want to overthink too much. We just want to release stuff and move forward. Other artists often set the bar so high for themselves, and they think there's so much pressure on them, which keeps them from putting new stuff out because it has to be perfect. If you're barely releasing new material now and then, how are you going to grow? You need something to compare your current vibe with. If you bring out new music, you'll get useful feedback, and you'll meet new people, which ultimately, is a more efficient strategy to grow, compared to mauling over that one snare for two months”.

You did a release on Majestic Casual (a popular music YouTube channel), and later you got featured on the very first vinyl pressing of Colors (another popular music YouTube channel). Did you feel some impact after being featured on platforms like those?

Yvan: “The feature on Majestic Casual was a significant international boost for our career, which had always been our aim. It was a useful first step, because it got our name out there, but once the Colors video came out, our exposure grew exponentially. People started taking our band more seriously, and we got interest from record labels, like the one we’re signed on now, Believe UK. Releasing the Goldress EP in the way we do now wouldn’t have been possible were it not for that Colors show”.

We’re entering a new phase in our life – we are more positive, more optimistic – and the music reflects that.

How hard/easy is it to break through internationally as a band like yours? Do you feel like you have already? Or does it feel like your close?

Alban: “We aim to break through internationally; not necessarily just in Belgium, although that would be great, of course. The feedback we received over the years has mostly come from Flanders and abroad, rather than Brussels and Wallonia. We realize our sound, alternative electronic music with English vocals, isn’t very common here, hence our outward approach. That said, there’s so much room for small acts to grow here”.

So singing in English was a strategy to focus on the international market?

Yvan: “It was never a conscious decision to sing in English. It's just how we have always done it. In hindsight, that was a good thing. We're now in the comfortable position to have our music speak to a lot more people. Hopefully, we can play in the USA or Asia someday, because that's where most of our listeners are. Slowly, we can expand our tour schedules. We've always wanted to travel more, and finally, our music is allowing us to do that. Our ultimate end goal is to be able to do tours across the globe”.

So tell us a little more about the Goldress EP.

Alban: “First of all, we want to give some shouts to Ashley Morgan, who has a significant stake in the creation of one of the tracks on the EP, ‘She Goes’”.

Yvan: “Lyric-wise, we used to be a little angrier, as music is the perfect way to channel your emotions and decompress. Now, we’re entering a new phase in our life – we are more positive, more optimistic – and the music reflects that. ‘Goldress’ represents the precious things we have to hold on to, the longing for an untouchable love”.

Alban: “The cover looks a bit like the famous Magritte painting, Les Amants, which deals with the same complicated emotions that come with a utopian vision on love. The funny thing is that we only discovered the similarities after we did the shoot (laughs). Big up Magritte”!