Especially for AB, the Brussels/Rotterdam duo consisting of Jens Bouttery & Lennart Heyndels, renamed itself Hi Hawaii & The Extensions. On April 14, they will perform together with their brand new quartet of 3 horns and 3 strings in a Main Hall concert that will be streamed live on the AB Facebook page.
Multi-instrumentalist Jens Bouttery has already worked with Jef Neve and wrote the music for different theatre companies and various films. He currently resides in Rotterdam, but he previously lived in Brussels for fourteen years. The bond with the city will never be broken, that is made clear in the track ‘Bruxelles’ on the brand new Hi Hawaii debut album: ‘The List’. Bouttery tells us about the new album, the associative lyrics, the origins of The Extensions, and the duo’s creative decisions.
You have already come to rehearse for the show in the venue, how did that go?
“The rehearsal in the AB really was fun. It was the first time that we played live with The Extensions, so we were curious, it does have to work. Not all the musicians were the same as those we recorded the album with. The band consists mainly of people we know from the Brussels scene.”
How are you feeling about the livestream?
“We’re really pleased that the stream is really live, we’re very much a fan of that. There’s a certain energy to the whole live happening. Knowing that people are ready waiting to view our concert at that very moment makes us a bit nervous, and we think that’s a good thing. We don’t mind making mistakes either, you can work with that live. Our music is written so that there are moments that we can improvise. Lennart and I are already rather used to swimming between the songs and the horns & strings are starting to swim along nicely.”
“The band consists of friends from the Brussels scene who are professional musicians. So we have two sections, one of three strings and one of three horns. We want to let them try out new stuff too so they also do some backing vocals and some of the horn players take up the flute now and then. That makes it very fresh again, for the musicians too.”
Do you miss the audience?
“Yes, it was a quite tough to rehearse, because the venue has such potential, so much resonance. And without an audience it’s so bare. That’s why we opted for a setup in which we face each other on stage, to be each other’s audience. Hopefully this will also create a proximity to the viewer and they will feel that we are really communicating with them.”
Do you have a connection to AB?
“I’ve appeared in AB a couple of times as a musician, with Jef Neve. I especially remember how good the food from the kitchen in AB was. And it really was great to play there, the vibe is simply super. As Hi Hawaii, we’ve already appeared in the Main Hall as support-act and the audience was really into it too. At one point, we were shouting our band name with the audience, and when I counted down another 3, 2, 1… someone shouted really loud over it: ‘Fuck Jambon!’”
Hi Hawaii video clips are very well produced, do you attach great importance to that?
“Yes, video clips are quite important to us. We always come up with the basic idea ourselves, then we chose people to work with, and then it simply evolves. The recording of the clip for ‘Saturday’ really was a lot of work, the preparation actually felt like logistical office work. Suze Milius directed it. Our choice of visual artist Lisa Gambey was really ideal for Bruxelles. She created a universe never before seen in a video clip. There is also a new clip coming, for ‘Solutions’, and we’ve asked computer animator Victor Van Rossem to work on that one.”
What’s the thing you have with lists?
“We chose the title ‘The List’ for the album because many of our tracks are lists. Making lists is our associative way of thinking. You take a sort of walk through the thoughts in your head. In the case of ‘Bruxelles’ you even take a sort of fast-forward walk through Brussels. I lived in Brussels for fourteen years, from Vorst to Molenbeek. Strangely enough, I wrote the track Bruxelles while living in Rotterdam. It was easier to take the walk through Molenbeek from a distance, it turns out you remember the things better that way.”
Is there some kind of hidden meaning to the six-fingered hand too?
“Yes, our logo actually represents the sixth finger we’d like to have because we play so many instruments. We fuck ourselves with that. We come up with all sorts of sounds, but of course there are only two of us. We want to do so much at the same time and that sometimes results in a real meltdown. It’s a brain-teaser but it’s also fun because there’s an exciting humanity in things that fail. And if you try to do so much at the same time, things will go wrong sooner.”
How do humour and music go hand in hand for you?
“Humour and irony are a part of our language, but we are serious about our humour. We think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously. Our lyrics actually reveal something deeper, a reality and sometimes even an existential crisis. I like to leave it to the listener to discover that. People sometimes lose interest in humour with music. But our lyrics are simply very sincere and honest and we don’t want to mince words. That said, Lennart and I are both very positive people, so the music has a positive sound. You might call it happy pop with a dash of existential tragicomedy.”
Interview by Lara Decrae
Photos: Lien Peters