Thursday, 09 August 2012 19:53 | Written by Raymond Coonen |
K's Choice is a Belgian rock band from Antwerp, formed in the mid-1990s. The band's core members are siblings Sarah Bettens (lead vocals, guitar) and Gert Bettens (guitar, keyboard, vocals). Their music can be described as guitar-based singer-songwriter rock or folk-rock. It ranges from very delicate and intimate singer-songwriter songs to songs that are stronger, more active and louder. Sarah's smoky, enigmatic voice is the band's best known characteristic. Sarah and Gert write all of the music and lyrics. Most of it is written separately.
In 1996 they recorded their second album Paradise in Me. The first single, "Not an Addict", was very successful and brought international fame. After two more albums Cocoon Crash (1998) and Almost Happy (2000) the band decided to go on a sabbatical in 2003. Gert and Sarah both wanted to try out some solo work. K's Choice released their fifth studio album Echo Mountain in 2010. For LazyRocker.com our reporter Raymond Coonen discussed with Gert Bettens his career so far.
Lazy Rocker: Probably a strange opening question... when did you realize that Sarah has a unique voice?
Geert Bettens: To be honest with you… We realized it when someone who was working in the music business told us that Sarah has a unique voice. In our family we always thought that she could sing great, but never thought she could pay the bills with it. The man who said us about Sarah was the father of a friend (Rocco Granata) and he sent a demo cassette to the record company and from that point positive things followed in quick tempo.
LR: In 1992 Sarah released the single "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" as Sarah Beth. It was for a Belgium movie "Vrouwen Willen Trouwen". What made them choose Sarah to sing on the soundtrack?
GB: Thanks to that demo cassette. She was signed to Double T Music and with multi-talented and producer Jean Blaute she sung a cover of Hank Williams' I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. At first the label didn’t know what style of music suits the best for Sarah’s voice.
LR: Were you involved in this project?
GB: Not at this point, but when I’m So Lonesome became a big hit in Belgium (it peaked at no. 5) Sarah had to search for musicians to record a full album. At this point she introduced me to the label. I remember that two guys from the record company came to listen to five songs we wrote… all acoustic of course and they loved them! so I was in… ha,ha. We were still going to highschool in Gent at that point. Four months later we were sitting with Jean Blaute in a studio recording the first The Choice album.
LR: After the first album called "The Great Subconscious Club", that already included 5 singles, the international breakthrough came in 1995 with the single "Not An Addict". Looking back, were you ,your sister and the band prepared for such success?
GB: No…absolutely not!!! We were very busy and productive at that moment. We were still touring ,just finished the second record and make our name again thanks to a lawsuit of a American band who called themsleves also The Choice…. Never heard of them again ha,ha. Still the success of Not An Addict lays in our massive touring those years. Thanks to our performance at the Pinkpop Festival, Alanis Morissette took us with her as opening act on her extremely successful U.S. tour promoting her Jagged Little Pill album. Together with Skunk Anansie (also on Pinkpop that year) we toured across Australia. Looking back it was a once in a lifetime experience and it was very special. A shame we didn’t enjoy it so much at that moment. But for the brand and band K’s Choice it was our finest hour.
LR: How difficult is it to record a new album as the audience and record company calls for a second "Not An Addict"?
GB: Sarah and I still kept writing songs just like before "Not An Addict". The success of the song didn’t change our way of writing. I do remember one time nearly finishing "Cocoon Crash" that one high placed guy from the record company told us that they didn’t hear a song with hitpotential. That wasn’t completely true. With "Cocoon Crash" we did deliver "Everything For Free" and "Believe". Great hit singles in my eyes but no second "Not An Addict". Sarah and I always try to write best songs we can and if there comes a song along that has the "Not An Addict" vibe it’s great… but it was no
must. There isn’t a formula to write international hits… unfortunately… ha,ha.
LR: K’s Choice released in nearly twenty years only five studio albums. Is the writing process so difficult for you or are you very critical on yourself?
GB: Well, I think what takes this out of prospective is that we didn’t release a studio album between 2000 and 2010. If I count my Woodface albums and things I’ve recorded with other bands I released eight albums in these ten years, well, actually eight years.
Still you’re correct. If you look at K’s Choice discography we released only five studio albums. In the early years we wrote so many songs that they won't fit on one album. If you are signed at a big record label you got to follow their rules. If your album is ready and recorded it takes a certain amount of time to mix it, a certain amount of time to promote it, a certain time to distribute it… a lot of things and people get involved into the process. These things takes time… back then it was go with the flow. Personally I would like to release every year a new studio album. I love to be in the studio.
LR: Are the songs you write for solo projects in the beginning a sort of K's Choice song? For example "I will carry you" from your solo project Woodface.
GB: My first Woodface/solo album ("Good Morning Hope") leans on the typical K’s Choice sound. I was searching for my own sound during that time. The story behind "I Will Carry You" is that I wrote it for my second Woodface album ("The Year of The Dog"). Sarah loved the song and persuade me to record it over again for the K’s Choice "Echo Mountain" album. I’m glad she did because this song got a second chance. My second Woodface album only sold just over a thousand copies… so almost nobody had heard my version... ha,ha.
LR: Still K’s Choice isn’t generous with B-sides. Do you use everything you write or is there rough material laying in the K’s Choice vault at home?
GB: Most of the song material that I have are some riffs, some melodies, unfinished and very rough versions of K’s Choice songs. And these versions stay rough. If Sarah and I would going to work on a song from five years ago it wouldn’t work. Such an unfinished song has been written in vain of the creative process that period. I have to say a good song or a great riff pops out. I think my whole hard drive is full with unreleased songs. By the way "Try To Get Some Sleep" is a soundtrack.
LR: Isn’t it time to release some of these songs? You always released a little extra CD after releasing a full studio album...
GB: I don’t think that very much people would pay for these demo’s… and if they did they would ask their money back after listening to it… ha,ha.
LR: What is the big difference between K's Choice during "Almost Happy" and "Echo Mountain"?
GB: Well, at first we had for "Almost Happy" a much bigger budget… we did work on that album over a month in one of the finest studio’s in Europe with everything that a recording artist could wish for. On "Echo Mountain" we recorded everything in just three weeks in an old church that was converted into a studio. Second, we grew older and our songwriting grew with us and that’s a thing you hear on "Echo Mountain".
LR: Imo "Almost Happy" is a rather dark album.
GB: Yes, that’s true. Sarah wrote most songs for "Almost Happy". She was struggling with some stuff in her personal life. You clearly can hear that on the album. Another thing that didn’t help was the record company was pushing us into a direction we didn’t want to go, a more commercial sound. At that point of time of our lives, career as you wish, we didn’t need anybody to tell us how the new record should sound.
LR: "Echo Mountain" was released as a 2CD: a rock CD and a ballad CD. How come?
GB: That was a idea from Sarah. When everything was recorded and we were thinking about the artwork she came up with the idea to put the rock tracks on one and the ballads on the other disc. The idea behind it was that since we make records our music has two faces. The rock side and a folk, moreintimate side. That also fitted the album title "Echo Mountain" well. An echo is first loud and the second time softer. We didn’t know during the recording about this, it just happened. We recorded sixteen tracks, two of them didn’t make the cut.
LR: Two tracks we can hear on the next album?
GB: If they make it on an album it would be on Sarah's… I didn’t want them… ha,ha.
LR: After "Echo Mountain" you released "Little Echoes". A release with even more vulnerable versions of several tracks from "Echo Mountain". Weren't you satisfied with the final result of "Echo Mountain"?
GB: Oh no, we were extremely satisfied with the end result of "Echo Mountain". I think we couldn’t have done a better job at this one. In the end we could have picked every K’s Choice song for "Litle Echoes" and create a different acoustic version of it. In basic all songs we write start as acoustic songs even the rockers. It’s just that we also wanted to do a little acoustic tour and these songs fitted perfectly in the set. Also it is indeed in the afterglow the echo of "Echo Mountain"… ha ,ha. It must have something to do with the last album. Think about the "Extra Cocoon EP" in 1999.
LR: I know that it isn’t the right time of year yet but why didn’t K’s Choice make a Christmas single? I think you can record a classic!
GB: Well, that’s a great idea… we or I never thought about it. I will ask Sarah later about this idea!
LR: Here’s some dilemma’s for you… just choose one. Instead of K’s Choice it’s Gert's Choice today!
- Theatre or festival? GB: I always tell people both but if I am honest I like the theatre better. closer to the audience...
- Antwerp or Ashville? GB: To live in Antwerp, to record an album Ashville.
- Woodface or Together Alone (both Crowded house albums)? GB: I think still their Woodface album but… ha,ha but the song Private Universe on Together Alone is one of their finest work ever.
Sarah also recorded with several other artists - I Need a Lover ( with Koen Wouters) or I Need a Woman (with Stash)? GB: I don’t remember me the song with Koen anymore ha,ha! Well, then it’s easy... I Need a Woman with Stash.
Not An Addict... a blessing or a heavy cross to wear? GB: absolutely a blessing, a very good thing.
Website K's Choice: http://www.kschoice.be/
Website Woodface: http://www.woodface.com/