On a blustery day on the Lower East Side of Manhattan Jan Straetemans (vocals, guitar) and Cedric Maes (guitar) of The Sore Losers sat down with Blurred Culture and had a quick chat over calamari and hot wings. These ballsy Belgians have released their third album SKYDOGS and have come to the states to rock. No frills, they are following the leads of Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and the Ramones to name a few. While on the surface they give the impressions of being laid back, their passion is completely on point.
How would you describe your sound as a band, is there a song that defines your sound?
Straetemans : No, not really. I don’t think that there is one song. It’s just rock music, rock ’n’ roll. We’re into good guitar playing. a good guitar sound. a good hard rock rhythm section; hard rock with a groove. It’s been said many times, but Led Zeppelin is very good at that. We try to do that. Do you have something to add?
Maes : I’m thinking
Straetemans : It’s like playing rock but not with out metal sound, you know? That’s important to us.
Maes : Good groovy, Rolling Stones, nitty-gritty feeling, yeah.
Where do you draw your inspiration for songs when you write, outside your musical influences? Real life or are you drawing from other places?
Maes : I can do both. I can do movies and from my own life and I always disguise them so, (Laughs) so it’s not completely autobiographical.
Is there a story behind “Emily”?
Straetemans : No, it’s not something that really happened. I just always try to compile different stuff that happened and I’m more a kind of writer that always first has the melody and then I work on the sounds and I try to come up with one phrase. Or Cedric comes up with one phrase and I try to write from that phrase. I never really write the lyrics first. It’s more of an organic thing that grows while we are playing.
Is that your process? Do you guys write together? Or do you write separately?
Straetemans : That happens both. We are two song writers here. We spite each other and sometimes help each other. We get into arguments sometimes and sometimes it’s like, ”I got this!” and he’s like, “Oh man that’s great!” It’s a good work relationship we have got going here.
How did you come together as a band?
Maes : I was in another band before this and I was the singer of the band but I can’t sing for shit and I saw him playing in a band and he’s a good singer and they were covering AC/DC and I was in the audience with my drummer and I said “FUCK! That’s a good singer! I want him.” So I just went up to him after a show and I said,”Hey man we got to start a band.” and I think a week later we were rehearsing.
You just went up to Jan and said let’s start a band? Did you think he was serious?
Straetemans : No, but I knew him because he was like the big kahuna of guitar players in the local scene. I was like, “Shit, that guy is in the audience, now I have to do my best.” (Laughs) So I was really playing, “I have to impress him!” and he came up to me and asked me and I was like,” ARE YOU SERIOUS?” So I was really happy.
Maes : That was a good night!
It said on your press release, that you guys were on a mission, what is that mission?
Maes : Bring rock back but with out the shitty shit now. So many… I’m just going to be honest. So many, I’m sorry for my English, I have to search for the words sometimes. It’s so important now in days, [to be] innovative in the music. To be new in the music; do something nobody has heard before and you hear so much shit on the radio now and days that everybody loves and I’m sure in thirty years everyone is going to say,” Oh my god did we really listen to that?”. Song writing, it’s the most important thing for us, and we also see big rock bands these days and they’ve got everything, they got the looks, they got all of the 70’s music, they also got the 70’s look, you know what I mean? Everybody… not everybody, of course, but song writing is in the background a lot and for us that’s very important. We write on acoustic, we work everything out on acoustic guitars now. Is it a good song? Yeah, it’s a good song. Thing is when we perform, it’s on a guitar, not with a computer, so automatically some people are going to say… I mean we all have that feed back in Europe, in America, “Ok what’s this band all about?” “It’s a rock band.” “Oh forget about it.” You know, it’s not new. It’s not,”Oh WOW what are these guys doing, I want to play music with bicycles.” Then every body is like, “I want to hear it, that sounds interesting.” We just want to play good songs, but we want to rock them out. That’s our mission. Sorry about the wording (Laughs).
What do you hope people take away from your music?
Straetemans : We want to connect with people and we love rock music very much and when you meet someone and you share musical taste and you share records that you love or a particular way a guitar player plays. It’s not superficial but you can make a true connection with someone about rock music and I think that’s what we want to do and that’s the mission were on. I also like the punk rock movement a lot. Where like it doesn’t matter if you’re on stage or in the crowd or behind the bar or a DJ spinning the record after the show. It’s like you share something and that’s what I like people come to a show with us. Like you share a love for something, this rock music and that would be great, cause we love to talk to people at the merchandise stand and make a connection and hear their stories and hear our stories. That’s what we want to do, travel the world and do that.
What’s your first musical memory? Do you think it influences you still today?
Maes : I have a lot actually. I am grateful to have an older brother who is a total music freak. He taught me so much about music. But my first musical memory was I think it’s Bruce Springsteen and Iron Maiden. Yeah, (laughs) and I still love them both.
Straetemans : Mine, is at my grandmothers there was this old guitar with some cowboys painted on it and it was like… I was immediately drawn to it for some reason and I don’t know why. But I had to feel it and pick it up and the thing attracted me so much and I asked my grandmother, “What is this guitar?” “Oh it belonged to your mother once, she played it.” So I took it home and I got to play it but it was all bent and crooked and it was very hard to play and my fingers really hurt. I played it for three months and then my dad he told me, I asked for a new guitar, but they… it’s hard to explain in English, they let me play it for three months and they had a secret pact with each other, if he plays that thing for three months and he still playing it after three months, he gets a real guitar. So I played it and then I got a real guitar.
The Sore Losers are Jan Straetemans (vocals, guitar), Cedric Maes (guitar), Kevin Maenen (bass) and Alessio Di Turi (drums).