Hailing from Belgium, Wyatt E. is an instrumental doom/drone band with oriental influences that are distinguished for their long, tranquil tracks. They absorb you into their world, adding layer after layer of rough, polished sounds that give the music its organic feeling, and made me think that would come together if Godspeed You! Black Emperor went to the Sahara and locked themselves away to make a record.
They released their first album Mount Sinai/Aswan last year, featuring Romain Hoedt on drums, and Stéphane Rondia and Sébastien von Landau on guitars and synths.
During the final day of Dunkfest, I got the chance to check them out for the first time when the Stargazer Stage hosted their first Dunk performance. Wyatt E. played a set of two twenty minute tracks that construct their upcoming album titled “Exile to Beyn Neharot”, which will come out later this year. I met the guys after their show to talk about the influences behind their music, their roots, and their plans for the future.
First, congrats on the great show you just delivered here in Dunk, which we will come later to. I first came across you guys trying to compile a feature for Middle Eastern instrumental bands, and was excited to find one more band. But now I heard that you are actually from Belgium and not from Jerusalem, Israel as your artist page indicates. So guys, where are you from?
Sébastien: So it was kind of a private joke at first, because our music is influenced with eastern music so we kind wrote it down that we came from Jerusalem just to feel the atmosphere or something, but that’s a good one because actually one site from Israel wrote that there is a band called Wyatt E from Israel and published us among the best 40 metal bands in Israel.
And that we’re very crazy because someone afterwards sent us a message saying we don’t know if you are really from Israel, but we want to release your next album if you agree with that. And we told him we are from Belgium.
But this is an easy joke to fall into, with all the eastern vibes in your music, and the oriental tones and percussions scattered around with this cover art.
Sébastien: It was also a way for us to escape. We all play with different bands and we didn’t want people connecting us to those bands, we wanted to start on a new ground, so it’s a new band from Israel guys and just listen to the music.
Actually guys it has been hard for me to prepare for this interview because you are kind of obscure, so I am intrigued to know how this all started and how you all met together?
Sébastien: So I met with Stéphane about ten years ago or something and we started to play together with a rhythm machine, I was more into all these nineties bands from Chicago like Jesus Lizard stuff. We were like stoner music so we started to make all this drone stuff because we only had two guitars and then we met Roman and started jamming and it turned out with this oriental stuff, adding layers and layers of sitar and guitar and bass.
Stéphane: But actually at first when we started we played more western American style.
Sébastien: It was more drone acoustic stuff more into go far West Indian movies with the Wyatt earb insinuation, our music at the beginning was kind of a novelty for a post-apocalyptic western movie or something like that until we met Roman and came up with the new stuff.
Have you been influenced by any oriental music during the making of the album?
Sébastien : Not really, but we have been into bands like Om, but we didn’t really do it on purpose because it came natural to us. But also there is a cinematic aspect behind it all. We are really into those Pasolini movies from the sixties and seventies like Medea and these movies were a great influence for our music.
So let’s talk a bit more about the album, what are the ideas behind those tracks and the places you choose to connect with it?
Sébastien : Actually the track names were mainly a way to recognize them, the music turned out to be oriental, so we didn’t want to lose these feelings, and we just wanted some names that fit the mood of the album so it was Mount sinai/aswan. We didn’t really think much about it; it’s just how we felt going with the music, not really an intellectual process or something. It’s all about how we see the oriental way of life from here in Belgium with the eyes of people who like this music and different cultures, but try not to fall into a cliché or something.
But how do you see the oriental way of life actually?
Like the music of Wyatt, I don’t really know.
Going back through your old demos, you had some older ones with a more political insinuation, and with the themes of the album coming from two rather rival countries. Where do you stand from all that happening there, and do you think you are going to be able to play along the Middle East one day?
Sébastien: We aren’t standing for political sides, at least for the moment. That’s actually a tough one because of course I had some opinions over things about what’s happening over there, we all have, but if you found it in the music, that’s great, if the music stands behind you and with you and not against you, that’s what we want.
We would love to play all over that place: Israel, Egypt, Jordan or Lebanon. Music is here to gather people and not to divide them, so here is the political stand. Actually it’s not easy to talk about such topics here in Western Europe, because if you leaned for a side too much you are either a Nazi or a terrorist. We simply play for the people.
That’s why we choose Israel-or Palestine or whatever it’s called- as a home town, because it’s a cross point for many cultures from far oriental to the west, to say that we want to connect people.
So away from the rather far future plans, what are your plans for the next summer? More tours in the way maybe?
Sébastien : This summer we are recording our second album and it will be released by an Israeli record label from Haifa, and they invited us over there to promote the album afterwards. We played today at Dunk the whole album actually, the two tracks, twenty minutes each. It will be called “Exile to Beyn Neharot” which comes from an Aramaic origin.
And how does the recording process go usually for you, and are you planning to release it only on Cassettes as the last one?
Sébastien : At the moment we record by ourselves with our microphones at home, we start adding layer after layer then do the drums and synths as we go along. As for the release versions, we are planning to release it in Cassettes and an LP version this time.
So this was your first Dunk to play, how was it for you so far, and do you plan to check any specific bands today?
Sébastien: It has been an amazing festival for us so far, it’s all in a beautiful frame, wherever you look at. We basically want to chill a bit after the concert and have some beers, but we may check Syndrome if we could.
Lastly, I’m a bit of an artwork nerd, so I’m curious about the artwork of your first album with its medieval scent and the warrior standing by the holy city kind of atmosphere? Who is the artist behind it and what is the story that influenced him?
Romain: It was a friend of a friend who did some artwork we liked and we asked him to do the album cover for us.
Stéphane: We just gave him the album and the ideas we had in mind about the phantasy of the oriental and the mystery behind it and we got this out. He is also the one doing our next album and we actually made a deal with him for six albums.
Six albums?! That means you already have plans for five albums more from now?
Sébastien : Actually we have everything done from the beginning for six albums. The demoes are there, actually around 50 or 60 demoes. You know we have started jamming together for moreover a year or something and we recorded everything and it turned out to be this oriental stuff, so we decided we were going to shape them into five or six tapes, but we handle them as a single object, a single item and try to have some link between each tape until we reach the last one. So that’s the plan for now, the goal is six.
We didn’t want to stay after each album and think how we are going to promote it and do gigs to promote the album and think about the next one, we are just musicians for this project, so we composed all this stuff and when we are asked to do a new album we are going to properly record it and release it so we have now the final ideas to the third and fourth album at least.