Last month, Front recorded two live sessions in collaboration with Rotterdam festival Motel Mozaïque. Alongside Katy J Pearson, our video team captured Sacrificial Chanting Mood in the industrial art complex Brutus ahead of their stage debut later that day. Afterwards, we spoke to founding members Alicia Breton Ferrer (The Sweet Release of Death, Neighbours Burning Neighbours) and Doortje Hiddema (Euroboy, Rats On Rafts) about the inception of their collaboration.
Written by: Ruben van Dijk
Alicia Breton Ferrer and Doortje Hiddema speak their own little language now. “Do you still have a fliepje for me?,” Breton Ferrer asks. Hiddema answers: “Yes, and I also have this old fliepje of yours that I can work on.” The verbal chemistry of their collaboration is evident, but it was never a condition. In fact, the first few songs took shape without the two ever having had an actual conversation.
It was just the most intangible feeling. Breton Ferrer and Hiddema “knew of each other’s existence,” but “had never had a conversation longer than ten minutes.” They had mutual friends and were mutual admirers: the glum noise of The Sweet Release of Death and Neighbours Burning Neighbours, and Breton Ferrer’s slightly more playful solo record on the one hand; on the other, the slipshod slacker pop of Real Derek and Euroboy. Almost simultaneously, the two reached out, laying the foundation for a future collaboration.
Breton Ferrer: “At that point we decided to write a song together, then two. We thought: we’ll each send the other person two fliepjes and just see if they can work with that. That’s how it started. One of us would send the other this guitar part, and then had to wait and see. It was just so easy. Even then, we never really talked to each other, right?” Hiddema nods in agreement.
"Together, we moved into this new, darker territory. And I was like: oh, so this is what Doortje is like!"Alicia Breton Ferrer
Solely based on mutual trust and minimal communication, and made almost entirely through WeTransfer, an album called Sacrificial Chanting Mood emerged, to be released in September through Subroutine imprint Glove Compartment. And even though the album doesn’t necessarily exist right at the confluence of both worlds; it does reflect clearly that which Breton Ferrer and Hiddema most admire in each other’s music. “I always love it when there’s a certain everyday sadness to music,” says Hiddema, “Especially if it’s done in a refined way and it’s incorporated in the music – and not too on the nose. I think Alicia’s really good at that, and does it in a way that’s very unique to her.” Breton Ferrer: “I feel the same about your music! The way in which you can say everyday things and then feel there’s something underneath - rather than it being this literal thing.”
“But what’s funny,” Breton Ferrer continues, “is that I always had the feeling your music was much lighter, much more poppy. And I thought: given the heavy nature of both The Sweet Release of Death and Neighbours Burning Neighbours, it would be cool to explore that lightness a little more. But I feel it’s become something entirely different. Together, we moved into this new, darker territory. And I was like: oh, so this is what Doortje is like!”
‘Sick’, one of the songs on Sacrificial Chanting Mood played at Brutus, speaks to the collaboration in many ways. It’s a dark song, dealing with sickness and the frailty of existence, something with which both Hiddema and Breton Ferrer have struggled during the early months of the pandemic. At the same time, it’s a meaning born from sheer coincidence, as Breton Ferrer sent a guitar part with some gibberish vocals to Hiddema, who then turned the gibberish into words, “entirely phonetically”. ‘Warm Hands’, the first song in the session below, isn’t actually on the album. Hiddema: “Actually, that’s a demo Alicia recorded that I think is fucking awesome and that I really wanted to be included in the liveshows.” And so it happened.
With these first live shows, Sacrificial Chanting Mood has entered a new chapter. The first two gigs - at Motel Mozaïque and Roadburn the next day - had already been booked before Hiddema and Breton Ferrer ever even played in one room together, let alone formed a band to bring their songs to life. Hiddema: “It was quite nerve-racking. We both had a real existential moment of crisis, where it was like: oh my god, I’ve made this music, but what if it’s not going to work out when we actually play together, what if that very specific kind of contact you require isn’t there?” Breton Ferrer: “Two or three weeks before our first shows, we were still rehearsing some of these songs for the first time. So you’re constantly suppressing this feeling of panic: we can do this, these people are amazing!”
At this stage, their collaboration is much more than just Euroboy plus Alicia Breton Ferrer. It’s “a together thing,” says Hiddema. And so now that the first shows have proven that, yes, it actually works, the band looks to the horizon. To the album release in September, to more shows, and more fliepjes to be exchanged.
Cinematografie: Jason Hornung, Koen Bouman en Peter Marcus
Opname: Jasper Boogaard en Daan Duurland
Mix: Daan Duurland
Montage: Peter Marcus
Master: Jasper Boogaard
This live session came together in collaboration with Motel Mozaïque. With special thanks to Brutus.