With life as a touring musician bringing with it the chaos of late nights, loud shows, and long drives, it’s understandable that after a while a change of gears has its appeal—the opportunity to take a breather and create something at a more stately pace; something that really allows you to exist in the quiet, reflective moments between life’s noisy flurry.
So it is with Pieter-Paul Devos, vocalist in Ghent, Belgium-based bands Raketkanon and Kapitan Korsakov, both renowned for their decibel-heavy, high-energy live shows.
In his role as rock band front man Devos cuts an imposing, agitated figure with an intense character, who spends as much time rolling around on top of the sweaty bodies of the crowd as he does on stage. Speak to him off-stage however, and you’ll find a thoughtful, quiet, and composed musician, whose deep understanding and respect for songwriting has resulted in the charmingly vulnerable brace of Americana and alt-folk influenced acoustic tracks that make up .
“All of the songs on this record were songs that didn’t seem to fit any of the bands I play in,” explains Devos of the new project. “They’re more melody and lyric-based, and work best with zero or modest arrangements, so I really felt the need to do a session where most of the instruments were acoustic. The songs don’t require much more than the musicians listening to each other while they’re playing in the same room, without having to start a volume war—which can obviously be quite an exciting kind of war—but volume was not what these songs needed.”
Recorded throughout the hot and hazy summer of 2018, Devos invited some of his favourite musicians to sink into these tender tracks together, with the aim of capturing the simple enjoyment to be found in the moment of creating something beautiful together with friends.
“We rehearsed for an afternoon in the backyard of this little old wooden house I was staying in that summer, right out in the middle of nature,” he reminisces. “We played these songs in the sunshine for a couple of hours and went to the studio the next day, high on harmonies and the idea that we were really speaking the same language there. So, we did just that in the studio.”
Played, sung and recorded completely live, that intensely mellow, sunshine-soaked happiness bleeds through on every track of —a wistful recollection of unfinished conversations, unspoken truths, personal hopes and wider fears.
As with all the best writers, Devos innately understands what each of his songs needs to be fed in order to grow into a life of its own. His revelations on songwriting can often sound like philosophical edicts, as he rolls an idea around that “sometimes, words really don’t mean anything until you sing them to a certain melody. And sometimes a melody doesn’t mean that much until you put the right words to it.”
“To me, songwriting is a necessity,” he continues, stroking his closely cropped blonde hair, recently shaved down from shoulder length following a deliberately-goofy haircut for a new Raketkanon video. “It’s an outlet for all those words you can’t fit into an average conversation, but still feel like you have to get off your chest. Not necessarily aimed towards someone, but just for your own peace of mind. Even just as a brain exercise. It’s like finding the answer to a riddle that you haven’t ever even heard.”
When quizzed on the influences for this collection songs, Devos struggles to pin them down. Indeed, after a few repeat listens it becomes apparent that  is not so much a confessional, or concept record, but more of a scrapbook of stolen breaths—the memories of those fleeting creative moments that slip by between the relentless cycle of waking up, going to sleep and everything in between. They are a rest, a pause on the journey of life that invite us to sit a while, and listen.
“I suppose I’m influenced by the nightly chaos of thought that goes from zero to eleven once we go to bed and close our eyes,” he rounds up with typical profundity, “and stuff burning into your retina from staring too long; wanting to find a way to rest while realising we’re raised as impulse junkies. And love. Lots of love. That’s what these songs are about. To me at least, I think.”
— Jamie Otsa, Wall of Sound PR
@jamieotsa / @wallofsoundpr
“Alle nummers op deze plaat waren nummers die niet pasten in een van de bands waarin ik speel,” legt Devos uit van het nieuwe project. “Ze zijn meer gebaseerd op melodie en tekst, en werken het beste met nul of bescheiden arrangementen, dus ik voelde echt de behoefte om een sessie te doen waarbij de meeste instrumenten akoestisch waren. De nummers vereisen niet veel meer dan de muzikanten die naar elkaar luisteren terwijl ze in dezelfde kamer spelen, zonder een volumewar te hoeven beginnen – wat uiteraard een behoorlijk opwindende vorm van oorlog kan zijn – maar volume was niet wat deze liedjes nodig.”
Opgenomen tijdens de hete en wazige zomer van 2018, nodigde Devos enkele van zijn favoriete muzikanten uit om samen te zinken in deze gevoelige tracks, met als doel het simpele plezier te vangen dat te vinden is op het moment dat je samen met vrienden iets moois maakt.
“We repeteerden een middag lang in de achtertuin van dit kleine oude houten huis dat ik die zomer verbleef, midden in de natuur,” herinnert hij zich. “We speelden deze liedjes een paar uur in de zon en gingen de volgende dag naar de studio, hoog op harmonieën en het idee dat we daar echt dezelfde taal spraken. Dus dat hebben we precies in de studio gedaan. “