Exotic Reality: An Interview with SX

SX is a band from Belgium, formed by Stefanie Callebaut and Benjamin Desmet. With a strong live reputation, SX takes you into the exotic reality. Natural elements such as Stefanie’s raw, vigorous voice and primal percussion are being contrasted with abstract, futuristic digital elements. This results in a pure, authentic sound, and a class performance. After the mesmerizing song “Black Video” got discovered through social media, SX became the new revelation in the Belgian music scene, being highlighted as the next Belgian music export. On that account, SX appeared on numerous festivals and music venues throughout continental Europe including Rock Werchter, Melkweg, Paradiso, and Silencio. During this period they also supported acts like Vampire Weekend, Poliça and Ariel Pink. Brooklyn band Yeasayer embraced SX and took them along their European tour. SX linked this to a stand alone sold out club tour in Belgium, and received gold status in the Benelux. Also artists from outside the music field are intrigued by the SX biotope, an example of this is the collaboration with Dries Van Noten for the presentation of his Winter 2015-2016 collection. Alpha, the 1st EP of SX, has just been released today, just in time to share our chat with SX about the creative influences that resonate within their work, and their plans for the future.

KALTBLUT: How would you define the style and energy that goes into producing your sound, and the artistic direction you’ve taken with new EP Alpha?
SX: SX is all about finding perfect harmony between contrasts, we feel very much like children of the present. Moving our way through a complex, digital world – but finding rest and peace in pure things, such as nature and love. That contrast is a tension that reflects in our sound, songs, videos, and every other part of our SX biotope. For example, our sound arises out of an abstract, clinical, and digital environment, which we love to counter and layer with raw natural field recordings.

KALTBLUT: What was your experience emerging in the Belgian music scene, and how did you come together?
SX: Belgium is situated quite centrally, as we live within a two hour drive from both Paris and Amsterdam, the Eurostar to London takes one hour, and other great European countries, such as Germany, are an easy train ride away. We feel that it’s great to live in this buffer zone! Being surrounded by all these different European cultures, the Belgian music scene emerges into an eclectic inspirational scene.
Benjamin: And I grew up in the same town. Surrounded by mutual friends we ran into each other quite often. We were both part of the local music scene, playing, creating and studying music. Although Benjamin was more of a ‘Nirvana’ type of guy, and I was more of a ‘Mahalia Jackson’ type of girl, we ended up jamming together in Benjamin’s studio one day. It soon became clear that our opposite roots translated into something magical when we combined them. It brought a great tension to our creations.

KALTBLUT: Which artists have had a major influence on your music and your exploration of visual arts?
SX: We could name loads of inspiring artists but these three big guys really are a big influence to us: Michael Jackson, Nietzsche, and Picasso!

KALTBLUT: What was it like to emerge as a multi-dimensional online presence, with the success of “Black Video”, and how do you feel social media has impacted rising artists such as yourselves?
SX: It was really intense. For fun, one day, you upload a track and video that you’ve made – and the next thing you know you’re number one in the charts and you’re playing big festival crowds. Very overwhelming, but we feel really lucky for that. We should embrace the fact that nowadays artists have the possibility to independently share their work with the world. Right now, anything is possible!

KALTBLUT: What led to your collaboration with designers Harvey Bouterse and Dries Van Noten?
SX: I’ve always been fascinated by fabrics, structures and shapes. With these elements I love to challenge myself to reinforce body and movement. I feel it produces a great strength for individuals to tell their true story.
Benjamin: I also have always been a great fan of the stories Dries Van Noten is bringing us. How humble we felt when it seemed he loved SX’s story too. One of the collaborations we ended up doing was bringing my a-capella vocals to the runway show video for his Fall/Winter 2015 collection.
Harvey Bouterse and I met a few years ago. At that time he had just ended his job at Jean Paul Gaultier as a junior designer. We started sharing ideas, creating moods, and sewing our first clothing samples. Today our creations go much further than creating garments together. We turned out not only to be best friends, but we brought ‘Community X’ to life.

KALTBLUT: When it comes to starting each new project, including artistic platform Community X, what inspires you?
SX: Community X might have been a counter reaction to the remoteness you feel when your are in a time of pure creation. Community X is an artist’s collaboration platform with Benjamin, Harvey and I as the beating heart. It is bringing artists together to create in all kinds of forms – check out the collaboration we are doing with ceramist Wouter Hoste, “Community X Wouter Hoste”. Where Benjamin takes the lead more when it comes to the film, visual, and digital division of our community, Harvey and I concentrate on the fashion part. Not only have we created a whole “SX garments” collection which you can see on stage and in our video, but we have developed items which we offer custom made, such as female suits. You gotta love “Les Deux Pieces”!

KALTBLUT: Could you tell us a little bit more about Alpha and you produced it?
SX: Benjamin and I like to experiment. How and where we write is pretty much undefined. We create, search and build in many different ways. Behind the piano, in our studio, or during a walk in the forest. Though I must say – Benjamin is the production wizard of us two. He’s the one who comes up with the most amazing sounds and vibes, so songwriting and producing happens at the same time. Both aspects flow into each other. For the final production and mix for Alpha, we teamed up with Benjamin’s brother Dimitri Desmet- also known as ‘Dimitri Andreas’ in the techno scene. He is the amazing third party of the production team, that makes the sound of what defines SX today. Dimitri is a real craftsman, really skilful, and has the best ears, we are very thankful for what Dimitri did on the final production and mixes.

Aside from the music part, Alpha was also a process of building our SX biotope. Therefore we used all of our talents and passions to reinforce our story. So during the whole songwriting/producing process, we were also working on videos, artworks, garments, and every other aspect we felt belonged to SX’s world.

We let the writing process inspire the visual part and vice versa, building stone by stone. With Alpha, we really challenged ourselves to create every aspect on our own. For example, Benjamin, Harvey and I traveled all the way to the Suriname Amazon to translate our concepts and ideas into image. With Benjamin as director and editor, we created a lot of video footage over there. The contrast of our western, technological, virtual existence (or non-existence) with the reality of raw nature was a great source of inspiration for Alpha. We felt the need to explore and experience this in reality to be able to tell a true story. The same goes for the garments. I would counter and combine abstract futuristic latex fabrics with authentic Vlisco wax. Or with texture and materials, bringing liquid glass together with dark brown clay.

KALTBLUT: How do you combine the elements of your music and your artwork in your live performances?
SX: Both musically and visually we extend the tension line SX moves on. We combine electronic and real drums, analogue and digital keyboards, with sampled and real percussion. There’s also Stefanie’s deep, raw gospel voice that takes us back to the essence. We are waiting to incorporate our visuals in our lightshow, but we hope to do that in the future. Focusing on lights and the 3D aspects of the stage, we love a lightshow performed with Japanese precision. Also, our garments play with all the SX elements our music has to bring. Playing transparency in combination with the lightshow. Giving a lot, but not everything. Embracing the reality we live in, but also that mystery that surrounds life. Using classy shapes, latex and pure silk, letting it flow through the wind, as some kind of gracefulness to life.

KALTBLUT: How have you found touring so far, as well as your experience with Yeasayer – what have been the highlights?
SX: We love to travel in this way. To feel, see, and discover the world through our musical experience is a blessing. Touring with Yeasayer was radical. Every show was great. Packed venues, great crowds, and good vibes. We’ve learned so much on that journey. A highlight may have been our final show together at ‘Astra’, in Berlin.

KALTBLUT: What can we expect from you in the future, and which direction do you hope to take as a band?
SX: You can expect more music, videos and shows from SX. We really feel we want to elaborate the story we are starting to tell now.
Benjamin: As a band we hope to keep on growing. To keep on challenging ourselves as musicians, creators, and individuals. We are working on really exciting new stuff, and we hope to be able to share this with you in the future.

‘Alpha’ the debut EP is out today via Believe / Universal. Order it here
sx album

23.04. Budapest / Akvarium
30.04. Brussels / Ancienne Belgique
19.05. Amsterdam / Melkweg
03.07. Werchter / Rock Werchter
10.07. Bruges / Cactusfestival