After nearly two decades of playing and releasing music as Amenra, the Belgian musicians Colin H. van Eeckhout (vocals), Mathieu J. Vandekerckhove (guitar), Lennart Bossu (guitar), Levy Seynaeve (bass) and Bjorn J. Lebon (drums) are going on their first headlining Australian tour this November. Sticking to the theme of naming albums by counting with Roman numerals, Amenra released their sixth full-length album ‘Mass VI’ in 2017. Playing with the tension between melancholic euphoria and the darkness of inner demons, their latest album is meditatively cathartic and highly emotional. Therefore, it is not surprising that the release found wide critical acclaim and paved a smooth road for extensive touring in the Northern hemisphere. Soon it is time for Amenra to head down under, with shows in Brisbane (November 15th), Sydney (November 16th) and Melbourne (November 17th). As an informative appetiser for all Australian fans, vocalist Colin answered some questions revolving around Amenra’s touring experience as well as their latest music for OVERDRIVE.
When asked about his hopes and expectations regarding the upcoming three shows, Colin’s excitement about touring the red continent is contagious: “You cannot believe how enthusiastic we get thinking of it. It’s been such a beautiful journey so far. For two decades now we’ve been exploring the globe and our friendship has been growing stronger each day thanks to these opportunities. Our bass player Levy toured your country before last year, and he spoke highly of it. One thing we have learned to do in our lives was to keep expectations low; hope for nothing and get everything. We are looking forward to it, like nothing before.”
It is not like Amenra are not well travelled – this year alone, they extensively toured Europe and the UK, before heading off to the U.S. to take the American stages with Neurosis and Converge. Colin reflects: “I have to say that this last year was probably the most intensive one we have ever had, and some of us have been on the road pretty much the entire year. We live in Central Europe, so we can head out in one direction or another every weekend if we’d want to. As we were driving home from Rennes in France last weekend, we only had to conclude that it’s getting better and better.” This means bigger and more technically pristine shows but also an amplified experience. “The connection between the members and crew has never been better”, Colin explains, “It’s like we get to appreciate it more and more, the older we get. We realise we were really lucky to meet each other 25 years ago. We are curious to see what the future will bring.”
At the same time of course, a larger audience and more commercial success can also constitute a challenge for musicians who think outside the box. I asked Colin how Amenra reconciles bigger venues and more extensive tours with staying true to the band’s artistic vision. Colin’s solution sounds simple and determined: “It’s all about putting your foot down, and still pushing this vision that we have, not compromising whatsoever.” At the same time, he acknowledges that the experience in a larger event context with more professional sound, lighting and visual backdrop of course changes both for musicians and audience. Nevertheless, Amenra appreciate the mixture of venues and audience sizes that their international touring provides. “What I like most about our situation now is that in Central Europe we get to play the huge venues but when we tour further away like Japan for example the venues are smaller”, Colin states. “So we still experience both sides of the spectrum, the closeness of the public. However, the physical experience will always be more feral and instinctive in smaller venues.”
Without doubt, the upcoming shows in Australia will be on the smaller side for Amenra but this seems ideal for the establishment of a strong dynamic between band and audience for this first-time visit. According to Colin, the band’s new record has been received “with open arms everywhere, like the timing was right for this one” and reviews in Australia were “good as always”. The Belgians chose Sydney’s LO! and Melbourne’s up-and-coming Ylva as support acts for their Australian tour; when asked about their relationship to these bands, Colin clarifies: “Our friend Dave from Direct touring, shoved them forward for us to check out. Unfortunately we had never heard of them before but we immediately clicked and loved what both bands were doing. So I am really looking forward to see them play live, and meet them in person. It will be a short but everlasting experience, I am sure.”
At last, Amenra truly care about connections between bands in the music business rather than pushing other artists aside in a selfish effort to generate the most sales. Being an integral part of the Belgian musical collective Church of Ra, Amenra want to pursue a larger ethic purpose with their music, aiming at helping the listener explore the paths to their own personal truth and ways to live a good life, however this may be defined by the individual. Amenra work closely together with many bands, including Oathbreaker and Wieg