Interview: Sylvie Kreusch

Belgian indie pop artist Sylvie Kreusch is set to play her first Istanbul concert during the Gezgin Salon Festival on July 29. We contacted Kreusch and together did a lovely chat.

How are you doing these days?

I’m fine. Here in Ghent right now, it is super silent. I remember in Istanbul, the streets were really busy. I am mentally preparing myself for the show there. (laughs)

Do you feel anxious and hyped at the same time?

Yeah. It is also the first time I am performing in Turkey. I am very glad that it’s finally going to happen.

Were you aware that according to Spotify, Istanbul is the second city where you are streamed the most? 

I was aware that I had fans there. I don’t actually follow the numbers as it’s my management who does that, but I get a lot of messages from Istanbul and Turkish people in general. They were always asking me to come over. So yeah, you can understand your fanbase through the messages you get. I was always sad to respond “No, it is not happening yet! Wait! Please don’t forget me!” (laughs) 

It’s cool that it is the second city. But I am actually not surprised. There are other Belgian artists know who have a huge Turkish fanbase. Tamino, Balthazar, Warhaus, Oscar and the Wolf… All friends of mine. I don’t know why it is like that, maybe they discover one of us first and then just go on from there. We are collaborating together, after all. They just know all of us. 

There really is a crazy connection between Turkish audiences and Belgian artists. Speaking of concerts, you will play at an open-air festival this week. You have also played in different settings, like clubs. Among those settings, do you have a favorite vibe you are most comfortable with?

I feel most comfortable in a club. Something dark and mysterious… I think a lot of artists actually feel that way. But the summer shows can also be cool. It is a totally different vibe, you know. You see all those happy faces better. Everyone’s happy and more social because it is summer. You can also sense similar feelings in the club. There are people who have been inside and working for a week. Though there is a different vibe in the audience. But I think festivals are also exciting as they are more hectic. You only have half an hour to prepare everything on stage during the soundcheck. During that time, you see the field and it is just empty. There are all these bands, and you really don’t know how much of the audience bought tickets to see you. So until the last minute, you are very nervous. You think, “! Noone’s gonna come!” (laughs) “There will only be like five people in the audience.” And then once you start and come back on stage, it’s crazy. The feeling is so overwhelming.

If you play in a club, that’s different. It’s also overwhelming in its own way because you know your name is on the ticket and go, “Why the did you spend your money on me?” (laughs) It’s very high pressure.

At festivals, though, you can win over new people who came for different artists.

Yeah. You really have to win hearts at festivals. And you get really nice messages afterward. I think it’s really cool to discover an artist by going to their concert instead of on the internet. Nowadays, you have a TikTok generation, where everything goes so fast. You can discover 100 new artists in an hour, but it isn’t as meaningful. You just forget about it. Discovering someone live, though, is something you will always remember. I think that is more special. Those are the people who will stay with you.

Do you have a favorite, most-fulfilling moment from your concerts so far?

That is really hard to say, because every moment, you go a step further. You are amazed every time. At the end of each concert, I think, “I actually just fulfilled a dream of mine.” But that goes away after a few hours because now there is another goal. So it’s hard to think of one moment that is really special to me.

I guess the moment you put out your album and get all these personal messages from people like “You saved my life!”, that is really crazy. Because you invested so much time and effort into it, you feel insecure. Sometimes when you are writing songs you think “What good am I doing for this world?” Because it is all so self-centered, you know? So afterward, it means a lot when you get those messages.

Recently, we had a 10-day festival called Gentse Feesten here, and the city was in total party mood. At some point, there was this girl who recognized me and just started crying and crying. Of course, she was drunk and it was 7 am, but I was still amazed. She also said, “You saved my life!” It was also a bit scary. “I’m going to make someone cry.” is a thought that never occurs to you when you are creating the songs.

If you perform for a big audience, it’s different. It hits you in its own way. I’m doing my best to give everything I have to the performance. It’s only after the concert when you realize, “Oh yeah, that sh.t was cool.” (laughs)

When you think of your solo discography so far, what were the two songs that were the easiest and hardest to shape, and do they have stories attached to them?

A very easy one was “Seedy Tricks.” It was my first single. It was easy because there were no expectations. I was on tour with Warhaus, and we were traveling in a caravan. I was laying on my bed and there were people around me, we had no private space. I didn’t expect to write something. Sometimes the moments when you don’t expect anything to happen are the best moments. (laughs) I wrote that song in… maybe 15 minutes? Just lying there with all the noises around me, murmuring into my laptop. I think you can feel that already, it’s very easy to listen to. Sometimes, songs like that are also easy to write.

I think things turn a bit more difficult when you are writing your second album. These days I’m in the studio, and a song you don’t know yet has been difficult. There is more pressure involved, you really have to get into a new state of mind where you feel like you are starting all over and people don’t know you. You need to go towards new directions, and approach it all in a different way. I think every time you start a new album, it has to feel like it’s your first thing.

A difficult one that you know could be “Walk Walk.” The inspiration and the lyrics were really easy because it’s about something very simple. I was just walking with my dog. I adopted him very recently. He had been in a shelter for 8 years. And I had just gone through a very hard breakup. We kind of did some trauma bonding. I felt like we were healing each other. I was learning a lot from him because he was so happy with the small things in life. And I gave him his freedom. So writing lyrics was the easy part. The difficult part of the song was the structures. It’s weird because when I actually listen to it now, it doesn’t feel that way. But I remember spending a lot of time putting the pieces together.

When I start writing, it takes a long time before good songs are born. Until then, it’s all crap. I can’t find the structure right away, it’s just random noises. (laughs) It can take more than a year to get into the good vibe.

You have been linked to several fashion projects as well. I was wondering, which musicians do you think have the best style that you appreciate the most?

If we go back to the old days, I think Grace Jones was amazing. I love her masculinity, and also her alien face. It must have been so scary to look at her, she’s so out of this world. The way she dresses is also really cool.

If we think of an artist from now, I really like the disco vibe of Dua Lipa. A totally different vibe, but I saw her wear some really cool outfits during her last tour. It isn’t anything like what I would wear, though. I look up to all these styles, but that doesn’t mean I would wear them myself. 

I also really like Florence Welch’s style. All her dresses are amazing, oh my god. And they fit so well with her music. I also love that they became almost like costumes, they feel like the only thing she would wear, so iconic. If you need that sort of dress, you should probably just ask for the Florence Welch dress. That’s also really cool.

Thinking of someone with a similar style to myself, I would probably say Jane Birkin. Her style back in the 60s and 70s. A really effortless, “less is more” French style.

And a nice time to give a shootout to Birkin.

Yeah. I felt so sad when I heard the news. Rest in peace.

If you had a chance to collaborate with one artist you are a fan of who is still alive, who would that be?

Maybe Grace Jones. She is one of the legends who are still alive. I am not sure if we would fit, but it would be fun to go on stage with her. Her performance is still amazing. She doesn’t give a about her age, she is still doing it the same. Her live energy is amazing. Still love her.

I would also say David Bowie, but he is not around anymore.

When you check out your streaming platform’s search history, what are the last three songs that pop up?

There are lots of podcasts that I have been listening to. When I am in the studio, I don’t listen to a lot of music other than mine. (laughs) When you are writing lyrics, I think it is better if you go into conversations with people, to know what’s going on outside your head. When I can’t find actual people, I always listen to podcasts. I very recently listened to a podcast with Nick Cave. I am also reading his book Faith, Hope, and Carnage right now. It’s funny because I was listening to the podcast while walking to the studio with my dog, and then at the studio, I went on to read the book, where he basically talks about the same things. But it is nice to also hear his voice. (laughs) Reading and hearing things are always different.

As for songs… I have been listening to the last Lana Del Rey album. With every new Lana album, I become more and more hooked. I also listened to Renaissance by Beyoncé.

Let’s imagine you have a memorial stone at a Musicians Theme Park 100 years from now. Which one of your lyrics would you choose to be written on it?

Could be something off of “Walk Walk”, because it has a positive message on looking forward, not backward. No, wait, that is actually not good for a tombstone. (laughs) You are telling people not to remember you.

Maybe “Shangri-La”, then. “I’ll pick you up if you come back to my Shangri-La.” Shangri-La basically means a utopia, your happiest place. It may imply that death is not a dark place, but a happy place where we will finally meet again. That would probably be a nice message.

You can check out Sylvie Kreusch’s official website here.