Marble Sounds is the brainchild of Belgium’s Pieter Van Dessel. After releasing the debut EP in Canada, effectively as a solo project, Pieter returned to Belgium assembled a 5 piece band. Their full length album Nice is good was met with critical acclaim showing off their own brand of experimental indie pop. We caught up with Pieter Van Dessel to ask him about his music.
Where did the name Marble Sounds come from?
I’ve always liked the word “Marble” for some reason. Years ago Gianni, our guitar player, wrote a song called “Spy”, and the words “marble sounds” are used in the lyrics.
Where did the album title “Nice is good” come from?
It’s a quote from “Eternal Sunshine On The Spotless Mind”, a film by Michel Gondry. I love that movie. When Jim Carrey talks about his girlfriend in the beginning of the movie, he says: “She was nice. Nice is good”. It has a bitter side, because it’s like he lost the hope of discovering real love, thinking that finding somebody who’s ‘just’ nice is good enough. At the same time ‘nice’ and ‘good’ are positive words. I like that duality.
You had the likes of Robert Pollard and Miwako Shimizu involved in your album, was it hard to get them on board?
No, not at all. I contacted Miwako through myspace because I liked her voice and the songs on her myspace player. She immediately agreed to write a song together. Robert Pollard was a different process: I didn’t collaborate with him but I sampled an old Guided by Voices song. Of course I needed his OK for the use of the sample so I sent the song to his manager. He told me that Robert loved the track so that was it.
What inspired you to record your debut EP in Montreal?
I lived there for 2 years so it was obvious to record the EP over there. I didn’t have a band back then, but I was lucky that Johan, the drummer, came to visit me during his holidays, so we recorded the drums when he was there.
How does recording music in Canada compare to Belgium?
I don’t think there’s a difference but in my case I had to borrow all the instruments since I didn’t move my gear over the Atlantic Ocean.
Where did the idea for the animated video of Sky High come from?
This beautiful video comes out of the brains of two geniuses: Birg and Eugene (from Eugene & Louise). They came up with the story and the characters. An animated video is always labour-intensive but it’s been worth it.
You’ve been likened to bands like the Eels and the Notwist, do you think that’s a fair call?
I can understand the comparisons. I guess it’s because of my voice. The guy from Notwist also has an accent. And we both never sound too happy when we sing.
You’ve also remixed the likes of Soon and Yuko, how does remixing compare to making your own music?
When you make an album you try to make the songs more or less cohesive. Remixing allows you to do something completely different, to try directions you don’t usually explore. Also you don’t have to think about playing remixes live which gives you more freedom. It’s also inspiring to work with other people’s material, and being inspired is always a good thing…
Given you’re from Belgium, why do you write lyrics in English?
Because I grew up with music in English. Of course there are Flemish artists singing in Dutch, but it’s a minority. It’s also interesting to write lyrics in a language you don’t master. It can give unexpected results. When singing in Dutch I am too conscious about the words I’m singing. It’s like talking on top of music. When singing in English it feels more like the words blend with the music.
You appeared on the tribute album to Kath Bloom with the song “Come Here”, how did this come about?
I recorded that version for my wife, a few days before Valentine’s day. Later I posted it on myspace. I wrote a message to Kath Bloom’s manager about the Marble Sounds version. Little did I know that he was compiling a tribute album for Kath Bloom, and he already had the Dodos, Devendra Banhart and Mark Kozelek on the tracklist. He loved the cover version and “Come here” became the opening track.
If you could feature on anyone else’s tribute album who would you chose?
Bruce Springsteen. That would be an honour. He wrote some fantastic songs. I think a cover version of “One step up, and two steps back” could be nice.
You’re also part of the electro band Plastic Operator, what made you decide to start up Marble Sounds as well?
I’ve always liked making guitar songs. I couldn’t put all my ideas in Plastic Operator. It’s hard to turn a melancholic waltz on a banjo into an electropop song. So I created Marble Sounds. These two bands cover everything I want to do.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Oh yeah, I do. That might sound vain, but it’s actually satisfying to listen to a finished mix.
What other music do you listen to?
Mostly guitar music, like the Antlers, Phoenix, Mumford & Sons, Sufjan Stevens, Broken Social Scene… But I can enjoy a slamming dance track too.
To find out more about Marble Sounds check out their website.