In this week’s feature we catch up with visionary Torre Florim from Dutch alt-rock band De Staat to talk about stardom, growing as an artist, and the importance of theatricality. Read what he had to say below.
S] A lot of great stuff has been happening with you guys lately. How do you feel about the whirlwind of success that has hit you over the past few months?
T] It feels great! We’ve been playing together for nine years now, so it feels only right [laughs]. Our music is spreading now, crossing borders of both countries and styles. We’ve spent a lot of time honing our sound and getting better at it and it feels like it’s finally paying off.
S] As you said, you’ve been with the band for a good while. Can you tell me about the journey you’ve made as a musician from the humble beginnings to where you are now?
T] I started as a very much do-it-yourself guy. I made the first album by myself in my own house, it’s just me on the record. I pulled the band together to start playing live. I’ve developed from being quite an introverted person to someone who can entertain huge crowds of people, because that’s what playing live demands from you. In the first few years, playing live felt like a mission to accomplish; afterwards felt great but the show itself was terrifying. We’ve done hundreds of shows now and I’ve reached a point where I find playing the show itself to be really fun. It took a long time for me to actually enjoy performing. Now, I feel like I have control and I know what I’m doing. I can play off of the audience and I try and make every show different. Not a lot of artists get that longer time to really develop themselves and figure out who they are, so I’m really thankful to have had all this time to work on it. It’s getting better and better.
After we started playing large festivals in our country, which felt like mountains to climb at the time, we started gaining confidence. I’m sure maybe my other band members weren’t as nervous as me but we are way more confident together as a band now. It’s weird trying to explain to other people that even musicians who play music for a living get nervous before shows [laughs]. But now I am enjoying the moment and I know what I want to do live and where I want our music to go.
S] I see your performances as a kind of art form in themselves. What challenges do you face pulling a live show together?
T] It’s not a real challenge because most of our songs on record are actually us playing live together! So it’s quite easy to translate it to a live format, in front of a crowd. What is difficult is thinking of new ways to perform certain songs. Every song has its own identity and it’s important to portray that on stage. I’m thinking more and more about the shows as choreography; it has to be flowing and natural but it really helps if you know what you’re doing. Theatricality is important to entertaining people and I like being able to portray songs in unique ways and give something unexpected and special. It’s important to try new things. Rock music is pretty conservative and hasn’t really changed much in the past 70 years it’s been around. You have the singer and the drummer and the guitarist playing on stage and it’s all the same. I’m interested in how other genres form their music, especially pop music right now and hip-hop and dance, and have been drawing a lot of inspiration from all over the place. In the next couple of years you might see us dabbling with other genres.
S] In your wildest dreams, what theatrical means would you employ to put on a perfect live show?
T] Something that we really want to do next year is play in-the-round concerts. We would like to experience the audience all around us. Of course we toured with Muse and they did a 360 show. They stand outwards, towards the audience. But we want to try standing looking towards each other of other arrangements, we have to think about how we’re going to do it! We did it once before in a forest in the middle of a festival, it was really fun because when you’re standing like that people can see your guitar peddles, what movements you make and everything that you do, it’s a new immersion for the audience. We want to take it further and have people from the audience get up on stage with us and dance.
We also want to continue making cool music videos and integrate them into our live shows. On our last tour we used a lot of visuals and we want to keep working with imagery, mainly for festivals as they probably wont fit in smaller venues. At festivals we have LED screens for all the visuals, it’s really new for us and for the genre of rock which we want to shake up. Now that we’re more well known we can use better production to achieve these things.
S] Have you ever had any moments of stage fright and how have you overcome that as a performer?
T] I’ve never had any horrific moments of stage fright. I’ve been nervous but our live shows have evolved so gradually there was always a lot of time for me to adjust and try new things and to get comfortable with performing with the band, there was no immediate pressure. The important thing it just to be well rehearsed and prepared, you body remembers what you have to do even if your brain is freaking out. If there’s one fear that I’ve ever had it’s about my voice; the voice is such a delicate instrument and it’s easily damaged. I worry about losing my voice and not being able to control it. It’s always lurking in my mind before a show. As soon as I start performing though I know everything is going to be ok, there haven’t been any disasters yet. Singing is a weird one but if you rehearse and know what works for your voice and how to take care of it then everything should be ok.
S] What is your general attitude to success? What do you believe true success looks like?
T] Success is a very subjective thing. Starting out, playing my favourite festivals seemed like the pinnacle of success for me, but as you progress and move on you idea of success does too. It’s almost like you forget what it felt like to feel like you’d reached the top, which is frustrating sometimes. Only one things remains the same, and I think I feel successful if I just keep making music that I enjoy and that I’m proud of. I imagine myself listening to our CD for the first time or seeing us live from the audience’s perspective and if it’s still exciting to watch and listen to then I’m happy. The audience reaction is the only thing you can really rely on. You can look back and appreciate the achievements you have gained but it’s important to be in the now and to always be looking forwards, at least that’s how it feels for me.
I guess success is being content with what you’re doing in the moment. We’re all perfectionists and we’re always busy trying to perfect our sound and presence, we always want to get better. If we can keep producing music that people are interested in, I think that is successful.
S] What’s next for the band? Are you going to take a rest or are you going to be cracking on with making new music?
T] The lines are always blurred between resting and working. My life is pretty much moulded around my work, so work and play often overlap. Music is what I enjoy. It’s cliche as hell but I could be relaxing next to a pool in he sun and my head would still be spinning with ideas for new songs and live shows, it never stops. It all feels like resting and working at the same time! We are touring for the next couple of months and then we actually have two weeks off, something we haven’t done for years. But then we are heading straight back into the studio to record some new stuff, with a tour to follow next year. Next August we are playing the biggest show we’ve ever done, in the Carnegie Music Hall to 5500 people or something, it’s crazy. We also hope to reinvent ourselves and some aspects of our sound for the next record.
Interview: Dom Smith
Transcription: Alex Inkley