Navaho is one of Brussels’s newest and raddest bands. Five guys in hawaiian shirts who have just launched their first and eponymous album, after releasing a super sunny single called Summer for June’s solstice. Navaho is Ennio Morricone goes to the beach. It’s Western spaghetti and surf. Far west desert plains and west coast ocean dunes. The album is truly whole, coherent and highly addictive.
“Navaho” opens the album and sets the tone. Mostly instrumental -barring the occasional background Indian chant and some “yeehaas!”. “His Fatness” is playful and has a more Californian beach vibe to it, presenting the other side of the coin. The album alternates moods and styles with impressive consistency. Listen to Chocobo and you’re horseback riding in some Sergio Leone landscape of arid wilderness. Press play on “Peter’s Waltz” and be invaded by a beautiful and light melancholy. Then be soothed and haunted by “Turn you on”‘s sensuality.
Navaho is poetic and ironic at the same time. Depth and lightness float together in a merry-go-round of indian cowboyness. Plus did I mention Benjamin’s voice is one of my favorite in the Belgian scene? If you haven’t checked them out yet, you can’t wait any longer. I spent an afternoon with Benjamin and Douchan (keyboard & voice and tambourine respectively). After a couple of beers at MiMA’s cafe we headed to a (real) cowboy shop downtown. Here’s what they told me in between sips and leather boots.
Your album is absolutely cinematographic. If Tarantino, the Coen brothers or Sergio Leone were to pick up the phone and say they wanted Navaho to be their OS, which of the following movies would you choose :
A) Django unchained
B) The good, the bad and the ugly
C) True grit
Douchan: I used to watch a lot of Sergio Leone with my father when I was a kid so for me, ‘The good, the bad and the ugly’.
Ben: I really like “They call me Trinity”, so I guess the answer is D.
Ben: We listened to a lot of Black Lips and there’s a song called Navajo that we really like. It’s all about Indians and smoking the peace pipe in the tipi. Somehow it captured the spirit we had in mind. And the “H” came to put some distance from “Commissaire Navarro”, the French TV series, in terms of pronunciation. One day Quentin says “Hey, the Americans say NavaHo!” -probably because they can’t pronounce the Spanish J, so that’s how we finally named the band Navaho, ith an H. It’s the perfect mix between the Spanish Sunny Side and the Western American Side. Sunny American.
When listening to your album, early blur, get well soon’s deep voice, come to mind. What are your assumed / conscious music influences ?
Douchan: La Femme for the instrumental side and the rythm. And… we do have to admit we are pretty inspired by The Growlers, from California.
Ben: Each of us comes from different places and have different musical influences. For me, I think I was more inspired by Julian Casablancas of The Strokes. Some people hear some Alex Turner in me but I think he overdoes it. For Quentin, there’s a lot of spaghetti western and for Pierre, there’s definitely The Growlers’ long line bass.
Puppet show. Are we living in a puppet show ? Who’s pulling the strings ?
We live in a society where you have to be something, someone. Everyone is working, working, working. And dreaming of travelling but waiting for that one week where they can go abroad. People live increasingly through their screens. “Push a button and go to space”. They travel through technology instead of actually going places. A click, and they go ‘Oh, I’m gonna do that’. Another click and ‘Oh no, I’m gonna do that’. And in the end, they do nothing. Everyone’s action -or rather lack of action keeps this system going. Our individual shadows are turning into one big shadow controlling the crowd.
Who are inbetweeners to you?
Inbetweeners are all about being grey instead of black or white. Accepting whatever happens to them in a passive fatalistic way. You only live once so it’s a shame that people don’t often stop to think what’s happening to them, inbetweeners just go with the flow.
Is there a Belgian scene ?
Yes, but it needs more explosion, less of the same. And it definitely needs more push, more help. There are a lot of obstacles for musicians. Brussels in particular lacks a big concert bar. Like Bonnefooi, but bigger.
What’s your earliest music memory ?
Douchan: Me with my big headphones in front of the stereo. The cable was super short so I was forced to sit just centimeters from the stereo and listen to Serge Gainsbourg. All. Day. Long. My parents would shout “Stop doing that! Your eaaaars!”
Ben: The first one is from when my dad would drive me to school and I would ask him to play “live and let die” by the Guns n’ Roses. The second memory is that I used to be really scared by the Eels’ “Beautiful Freak” album cover, which features this creepy big-eyed little girl. I couldn’t sleep because of that girl…
Do you have a guilty pleasure ?
It’s not pleasure if you feel guilty about it.
Describe the perfect Sunday.
Ben: A sunny day.
Douchan: It varies, really. Sometimes, the perfect Sunday is being hung over from Saturday and keep on drinking. Sometimes it’ll be chilling next to the fire.
Your favorite Belgian band of the moment ?
Douchan: Girls in Hawaii. They go really deep. I’m very impressed by them.
Ben: Mountain Bike is cool. We need more bands like them.
Something that is overrated.
Ben: Quinoa and Stromae.
Douchan: iI’s not really a thing, but I think this “like” phenomenon where people need to constanty show everyone how they rate this or that, is overrated. Oh, and Oasis. They’re overrated.
An album that gives you chills.
Ben: Depends on your mood. If you’re hung over and tired and sentimental, a good Arcade Fire can make you shed tears. If you want to strut the streets in a sort of Heroe-march, listen to “Lust for Life” by Iggy Pop. To chill, some Mustang…
Best dead musician.
Douchan: Buddy Holly. He died in an airplane crash. He was a huge rock-and-roll star. I think it’s really sad when young artists die… They could have still created so much, potentially.
Ben: Jacques Brel and I would have been curious to listen to what Nirvana would have created if Kurt Cobain hadn’t killed himself.
Brusselsprouts… how do you have yours?
Ben: I down them with water. Yuk.