Belgian rap group Glauque are currently making waves on the continent with their hard-hitting lyrics, reimagining French rap with industrial electronica.
There are four members who make up the band. On the call today, I’m joined by lyricist and lead vocalist Louis Lemage (26); Lucas Lemage (32) and Baptiste Lo Manto (30). Fourth member Aadriejan Montens (28) is at the conservatoire where he works and is unable to make it.
Lucas texts him, “he should be here, but he got the date mixed up.” He admits.
It’s not surprising it’s hard to find the time to do everything, the group is busy at the moment. Between travelling to France for promo days, studio sessions, and shows, most of them also still have their day jobs.
“Well, except our dear friend here… one unemployed out of four.” Baptiste grins, looking over at Louis, who explains he recently quit his job at a restaurant to focus on music full-time.
Baptiste and Lucas teach at the conservatoire in their home city of Namur in Belgium, while Aadriejan works in the institution’s administrative department.
The conservatoire is at the heart of how the band met. A few years ago, Louis was writing lyrics and was looking for someone to help him bring it to life, Lucas, his brother, gave him Aadriejan’s number. The two of them started writing together, and then shortly after, Baptiste and Lucas joined.
So, as part of a group like Glauque, surely this makes you one of the coolest teachers in school? I ask.
“No, the school where I teach includes contemporary music, so most of the teachers have projects on the side and they do concerts too…” Baptiste shrugs. “So, I might be one of the cool teachers, maybe.” He concedes with a small smile
But with the release of their eagerly anticipated debut album in September, Les gens passent, le temps reste (People pass, time stays), picking up rave reviews across French media, (Les Inrocks described it as “powerful and uncompromising” and RFI labelled them “The future of music.”), I wouldn’t be surprised if their days working at the conservatoire are numbered…
Glauque emerged onto the scene in 2018 with the acclaimed single Robot, an industrial electronica-tinged soundscape over spoken word flow. It’s a sound they’ve carried with them and refined for their debut album.
The lead single on the album is the industrial techno number Plan Large (Wide Shot). In the opening lines, Louis raps:
“I see the reflection of my era / In front of my turned off screen / Lost like a child / As it is I am one / Drinking glasses two by two / Like Gérard Depardieu.”
The reverberant synth and heavy electronic beats of Plan Large create a rich layered atmosphere with a pulsating urgency that takes you to another dimension.
It’s the first track they wrote for the album back in summer 2019. The bones of the song came together during a soundcheck for the Festival de Musique Emergent (Emerging Music Festival) in Canada when they had extra time to rehearse.
“The track was called FME for a very long time before we found a title and lyrics etc.,” Lucas explains.
The counterpoint to Plan Large is Plan Serré (Close Shot), a slower meditation on loneliness and writing.
“Although,” says Louis “they aren’t related, they each communicate a vision.”
“There is a Plan Large, a wide shot, a global point of view on something, on the world we live in, and a Plan Serré, a tight shot, on a more intimate and personal event.”
“I found this relationship between these two tracks, and that’s how we decided on their names, two tracks which are linked in a certain way since both focus on observing situations.”
The rest of the album touches on similarly deep subjects, in Rance (Rancid) Louis imagines himself as a reluctant father while Bleu.e (Blue) and Friable (Brittle) centre on self-loathing and doomed relationships.
“It was dark in my head while I was dancing” Louis repeats over the thudding bass in Noir.
This refrain encapsulates the dissociative quality of Glauque’s music, at once voicing the feelings of disillusion and alienation shared by many, and yet also counter to this, their music offers a brief respite from it, an escape into the void.
“It’s an album that talks a lot about the relationship with the other… It’s a reflection of everything that surrounds us and the world we live in, and this shapes the context for something that remains quite introspective… It’s about the people who are or were part of our lives at certain moments in time. But all the tracks reflect these anxieties related to the world in which we live. Even if it’s not the main focus, obviously it’s a bit that.” Louis explains.
Glauque’s music is a place where you can lose yourself, atmospheric synth lends itself to nihilistic lyrics, a state of mind arising from an uncertain and bleak future.
No better track truly heightens this experience than Deuil (Grief) a track that clocks in at nearly ten minutes long.
“It’s not one you can really listen to on repeat, that would be quite long…” Lucas comments wryly.
“We improvised on the synth then sent it to Louis who wrote over it… We didn’t touch the opening at all, just reworked the ending a little. It happened very quickly and naturally. It wasn’t a conscious decision though, we never said to ourselves ‘Let’s make a ten-minute track’ because that would piss everyone off.” He laughs.
That said, it’s one of his favourite tracks on the album. They close every show with Deuil (Grief), playing with the improvisation and flexible structure, adapting it depending on the audience.
“I think it’s about pushing to the extreme everything we’ve worked on since the beginning, the contrasts, the vocals, the more melancholy and calm moments. For me, it really represents the essence of the group. It was one of the first songs we decided should go on the album.”
The band are currently on tour and although the average age at a Glauque show hovers around 25 to 30-somethings, they’ve noticed a lot of older people come to their shows too.
“We really weren’t expecting that.” Baptiste muses.
“There are a lot of people who tell me they aren’t into rap… and yet they’re still affected by the format, by its intention and meaning. So, it makes me happy.”
“Sometimes it’s their children who introduced them to our music because it’s rap, and once this guy told me it really reminds him of 1970s film music, Vangelis, and stuff like that.”
One song in particular has struck a chord with their audience.
“Rance resonates quite a bit with certain people. It’s a universal subject in terms of fatherhood and parenthood…” Baptiste remarks.
With so much going on when do they get time to sleep? “At the moment, not a lot,” Lucas admits. “We’re getting by, but it’s definitely piling up… Everyone’s diaries are full.”
In what little down time they might have, what music do they listen to?
“What do I have in my favourites.” Louis frowns down at his phone and strokes his beard.
“I can start,” Lucas interjects. “I’ve written notes.”
I love someone who comes prepared.
Their choices are not the dark and heavy synth bands that I was expecting.
In Lucas’ library, jazz-leaning artists Dawn of Midi and Raph Heidel, sit alongside ambient pianist Nathan Gabriel, and emotive indie from Medium Build and Bon Iver.
Baptiste meanwhile has albums on repeat from drummers Roni Caspi and Nate Smith, and contrabassist Avishai Cohen and James Blake.
“[James Blake] surprises me every time. Beyond his music, I’m always moved by the universe that he creates, with the visuals and all his artistic choices.” He enthuses.
I get the sense that Lucas and Baptiste would be quite happy to dedicate all our allotted time to discussing their favourite albums and musicians.
But my allotted time has run out, and these are busy guys so with a final adieu I leave them to pursue their exhausting schedule.
[Translated from French]
See upcoming tour dates and latest news from Glauque here.
With thanks to Lounis for additional translations on this piece.