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Interviews: Tarmak

On this new occasion, we have had the opportunity to interview the Progressive Metal/Post-Metal band, Tarmak, from Belgium. Check out the interview and follow the band on their FACEBOOK PAGE.

1. Where did you get the idea for the band name, you planned it or came out just like that?

Simon (drums): We were mainly looking for the kind of word that has a strong sound to it. In our local West-Flemish dialect, it means ‘asphalt’, just like the song ‘toton’ is coming from the West-Flemish „tot ton“. Sander and me were both born in West-Flanders and we like the feeling of putting our roots in it in some way.

Sander (guitars, vocals): We have a small fetish for strange words that somehow sound mentally satisfying to all of us. I think ‘Tarmak’ does that for us but on top of that, I feel the sound of the word captures the sound of our band and the music we want to make. In a way we’ve named our band (and are titling our songs) in the same way some parents choose a name for their baby; waiting until it’s born, looking at the child and intuitively coming up with a suitable name that matches its character. But besides our word-fetish-motivation, there’s another reason I like ‘Tarmak’ as band name. For me, an important motivation for making our music is wanting to construct an escape route. An escape route for ourselves personally, but also for the people listening to our music. To me, ‘Tarmak’ is a kind of vehicle that allows me to fly or drive away from reality for a while, and all the problems/worries that I’ve got going on at that time in my life. And it is exactly that therapeutic aspect that I also want to offer our audience. In aviation, ‘Tarmak’ means: the surface for parking aircrafts, allowing passengers to board and disembark, load and unload cargo, collect fuel and so on. I like to think that’s a nice metaphor for what our band is. 

2. Why did you want to play this genre? 

Simon (drums): With years of jamming and trying things out, this is where we feel that we have reached a point that everyone’s influences and preferences have reached that sweet spot. We like to take the sound of post-rock as a base but mixed with a structure of progressive-like music

Geert (bass): I love progressive music and the challenges it brings. The combination of heavy riffing and more psychedelic quiet moments brings such a diversity to the playing that’s hard to pass up on. So when Sander asked me to join his other band, I didn’t hesitate!

3. Did you know each other before the band was formed? 

Simon (drums): Yes, Sander and me played together in a different band before until that band broke up and we started Tarmak. Geert joined later on, and was playing with Sander in a different band called Bufferstate.

Geert (bass): I play together with Sander in another band, BufferState. When Tarmak’s original bass player left I jumped in to help out. First with a couple of gigs that were already planned, and then I stayed on permanently. 

Sander (guitars, vocals): I’d like to briefly elaborate on this. I met Simon about 8 years ago when I was 20. At that time, I was playing in State of Time and Simon was ‘just’ a friend of the band (he didn’t play in it). We had about an hour of music with State of Time at that time, and just started doing our first live gigs. Our bass player still lived with his parents who had a massive garden and a caravan at the very edge of their garden. It’s in this caravan that we rehearsed (and slept) but also organised occasional barbeques to which we invited our friends. On one of these barbeques, Simon was invited through a mutual friend and I arrived late that day. When I finally got there and was approaching the caravan, I heard some jamming going on from a distance, and I remember thinking: “Damn our drummer’s on fire today. I’ve never heard him play like this before”. When I got in the caravan, I saw that it wasn’t our drummer, but a stranger (called Simon). Our ‘usual’ drummer couldn’t be there that day, so we ended up jamming with Simon for a few hours straight. It was awesome and there definitely was some chemistry there that I hadn’t experienced before. When we said goodbye that day, I remember telling him to keep doing what he was doing (as far as the drumming was concerned). Little did I know, at that time, that I was going to see much more of him after that. A few weeks later we decided to let the drummer go and get Simon in the band. Looking back, we didn’t handle that in a way that I’m very proud of … but that’s another matter that I won’t get into now. Simon joining was definitely a good thing for the band but it couldn’t resolve the bigger issues that were at hand, which ultimately caused the band to separate altogether, about a year after Simon joined. In the last few months, Simon and me were jamming in the caravan on almost a weekly basis, and the other guys usually weren’t into it. So a lot of the times, it was just the two of us jamming, in someone else’s caravan and garden. That’s where the first riffs of our first song, Petanque, arose. Those riffs didn’t match with the softer-sounding music we were making with State of Time. I don’t think Simon and me ever had a serious conversation about starting up a new band or something. We just focused on continuing our jams and working out ideas between the two of us. After State of Time separated, the two of us spontaneously continued because it just felt like the right and logical thing to do. So we might not have realised it at that time, but in 2014, Tarmak was born.

At first, things went rather slowly. We needed a lot of time to figure out the direction of our band. We searched for additional musicians which was hard. And Simon and me were both still in our student years, and definitely more guilty of laziness than now. All those factors combined meant we needed a few years to really get the band on the rails, but in 2017-2018 we finally got together a full band and a live set of music worth playing. Then, right before our first show, the bass player quit. Talk about bad timing… I immediately asked Geert (who plays bass in my other band BufferState) if he wanted to play bass with us. He accepted the offer and really rescued us in style there. He learnt the material in almost no time and we ended up actually playing the live shows without having to cancel.

4. Each band member favourite band?

Simon (drums): Opeth

Sander (guitars, vocals): Tool

Geert (bass): Marillion. That’s a bit out of left field, I guess, but their music moves me like no other band can. Absolutely amazing! When it comes to something more… metallic, Opeth are my go to. Powerful, fragile, harsh, soft. They got it all. 

5. Who or what inspires you to write songs?

Simon (drums): Everything in music and different genres can inspire you, it can be a rhytm, pattern, melody or whatever. Everything can inspire you and mostly in the moments you’re not looking for it.

Geert (bass): Inspiration comes from many places. Sometimes you just hear a melody or riff, sometimes you listen to a band you like and wish they would do a certain thing and then you decide to do it yourself! We also get inspired by movies or literature. It can come from any place, really.  

6. Where was your last gig? 

Simon (drums): It was in the B52, a pretty small but really cozy venue.

7. Where would you like to act? 

Simon (drums): Our personal dream would be to play on warm, cozy festivals like we are looking forward to ourselves, for instance Dunk! Festival or Roadburn.

Geert (bass): I think smaller festivals and maybe a support gig for a bigger band would be the logical place to go to next. Those gigs bring you in contact with the fans of the genre, so it’s perfect for introducing our music to a wider, appreciative audience. Playing smaller clubs is fun too, but if the people don’t care about your music then it can be a bit challenging. You need to connect with the audience to elevate a gig to something a bit more special.

8. Whom would you like to feature with? 

Simon (drums): We feel really inspired by bands like Russian Circles, so that would be amazing.

Geert (bass): It would be great to be able to play alongside our musical heroes, bands like Opeth. But more realistically, bands within the same genre that are slightly ahead of us in terms of the size of their audience would be perfect.

9. Whom not? 

Simon (drums): It’s cool to be playing with bands with different kinds of genres but playing with far-right bands is something we would never feel comfortable with.

Geert (bass): Bands from completely different genres, probably. Although that could be fun too. I can imagine us in front of a jazz audience! They wouldn’t know what hit them. But who knows, they might appreciate some of what we do as well.

10. Any of you has ever suffered from stage fright? Any tip for beginners on how to beat that? 

Simon (drums): I think everyone has or had it at some point, being playing your first shows, or your first big shows. But the most important part is enjoy what you’re playing, and try to give energy to people taking the time to listen to your music. Eventually when you focus on enjoying you don’t have to focus on being nervous.

Sander (guitars, vocals): Hell yes, my nerves are still always killing me right before we have to go up. But with time it gets better and better. I’m just the type who always worries ahead about stupid things… What if my straplocks would fall off? What if I break a string in the first song and then break another on the back-up guitar? What if my amplifier crashes? What if I can’t pull of the technical solo at the end? But throughout the set you automatically stop thinking about it at a certain point, and by the end of set I’m almost always starting to enjoy it!

Geert (bass): Honestly, no. If you know your instrument and you know the songs there’s nothing to fear. You’ve got to put yourself in the mindset of a performer, an entertainer. Just go, feel the energy of the audience and ride that wave of adrenaline. Have fun, that’s what it’s all about!

11. What bands have inspired you the most? 

Simon (drums): Bands that seem to find something original, something new. Being it from mixing some unexpected combinations of genres to just mixing different kind of sounds or just stepping away from the regular way of writing songs. Being original is what works inspiring. A band like Tool is a perfect example of that.

Geert (bass): Within the context of Tarmak, my biggest influences are bands that bring a sense of storytelling and adventure to their music. Old prog bands like King Crimson and Yes (Chris Squire is a huge personal influence!), newer bands like Opeth and Porcupine Tree. Their songs take you on a journey, you can never predict where they are going.

Sander: I discovered Tool when I was 15. I listened to their records all day every day, and they had a very inspiring effect on me. Right away, I felt like I re-discovered the concept and beauty of music through their work. They stimulated me to pick up a guitar and start learning their songs. When, after months and months of practice, I was able to play some of their stuff, my motivation shifted and I wanted to make my own songs. Before I was 15, I really had no connection at all with music, and if you would have asked me then, I would've assured you that making music had no place in my future. So Tool completely changed this for me, and after 'unlocking' my deep passion for (creating) music, I went on to discover a whole bunch of other bands from many different genres that heavily influenced me. Most of those other bands are situated in the post-rock / post-metal / film music sphere. First names I can think of are Isis, Russian Circles, And So I Watch You From Afar, Cult of Luna... Perhaps it's because of that that I'm a very instrument-focused guy. I like a sweet melody as much as the next guy, but if the instruments aren't doing anything interested, I find it hard to stay interested too.

12. What's the weirdest thing a fan has ever asked you for? 

Simon (drums): Someone once asked if she could shave my beard, that was weird.

Geert (bass): This was years ago, when I played guitar in a hard rock band called Silent Commotion. A girl came to me after the show and asked me to sign her boobs. Then this really big dude saw that and asked me to sign his as well! It’s all for the love of rock and roll….

Sander (guitars): While playing our live set, in between songs someone shouted/asked us to play a song by Willy Sommers. We showed our appreciation for his request but did not do it.

13. What do you think of your fans? 

Simon (drums): We feel incredibly thankful for people who take the time to listen to our music and even more if they end up liking it.

Geert (bass): It’s awesome to see the reaction we get from fans. It makes it all worth it. We don’t create music for anyone other than ourselves. It’s a personal expression of us. So when others hear it and they take something from it, something personal to them, that’s incredibly satisfying.

14. What do you think of our site?

Simon (drums): It is a great site to discover new music and it’s incredible that Breathing The Core gives a chance to upcoming bands to be heard, we feel thankful for being able to do this interview with you guys.

15. Something add?

Simon (drums): This one is for the possible West-Flemish readers: Dris e rute ut tuus en ot rint, rint trim.

Sander (guitars): And this one’s for the English readers: if two witches would watch two watches, which with would watch which watch?

Geert (bass): I’ll have a large beer with that, thank you very much.

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