Catching up with Fenne Kuppens

What do Whispering Sons singer Fenne Kuppens, music venue Volta and Listen Festival have in common? Together they host a concert night, curated by Kuppens, who calls Volta home, the rehearsal space of her band Whispering Sons. For her event during Listen Festival, Kuppens singlehandedly selected two bands, Dutch outfit Tramhaus and Belgian group Plexi Stad, to infuse the festival’s line-up with some cutting-edge guitars. However, please refrain from dubbing Kuppens the ambassador of guitars.

Hello Fenne! Before we dive into your line-up for Listen Festival, you and your band Whispering Sons have a new album ready?

Fenne: Yes indeed. We're currently promoting the album, called ‘The Great Calm’, which was completed over a year ago. It feels strange to revisit the creative process retrospectively. However, discussing it now sparks a reflective journey, adding new layers of understanding. I'm thrilled to see the project come to life at last.

Congratulations on the new album, I’m curious to discover it. As a performing artist in what we traditionally call the alternative rock music scene, how do you relate to an electronic music festival such as Listen?

Fenne: In my eyes, it's a broad event, featuring a wide and interesting musical spectrum with an eclectic audience. Every year, sometimes unintentionally, I stumble upon the festival. It consistently enlivens the city, quite literally, with banners and flags adorning the streets for a time.

Do you often go to concerts yourself?

Fenne: When we're not on tour, I certainly do enjoy exploring bands and discovering new music. However, when we're on the road, playing several shows a week, it becomes impossible. I'm often too exhausted to open myself up to new music.

How did you get started for Listen Festival?

Fenne: To be completely honest, I found the task quite challenging. I was asked to curate guitar bands, yet I'm not currently listening to many. For some reason, the guitar bands I've encountered recently didn't leave a lasting impression, often blending together in my mind. However, the request from Listen Festival prompted me to reevaluate my musical preferences, to reconsider bands I had previously overlooked, and to explore new ones. Despite the initial challenge, it turned out to be an enjoyable experience.

Apart from the bands you selected for Listen Festival, what’s currently shining in your playlists?

Fenne: As a matter of fact, plenty of live acts from the previous line-ups of Listen Festival, such as ML Buch, Dali Muru & the Polyphonic Swarm, Croatian Amor, Ana Roxanna and many more. I’m fond of experimental and electronic music acts. And, more in the field of classical contemporary music, I’ve been listening a lot to Lucinda Chua, who is performing at this edition in the Church of Laken.

Do genres still matter to you, or in this age of streaming and social media, have we entered a post-genre world?

Fenne: I believe that’s an entirely personal choice, varying greatly depending on whom you ask. However, it's true that in our band, Whispering Sons, we all share a broad interest in music. We're constantly learning from each other, open to a wide range of influences across various genres. Sure, mentioning Taylor Swift might not send everyone into a frenzy of excitement, but we always make an effort to consider each other's musical suggestions. And on a personal note, I don’t appreciate being pigeonholed into one music genre anyway. 

What I realized while selecting bands for the Listen Festival was that I was drawn to bands embodying a sort of guitar or punk ethos, without necessarily relying on traditional guitar instrumentation.

What can you tell us about the bands you selected for your night at Volta during Listen Festival, Plexi Stad and Tramhaus? 

Fenne: I only recently stumbled upon Plexi Stad through their latest EP. They're a straightforward punk band yet possess a distinct and innovative flair, along with a reputation for remarkable live performances. While I haven't seen them live yet, I've found some really impressive video snippets of concerts online.

Tramhaus is a band we've crossed paths with at various festivals already, and they've always struck me as an exceptionally energetic group. I'm eager to experience their full live performance at Volta.

How do you define your relationship with Brussels?

Fenne: I've called it home for about eight years now. Initially, adapting to the city's loudness, extremes, its loneliness, and anonymity was challenging. However, I gradually adjusted, building a network, finding places to meet friends, and spots for solitude. Looking at the bigger picture, I see no alternative in Belgium; no other city holds the same allure for me. In conclusion, it's the city's elusive identity, its unique punk vibe, that truly encapsulates my love for Brussels.

How do you relate to Volta?

Fenne: It's an incredible venue. We've been rehearsing there for quite some time, and I've witnessed its transformation into a cornerstone for the Brussels music scene. The dedication and effort Arne and his team have put into it are truly remarkable. I've seen the community around Volta flourish into a vibrant ecosystem—a real boon for Brussels!

Thank you for having us over in your flat. I couldn't help but notice the sizable cassette collection you have. What's the story behind it?

Fenne: I used to run a cassette label with Kobe, the guitarist from Whispering Sons, called 'Sentimental.' We have 25 releases, spanning post-punk, new wave, and featuring plenty of Belgian bands such as El Yunque and Rumours. It lasted until Covid hit, but then we unfortunately ran out of money. I loved it and discovered a lot of interesting bands through running the label. Fondly remembered!

Thanks for sharing, Fenne!

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