As they say: patience is a virtue and waiting pays off. Willow has proven they are a patient band. Back in 2010 these six young and hungry musicians already managed to get to third place in Belgium's critically acclaimed Humo's Rock Rally and snatch away the audience award as well. But where their fellow finalists rushed to release albums, Willow sat out the media storm – the songs could get even better, the sound tighter, the result: bigger.
"At the time, we hadn't discovered our own sound yet", dixit lead singer Pieter-Jan Van Den Troost. "We wanted a post rock sound, yet we loved Vampire Weekend and we had distinct eighties influences going on all at the same time." The latter gained the upper hand: whoever listens to We The Young and thinks of The Cure, The Police and U2 while at it shouldn't feel ashamed. There's worse bands to be referenced to, after all. The members of Willow however are too young to claim they remember the eighties vividly. They must have inherited their love for music from their parents. Or from other young bands heavily inspired by that magical decade. Bloc Party, you say? Even that comparison holds its own.
And before you ask: Willow does more than just copy mentioned bands. With six members in the band new ideas are never far away. Rehearsals tend to be fierce: a logical result of the passion and talent all the individual members bring to the table. After Humo's Rock Rally, Willow focused on playing live. They worked on their stage presence, got experienced – tried out and rewrote songs in order to end up with only the best of the best. "Some songs Universal loved initially didn't even make the album", guitarist Nils Goddeeris says. "The bar has been raised. Only now it's getting clear to us what a long way we have come. At the time we just went for it, but it's been a natural evolution all along the way."
That evolution results in, among other things, a powerful yet accessible sound. With producer and mentor Jo Francken (you might know him from previous work with Milow, Admiral Freebee and Triggerfinger) at the helm, the band really hit the spot. Where songs tended to be less obvious - difficult even - things now have changed. The band isn't shy to use a catchy melody or a huge chorus anymore. A good pop song is a good pop song, and there's nothing as difficult as writing something that sounds easy. Which makes it all the more remarkable that there's so many potential hit songs on We The Young.
By the way: the title says it all. Pieter-Jan is the type of songwriter who lets you in on his deepest and darkest secrets – yet talking about them is more difficult. But listen to his lyrics and you'll read him like a book. He writes about his first break-up ('Sweater'), his second one ('House Of Love'), about learning how to be on your own ('We Walk Alone') and – it isn't all bad – about finding a real soul mate ('Two Children'). He sings about the drive to reach what you've always wanted and about being the best you can be in Belgian alternative radio hit 'Gold', and even shows ecological engagement in 'Weeping Giants'. All of these are pretty relatable subjects for young twenty-somethings these days.
In the end though, all songs on We The Young are about leaving your teenage years and getting hit in the face hard by the world of a grownup. And that's perfect as it is – it is, after all, no coincidence Willow sounds like a band who's been through the motions on We The Young. It's like they say: patience is a virtue – and waiting really does pay off.
26/02Deezer Live - with Ozark Henry & Nona Moon, Ancienne Belgique, Brussels
21/03support Kensington - Doornroosje, Nijmegen (NL)
22/03support Kensington - Effenaar, Eindhoven (NL)
23/03Ik Zie U Graag - Mezz, Breda (NL)
06/04Deistelrock - Bazel
19/04Bal Per Total - Aarschot
20/04Emotions - Bilzen
27/04Speelplaatsrock - Leuven