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Echo Collective - Our end goal for Echo Collective is to continue creating. If we can continue to make a career that is full of creative opportunities, collaborations, and performing, that is the dream Aanbevolen

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Echo Collective - Our end goal for Echo Collective is to continue creating.  If we can continue to make a career that is full of creative opportunities, collaborations, and performing, that is the dream

Founded by Neil Leiter and Margaret Hermant, Echo Collective is a diverse group of classically trained musicians based in Brussels, Belgium. In addition to its own projects, the group collaborates with modern composers and bands on concerts, tours, film scores, recording sessions, and original compositions. They got list well know thanks to  compose the music of Radiohead and Johan Johannson. The Band finally bring out there debut album ‘The See Within’ 30 October. They also play in Ancienne Belgique at 6 November. We had a nice talk with the band about the new record, the past and of course the future plans.

My first question … debut album of original material is coming out on October 30. ‘The See Within’ connects the past with the present, absorbing the experience of collaboration to feed their own inventive beauty. Can you tell something more about this?
We have had the good fortune to collaborate with some amazing artists.  For example; A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Stars of the Lid, Johann Johannsson, Christina Vantzou, and Erasure.  Those experiences where very impactful, and of course now that we have set out to record our own compositions, we cannot help but bring lessons along with us.  Of course, as creators, we are trying to express our own feelings and experiences and create our own sound, but our past work is an important part of our artistic lives, and continues to feed the present.

Of course now is the most important. But I like to know more about the past. How did it all started?
In 2011, we were introduced to Adam Wiltze by Caroline Shaw, who is a fantastic artist by the way.  Neil had known her growing up, and Caroline made our initial introduction into this world while working with A Winged Victory for the Sullen and ACME in the USA.   In 2012 we put together a string trio consisting of Margaret Hermant, Neil Leiter, and Charlotte Danhier to tour with AWVFTS (A winged Victory for the Sullen).  It was an awakening, musically, for all of us, and as we continued to work with Adam and Dustin on their various projects, Echo Collective was born.  We were very fortunate to be introduced to such amazing people and subsequently to meet through them Johann Johannsson, Francesco Donadello, Pierre Dozin, Christina Vantzou, and so many more artists and industry leaders.  It really was a magical door that opened.  The music really spoke to us, and we have been riding the wave ever since.

You are in this music business for quite some time. But still this is your debut? Why it took so long?
It is true that we have been very active for a long period now, and even before Echo Collective, we have had very active careers.  Coming from a classical background and professional life, and then transitioning into Echo Collective, we have passed through a lot of steps and roles.  From being purely interpreters in the classical sense, to arranging, producing, recording, touring, and collaborating, we have built up a lot of ‘savoir faire’.  Several years ago, it became apparent to us that we really wanted to compose our own music as well.  And we have since set out to really transition to the creative side.  So, yes, this is our ‘debut’.  But only in name.

What are your personal expectations about this record anyway?
We hope that this record speaks to people.  Allows them time to slow down, and step out of our hectic modern day world.  A moment of peace and reflection. Beyond that, this record marks a new chapter for us.  A creative beginning.  We really aspire to stay in that direction going forward.  Whether that is film and TV work, dance, theater, or creating new music in exciting new collaborations, we see this record as the declaration of a new phase in our career.

Echo Collective got maybe well know thanks to compose the music of Radiohead and Johan Johannsson? Where did the idea come from and did you get any reaction of them to?
Our Echo Collective plays ‘Amnesiac’ project was a commission from the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels.  We were speaking to Kurt Overbergh about a possible residency at this iconic venue, and he suggested this project.  Per his request, we chose between Kid A and Amnesiac, and spent a year at the AB in residence creating the arrangements, show and album.  Their support continues to be invaluable for us.  We are even premiering ‘The See Within’ there live on the 6th of November (with streaming worldwide) Of course, Radiohead is the most covered band in the world, and if they had to react to every group that was inspired by their music, it would be a full-time job.  And so, unfortunately, we have not received any feedback from them.  Though we would be especially interested to hear from Jonny Greenwood because we know that he is passionate about instrumental music!

You also make a bridge between classic music and pop/rock music. What is, you think, the biggest difference between classic and rock or pop?
I think that the real difference between classical music and more popular genres are the perceived differences in accessibility.  There are so many things that are similar, and the underpinnings of the music share the same rules.  For whatever reason, classical music is perceived to be difficult to listen to or connect to.  And the codification of the classical experience is quite off putting to the general public.   For that, this world of neo-classical or post-classical, really reaches across those barriers.   The music is everywhere.  In film, TV and advertising.  So people are interacting already with it regularly.  And then the concert experience is very immersive both sonically and visually.  And these concerts take place in so many different kinds of places: classical halls, rock/pop venues and festivals, churches, museums, warehouses.  In the end the differences are about access and approachability.  The human emotions and connections are everywhere in all kinds of music.

This question I have read somewhere, I like to know to. Ten days before Jóhann Jóhannsson’s sudden death, you performed together onstage. How do you cope with that?
Losing Johann so suddenly and unexpectedly was very difficult.  Though we are very lucky to have been able to finish and record his string quartet ’12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmanns’ for Deutch Grammaphon.  And we have been touring it since its release in September 2019.  Every time we play it live, it is a moment to reconnect with Johann and to continue to share his music.  That has been quite useful in dealing with his loss.

Last year there was also a collaboration with Joep Beving? How did you find each other? And did it open some doors in a way?
We were introduced to Joep by our mutual agent at the time Felix Grimm.  And we met for the first time at the 30CC in Leuven co-billing a show together.  The connection was quite strong, and he is a great guy.  Fortunately we have similar taste and aesthetic musically.  So it was a natural person for us to collaborate with.  Unfortunately several of the ‘Henosis’ shows have been postponed due to COVID, but we plan on continuing to perform together in the future.

Joep became one of the most streamed pianists in the world thanks to popular Spotify playlists such as “Peaceful Piano”. How is that working with someone like Joep Beving anyway?
Working with Joep is amazing.  He is a very direct person, and extremely down to earth.    Maybe because of his past life leading teams in advertising, he really has a developed sense of the ‘whole’ art piece.  And with his very clear point of view, it was extremely rewarding to bring both of those projects to fruition.  Our past experiences both recording this kind of sound and then reproducing it live was very useful.  It is a very symbiotic musical friendship.

Now we are at that point, what is your opinion about streaming at Spotify and things anyway?
That is a difficult question.  For most musicians, Spotify etc, are a little like the American Dream.  Big success is there for the taking, but it is mostly a mirage.   On a positive note, people are listening to more music than ever, and it is easier than ever to reach all corners of the globe.   In the end, we are very happy to share our music as widely as possible.

I Guess a lot of plans been postponed to this crisis? Or not?
Yes, we had a lot of concerts postponed or canceled because of the lock down.  And things continue to be uneasy for planning to far in the future.  So at least for now things are booking very late, and quite locally.  We will just continue as allowed, and continue to prepare for a new and different future.

So how you survived this crisis as band, musician but also as human?
We have really taken the time to regroup at home.  Be with our families and continue to be in the present.  It is a very difficult time for everyone, so we are trying to stay as flexible as possible.  At the same time, impossible to stop and wait for things to return to ‘normal’.  We have to continue forward and shape our path.  So as a band we are staying active as much as possible, continuing to create, and plan for the future. 

What are the future plans of the band? Are there any concerts coming up?
Our goal is to continue touring the Johann Johannsson string quartet and our own album as much as possible in the upcoming season.  Though that is hard to predict.
We do have several concerts planned coming up soon:
November 6: Ancienne Belgique premiere of our new album ‘The See Within’
November 26: Transmissions Festival in Ravena Italy also playing our new album
Hopefully, things will stay stable COVID wise and we will be able to continue booking and playing live shows this season. 

My last question … You have seen a lot, play with so much magic artist, now there is your debut (finally) Is this the ‘end goal’? In other words what are the ambitions of Echo Collective? Are there any other so called end goals (to put it this way)
Our end goal for Echo Collective is to continue creating.  If we can continue to make a career that is full of creative opportunities, collaborations, and performing, that is the dream.  It really is an amazing life.

Thanks for this fine conversations, pity we could not do this “face to face’’ but we sure hope to see you on stage someday and hope to have this talk in real one day.

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