The Bucket Playlist’s interview with The Sore Losers

The Bucket Playlist’s interview with The Sore Losers

 ‘We realised we’re really a bunch of rockers playing uptempo songs with a groove’

by Sara Seddon at The Bucket Playlist

‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’, the latest single from explosive Belgian rockers, The Sore Losers, marks the first track from their fifth studio album coming out around November.

The Sore Losers, who are based in Hasselt, comprise Jan Straetemans (guitar/vocals), Cedric Maes (guitar), Kevin Maenen (bass) and Alessio Di Turi (drums). Straetemans and Maes know each other from being on the same bill for many years and formed the band in 2009 after Maes wrote some songs he thought were suited to Straetemans’ voice. Their name comes from the 1997 B movie, The Sore Losers, starring Jack Yarber and Kerine Elkins: ‘It’s a very weird B movie,’ Straetemans laughed. (It’s about juvenile delinquents from outer space coming to Memphis to kill hippies.)  ‘Cedric told me about it and I said I’d seen it but he said that was impossible because no-one has seen it, so it was meant to be!’

‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ is a thumping track that kicks off with a tight bass line, it’s a proper pull you along at breakneck kind of speed track, with some pounding riffs and licks, not to mention Straetemans’ powerful vocals. ‘Cedric made the demo for the song, it was about 80% what the song should be,’ Straetemans said. ‘Then we added the special Sore Losers sauce over it! It’s a bit of a raging song, the bass is up. I wrote the lyrics, I had this idea of mentioning cities we love to travel to and one great thing about being in a band is that we get to go to great cities. This feeling of wanting to experience life again, to see these cities, that’s the sentiment we wanted the song to have. It’s really a cry out. We hear ‘no’ so often in this last year, so we thought we’d try to energise people with three ‘yeah yeah yeahs’.’ 

As the song goes: ‘New York City, call me, I’ve got a little something up my sleeve. Amsterdam, thank you, ma’am, don’t you know I always give a damn?’

‘We like heavy rock music but we’re not tough guys’

The upcoming album will consist of 11 or 12 tracks, of which another two are likely to be released as singles before the album launch. For now, they’re keeping details under wraps, although Straetemans said that for every song that made the cut, there were four or five to choose from. ‘This album is rockier than our last one, Gracias Señor,’ he said. ‘That had more of a funk/soul feel. We don’t want to be a tough rock band, we like heavy rock music but we’re not tough guys. When you work on different albums, you have different influences, you learn from all the producers you’ve worked with, you pick up things. White Denim (a rock band from Texas) produced Gracias Señor, they’re incredible. I’m really satisfied with the way the new album turned out. When we were thinking about the sound we wanted, we asked ourselves: “What would a producer do? Listen to our back catalogue and say what do you want to pull out of these guys?” We realised we’re really a bunch of rockers playing uptempo songs with a groove. We want to do rockier stuff, we enjoy it the most when we can get to rock out, for sure.’

Straetemans describes Maes as ‘the king of the one liner’: ‘Maybe not so much on this album but he throws them at me sometimes and I try to write a song around it!’ They’re inspired by rock ‘n’ roll legends as well: ”Dark Ride’ (on Gracias Señor) is kind of a nod to ‘Miss You’ by The Stones, it’s sort of disco. We had this idea of someone going out in a big city and living through the night, so it’s a bit dancey.’ Other tracks on Gracias Señor are more personal, namely the closing track, ‘I’ll Be Back’: ‘The music was written by Kevin, it was our last day in the studio and I had a phone call with my daughter and she was crying because I was away. Sometimes, as a musician, you can be away a long time, so the song is a salute to our kids. My daughters are 7 and 10 now, the eldest one has seen it live, she loves it. It’s fun to share with them what you’re doing.’

‘We want to melt all those genres together’

They are keen not to be pigeonholed: ‘We always juggled with different genres,’ Straetemans said. ‘We like good country, garage, classic rock like Led Zeppelin and we like punk rock like Black Flag (a Californian punk rock band from the 70’s), who play a kind of electric blues. We want to melt all those genres together.’

While his favourite song of theirs can change on a daily basis his most consistent favourite is ‘Beyond Repair’ from their first, self-titled album in 2010: ‘It was the first song that Cedric and I wrote, it’s our blueprint, it helped us a lot and I always enjoy playing it live very much,’ he said.

They have built their own studio in Hasselt, in an old factory, which has given them a lot more creative freedom. I ask if it’s crammed full of gear and he laughs: ‘It’s filled with more than 50 guitars, mostly from Cedric! He has a beautiful collection. He’s got a Les Paul Gibson Gold Top. I’me a left-handed player, I’ve got a Gibson SG, I love it but my next one will be a Fender Stratocaster, like the one Robbie Robertson from The Band plays. It’s a must-have and it’s hard to find good leftie guitars.’ I say it sounds as if they’re constantly on the hunt for new guitars and he grins: ‘Cedric is tempted all the time! He has a new guitar every 3-4 months!’

Straetemans has been inspired by many of the songwriting greats: ‘The Beatles’ songwriting is phenomenal,’ he said. ‘So is The Rolling Stones’ songwriting, you can learn so much. I have periods when I listen to Tom Petty for three months and want to learn everything I can.’ I ask him if he’s started to listen to anyone more frequently or anyone new in the past year: ‘I listened to Randy Newman a lot, I’m learning to play the piano. He’s such a good piano player and his lyrics are tongue-in-cheek.’

If he could hear a Sore Losers song played anywhere on TV, he picks the original A-Team series from the 80’s: ‘I’d love to hear ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ during an action scene when there’s an explosion,’ he laughed. ‘I watched the A-Team a lot! Everything here is subtitled not dubbed, so you pick up a lot of English! I learned my English from TV!’

(Photo from left to right: Cedric, Kevin and Alessio at the back, Jan at the front.)

this story first appeared on: on May 20th 2021