In March 2013, Belgian passionate melodic hardcore punk band MIDNIGHT SOULS announced that they’ve decided to call it quits. The band posted the official statement regarding the breakup and now have still a couple of final shows left. I sat down with the band’s bassist Bert Cannaerts to talk about their final days as well as Viva Love Records, the brand new label he’s just started!
MIDNIGHT SOULS have released their “Colder” 7” (2010), a split with XERXES and one full-length album “Going Through the Motions” in February 2012. Their last 7” will be put out by Viva Lova and Flood Productions.
Hey, Bert! What’s up, buddy? You have just started a new label! Very cool! How did the idea for Viva Love Records originate?
Hey Karol. I’m pretty good right now thanks for asking. Just enjoying some downtime and relaxing before MIDNIGHT SOULS kicks into high gear one more time. The basic idea for Viva Love Records has actually existed for quite a while. During my time in MIDNIGHT SOULS the entire process from recording a record until the actual finished product was something that always excited me. In the back of my mind I was always thinking how cool it would be to release records of bands I really enjoyed. It was something I always put off, because playing in a band is a full-time job in itself but when we decided to stop being a band a few months ago it made sense to maybe try and start a label for real. I talked it over with one of my best friends and he got excited immediately. We started planning some stuff and talked to some people and pretty soon we had our first release planned. That’s basically how this thing got started and now Robby and me are basically the people who run Viva Love Records.
Great! So, what does it mean for you to run a label “for real”?
Well that just basically means that we’ll try to put as much time and effort into making and promoting our releases as we can. I simply didn’t want to start anything that I couldn’t commit to 100%. After all we’ll be working with other people on this who we want to give quality work. We just want to try and do the best we can for the bands we’ll be working with, and combining this with a full-time job, a girlfriend and other obligations is going to be hard enough as it is. That’s why I didn’t want to complicate it even further by adding a pretty time-consuming band to that. So like I said, as soon as we decided that MIDNIGHT SOULS was quitting, I figured it would be a good time to rethink this idea and we just went for it.
How exactly will you be supporting “your” bands and artists? Any ideas for how to spread their work on a bigger scale?
The most important thing to us is to give the bands we’re working with enough so they can trust us with handling their release. We want to support artists in every step of the way and really talk to them about what they want to do, how they see their release and what we as a label can do to help. Off course on top of that we’ll try and spread the word by promoting releases, getting distribution and stuff like that. Most important to me is to really make bands feel comfortable and happy that they chose to work with us. As someone who’s been on the other side of releasing a record I’d like to think I somewhat know what is important and what isn’t all that much. So in that sense I think we’ll be able to do pretty well for our bands. I mean we’ll be learning a lot in the process of doing this, but right now I feel confident that we’ll be able to deliver good work for our bands.
How social media marketing is helping you and your musicians promote your stuff? Do you see a special opportunity because of the digital age and its undeniable presence in the music world today?
I think social media and the internet are vital to promoting music in this day and age, for bands as well as labels. In essence it’s a very good way to promote your music. It’s cheap, quick, easy and pretty much accessible everywhere. You can get word out to thousands and thousands of people. At the same time it’s also a very difficult medium to work with. Because it’s so cheap and fast a lot of information gets lost in the overload of information that gets put out there every day. You have to stand out in the crowd and that’s easier said than done. I’ve notice a lot of labels are doing ‘digital releases’ of music nowadays but that’s not something we want to put our focus on. We’ll use all the digital tools we can to share and promote our music such as digital downloads, videos and whatnot, but our main focus will always be a physical copy of the music. We both love vinyl and I still buy cds regularly so it makes sense that we’ll be putting out physical records. But it’s true, internet has changed the musical landscape forever. I’ve always felt it was for the better as it’s much easier to lear about new bands and music, but I’m sure there’s a lot of people who would disagree with me on that.
Yup. Lots of people still want to sniff it right after the purchasing a physical product, right? :D
You putting out a physical version of MIDNIGHT SOULS’ final release in cooperation with Flood Productions. Who are they?
Flood Productions is basically a collective that promotes and releases hardcore music. A friend of mine called Kristof started Flood Floorshows back in 2011. The idea was to put on and promote intimate shows for hardcore and punk rock bands in Belgium. I basically got to know him when he put on a show for us together with LASTING TRACES a few years ago. A while ago he decided to start releasing records as well so now Flood is basically an organization that puts on shows, releases records and promotes local and international bands in the hardcore scene. As soon as we announced that we would be releasing a final song he contacted me and told me he was interested in working with us for that release. At first we wanted to do it ourselves but having someone take care of that side while we are busy with recording and all that kind of stuff is so helpful and because we all know Kristof we immediately said yes. Because I felt releasing my own band’s last record would make sense I asked him if we could collaborate on it and he said yes, which I’m very grateful for. He’s a great guy who puts on great shows and releases great music. Everyone should definitely check Flood out.
Great! So, one year after releasing “Going Through The Motions”, you’re readying your final release. Tell me more about this 7’’. What’s the timetable for it and when will we be finally able to put our hands on it?
We recorded it on May 4th at Oceanside Studios where we did Going Through The Motions. It’s just one song basically because there is no other material besides that song. That might seem stupid to some people but we really wanted a recorded version of it so we figured we’d just go for it. Right now we’re also wrapping up the artwork so everything will be ready as soon as possible. If all goes well we should have it ready by mid-June. Pre-orders should start pretty soon and our last show will be the ‘release’ show for the 7″ and after that any remaining copies will be sold online or in various distros. We’re still figuring out the final details about the release. It’s a pretty intense and fast process to get everything done in time, but we’re all very excited about how it’s shaping up.
Weren’t you tempted to write something special for the farewell and make it a 3- or 4-song EP?
At first we were but it just didn’t make sense to us. When we decided to stop being a band we had one song finished and a few ideas that we were working on. However it would have taken us another couple of months to finish those songs, and then another couple of months to record and release everything. As soon as the decision was made we started planning out our last shows and that gave us a window of about 3 months. We weren’t even planning on recording anything but after a few days we started throwing around the idea of recording and releasing that last song just for ourselves. That’s how the entire idea got started. Writing three more songs that we’d probably never play live didn’t really make sense to us. It might seem strange but the idea is basically to have a recorded version of the last song we ever wrote. The release itself serves as kind of a souvenir of what we were as a band and our very last show. It’s really something that’s for ourselves in the first place, and if people are interested in it or want to have something to remember us by they can get it too.
Back in September 2012 you wrote that you needed to get back into the right mindset to write new music and evolve as a band. Did you already know that the end is right behind the corner?
Back then we were not thinking about breaking up at all. We had just had a pretty busy summer and we were really trying to put the focus on writing new material. Honestly, the vibe in the band was very relaxed at that point, and it still is. When we wrote GTTM we were really pushing ourselves to the limit. Rehearsals often turned into fights and I think it’s safe to say that we almost broke up a couple of times in that period. This time we really wanted to be in good spirits while writing, and that seemed to work really well. After a while though it became clear that we needed to sit down and really think about what was left to do with MIDNIGHT SOULS. I think we avoided that conversation for a long time until we decided that it didn’t make sense to be a band that was just ‘around’ and not progressing anymore. That’s why we decided to stop being a band. It’s one of those things that you know in the back of your mind will happen one day and then all of a sudden it’s there. So to be completely honest, I think in the back of my mind I knew that MIDNIGHT SOULS wouldn’t exist that much longer, but at that point we were not thinking of breaking up.
How did you want to save it?
I don’t think we ever really had a plan to ‘save’ the band. Breaking up just felt right. We could have taken a break from touring for a year or we could have looked for different people to replace members, but that all seemed like avoiding the inevitable. MIDNIGHT SOULS was and is the five people that are in the band right now and that’s how we wanted to keep it. In the end we all agreed that breaking up was the best idea. I think everyone in the band had seen it coming for a while and everyone admit that they had thought about breaking up at one point in the past few months. I think it’s important to put out there that we are all okay with this idea. It felt like the right thing to do, even though sometimes decisions like this hurt because there’s a lot of great memories attached to them. We never wanted to be a band for 10 years and we were terrified of being the kind of band that’s still around when everyone feels they should have broken up. We decided we were in a very good place right now and that we would end the band on a positive note. And I think that’s exactly how it is.
Thanks! Sounds like a good summary to me.You guys performed live at Groezrock a week ago. How was it?
Honestly, as someone in a band stuff like Groezrock and those ‘big’ festivals are always weird to me. I know it’s cliché but big stages aren’t for us I feel. I’d rather play a venue packed with 50 or 100 kids then playing to a 1000 people on a festival. On the other hand festivals are always really nice to us because you get taken care of very well. You don’t need to worry about food and drinks, everything you need is provided and all the people are really helpful. For me personally Groezrock is really special. The very first time I went was back in 2002 and I can’t count the amount of awesome bands I saw on those stages. As a young kid, Groezrock was the perfect place to discover about new bands and browse the countless distros for new records and demos. So that made it pretty special for me to become a tiny part of that legacy. If anything I hope some 16 year old kid walked into our set, thought it was pretty cool and is now checking out hardcore bands because of that. That’s what happened to me when I was young and that’s the power that festivals have. People can/might go check out bands they’d usually not come into contact with that easily.
Do you have any other fests that hold a special place in your heart?
Oh there’s a bunch. As a band I really enjoyed playing New Noise Fest in Karlsruhe. The vibe at that place was just so awesome. It was so relaxed and there were a bunch of incredible bands on the line-up. I definitely enjoyed that one. Ziggypop in Merksplas has always been very kind to us. Also Ieperfest last summer was a lot of fun. We got programmed as the first band of the weekend on the ‘main’ stage. I think we played at 11 in the morning or something and we were kind of stressing out about anyone actually showing up for us. While we were soundchecking they weren’t even letting people in. But to our surprise as soon as the doors opened a huge bunch of people showed up and made it a real fun day. As someone who likes music, the best festival has to be Primavera Sound in Barcelona though. Me and Giel (MS) went there last year and it was amazing. The weather was incredible, the lineup was great and the atmosphere was so cool. Easily the most enjoyable festival I’ve ever been to.
Have you ever been to Fluff Fest?
I have not to be honest. Usually the timing never works out and in the end most of the bands I’d like to see seem to pass by in Belgium anyways so yeah… I hear the food is incredible though.
You really need to check it out sometime. Trust me :)
Alright, so your final show will take place one day after my birthday, on June 29th :) Any attractions you have planned for the farewell party?
Well of course we have the ‘release’ of our last 7″ which I guess is something special. Furthermore we’ll be playing a bunch of older songs we haven’t played in a while and we might do something special for our set that I’ll have to keep a secret. Besides all of that we’ve been hearing talk of a bunch of the other bands planning surprises and whatnot, but I have no idea what that all is about. It’s going to be a great night, that’s for sure. Funny as this may sound I’m really looking forward to it.
It would be cool to watch a video documenting the farewell. Is the venue tight?
I think the show will be filmed, so people that won’t be able to make it can see what it looked like. As well as us having a nice thing to look back on. The venue is pretty cool. The club we used to do all of our release shows got shut down last summer so it’s kind of a shame we couldn’t do it there. We first got an offer from another club but as soon as word started spreading we decided to move to a slightly bigger and easier to reach venue. That were things that became important as we got a bunch of messages and e-mails from people asking how they could get to the show I’ve seen a bunch of amazing bands play there over the years so it made sense doing it there.
Cool. Regarding the shows coming up next, has the schedule changed recently? Shoot us some details about where and when people can catch you before your retire.
Basically we’ll be doing one more run of shows. We are hitting up the UK this weekend and then in June we’ll play Leipzig, Hannover and Stuttgart in Germany, followed by one final show in Nijlen on June 29th which will be awesome. All dates and info are up on our facebook-page and all that. Go check that out if you want to follow updates and stuff.
Considering this farewell closing up, how have these past months been to you?
As soon as I got home from the practice where we decided to quit, everything just hit me all at once. It was a very mixed feeling of relief, anxiety, regret, fear and sadness. I felt lost for a while because MIDNIGHT SOULS was such a huge part of my life these past few years. Pretty much anything I did in that time is someway connected to MIDNIGHT SOULS. Right now everything has settled down and I can honestly say I feel pretty at ease with our decision. It’s weird knowing that everything we’re doing now is a ‘last time’ but we made the right decision. Right now I’m just looking forward to our last shows and to get the 7″ finished. I’m pretty confident people will really like it.
Do you plan to continue playing music in other band(s)?
I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing music. To me it’s one of the funnest things in the world. As far as actively being in a band I can’t say. Our drummer Stef and me are doing a band called THE JESUS POLICE right now, but it’s nothing very serious or active at the moment. We’re taking it slow, just having fun. Right now I’m planning on putting more time and energy in some other parts of my life, but I’ll definitely always be involved in music for sure. I have so many plans for different kinds of bands that I’m actually worried I won’t be able to do all of them haha.
What is your earliest memory of MIDNIGHT SOULS? Oh, and if it’s possible to say, what has been the highlight of your time in the band?
Oh man. My earliest memory… I can still remember the moment where we decided to start the band. It was really on a whim to be honest. My earliest fond memory is definitely of our first show. We had just put up our demo online and we didn’t know what to expect. As soon as we started playing kids started moshing and singing along… That was just mindblowing to me. The highlights are too many to name. Releasing a 7″ and an LP have always been dreams of mine so both of those are definitely highlights. Being able to tour and see so many beautiful and interesting places. Meeting people in different countries that I now consider some of my best friends… Learning a lot about myself. Honestly everything we did was a highlight in some way.
Do you think that MIDNIGHT SOULS would ever come back and play more shows? How do you feel about reunions anyway? :)
We’ve jokingly talked about this but I don’t think we’ll ever come back. I don’t think people in 3, 5 or 10 years will be hope or care for a MIDNIGHT SOULS reunion so… My opinion about all that stuff differs from band to band I guess. It can be fun when it’s done well and for the right reasons. But sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. I mean I don’t understand the madness over the BLACK FLAG/FLAG reunion. It’s not good and there’s no reason at all for them to do this. But on the other hand, some of the most fun I’ve had at a show in recent years was when I saw GORILLA BISCUITS so who am I to say what’s cool and what’s not? I just hope hardcore doesn’t turn into a place where every show consists out of 4 reunited bands. Young bands need to get a chance to get up on the stage as well. Nostalgia isn’t the formula to progression…
Alright, let’s go back to the label for a while. VLR002 is coming soon. What would that be? :)
It’s something we are really excited about. We are currently working over the details but both Robby and me are very stoked for this release. I can’ t tell you a lot right now, but we’ll be announcing everything soon. Right now all I can say is that it’s something that involves people we both really like who are doing something really cool musically. We’re throwing some ideas around for what would follow after that, which might not be a record really, but it’ll be connected to our label for sure. If both of those go well I think we can say we had a great year so we’re just focusing on that right now.
As a label, will you be helping out bands to polish their sound in the studio?
If bands want advice or my opinion on anything related to their sound or music I’ll gladly give them my insights, but it’s not my goal to act as an ‘extra member’ of the band or some kind of producre. I fully believe in the artists being creative and striving for what’s best. I can offer advice on certain techniques or get them in touch with people I’ve worked with in the past but it’s not my goal to join them in the studio and help them record their music. Of course when they ask me I’d be happy to help, but it’s not something that is a priority for me.
How do you think, as a small label, what are the biggest challenges you’ll face?
Well we live in an age where downloading music illegally has become pretty much ‘normal behaviour’ so I guess that will be the biggest challenge of them all. Trying to keep head above water and earn enough to break even on a release is the highest hope we have right now. If we can earn back enough to pay for the next release we’ll be happy. I know it’s hard and everyone has horror stories, but I want to work with bands I feel earn trust and support and we will try and provide that for them.
Did you apply some standards derived from experience of other fellow labels you know?
Right now there’s no real ‘plan’ as far as what we offer bands. We’re working with what we feel is fair and what I have been offered in my time in MIDNIGHT SOULS. Most of those agreements are open for discussion for sure. One thing I want to maintain is an open and honest relationship with the bands we work with. We are not a big label with a big budget, but at the same time we won’t make big promises we can’t deliver in the end. I think that’s a good way to work with people. If everyone is being honest you know what you are getting into from the start and working together will be a lot easier.
What other punk labels would you call “worth checking out”?
People definitely need to check out Flood Hardcore from Belgium. They’re doing really great things. Furthermore I love the stuff Day By Day Records from Germany puts out. Other than that I feel like Pink Mist, Fist In The Air and Holy Roar from the UK are all very solid. And then off course there’s the big players like Deathwish and Bridge Nine. Continually putting out solid releases.
It’s been a good time talkin’ to you, Bert. feel free to add anything you like. Take care, man!
Thank you very much for your interest and your continued support over the years. It was my pleasure. Listen to JAWBREAKER.
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