When I was 14 years old, my friends and I listened to punk rock. Everything we did was related to that. They bought a skateboard and got quite good — I eventually bought one too but utterly sucked at it. Next to skating, it was very clear that we would start a band of our own.
Guitarist, but not by choice
Michaël, the first of us to buy an instrument got himself a bass, normally the toughest position to fill in a band.
I had been part of the drum corps of my high school for several years and I was very keen on being the drummer of the band. But then Matthias — my best friend of all people — bought a drum set. I was really bleak because all that was left was the guitar which is obviously the least exotic of all instruments. At least, that was my thinking at the time. Karma got to Matthias once we started performing; by the time he was still setting up his kit, I was already done with my soundcheck.
Michaël and Matthias’ cousin Jonathan was also interested in joining our troop; our second guitarist was found.
The four of us quite literally learnt music in the band. We started rehearsals in the first month after I had purchased my guitar. We were really bad, but we loved our time together. Pretty much all of my free time in high school consisted of the band, whether it was practising, going to shows, or just hanging out together.
Because we were beginners, singing and playing an instrument was a too tough combination back then, so we found a singer in Jonas. Later on, Michaël and Jonas swapped places. That was a good decision. Mich is to this date still one of the best entertainers I’ve ever seen. He was truly an amazing frontman.
At some point, we started to be presentable enough to do some local gigs. Always the opening act, we played with some of our local heroes such as A 200 Club and I Against I.
In my last year of high school, we performed at the open mic of my school and we rocked the stage. No one would ever accuse us of being great (or even good) musicians, but we were definitely fun to watch. That night, we shared the stage with Panopticum, a progressive rock band in the style of Dream Theater that would produce musicians like Isaac Delahaye who later would join the gothic metal band Epica. I couldn’t believe we were performing with such amazing musicians.
Each year in our home town Ypres, De Nacht van de 1001 Salamanders would be the place to be after the final exams. It was one of the bigger festivals in the region. Some scouts for the end-of-year festival were in the crowd at the open mic.
Selected as the home town band for De Nacht van de 1001 Salamanders, we opened for Belgian Asociality and ‘T Hof Van Commerce. We were such amateurs that when the organisers asked us how much we charged we had no clue whatsoever what to say. We just blurted out something and we thought we were pushing our luck. We found out later that the band opening for us had received more money.
At De Nacht van de 1001 Salamanders, we performed for an audience of about 1,001 people, which is still the biggest crowd I’ve ever played for. Later we shared the stage with bands such as Nailpin and Heideroosjes, but I don’t think any show has ever topped the size and the vibe of 1001 Salamanders.
On the record
In the months after that, we randomly were contacted by Maks!, a magazine by the Flemish education board with a print of 250,000 copies, distributed across all high schools in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). We had a spread in the magazine and I still have no clue how they heard about us. But people all over the country saw it and messaged us. It was amazing.
Later that year, we entered a rock rally at a youth house in West Flanders. We won two days in the recording studio. Time enough to record some songs. The studio wasn’t great, but then again, neither were we. I’m happy we got a record of some of our favourite songs.
Then university happened, and some of our band members wanted to rehearse and perform more than Jonathan and I had time for. The others started a second band, and that soon became their priority project. Like for most high school bands, university was the end of us.
The Inside Coming Out EP
Our EP was released in 2002. The six songs on it are nothing special, but they are crafted by us and made with love. Their lyrics tried to spread a positive message contrary to a lot of the other punk rock bands in our genre.
Here are those six songs. If you’re going to listen to any of them, I’d suggest “No More” — the song that our audience would sing along to (it’s a great feeling when people sing something you’ve created) — or “Bullybrains” — which I think is one of the more musically interesting songs on the EP.
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