Former Johann Johansson collaborators Echo Collective

Every now and then we might swerve slightly away from our Nordic roots and in the case of Echo Collective we have headed to Belgium. However, there is still a connection – the fact that Echo Collective have collaborated with the wonderful (and dearly missed) Icelandic musician Johann Johannsson. We learn more about their new project and album – ‘The See Within‘.

Tell us who you are and what is your sound?

We are Echo Collective. 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 can not 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.

Our new album, ‘The See Within’ is our first album of original composition.  Written by founders Margaret Hermant and Neil Leiter along with Gary De Cart and Charlotte Danhier, the sound that we developed is really a natural sound.  We do not manipulate the sound in post production farther than some reverb, but we have developed a desire to push our classical instruments to the limits.  By using the Magnetic Resonator Piano and really exploring ways of recording the stringed instruments and harp, we have found a palette of sound colours that really reflect ourselves.

Some describe it as post classical or neo classical.  Which are basically made up categories.  What is clear is that we come to the process with a tool chest from many different genres: classical, ambient, rock, pop, improvisation etc.  We are completely focused on reaching people on an emotional level, a human level.  Where sound texture, sound colour and texture, direction, and impact are the important factors.

What exciting projects have you got coming up?

We are in process of developing the live show for ‘The See Within’.  And we are trying to adapt to the changing times and marketplace.  We are super excited to be developing a streamed version of the show for our managment’s new virtual platform ‘Virtual Circle’ (Polyarts, Harrison Parrott).  

Where did you grow up and what music influenced you?

Neil grew up in North Carolina USA and Margaret grew up in the country side near Liege Belgium.  The rest of Echo Collective either grew up in Belgium or in France.  And though we all grew up studying classical music in the traditional sense, we definitely have a wide range of influences.  In our capacity as a collective, it is really hard not to be influenced by the exceptional people we have had the chance to collaborate with.  We really are fortunate to have worked directly with such amazing artists.

What cool places do you recommend to visit in Brussels (bars, restaurants, etc)?

Brussels is an extremely diverse and magical place.  It really is a lot of small villages smashed together.  You can walk almost anywhere, and as you walk from street to street, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, the changes and surprises abound.  It really is hard to pick out our favourites, but we do have some places that we tend to go together!  The Brusilia in Schaerbeek,  Les Brasseurs in the center, and Bar du Canal are our normal haunts and hangout spots.

We love recommendations – what have you been listening to?

Clarice Jensen – The Experience of Repetition as Death

Maarten Vos and Sebastian Plano – &

Rutger Hoedemaekers – The Age of Oddities

Mau Loseto – Hologram

Dive deeper with this fascinating piece that explores the ‘big family’ that is the Echo Collective

Interview by Alex Minnis

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