Interview: Warhola (Belgium) on his debut album Young Loving and playing The Great Escape

Last Friday, Belgian artist Warhola (real name Oliver Symons) released his long awaited debut album Young Loving – his first release since his 2016 EP Aura. The night before the album was due to drop, Warhola was playing The Great Escape in Brighton, England – so I sat down with Oliver to chat about the project, the release, the developing stage show and his music videos.

This is a pretty big week for you. It’s album release week.

Yeah, it’s so exciting. Tomorrow it’s album release day, so probably have a little party tonight.

Is this show at The Great Escape doubling as, almost an album release show?

Almost. At 12:00 at night, it will be release day, so it’s cool.

It’s your debut. Obviously, you’ve been involved in other projects before this one. You’ve released an EP under this guise, plenty of singles but it feels like to me this is something special to be releasing your first full-length record as Warhola.

It feels really special. I released two albums with my other band previously and then, as you said, the EP, but been working on this album for almost three years now. It’s really special that it’s finally being released, so I’m really looking forward.

I remember Aura coming out a few years back. It’s a beautiful record. But on Young Loving, everything from the instrumentation to the vocals just sound crisper and more produced, really. Can you talk me through a little bit about how the production has gone over the last three years to produce this record?

I always start writing on my own. I produce most of the tracks on my own, but for this I wanted this to sound a little bit more organic. The Aura EP was pretty dark. It was really electronic. I wanted to mix more with organic elements. Give it a more pure and sincere feel, I think.

I think November 2017, we started recording some drums and then I start playing with it on a computer. That’s always been the process. I kept on working on the production, and I started to find a way, I think, to make my voice more pure and more in the centre of the songs. I think that worked really well, so I’m really happy about that.

The music videos that are released are always quite incredible.

Thank you.

Can you talk me through a little bit about, who you’ve worked with to now, and maybe some of the directors that you’ve got coming up for future releases?

A good friend of mine, since actually the release of Aura is Nicolas Karakatzanis. He’s a really amazing DOP. He’s doing really well around the world. I’m so lucky that he always wants to work with me. A lot of projects I do with him, but I also, when I’m working with other directors, I always say I communicate with him.

We share thoughts. The video of “Glow” is something totally different. I went to Columbia, and I looked for a Colombian team there and we just went out to film for a whole day. Then I sent all the files back to Belgium, and then we edited in Belgium, so that’s how it worked.

What was that part of the world like? Had you been there before, to Columbia?

No. It was actually the first time for me in Southern America and it was amazing. I really loved it. I went there for almost a month. I really fell in love with Columbia and with the Colombian people. The only bad thing is that I broke my ankle there.

Oh, no.

That’s still an injury. That’s still with me right now, but I totally love the country.

Did you play any shows while you were there?

No. I focused on the video for more than a week there, and then the rest of the days we really travelled around a little, and just enjoyed the country.

We were talking a little bit about what your stage setup is here. You’ve got a couple of drummers, couple of synth players joining you. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that all comes together live. Have you always played with a group like that, or has that evolved for the newer music?

No, actually Warhola started in 2014. I was just making some demos in my room, and then I needed to play them live, because I participated in an event in Belgium. We were selected so I wanted to play live for the first time there. But the beats, they were really complicated and nervous. Lots of elements and I really didn’t want just on Ableton to play everything. That was me, just trying to figure out a way to play them live. I searched for two drummers who played all the beats live. That’s how it started and then two synth players and since then, it’s always been like that.

Is there a lot of rehearsal that goes into a show like this?

Yeah, of course. All the songs are made by me in my room in the production, so it’s totally different to play them live with a live band but it’s always really interesting. I prepare the rehearsal and then I give them all the files and then we start rehearsing and make new version of new songs. It’s a really nice experience to make another version of the songs I already made at home, actually.

I was about to ask if it sort of transforms in that environment. It sounds like it does.

You really feel a lot more like the live vibe. I think it’s a big difference.

Your album comes out tomorrow and then, what’s next for you? Are you touring it around?

First of all, I’ll do a lot of showcases, small promo shows. I’ll go to Paris and Berlin next week, so lots of promo.

You’re doing a show in Belgium this weekend?

In Belgium, yeah. Lots of promo now. Then we’ll do some festivals in Belgium and the Netherlands, I think. Then after summer, I hope we’ll do a little tour and visit more countries.

It’ll be one of those albums I think, that’s going to just slowly grow around the world.

I really hope so, yeah.

Hopefully in Australia, as well.

Yeah, I really hope so. I think indeed it’s, maybe not an instant album. It’s an album I think, that has to grow a little. People have to get to know it and start listening to it, and I hope they will like it.

We talked about how it took three years to make the record. Now, from a lyrical point of view is, you’re releasing songs now that you wrote three years ago. Do those songs still feel relevant to you now?

For me, that’s kind of a nice thing because I feel like this album has been like a summary for me of the last three years. Because some parts of the lyrics are still three years ago, it feels like it’s more complete the album, for me. It makes sense that it’s not all about one moment in my life. It’s like in three years.

It’s, the last three years have been really amazing and really hectic for me. Also with my other project that I did so many things. I think this is about what I went through in the last three years, and that’s why I think it makes sense. When I thought of the title Young Loving, it all came together. I really like the global thing about that.

And finally, as you hit the road and tour around the world, you’ll get the opportunity at festivals to share many stages with incredible acts. Is there anyone that you’d love to perform with one day, either on the stage or collaborate with? Is there anyone that’s on that list for you?

There are many. Right now, I would like to perform with Michael Stipe from REM.

Oh, yeah?

I’m really liking REM right now. It’s really strange. I’ve always been a fan, like when I was younger and now in the last two months I really got into Automatic for the People again and started listening to it again. Right now that’s kind of a hero for me, but it always changes. I’m not really like someone who has one or two heroes for, but it’s always changing.

Young Loving is out now. Head to Warhola’s Facebook Page for more details about the record, upcoming tour dates and more.

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor of the AU review. You can find him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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