Belgium is often associated with praline chocolates, waffles, beer and the unassuming cartoon hero recently rejuvenated in 3D, Tintin, closely followed by the Smurfs. Crazy experimental jazz musicians don’t usually come anywhere near the top of the “Best of Belgium” list.
But that’s all about to change when The Experimental Tropic Blues Band, born in Liège about a decade ago, bring their “best burger” attitude to L’Astral during Montréal en Lumière on Feb. 18.
“We just want people to have fun, express themselves, party with us,” explained guitarist and lead vocalist J.J. Thomsin, who goes by the stage name “Boogie Snake.”
Their most recent album, Liquid Love, is somewhere between a dance party, a mosh pit and a jam session and, while it’s sometimes physically confusing—you won’t know whether to dance, jump or just shake erratically—its high energy, hard rocking, experimental sounds will eradicate those doubts and fears as quickly as they came.
The album, which was largely influenced by the band’s time in the United States during 2010-2011, packs punch after punch of loud, homage-paying bluesy goodness into a mere 34 and a half minutes. Songs like “T.E.T.B.B. Eat Sushi,” written about the first time they ate sushi in New York City, and “The Best Burger” aren’t just about the differences in cuisine the band members experienced during their travels, they’re also about an attitude.
“We wrote [“The Best Burger”] after SXSW [Festival] in Austin, Texas,” said Thomsin, laughing. “It was funny. Everywhere we went people had this energy like, ‘we have the best bugers!’ They’ve got the mojo!”
Jon Spencer, who lives in New York City where he produced and mixed the band’s latest LP at NY Hed studio, helped to incorporate that attitude into Liquid Love, adding “cool instruments and ideas,” like the double bass featured on the album.
“It was the best experience we’ve had in a recording studio,” Thomsin added.
But our neighbours to the south aren’t the only ones with mojo. The gusto of Thomsin and his bandmates, Jeremy Alonzi (Dirty Coq, guitar/vocals) and David Dinverno (Devil D’Inferno, drums), comes through in their music and their nicknames.
“When we were kids—when we were 20—we came up with these stage names when we would play because our real names were not very fun, they were too serious,” said Thomsin. “Plus, in blues everyone has a nickname.”
Despite their leaning toward the “experimental” part of their name, T.E.T.B.B. carry the traditions of classic blues throughout their album. With sharp guitar licks, gruff vocals and hilarious anecdotal voice-overs about boners and partying, there’s more mojo in this album than you ever thought was possible.
And it’s that same mojo that’s fuelling their touring fire. They’re spending the majority of this year headlining dates all over Europe, Canada and parts of the U.S. Between jet-setting across the globe, the trio are writing new music for an upcoming self-produced EP along with creating acoustic sets too.
“People want acoustic songs for showcases, but our songs aren’t really made to be acoustic, so we really have to reinvent them,” Thomsin said, adding that touring is when they have the most fun.
“We just want to have fun and maybe the people who were there last year will come back and we’ll make more friends,” Thomsin said. “We want to meet new people, new bands and make new fans so we can come back. We just want to have fun, that’s all.”
The Experimental Tropic Blues Band play during Montréal en Lumière at L’Astral (305 Ste-Catherine St. W.) on Feb. 18.