Happiness. Enthusiasm. Anguish. Sadness.
They seem like loose words in an endless dictionary, but they all have a tenuous connection between them: they mirror emotions, which take us from heaven to hell in minutes. Our hope seems infinite when we believe in something, but that hope is quickly swallowed up by loneliness and sadness when we see that something we glimpsed as possible is no longer so.
But as the old saying goes, hope is the last thing to die – and we have a duty to channel our negative energies into something positive, based on the best we bring to the world: ourselves and our talent.
When we close a door, we open a window. And it is with new, open windows that our hopes are renewed. The breeze flows outside, straight to our faces. Our soul receives that caress from nature with such strength and eagerness as if it were a message. Our problems, our anguish, our truths and our lies, are stripped away by an open window and a breeze.
Maarten Devoldere is back with his solo project. And it is with a broken heart that we feel in our most fragile state ever, open to the world from one end to the other, without beating about the bush or daydreaming. Stay with him.
HA HA HEARTBREAK
We know Maarten for his immaculate work in Balthazar, the Belgian band that catches our hearts with every new song they release, but it is with his solo project, Warhaus, that we feel we have known the artist forever as if we were talking to a best friend.
And it’s not a fantasy at all: after two albums that play on repeat in our heads almost every day (We Fucked a Flame Into Being in 2016, Warhaus in 2017) – where we highlight unique themes like The Good Lie, Beaches, Mad World, Love’s a Stranger or Dangerous, this album differentiates itself by what Devoldere has best: talent, in its purest and immaculate state. He is with us, and we are with him. He needs to be heard, we need to hear him. He needs positive energy, we give him ours.
Without further ado, we move on to Ha Ha Heartbreak, and the heavy anguish of a broken heart. Who has never had it? The feeling of loneliness, endless disappointment, the fear of one’s own shadow and of living. It seems that there is no end to it, that we cannot distinguish ourselves from the darkness that is evident in our minds.
But out of nowhere, light appears in our life. And that strong light brings hope to everything we have done or questioned. The flame rekindles and the adrenaline is at its peak: we are alive again.
And this is the way we unroll the record, composed of ten songs, separated by forty minutes.
Music is the entry point to this new life of Warhaus – and it’s amidst the cruel world of unrequited passions that we’re seduced by the endless rhythm of piano and drums in unison, in such an epic way that we can’t stop listening, that we hear the album’s first single and introductory theme. Welcome to “Open Window”. The beat sounds familiar, but at the same time completely new and fresh, as if for the first time. This beat is a candidate for the best of the year, so epic it is. We feel a connection to all the artist’s works, almost like a retrospective of everything he’s been through, wanting to close this chapter of his life, in the most exquisite way he can: with art and seduction.
The way the song was conceived is linked to a very beautiful video clip where all the memories, sensations and experiences lived by the artist are laid bare, literally falling from the sky, while he goes about eating, as if he were a superhero, without feelings and strong until the end – but fallen into his reality, of loving someone who does not correspond.
As strange and incredible as it sounds, the song gives me reassurance and confidence. It gave me immense hope. This hope is also reflected in love, with its instrumental already becoming one of my 2022 mainstays for a relationship that is for life.
The connection between the songs is clear, and it is in the second song, “When I Am With You”, that we start dancing. The rhythm goes from epic to smooth, almost jazz-like, where we have Maarten’s voice roaming softly in our heads. The video proves it: Devoldere is back, he dances and finds himself again. He feels good about his past, wants to live in the present and only has to have positive thoughts for his future.
If the world is made of connections, this record is a symbol of that: we advance in record time to the third theme, the second single of the record, “It Had To Be You”. The dizzying speed that is applied in this theme should be in any action movie where we can’t stop still with so many emotions that appear at the same time on the screen. The immaculate instrumental work and Maarten’s singing are extraordinary – and we feel like the artist in this incessant search for our destiny and for everything we long to have and want in our lives.
We slow down and come back down to earth: the last single released before the release of this record is “Time Bomb”, the fourth track of the album. And we return to a more melancholic and introspective rhythm, almost as if we were talking to ourselves. The drums, the bass, the guitar, the keys and the symphonic part seduce us, almost as if they were hypnotizing us. And we confirm: we are extremely connected to everything that is happening on this record. We highlight another very interesting video clip. We feel a connection between all of them, almost like a short film.
We’ve reached the middle. And it is with desires and wishes that we get back on our feet. “Desire” is the motto of this entourage. The seductive instruments are in a unique symbiosis that symbolizes all that is best between human contact and our thoughts – that which sends shivers down our spine, makes our legs tremble and gives a tremendous adrenaline rush. With each listen, we vibrate with a new feeling.
Hindsight and Struggle also have low moments, where it feels like we’ve returned to the beginning of this journey. “I’ll Miss You Baby” conveys just that to us. A way to review our life and all those feelings that have marked us. More than a journey, it’s a revival of our memory and of everything we’ve had so far. We laugh at the past to cement the steps of the present. And we see Maarten stripped of wills in front of us. The calm and unique voice, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, amplifies on a large scale – and even in a kind of screaming – where we feel nostalgia – we see that there is not even a stretch where the artist is out of tune: we go from bass to treble in milliseconds, with an immense naturalness.
This emotional journey had to have a turning point: instrumental, no voices, just us, and our thoughts. “Mondello’s Melody” sounds like something out of the American series Better Call Saul – and although very short, it’s so beautiful in its way that we can’t stop listening.
“Batteries & Toys” is the perfect song for your upcoming summer. We feel the breeze on our faces, the scorching heat, the smiles and melancholy of a car ride by the sea. We feel the artist detached, back to the world, with a more positive, less harsh and abrasive rhythm. We never tire of saying that the instrumental is extraordinary, but this one is calm and serene. It does us good to the soul.
Almost coming to the end, “Shadow Play” gives us back the Warhaus of 2016/2017, with a more tempestuous and neuronic theme, where we always feel on alert and stressed. It sounds like we’re asleep, but we’re oozing with nerves on our skin. It feels like it, but maybe it’s a no-no. We want to rest, but we’re spotting all our thoughts, in the dimness of the pain and shadow that affects us so much. It is very beautiful, but at the same time revolting. We want to wake up, but we can’t. We need to be in this loop until dawn.
And it is with an on-repeat ballad that Warhaus ends this album. “Best I Ever Had” is a declaration of love for everything that has happened in your life so far. It’s that moment when I feel like we’re never going to be happy again, that we’ve reached the ultimate in life. We are in pain, but the pain is also a beautiful moment of learning what we know we should not want or have in the future. We dance with our corpses to smile in the future – and it’s a very beautiful way to end the record: burying, for good, the heartbreak.
It is no secret: I am a huge fan of Maarten Devoldere. His contagious talent takes me to every corner of my life, from the cruellest to the most extraordinary. In a year where I witnessed all the best things in life but also losses that we always think are impossible, I decided to take a chance and try to talk to him. And I did. I talked a bit with Maarten Devoldere about his new album. Take a look at the interview below:
[WtMM] Half a decade of Warhaus. What has changed since the project began?
[Maarten Devoldere] I’ve changed, I’ve grown older. Back then I had a relationship with Sylvie. I was proof-living the Rock N’ Life. It was very chaotic back then, and when I listen back to those records I feel Warhaus was some kind of a persona I created.
I think I was very honest in my lyrics. I feel like I had created a persona and I think this record it’s all about a heartbreak, so I think I’ve grown a lot since then. I’ve matured and you get to hear a more vulnerable, honest side. Lots of things changed actually, but too much to go into I think.
The album starts with Open Window, which almost sounds like the closing of a chapter in your musical life (similar to the sonority of previous albums). Do you feel that there is a sonority from the Warhaus character before and after this theme?
Yeah, well, there’s definitely a similarity because it was always me. You grow in life and you change a bit, but obviously, lots of things happened during the timeline between albums. You know it’s just your personality and your identity.
The older I get, the more I find it more playful to make music. I think I was very serious when I was younger. I was so much older and dumb back then.
It’s funny you say it feels like a closing chapter in my musical life.
I can see what you’re saying, because in my personal life, a couple of months ago, I started dancing, something I’ve never done before in my life, so there’s definitely something changing within me and it’s breaking free in a way. I think, for example, dancing is a result of that. But I think it must be clear that the loss had a lot to do with it too.
I didn’t have a woman in my life for the last few years and I always went from girl to girl, until the point of this heartbreak that was the first time I was alone and I was so heartbroken and down.
But then I had to become complete. I had to overcome what happened.
I read somewhere that artists need a muse. To inspire them, that they don’t embrace their own feminine spirit, the anima, and I thought it was exciting. I felt that was me when I was younger. And so by being alone I felt the need to embrace and find the muse within me, which was very hard and painful in the beginning.
I grew a lot. It made me more complete.
I was struggling with addictions as well. I quit drinking. So I think my whole life opened up in a constructive, beautiful way and that’s what you’re hearing as well (on the album) – what I feel.
But it’s only part of the journey.
Now I’m here and it’s gonna evolve in many different. Let’s see where this leads.
What is the song that you most enjoyed making on this album?
I’m very proud of all the songs on the album, but if I had to choose one, it would be I’ll Miss You Baby.
The way I sing it it’s very pure. I’m really thinking that I miss someone.
Maybe the same way that I started dancing, with my body it’s like my voice became freer as well to express itself in different ways, so I think that was very liberating.
I’ll choose this one today, but tomorrow I would probably choose another one.
What did you enjoy doing the most during the recording of this album?
I was in a hotel room in Palermo and I didn’t see anything of the city because I was in a very introspective mood. I only went out to grab some food.
I was heartbroken and I just wanted to make music. Find things that would resonate with people.
A year later we went back to Palermo to take pictures and make a video with two friends because I had recorded the album there. I wanted to go back and it felt like it was the first time.
I saw the city. It’s actually a nice city.
I don’t know if it was so pleasurable at first. Maybe the pleasure came later when we were arranging everything and putting the strings on it, so the songs started getting bigger and bigger and I was amazed by the final result.
One of my best friends and I worked together really well and I gave him lots of freedom on the record, it was so heartwarming and fun.
Later on, I was getting over the heartbreak and I could really start enjoying the songs more and celebrating them in a way.
What feedback have you been getting from the songs that have already been released over the last few months?
I see some reactions online and they’re really heartwarming. Everybody is very enthusiastic and that means a lot to me because obviously, it is a record that it’s close to me.
I think if I would get bad critics on this one, it would really hurt me.
Normally I can like take a distance and I’m like, yeah, whatever, I’m going to make a new album and I get over it, but this album is more special for me.
I can’t wait to go out and play the songs live because that’s when you really feel the connection with the audience and what they think of the songs.
Your shows are usually small and intimate. Do you intend to keep this connection with the audience or expand to larger venues?
That depends on how many tickets we sell.
If we grow as a band and we can play bigger venues, that’s nice, because then maybe I can afford the tour bus and I have a back liner to put up my shift.
But for now, we’re doing it quite small and it’s cosy in a way. We are a little team.
There’s definitely going to be a connection with the audience and I think I’m going to try to connect more with the audience as well.
We can sing together.
How do you define each of the albums in one word?
We Fucked a Flame Into Being
Ha Ha Heartbreak
What can fans expect from Warhaus after this album?
I can tell you that I’m always writing.
Now I had to do lots of promotional stuff, make videos and stuff like that and I couldn’t always write, If things become calmer again, I’m going to start writing again.
I don’t have a plan yet.
It’s possible I do something with Sylvie again, let’s see.
So yeah, I can only promise that I’m gonna work hard too.
There’s something new in the world, and I am still figuring it all out.
Where The Music Meets would like to thank Maarten Devoldere, Kate Whitby, Lara Pledger, Christian Pierre and PIAS for the interview.
Warhaus is just that: the rawest, most beautiful and sensitive version of the artist Maarten Devoldere – an anthem for feelings, an anthem for passion and an incredible way of expressing himself, worthy of a true artist. His good taste converts a moment that could be sad into something beautiful – and Ha Ha Heartbreak has a theme for all of us, from those who are in need of a friendly word to get over a love disappointment, to the supreme lovers who are with a silly grin from ear to ear. The album is incredible, and it’s an exciting way to kick off November. A WtMM recommendation.