Pop punk, energy and a charismatic leader: we introduce you to For I Am
For I Am, a punk rock band from Belgium delivered a great show at the PRH beach stage. And here’s our chat with Hanne, lead singer of the band!
RP: So, first of all, great show! Great job, guys. So, the first question that I ask every band that I have the chance to talk with. What is your impression of the festival?
FIA: Oh my god. It’s the best festival ever. We came here for the first time in 2015, with our guitar player and his now wife. And immediately we fell in love. It’s just the best festival in the world. Like we have the cocktails. We’ve got a super, super beautiful environment. We’ve got a river. The super, super good bands. I think that they also do a very good job of booking bands. So yeah, we just love it. It’s our paradise, a punk paradise!
RP: Regarding the punk rock scene, do you think that it is changing? And how do you look at the scene now? After you have been involved in it…
FIA: I do think that punk was bigger in the 80s-90s and millies. But that also is the reason why it has its charm now, I think, in some way, because, well, we grew up listening to punk music. My favourite bands were No Use for A Name, Bad Religion. Maybe some less known bands such as Inspection 12 and stuff like that. But I’ve always loved punk music. I’ve always been involved in punk music because my uncle had a web zine in the 90s. It was called punkupdates.com, and it was rather big, all across Europe. And so, he always sent me a shitload of albums and songs and bands that I should listen to. And I did. And that’s what got me into punk. And I’m so grateful that he did that. Because when I was 12, I started my first punk band with some friends from school. And at that point in time, that was a normal thing to do. Like, there were a lot of bands, when I would look around my school ever, like at least three to four school bands, like not really school band, more bands formed by people at school – anyway, they were playing punk. They would go and skate somewhere or whatever. So, it was cool back then. Now I’m a teacher, actually, at the same school. And that gives me a very good view on how to compare the two. And when I was in high school, which is like 15 years ago – so when I was there was like: ‘Hey, are you in a band?’ And now it is like: ‘Who’s the DJ?’ There are no bands anymore, which is a pity. And I think in some way, you can see it here. Like, if you come to this festival, for instance, or – we’re from Belgium so if you go to BrakRock or Groezrock – all those festivals, I think that the average age is our age, 30 years old. I’m going to say this, I’m not sure if he will like this, but our drummer, he’s very young, because we had another drummer. But just due to life, which happens, of course, he decided to quit the band. And then we were looking for another drummer. And it was kind of difficult. But on the other side, there was this one guy, and he was really interested from the start. And he was 17 years old, which we thought was awesome because, okay, we’re way older than he is. But of course, what happened is, he is the son of Pierre, who is in FOD. So, yeah, he is in the family. And that’s why he’s still interested in punk. But I think he’s an exception, unfortunately. I don’t know, maybe in 20 years-time, punk will be super cool again. I was just talking to Tom from Almeida and we were that maybe this is a good thing, now at this point in time. Punk Rock Holiday is a little paradise. It’s for people who love punk and still have fun. It’s just a bit of paradise, where we could just be ourselves. Where nobody gives a shit about anything, you can look the way you want to look, you can be the person that you want to be. And that’s always, for me, that’s always been what punk is all about, like just being who you want to be. I just wished for my students that they would see that. That they could just live something like this.
RP: I agree. Well, punk has always conveyed also a message. I mean, most of the bands have also a political message. Or, I don’t know, even if they are having fun, they are conveying a message. And in our political situation, right now, we need that more than a simple DJ. Do you think that maybe bands like you or bigger bands, or smaller bands, can help kids to face society?
FIA: At least that’s what I hope. Like, again pardon my French, but a lot of rappers or, I don’t know, techno music or whatever is cool now, is about sex. Which is the most important thing in the world right now, for every teenager and everybody. And I pity those people. I think the main message that we, as a band want to convey is… I know there’s a lot of bands are very politically involved. We are to some extent, not that much, not as much as other bands might be. But for the new album, this is kind of like a spoiler album. But we’ve got like one song that is really – definitely – about politics. It’s not like we’re a political band, but we are anti-fascist. We’re anti anything that is against equality and everything. So, we definitely want to spread that message. On the other hand, we do think that there’s a lot of bands doing that, which is a good thing. So, we want to be the band that’s also focusing on the good aspects of life. Like fun, love, having friends, just being happy with who you are, no matter what, no matter what you look like, no matter who you are. Just you are you and you should stay you. And I think that’s one of the most important messages.
RP: Which is, anyway, political, I think.
FIA: Yeah! You’re right. Be what you want to be is a political message. And that’s what I try to teach my students as well. I teach them not to judge anyone. And that’s the very difficult thing about teaching kids – well, kids, I’m talking about 16 to 18-year-old boys and girls – they’re on the brink of being adults. And that’s a very difficult age. They get a lot of influences from social media, and what I try to teach them, which is very difficult, is like to have a broad perspective. Just listen to everybody before you make a judgment. And I can see that now that is becoming more and more difficult to do that for them. Because I’m not naming anybody, of course, but I had this argument with one of my students, and we were talking about, for instance, being a transgender, which is something that is becoming normalized and which is, of course, a good thing. Because you feel the way you are, basically. And one of my students said: ‘Oh, well, – we have someone in our staff that is transgender – I’m not going to do this, I’m not going to call this man a woman’. And I asked: What gives you the right? This woman has never been a man. So why do you think that you have the power to say anything different than that?’. I think it’s important that you get them thinking about what they’re saying because sometimes they make a judgment like a snap. Like: ‘This is what I think? ‘And I am free to express what I think because freedom of speech is…’ – It sounds so American! – laughing – You can have freedom of speech. But think about who you’re hurting, what is it worth? Just being able to say: this is what I think versus this is what will scare a person for life. And that is something that I really want to teach my students. But I also want to convey that in my music, you know, which is very important. And that’s why I’ve always loved punk music.
RP: So, talking again about music, you give me a spoiler of your next album. And actually, the next question is, what are the plans for the future? Can you tell me a bit about the album?
FIA: Yeah, definitely! The release party is on the 16th of November. Probably the official release will be one week early. We’re talking to different labels now. We’re not sure for now. But we are very excited about it. I think we’ve been working on it for two years and we’re ready to introduce it to the world. It’s going to be different. Like, it’ll still be us – For I Am – there will still be the happy punk pop on fire. But I think like the lyrics will be more mature, maybe the sound will be more mature, I think. It’s difficult to explain.
We hate albums that sound the same throughout the album. So, we’ve tried to come up with ways to sound like us, that still have like a different vibe for every song. I think that’s quite important for us at this stage. But we’re really, really, really happy with this. Our producer is just a genius. We recorded everything at Big Dog Recordings with him. He just feels us, he knows who we are. He knows what we want. We know what he is like. So, it’s perfect harmony, basically. And I think you can hear that in the songs as well. And plans for the future… I think that when the album is released, we hope to book a tour, that would be great. If anything, the most important thing for us would be to be able to tour with a bigger band, like a support tour for I don’t know who – there are a lot of bands we want to tour with. And if not, we’ll just do our thing. And yeah, we’re actually aiming for festivals, I think next year, like this year, we did a lot of things. We did the Japan Tour with our tour bookings, which was awesome. That was super amazing. Japan’s great. Then we also did Groezrock, which is our hometown festival – we did Brakrock and Punk Rock Holiday again. So this was a super awesome year for us. We would definitely like to do some more festivals next year like there’s Jera on Air in the Netherlands. I don’t know, Mighty Sounds…
RP: Can you tell me about a crazy thing that happens to you on stage?
FIA: Well… Might be over stating it. But we tried today to copy like what happened in Groezrock. But there it happened really organically. As I said, it’s been a teenage dream of ours to be able to play Groezrock because it’s our hometown festival. Everybody around Europe, at least, knows Groezrock. So, we were so excited to be able to play there. And then we got there and the tent was packed, it was packed. We were like: ‘what the hell?’. That was so much fun. Then in the last song, Time and time again, everybody got on stage, there were like crowd surfers on stage, which was crazy. To me, I think that may it be the most memorable thing that will and has ever happened to us. Because it’s our hometown, because this is the festival that we’ve been dying to play forever. And then having all of our friends standing there, all of our friends were dancing and dancing…. Wow.
RP: Amazing. Last question, are you staying all week?
FIA: I am, not all the band. Yeah, as you can hear in my voice: I’ve been here all week! – laughing –
RP: Is there a band that you like the most? Are there some bands that you want to play with?
FIA: That’s a very difficult question. We know the guys from Masked Intruder, so we would definitely want to tour with them. We know some people in Teenage Bottlerocket, so we want to play with them as well. Unless Milo sends me a mail – laughing and talking to my mic – Hi Milo, how are you? we want to play with you! No, of course, all the bigger punk bands – it will be a dream that comes true for us, to play and support any of the bigger bands that are playing this festival. Any of the main stage bands would be like wow!
RP: Will we have the chance to see you in Italy as well?
FIA: We actually talked about it today! Because we’ve been all over Europe but we haven’t been to Italy! So, what I think is, when the new album is out. we should try to go over there! Because I loooove it. I think I’ve been like, not everywhere, obviously, but I’ve been to many, many places in Italy, North, Middle, South Tuscany, Sicily… I just love it. It’s my favourite country! You’re so romantic… and food.
RP: Oh, thank you!
FIA: I think we should promise that we will go there!
And so we will wait for you!