About a month or so ago, the guitarist in my band turned me on to a hardcore group from Belgium called Oathbreaker. This was one of those conglomerations that I immediately fell in love with on first listen. About two weeks later, I was informed via social networking that they were doing a short tour in America, with one of their stops close to where I live. So after sharing a cup of iced coffee with the band, they turned my head later that night with a brutal performance. Not only was their gig nearly life changing, but I felt as if I walked away with some new friends at the same time. The members of Oathbreaker are not only fantastic musicians, but they are great people at well.
I talked with these brutal masters of mayhem and discovered many truths about the differences between how things work here compared to Europe. My conversation with their drummer and singer is as follows:
And your names are?
Ivo Debrabandere: I’m Ivo Debrabandere from Belgium, and I play drums in Oathbreaker.
Caro Tanghe: I’m Caro Tanghe and I sing in Oathbreaker.
How long has Oathbreaker been together?
CT: 2008, or sometime in 2007 were the beginnings for Oathbreaker as a band. We started with another drummer, who actually came from another band. Our drummer quit…
ID: I think the last drummer quit because he wanted to do something else on a different musical level. Something sophisticated. And then these guys just emailed me.
CT: We knew Ivo from other bands. We’ve all been in other bands and knew each other, and we just asked Ivo to join us.
Is this your first time touring through the U.S.?
ID: As a band, yes. I’ve been here before traveling, but touring as a band, this is the first time. We just got asked to do the This Is Hardcore Festival back in April or March, and wanted to do it, but felt it would have been totally insane, financially, to fly over for one show, so we just asked Joe and some of the guys at Deathwish to help us out with getting a string of dates around the festival. This is just for us to see whatever is possible for us here and if people care for our music.
How was This Is Hardcore?
CT: It was awesome actually. It was interesting to play a big festival. We don’t usually get to do big festivals. It was great to see so many kids in one venue. We don’t really have that in Belgium. We have hardcore festivals but nothing like 4,000 people in one venue all moshing and going crazy for local bands. It was great to play a festival like that.
ID: It was cool. It was also rather stressing, of course, because there’s one stage and something like 15 bands going on, so everybody has a slot and it’s a very tight schedule. We had to be ready to play and to get there and get the job done as fast as possible. We had a 20-minute set time. We were the only non-U.S. band on the bill besides a band from the UK called Hard Skin for the entire four days. A lot of people don’t know us, so we only had 20 minutes to prove ourselves as not being a waste of time.
Where else have you taken the band besides Belgium or the U.S?
CT: We toured Europe some several times. We did a tour with Ritual through Spain and Portugal. It was special because those are countries you don’t usually get to tour a lot. It’s very hard to reach because you have friends, like France, in the middle. That’s a really tough country for hardcore bands to get through. It’s expensive and you have to pay a lot of tolls.
ID: Before that, in December 2011 we did nine dates in Germany with an Italian band called Hierophant, who are really good friends of ours. We also did most of Northern and Eastern Europe with Rise And Fall and The Secret. In October, we’re doing a 12-date tour in the UK.
What is the punk/hardcore/metal scene like back home in Belgium compared with what you’ve seen here in the U.S.?
ID: It’s different in a lot of ways and the same in a lot of ways. I’ll try and elaborate on that in a way that makes some sort of sense, because that’s a pretty big question. The way things are organized is different. We don’t do house shows as a rule. It happens rarely and that’s only if the venue closes or if the show goes past curfew. Besides the actual shows, you can crash at venues themselves. It’s kind of bigger in a way. I think things are done differently but I think the main principle of hardcore or punk is the same.
CT: I guess we’re more spoiled as Europeans. If an American band tours Europe they’ll arrive to the show, they’ll get snacks, and probably a decent meal. Most times there is a vegan or vegetarian alternative. Our guitar player is vegan so he mostly gets vegan food. You always get a place to crash. When you’re in the States it’s not like that. It has been great though. We’ve met a lot of people who have taken us to their houses and let us crash on their couches, which is great, but it’s different in Europe.
ID: What I feel audience wise is that the American audience is probably more open to any band that comes around to play whereas in Europe there are so many shows that people get spoiled or jaded. There’s that big empty circle of awkward. We haven’t really had that in America. People are just happy to see us.
CT: Even if only 20 people show up, they don’t really care. They just come right on up to the stage and after the show you get those 20 people coming up to the merch table saying, “You guys were awesome!” That’s something I’m not used to in Europe. In Belgium, they’re more [skeptical] to any type of band. They kind of just stand there and don’t really say anything or show that they like your music.
ID: It’s just the fact that it’s such a small country. If you have to drive an hour and a half to get to a show, that’s a lot in Belgium. You can cross the whole country in three hours.
CT: Our scene has also developed a lot in the past six or seven years.
What are some of the ideologies, if any, behind the music of Oathbreaker?
ID: We are four very different people. We mainly come together to play music because it works. Everybody has their own part in Oathbreaker, but we never started from an ideological standpoint. We also actively decided not to profess that in whatever we do as a band. Obviously we’re not gay bashers and we’re against racism and all of the things any logical person is against.
CT: Some of us have been vegetarians, or semi-vegetarians. We’re open to everything but we don’t really wanna bring it over to everyone and say that they should be like us. I was straight-edge at one point.
ID: We believe in individuality and evolving as a person as time goes by, and I think that’s probably what hardcore punk should be all about. It’s about being an individual and being your own.
What are the near-future plans for Oathbreaker?
ID: Well, we have the shows on this tour. Then we have some loose dates in September. After that, there’s the 12 dates in October. I think that will be the last of touring we do on Maelstrøm [the band’s latest album]. It’s perfect from my point of view because it means we did almost the entirety of Europe and parts of the U.S. on that record, which is more then we could have ever hoped for. We’ve already started writing new material but we still need a lot of time for it to come together. We hope to record sometime in 2013 and finish a new record.
Oathbreaker’s latest album, Maelstrøm, is available now through Deathwish Inc. For more info on the disc and their future tours, check them out at theoathbreakerreigns.tumblr.com.