Founded in 2010, Brussels Pony Club is an electronic musician duo comprised of Parsifal Marin and Antoine “DkA” Verbrugge. The Brussels-based duo is fresh off of their Nightland EP release on the Berlin label Amselcom. I spoke with Parsifal a few weeks ago and asked him about their inspiration for the Nightland EP, the meaning behind the “Brussels Piano Club” music video, and clarification about whether there’s a real-life pony club in addition to their Brussels Pony Club musician duo.
You’re obviously a musician duo, but is there a physical pony club as well? In your Facebook description, you write about free admission and a bouncer at your club, but something tells me the club is more of an idea or state of mind than a real place.
No, no, no — there isn’t. We wanted to have a reference to where we come from — Brussels — in the name. The idea of a club was nice for us because we wanted to give the impression of a physical dimension to electronic music. There is a real Brussels Pony Club, which is a club in Brussels where you can ride ponies. It’s funny, when we first started, the first fifty to one-hundred likes we received were kids between eight and ten sending us pictures of ponies they drew, which was very cute. Last year, we received an email from a woman asking if she could rent ponies from us.
“The idea of a club was nice for us because we wanted to give the impression of a physical dimension to electronic music.”
Who are the ponies in your club?
Anybody. It’s kind of more of a joke to ourselves than towards people, but you have to see it in the frame of the sentence — it’s a gentlemen’s club, but it’s [really] for gentlemen, women, and ponies … whoever. We want to pull back from the idea that we’re making music in a certain style for a certain public, [which is] not true — we make music for ourselves … and we’re happy to share it and we love to perform and everything. But it’s not our job to put [our music] in a certain style.
How did you and Antoine (DkA) meet?
He was making music for a very long time, since he was 15 or something. I was in bands, singing and writing songs. And via friends, he asked for [a vocalist], because he had never worked with a singer. All of a sudden, he popped up and asked if I wanted to do a song. I had never done purely electronic [music]. And we’ve been together for five years now.
In your “Brussels Piano Club” music video, you have live human heads on the wall. What’s the reason for and symbolism behind that?
The video clip is by Nikolas List, who’s a Belgian movie director. He makes horror movies. The whole concept of the video was, “What kind of club would this pony club be?” So the whole fetish side is really linked to his taste in horror movies.
Why is DkA feeding the living heads on the wall? Is there a reason for that?
In both descriptions on social media and lyrics in “Brussels Piano Club,” you refer to a blue mist. Why blue?
Smoke — smoke is blue. The song was first and the description came later … we kind of built it up from the song. And we never changed it. I like to mix colors and intangible things. When I write, I like to create more of an atmosphere than directly writing about a subject. When I write lyrics, it is much more effective to make a setting, and then the listener will find a way by themselves instead of guiding the listener or pushing them in a certain direction. A big influence for me as a songwriter is a lot of jazz standards. Patsy Cline has a song about a relationship between three people, but the whole song is told through cigarettes and an ashtray. With little details, you can create a whole atmosphere and put the listener exactly where you want them to be.
“I like to mix colors and intangible things. When I write, I like to create more of an atmosphere than directly writing about a subject.”
What are you really descending into when you walk down that scary staircase in “Brussels Piano Club?” When you leave the blue mist and climb the staircase to the street, are you a changed person? If so, what metamorphosis has occurred?
This is the idea of this whole song. We made the whole song in less than an afternoon. The lyrics and the vocals are the only take we did — it was completely improvised. We spent the rest of the afternoon making noises with whatever we found around to create more of an atmosphere.
The story I had in my head was a place where you go between the end of the night and the beginning of the day. And there you find the prostitutes, the lowlife criminals, and everything and anything. And they’re all there for a drink, for a little wind down before they go to bed. That’s why I made the lyrics so creepy. Of course you’re a different person, but you have a choice to go back to where you were before or to take whatever open feeling there was there and keep on carrying it.
What inspired your Nightland EP?
The EP started off with the song “Nightland,” which is about insomnia. The whole EP is about our concept of seeing and making music. We tried to mix the very dark with very light in the sounds and lyrics. The EP has different aspects of this spectrum. There’s the deep techno “Nightland,” and [then] “Dirt,” which is a murder ballad. And then on the opposite side, there’s “Never Wrong,” which is a buildup with a dark, deep bass and a dissonant synth melody. And then there’s “Brighter Day,” which builds up and is very minimalistic.
“The whole [Nightland] EP is about our concept of seeing and making music. We tried to mix the very dark with very light in the sounds and lyrics. The EP has different aspects of this spectrum. “
What forthcoming releases and gigs do you have on the horizon?
We’re working on two other releases, so we’re finishing those — that’s all I can say about that. One will not be under Brussels Pony Club. It will be under another project that we started for one gig, but now they want a release out of that. It’s going to be really jazzy … electronic jazz. But it’s not like the usual electronic jazz — it’s more like the jazz approach to music with electronic sounds. It’s different, but danceable.
We don’t really have any gigs coming up. It’s calm now. It’s not easy to get us into a gig. We do play in clubs, but it’s not until we start playing that they understand the scale of the music. It’s much more popular and danceable if you hear [our music] on a record than live. It’s not always easy to find gigs, but we get around; we find gigs, we have our own gigs. We had one here in Sofia, Bulgaria last week. I’m here in Sofia working on other projects not related to music.