Formed as Steak Number Eight in 2004, something of a rebirth happened for the band when they changed to the snappier Stake in 2018. Hailing from Wevelgem, Belgium, the band are about to release their fifth studio album (LOVE, DEATH and DECAY), so The Midlands Rocks sat down with lead vocalist Brent Vanmeste, just prior to the bands blistering set at this years ArcTanGent festival.
Belgium is not my first thought when thinking about heavy music. I wonder what was the scene like when you were growing up? Did you feel isolated at all?
Actually, not at all because we have a big hardcore and punk scene there which evolved from the mid-90s around the village of Ieper, It is like the wild, wild west of Belgium, and they hold the Ieperfest there, which is a big hardcore festival. And that’s where the core of the heavy scene in Belgium is, and a lot of cult bands came out of that scene. We have a lot of cool heavy bands like Hippotraktor, who are playing here today. I don’t know, maybe because I’m close to the scene, but if you compare it to the UK, it’s different, and in that way the scene is small, and everyone knows each other.
So I imagine that made the scene very supportive.
Yes, it’s always nice to hear what stuff your friends are recording, and to share each other’s stuff.
Growing up, what were your musical influences?
My dad was a huge Pink Floyd fan, so that was a big factor, and my mum was into doom punk, and listening to doomy stuff like My Dying Bride, and those two combined gave me an idea; those two combined was a direction for me to follow. Then when my brother died at the age of 13, it was very obvious for me that I need this dark type of music just to be able to live.
Your songs detail some personal, heavy issues. How is it singing them every night? Do they bum you out, or is it a kind of therapy for you?
It’s the second one, and I think that’s the reason why we do this, just to be able to live a normal life, and at night or on the weekends we can get this things out of our system. Being on stage. Physically moving, shouting, and swearing, that makes us feel comfortable they day after.
How do you psyche yourself up to go on stage every night?
That’s just the way we are, I think. I don’t need to drink or do drugs before a show, just a cup of coffee.
And how do you come down and relax after a hectic show?
For me it’s always a struggle, because most of the time I have terrible headaches, because I’m going far above the red line. That’s how we play, and most of the time it’s me laying on the ground. But, I’m getting there, playing some sports in between shows and drinking water before the shows. Just playing and singing and performing is a lot of work.
Four years ago you shortened the bands name to Stake. What was the reasoning behind that. Was it a kind of rebirth for you?
Yes, it was. But the most important part was, we were already playing together for 15 years, and we were thinking of how are we going to keep playing together. Are we going to keep playing for another 15 years? What are the things we need to change? These were the main thoughts of all of us, and we all had a strong feeling that we wanted to continue. It was like, lets all start a new chapter, and leave all our childish history behind. It was nice for our evolution to stop Steak Number Eight, and it was nice for me emotionally to leave that name behind, for me it was part of the mourning process as well. Creatively, it was the right step, to do our thing and keep playing together.
Did the fans accept it? Were they OK with the name change?
Yes. There wasn’t any band reactions. In Belgium, it wasn’t a problem at all. We have a strong history in the UK, but after the change we didn’t have a strong presence in the press, we didn’t look for it, because we were focusing on other parts of Europe, I think that was a bit tricky, but I think by now everybody knows already.
In September you have a new album dropping, LOVE, DEATH and DECAY. What can people expect?
It’ll be more atmospheric. It’s a good combination of styles, for me it feels like after finishing the album, we worked on this record for two years, so for me it’s old music, So, for me, I’m focusing on new stuff, and this album has made me very enthusiastic to proceed, and I can’t wait to make new stuff again, and the blend of different styles, I like it.
How did the pandemic influence the writing of the album?
For me the pandemic, most of the time, was something very positive. Right before it I was having a kind of burn out, I don’t like using that word much, but I watched this documentary about “The Secret”. “The Secret” is about believing that something will happen in your life, and if you visualise it, it will happen. It’s a technique that was used by Beethoven, a lot of legends in history were using it, and I watched this documentary, it was with a really shitty American production, but I thought I’d really start believing in it, and I was on holiday with my girlfriend, and we wished to have more isolation in our life, and the moment we got home Covid started so we felt very guilty! [laughs] So, the band made a lot of new music, I started some new projects, so for me it was awesome.
In October you’ll be coming back to the UK for some club dates. What for you is the difference between playing festivals and clubs?
A festival is something different. You can play a club date without speaking to the crowd, and have an epic show. But at a festival you really have to change your set and play different songs in a different order, because people don’t know you. So it’s a big difference energy wise, from the audience but also from our side, so it’s a work in process.
The rest of the year is looking very hectic for you. What’s your strategy for surviving it all?
Personally, I’m not looking further than a week, so that’s my technique, and if that becomes too much, then I’m just looking at the day after!
So do you have any plans for 2023?
Yes, we want to drop new music by then. For me one of the most confusing things for me with a band, is making an album and then you have to wait a year and a half to make another. For me the creativity is gone. I’d like to make a record, and then drop it and move on. So, I’d like to make more EP’s to stay truer to the moment I’m in. Making an album and then playing it to years later doesn’t feel right to me, but it is what it is.