Interview: Ultra Sunn discuss their Belgian musical heritage and debut album

New album US arrives on April 19.

Ultra Sunn

The Belgian project Ultra Sunn is on the cusp of breaking out. I’ve been following the band since they began releasing ecstatic singles in 2020. Now they’ve signed with influential label Artoffact Records, who will release their debut full-length—called US—on April 19.

This year, they’ve released a string of singles accompanied by live session videos that reveal the band behind the keyboards. Get ready to see even more of them. Ultra Sunn is about to embark on their first US tour that includes coveted slots at festivals like Sick New World in Las Vegas and Absolution Fest in Tampa.

On the eve of their album’s release, I reached out to Ultra Sunn to find out more about their background and the new album. Here’s what they told me.

Can you introduce yourselves, tell us a bit about your backgrounds, and what each of you does in the band?

There’s the frontman/multi-instrumentalist Sam and the keyboardist/producer Gaëlle who founded the band. Sam has been making music for several years and studied archaeology. Gaëlle is a pianist and studied fashion design.

We live in Brussels, Belgium, with our two cats. We create, compose, record, mix, and produce the music together.

Our duo expanded on stage and on tour with Alexis, who plays keyboards and percussion.

Belgium is the origin of classic music genres like EBM and New Beat. And of course the home of Front 242. Did you grow up listening to that type of music, and do you feel an affinity with those sounds?

Indeed, we grew up listening to New Beat, EBM, or Acid House—anything that could fall under the label “Sound of Belgium” is highly inspiring to us. However, we try to infuse it with our contemporary touch. As the world has changed and it continues to change, it’s equally important for us to stay connected to our era while endeavoring to honor our cultural heritage.

We’ve had the opportunity to play several times with Front 242, and it will happen again this year. They are a true source of inspiration for us, not only because of their kindness but also because of their invaluable advice.

When I first heard Ultra Sunn a few years ago, I compared you to Boy Harsher—I think “Silver Smile” was the first song I heard. On your latest tracks, I’m hearing a lot of broader influences. Like “Shake Your Demons” has that Underworld bit. Who or what would you say are your biggest influences?

We probably share common influences, which might manifest as sonic resemblances to you. “Silver Smile” was mainly inspired by classic New Beat acts that we adore such as A Split Second, Virgin in D Sky, or The Maxx. We greatly admire the work of Boy Harsher, but we believe our music is very different.

“Shake Your Demons” is a track openly inspired by Underworld, also the Breakcore scene, and UK Garage while retaining our EBM DNA and sensibility.

We enjoy drawing inspiration from techno and house music, but we also love finding inspiration from very pop artists like Beyonce, Lana Del Rey, or Rihanna. Mostly, we’re searching for an attitude.

How would you say your sound has changed since you started? What else can we expect from the album?

Perhaps our sound is more precise, we take pleasure in creating music that is both singable and danceable. In our new album, we incorporate many ’90s and Y2K influences. We also worked on percussion, and our machine setup has changed a bit.

Our primary goal remains to create the music we really like and then share it with everybody. It’s our way of staying true and faithful to our artistic journey. Our album is made to bring people together.

Is there a particular song on US that’s a favorite or especially meaningful to you?

To be honest, this album is a whole, and all the tracks make sense to us. We see it as a cohesive unit where the tracks are interconnected and respond to each other.

Next month you’re embarking on your first tour of the United States. What are you most excited about? What’s keeping you up at night?

We’re extremely excited to begin our first USA tour, and our date at Sick New World in Las Vegas promises to be an incredible experience. We’re thrilled to be part of this lineup.

We can’t wait to meet our American audience and fans and to share strong moments all together.

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