K’s Choice has always been a hard band to pin down to a single style, and as a result, was one of the few bands of the late ‘90s to build followings with both the Lilith Fair and Lollapalooza factions. As evidenced by their fifth full-length overall (and first in a decade), 2010’s ‘Echo Mountain,’ the group’s knack for the eclectic remains very much intact. “It’s always been like that,” explains one of the group’s co-founders, singer/guitarist Sarah Bettens. “There’s always been that singer-songwriter part of us, and then the rock part that stems from the music we listen to and the music we write. There’s also that pop element in our songwriting and the attention to our harmonies. When it comes to K’s Choice songwriting, there is not a concerted effort of what we should be, it’s just an honest mix of the style of songs we end up writing. Even when we felt like we were coming from two worlds in the initial phase of writing this record, it somehow blended together into something that’s melodic and has a lot of dynamics without losing its emphasis of heartfelt lyrics and interesting harmonies.”
Originally formed in the early ‘90s by the brother-sister tandem of guitarist/singer Gert and Sarah Bettens (hailing from Antwerp, Belgium), the group built a large worldwide fan base, on the strength of such strong and varied albums as 1993’s ‘The Great Subconscious Club,’ 1996’s ‘Paradise in Me,’ 1998’s ‘Cocoon Crash’ and 2000’s ‘Almost Happy.’ Add to it a worldwide hit single (1996’s “Not An Addict”), European hits “Believe”, “Almost Happy” and “Everything For Free”, plus some very high profile tour opportunities (opening for Alanis Morissette for the majority of the dates supporting her classic ‘Jagged Little Pill’ album, as well as part of the aforementioned Lilith Fair tours), and a long and fruitful career lay ahead for K’s Choice.
After the world tour in support of ‘Almost Happy’ had wrapped up, K’s Choice faced a tough career crossroad. “After ten years, my sister and I had the exact same feeling that we were moving in circles”, admits Gert. “We felt it was time to do something else for a couple of years, to do our own thing, and see what developed.”
True to his word, Gert founded a new band, Woodface, while Sarah launched a successful solo career. But a year ago, the call of K’s Choice beckoned once more, recalls Sarah. “We always knew we were going to record again, but we didn’t have a master plan for when or how. It just seemed like the right time and that it would be fun again … the part that was missing when we decided to take a break. The writing was challenging again, and musically it was even more interesting, because we were coming from two different worlds. When we started sending songs to each other, it was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know if we’re capable of making the same record! But with some creative musical conversations and a little soul searching we found common ground, and once we did, it just clicked like it always had.”
After a period of swapping song files via email (Sarah now lives in the U.S., while Gert remains in Belgium), the group reconvened for rehearsals with a line-up featuring both former members (bassist Eric Grossman and drummer Koen Lieckens) and new members (guitarist Thomas Vanelslander and keyboardist Reinout Swinnen). “From the start, it became clear that it was going to be different from the way we wrote for the first four albums,” says Gert. “Back then, we were often on tour together, so as soon as Sarah or I came up with a song idea, we could immediately play it for one another. This time, we were forced to exchange ideas via the internet. Although it’s different than the way we used to communicate our ideas, we were still able to be musically creative and honest with each other. Initially, we thought we were worlds apart. I wrote some really, really heavy songs, comparable to those on my last solo album. I wondered if they would really work on the album alongside some of the lighter acoustic songs Sarah had written. We just started rehearsing and in typical K’s Choice fashion, things quickly started making perfect sense.”
The end result is a double disc set, which features some of the finest K’s Choice material of their entire career, and runs the gamut from folk and pop to alternative rock. “I have to say, I was really impressed with my brother’s songs,” gushes Sarah. “It was really nice to sing his songs again. I think he has outdone himself. His new song, ‘Killing Dragons’, is one of my absolute favorites! It covers the entire musical spectrum of what K’s Choice represents… a beautiful melody, haunting harmonies and incredible lyrics… it gives me the chills. ‘Come Live the Life’ [the album’s first single/video] features my brother’s songwriting too. The simplicity of the chord structure, combined with the genius of the melody, makes for a very inspiring, exciting song.”
Gert has a standout as well, ‘16’. “I tried to picture what it was like to be 16 again and to experience something beautiful like being in love and your first kiss. Then discovering, as you grow older, that there’s still some of that fire burning, and it’s just a matter of keeping that fire alive. Most of my songs are written about the same thing – feeling alive.”
With ‘Echo Mountain’ being released via Sony in Europe and a label-to-be-named in the other parts of the world, the now six-piece band will soon be launching a substantial tour supporting Echo Mountain, with dates beginning in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Holland, before visiting other parts of the world, including such exotic locales as South Africa and Japan. Which leads to the question…is the reformation of K’s Choice a permanent one? “I don’t know if any of us have thought that far ahead,” says Sarah. “We are so happy that we have this fantastic opportunity. We do have big expectations, not in terms of how many records we’re going to sell, but just the level of excitement this will create, for us and for the fans that are awaiting this record.”
That said, both sister and brother are hopeful regarding the future of K’s Choice. Sarah- “I just hope we make more great records, and that Echo Mountain is the beginning of a rebirth for us. Eventually, I’ll want to make another solo record because it’s a way of keeping everything fresh, so I hope I can continue doing both.” Gert- “Right now, I’m just so happy that we made an album that I’m this crazy about. It just feels very special putting the band back together and getting ready to go out on the road again. As we were working on ‘Echo Mountain’, I said to my sister, ‘I really feel like recording another album after this!’ Sarah readily agreed. So this K’s Choice reunion just might go on for quite a while…”
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