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Pushing the limitswith Promis3

by George Ellerby

Newcomers Promis3 discuss the conception of their project, the authentic creative process, and motivations.

Promis3 are a Belgian duo creating varied, left-field pop cuts. Having only released tracks over the last year, the pair have already demonstrated with several tracks their prowess both technically and creatively. Production is tight, smooth, and engaging, but it’s the unique take on the pop canon that sets the pair aside.

Their debut EP, ‘Like Trying to Land on a Cloud’, saw the duo mesh a series of genres that should never work in combination, but, in their case, somehow do. R&B elements from ‘Icons’, 2000’s Euro-pop from ‘Chasing Waterfalls’, and more contemporary pop from ‘Angels’ can all be gleaned from the fifteen-minute sampler.

‘Angels’ is a highlight of the EP. A three and half minute ballad, the track washes over the listener; deep piano strokes, rolling synthesised clarinets, and vocal harmonies that glitch with abandon. Rhythm sections are absent from the record, which proves to be a restful break from the pulsating first half of the EP.

Andras Vleminckx and Brent Dielen are the friends behind Promis3. The pair met in their hometown, Mechelen, at a party. It seems almost fatalistic that the two should have bumped into each other or, at the very least, that’s how the pair consider it. For those unacquainted with Belgium’s geography – and I won’t pretend to be – Mechelen is a small town that lies between Belgium’s two major cities, Brussels and Antwerp. Andras discusses the circumstances of their meeting.

“We met about a year ago. We met at a party in [Mechelen],” Andras explains. “It was quite a coincidence that we even met. I wasn’t even planning on going there. It was just because I knew the DJ that was playing there and I just wanted to check the set-out. It was at an old church; very cool environment.”

Andras continues, describing how Brent stood out to him among the crowd at the party. “When I was inside I immediately noticed Brent. He’s quite interesting and unique looking. He looked very different compared to the rest of the crowd. I wanted to know who he was. We bumped into each other outside and started talking very naturally. He [showed me his] Instagram, and it was full of really crazy artwork.”

After having shown Andras his artwork, Brent began creating the graphics from Andras previous project, LIMITS.

“After that everything evolving,” Andras continues. “We went out together, and he [began to] join on my performances, and we got really close. After a while, I noticed that he started posting poetry on his Instagram stories, which really intrigued me. It started evolving further [and I suggested] we have a writing session together. That went really well and from there on the project started.”

The pair have quite the authentic approach to their creative process. Effectively every aspect of their work is created solely by the two alone. This stretches from the graphics to the mastering, the music videos to live shows. Andras and Brent have even created their own label, ‘Simulated Paradise’, to release their music. Typically, Brent conjures an idea or concept for a track and leaves it to Andras to interpret this via the medium of music. Lyrics, graphics, videos, and all the other trappings follow suit.

Brent describes his conceptual approach to writing music, offering a rather extensive, although nonetheless easily visualised, example of how he typically creates his concepts.

“It’s the small things can inspire me to write songs,” Brent opens. “Sometimes, I get these ideas out of nowhere. For example, I see myself riding on a pearly white horse into a medieval castle crying crystal tears or something. That’s something that I would base a new track upon. I would ask Andras to put sounds into the production that give an idea of that atmosphere of that imaginary environment. He would mix my idea with his production style and electronic sounds and then we have a new demo ready. I would [then] start drawing and coming idea for photoshoots.”

“I really like Brent’s approach because he comes up with really interesting concepts and ideas that he has been developing in his mind,” Andras continues, describing the virtues of the pairs differing methodologies. “He has a much more conceptual approach than I do. I place myself in front of my keyboards and synthesisers and just start fiddling with them and see what comes up, but I wouldn’t be thinking too much in advance. That’s what makes it work so well. We both have a different approach. One time Brent would come up with an idea, and I would just come up with the sounds inspired by them, and because of that he would come up with the concept.”

Considering the lease of freedom that Promis3 gives to Brent and Andras, the pair reflect on their pasts. Although formative in the paths they now lead, they both share the opinion that their respective histories as creatives were plagued by creative limitation. Andras in particular seemed resolute in his stance that he had been creatively restricted by his previous project, which – quite amusingly – is named LIMITS.

“LIMITS was more house orientated, and the musical process for me became a bit uninspiring,” Andras explains. “With Promis3, my vision opened up. We had the chance to create way more diverse music and go deeper into songwriting and cross-genres…The focus with LIMITS was mainly music, and with Promis3, it’s so much bigger; the whole visual identity, thinking of concepts, music videos.”

Andras details his experiences as LIMITS. “When I tried to do something different I’d get comments from other DJs like, ‘yeah, it’s a good track but it has to have more [of a] club structure’. You get limited because of rules for DJs like [DJs say] ‘can you send a version without vocals because we want to mix it in these clubs where we don’t really play vocal tracks.’”

Unlike Andras, Brent became aware of creative restriction from a younger age. “When I was younger I used to play in musicals in [an] Antwerp theatre. I loved being on stage, but [I wanted] to be the starring role in my own production,” Brent laughs. “At the time I really didn’t like the productions I played in and, like the other children, I thought that stories of the musicals were very boring and bland and lacked the imagination.”

As Brent got older, he stopped partaking in musicals and, as a result, stopped singing altogether. “I stopped singing for a while because I thought it was something that I would ever pursue,” Brent explains, discussing how he went on to pursue more visual mediums. “I went for the illustration study in Antwerp and did that for four years, but yeah, it didn’t feel complete. I wanted to complete both [visual and auditory aspects]. When I met Andras, I was able to fuse the two together.”

Brent’s illustrative work for Promis3 is distinct in style and appears reminiscent of aspects of ’90s and noughties graphic design. Set in neons and depicting caricatured versions of Andras and Brent, the cover art to ‘Like Trying to Land on a Cloud’ adopts a heavy, blocky font, giving the overall image a kind of retro-futuristic feel. The pair describe the ethos behind their graphics.

“We’re super inspired by the 90’s aesthetics like the clothing, the music, the videos,” Andras explains. “I don’t know if you know the X-Mix Series from the label K-7? It’s really cool, like 90’s 3D.”

Brent continues. “It’s like these 3D renders of these crazy psychedelic worlds and stuff. It’s kinda crappy because it’s so old, but the crappiness makes it cool.”

This 90’s inspiration was taken further with the designs on ‘Chasing Waterfalls (Remixes)’. The ‘Like Trying to Land on a Cloud’ graphics were lifted and photoshopped on to a Sega Mega Drive cartridge. Brent explains the rationale.

“It’s a reference to a track we’re going to be releasing this year called ‘Simulated Paradise’… The track, as well as our label, is based on this virtual world you can escape to whenever life might be dragging you down in somewhere. It would be like a game [in which] you can do whatever you want, with whoever you want… We wanted to do a bit of foreshadowing in that, [like] with the gaming console, you put it in and start Promis3.”

With more originals in the works, Promis3 also share news of an Eiffel 65 cover that is pencilled for release in the coming months. “We plan to release a cover very soon,” Andras says smilingly. “It’s a cover of the song ‘Blue’, you know, ‘da ba dee’. It might sound weird, but it’s gonna be really cool.”

“It was such a guilty pleasure song we used to listen to for such a long time,” Brent explains. “Actually, before we met each other, we both listened to that song very often, and we appreciated the”, Brent pauses with a laugh, “the kitschiness of the song.”

Ahead of their intriguing Eiffel 65 release and their less tongue-in-cheek material, you can check out ‘Angels’ from ‘Like Trying to Land on a Cloud’ below.

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