- W.E.R.F. Records
Early Life Forms is a new quartet fronted by Belgian guitarist and sound wizard Vitja Pauwels, and on the 26th January, they are set to release their self-titled debut album via W.E.R.F. Records; a stunning, one-off live show recorded with American guitarist Marc Ribot (Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Wilson Pickett, Marianne Faithfull, The Black Keys, John Zorn).
Having already earned his spurs as a sideman with artists including Naïma Joris, Bombataz and Lara Rosseel, rising Belgian star Pauwels released his debut album 'Day at Half Speed' in 2019, which explored the possibilities of acoustic guitar and live electronics. This experiment became a new artistic path for Pauwels and showcased his musical versatility, with second album 'Drift By, Sink In', released to critical acclaim in 2022.
The same year, Pauwels was invited as special guest by the BRAND! Festival, Mechelen, to showcase new material and he came up with the idea of putting together his 'dream' live band which included his hero Marc Ribot, one of world's most accomplished and acclaimed guitar players. Reaching out to him via videos and early demos for this new recording project, Ribot liked what he heard and agreed to perform with Pauwels and his new project Early Life Forms in what would be the band's first ever live show.
Joined by Frederik Leroux (baritone guitar), Laurens Dierickx (Hammond organ) and Casper Van De Velde (drums), during the lead up to the festival, Pauwels wrote a number of songs he felt would work for the live show, with the only agreement being that there would be no rehearsals ahead of the performance, only a brief soundcheck beforehand with Ribot. The music was stripped down to its essentials - compelling melodies, themes, and clear forms but with the possibility to change direction at any given moment. "The music was played and heard for the first time, and it felt like a birth of something that needed to be alive. We felt connected in the right state of mind - relaxed and focused - and it all happened in a rush of shared energy. No ego's or fear, only connection and the music", states Pauwels.
Drawing on latin, jazz, cuban, and rock with a touch of exoticism and cinematic explorations, 'Early Life Forms' cites Ry Cooder, Henry Mancini, Los Lobos, Ennio Morricone and of course Ribot, as heavy influences. There is something existential, primary, something epic and at the same time youthfully uncomplicated, which is strongly associated with the music. From the mischievous and imaginative 'My Little Renaissance' to the adventurous and hypnotic 'Latin Dancer', 'Early Life Forms' is overflowing with sharp twists and turns, with Ribot's heavily rhythmic, distorted guitar amplifying the cinematic feel to the sound. The on-stage relationship between each member of the band and Ribot is childishly uncomplicated, something primary but always epic. The music is left to the moment and the magic of their first encounter with their hero Ribot. "Marc's commitment in the music was better than I could have hoped for. What he played was with 200% intention, putting the rest of us in a state of hyperfocus. Given the fact that it was a one-time thing and a recording, we took risks without 'overplaying' or overthinking it. Right before the gig, we felt an urge to play, Marc said, "Let's rock!!" and we hit the stage", says Pauwels.