On he last day of the festival, I wanted to interview someone in the organisation but I soon realised they would be way to busy for that at the time. So I tried again a few days later and got a nice chat with Wout. Besides being a member of the main crew, Wout also played with his band 'Stories From The Lost' and he got to see some of the other bands. So yes, he's perfectly placed for a decent overview of this festival...
Congratulations with this year's edition. It was a blast. How did you experience it?
Yes it was amazing again. It's nice to see so many people have a great time. I tried to see as much shows as possible but I missed a lot of them too. I was running around the whole time like everyone in the organization is doing during the festival.
Especially the first day there were still a few things to organize but the last day I had the time to check out most bands.
I can image. How much sleep did you get during those days?
I think I slept 7 hours each day so that's really cool. I had the late shift and Luc did the early shift so no worries there. The last night I didn't get any sleep. I kept going with our technical manager to have everything gone when the trailers arrived on Sunday morning. That was pretty hard but still a lot of fun though
I have a step counter in my iPhone and it said 26 km's that day
Wow, nice work out. What were your personal highlights?
I was really looking forward to The Ocean and Caspian and they did a great job. What a show! And Amenra was a perfect headliner for the festival. But I'm sure I missed a few highlights too..
I would've loved to see Katabatic but I was preparing for my own unexpected show at #dnk15 then... (To cover for Doomina that moved to Saturday...)
I think the bands are really looking forward to come (back) to dunk!festival. So they are prepared and in great shape. We give them a warm welcome and everything they need during the festival. From the first minute they arrive they understand that this festival is all about the music and nothing else. Also our audience knows that. So all their energy goes directly to the bands on stage. They show up in time for almost every show and they have the deepest respect for every musician on the stage.
But also the technical support lifts their performance a little bit higher. Our technical crew is very professional and they know what they're doing. Nothing more fun then playing on a stage with descent monitoring and the certainty that it sounds and looks awesome in the audience.
Dunk!Festival is indeed almost legendary for the sound and light show. You played a show yourself (in Stories From The Lost) so you experienced it first hand. How much does it differ from other venues you played?
We're not a big band so we play tiny venues once in a while. And those are also a lot of fun. But if the sound on stage is perfect and the lights are flashing on the rythm of the music, that gives you so much energy to give that little bit extra. It allows you to get into it all the way. You don't have to think about the possible crappy sound in the room or the lights that are too bright and not moving at all. This is the second show SFTL did with this technical crew. Our release show was actually in the restaurant area of the festival and they managed to make that show the best one we ever played so far.
Well. It was a good show and I bough me some cd's afterwards
Great to hear that you enjoyed it! It was really short notice for us but we felt like it was our chance to show what we got.
People in Zottegem are friendly but I think it's more something typical to our family. The festival is actually organized by a family. Luc is my dad and he started the whole thing in 2005. My mom is running the ticket office and my brother organizes the backstage bar. My cousins are either stage crew, technical crew or in (charge of) the kitchen team. All my aunts and uncles are helping too. Even my grandfather and grandmother have been working very hard the whole weekend. Those in the team who are not related as family are my best friends and their best friends. Not sure how this happened but everyone just wants to be part of it and everyone is having a great time serving fries or beers. It was nice to see how the 'legendary fries' team turned into an afterparty with speakers and lights and everything. Nothing of that was planned. I don't even know where they got the speakers from!
It was indeed amazing to witness that atmosphere. Even the visitors go caught in it and treated everyone and everything with respect. I've never seen such a clean festival area, even the woods were clean.
That was insane! I didn't believe my eyes on Sunday when I entered the camping site. We didn't have to clean up anything! It happened before that we had to clean every inch on the camping site with a team of 10 people for half a day in the rain or in 30°C. But since we moved to the new location it's perfectly clean. Probably also our new cups are one of the reasons. We 'lost' more than 500 cups but found 0 at the camping site.
Well, I was almost guilty of one of those 'thefts'. It's a very nice souvenir, but I forgot to hold on to one. Is that what happens when you, as an organisation, focuses on quality and respect?
Yes I think the visitors perfectly understand the hard work that goes into the festival and they see that we are concerned with the environment. So I think they respect the volunteers that will need to clean this up and they are also aware of the environment and nature surrounding the festival site. We have a very respectful and attentive audience in all possible aspects. We really appreciate that.
We expected that the cups would be a great souvenir. We can afford the loss of a cup since you need to pay one token for a cup. If you lose the cup you don't get your token back. So we can pay for new cups with the money we got from the cups that not return. And it's just cool that people want to take things back home from the festival!
Yes that's a sad thing. Who would do something like that?
I don't know exactly what happened there but it must be really hard for the organizers now. They worked very hard to that weekend and then something like that happens.
Well, the organisers will probably spend many years paying that off, and still there's something 'fishy' about the whole thing. But aside from whose fault it is, it's quite tragic. Dunk!Festival faced financial problems as well a few years ago?
Yes we did. In 2013 we didn't have enough visitors to pay for all the costs we made. There are a few reasons for that: too early in March so it was too cold. It was freezing at night! And it was the same weekend as 'De Ronde van Vlaanderen'. Maybe the line-up was not 'big' enough too. We learned from those things and moved the festival to May. Luckily we could count on our wonderful loyal audience to help us get over it through a crowd funding campaign. They funded dunk!festival2014 for €15.000. That is just unbelievable. That gave us a lot of extra energy to keep this festival going.
You were all very open and honest about all this, I remember. And this year's edition boomed. Did it sell out completely?
Last year we were very happy that we had a good edition. The new location was perfect and the line-up was great! This year promised to be even better and it was. It was fun to track ticket sales for the first time ever. Previous years that was stressful as hell. #dnk15 completely sold out a few hours in advance. We constantly shifted tickets (combi <-> day tickets) and both combi tickets and Saturday tickets were completely gone. Thursday and Friday were as good as sold out.
We had 700 people a day this year. We don't plan to expand. The tent and area is not ready for that. So next year we'll have 700 or maximum 800 people a day. If we make some small adjustments to the festival setup we can go to 1000/day. I think that is realistic but it's not the plan right now. And of course it also depends on the bands we can book for next year.
As a post-rock festival, you allow a lot of other genres to be present, from trip-hop, over black metal to sludge and ambient. Where do you draw the line between suited for Dunk! or not?
We never said we were a post-rock festival until people started to say that. Then we simply used that to at least give the right idea about the festival. The post-rock genre is very wide so it kind of fitted mostly. But we had a few editions where there was nothing but post-rock. And that was just too much. For us and for the visitors. So we try to vary a little bit more now and bring in new things. We also listen to other things over the years. So basically if we like it and it fits the scene of post-anything we invite the band. Most important is that we have to like it. We have an internal quotation system to give a point to a list of bands that is made by the organizers. If too much people give 2 points or less to a band I like for example then we don't invite them. If another band only gets 9 and 10 then these guys will be invited. So that's why there are no extremely different bands on the line-up. It wouldn't be fair to the visitors either. I tried to squeeze a few extreme things in the line-up this year but it didn't work
Last question: what can you tell us about next year's edition? There is already a date, right?
#dnk16 will happen on May 5-6-7. That's all we know for now. In the next few weeks we will put our wishlists together and start contacting bands. We don't plan big changes for the next edition. Only the merch area should have more space next year and some other minor details can be improved.
I'd like to add that we really appreciate all the nice words from visitors and bands from all over the world. It really means a lot to us. And of course we hope to see you all again next year!
I guess we will be there again next year...