Buurman singer on narrow escapes and new perspectives


Geert Verdickt, frontman of Limburg group Buurman, walked away from a serious car crash this year to record an album of prophetically titled songs

Whatever doesn’t kill you

“Last January my car was hit by a truck. It was just after rush hour,” says Geert Verdickt, singer and songwriter of the Limburg fivesome Buurman. “The car started spinning. It was thrown into the central reservation and bumped back on to the road. It’s a miracle I didn’t hit another car.”

The vehicle was a write-off, but Verdickt (pictured, centre) survived without too much damage. “In the hospital, they examined me throughout the day, but in the evening I was allowed to go home. Nothing broken, nothing cracked.”

But the doctors also told him that there would have been a point where his body “must have thought it was over. They warned me that I’d feel a reaction afterwards. And indeed, I had some difficult times later.”

Buurman’s fourth, freshly released album, Dans & Dwaal (Dance & Stray), contains songs with titles like “Alles wat je niet kapotmaakt” (“Everything That Doesn’t Destroy You”) and “Het maakt je sterker” (“It Makes You Stronger”). Was the album influenced by that horrible accident? 

Freaky experience

“We hadn’t yet recorded it,” Verdickt says, “but we had already written the songs. Though some of them might have changed slightly. And of course, just to sing a song like ‘Alles wat je niet kapotmaakt’ was a freaky experience. The power of that song is that everyone can see their own struggle in it. By being very personal, you can become universal.”

There’s a bright thread, a brilliance, running through the whole album, both lyrically and musically

- Geert Verdickt

Songs can also change over the years, he has discovered. “I might have written it from the point of view of one character. And it might be that when I sing it years later, I see the story from the other character’s perspective.”

“Alles wat je niet kapot maakt” is the opening track of Dans & Dwaal and it’s a surprising start to the album, since it’s dripping in soul and funk.

“It's a part of my musical personality. In the past, that groovy feeling just didn’t get on to our records,” says Verdickt. “I’m glad it has now. Strange things are happening in the world, and there are different ways to react to that. You can be scared and draw in your horns, or you can make a fist and find the strength to surpass these strange things. If you want to voice these feelings, you automatically arrive at more powerful, fiery, brighter music.”

And it’s not only the opening track that has a more uplifting side. “There’s a bright thread, a brilliance, running through the whole album, both lyrically and musically,” he says. Take the song “Gold Rush”. Even without hearing it, its title puts you in a particular mood.

It’s something he knew he wanted to have before he started the album, and this was the first time he’d had such a clear vision from the beginning. “I’m not sure why,” he says. “I’d guess because it’s already our fourth album and we’re more skilful.”

An intense life

The title Dans & dwaal is an encouragement, to look for the beauty in life and dare to be amazed. “And take your time to wander, to be inspired, to look around,” he says. “Often when I drive back home from a show at night, I go into Brussels instead of taking the ring road around it. Just to hang around and feast my eyes. I find it so inspiring.”

He has discovered that when he’s searching for a solution, he might not always find it. “When I’m looking for that last line in the song lyrics, it often comes to me when I’m not thinking about it. It’s a state of mind I look out for.” That’s the straying side of the album’s title.”

In “Alles wat je niet kapotmaakt” Verdickt sings: “Op de rand van de vulkaan heffen wij het glas naar de maan.” (“On the edge of the volcano, we raise our glass to the moon.”) That sounds ominous. Verdickt: “Living on the edge can be dangerous. You can choose security and fly under the radar. That’s safe, yes. But I love an intense life. I don’t want to be part of the faceless masses.”

Do what feels good

Looking back to that accident, of course, it’s clear that destiny isn’t always in your own hands. Afterwards Verdickt wondered if he should slow down, or if he in fact wanted to do even more, because life can be over at any moment.

“For a while I struggled with this choice,” he says. “In the end I decided to follow my gut feeling. Do what feels good. I’ve declined some offers for films, even the ones with a nice budget, because I didn’t feel the project.”

Fiction attracts me less, because reality is much more interesting

- Geert Verdickt

Films, indeed. Because Verdickt has a day job besides the music: he makes documentaries, mainly in the Netherlands and Germany, for television and for companies. And he recently made a music video for Dutch singer Stef Bos, with whom he toured in South Africa.

He’s won a few international prizes in Germany and has often been asked to give workshops and to speak at conventions. “But what I do with films boils down to the same point as my music: telling stories.” Could the next step be making a feature film? He hesitates. “Fiction attracts me less, because reality is much more interesting. Don’t get me wrong: I love to watch it. But as a filmmaker I need real life to be fully inspired.”

Does this mean his songs are strongly rooted in reality, too? “Yes, they are. Most lyrics contain more non-fiction elements than most listeners would suspect,” he says. “There are a few exceptions, of course, but lyrics almost always start from something I hear, see or feel.”

Photo: Charlie De Keersmaecker

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