The Optimist Gallery

The Optimist Gallery: Stefan Meeuws

So I think it would be a good idea to share my own Optimist story.

One day in 2001, my best friend saw a documentary on tv on bands using acoustic guitars. Before then,we’ve been listening to all kinds of music that we deemed to be “good”, not the synthesizer stuff and dance music that was dominating the charts, but music made with real instruments, by real musician. My best friend had been mastering the violin, I had been playing acoustic guitar for several years. However, ’till that day I didn’t know many songs that were meant for acoustic / classic guitars, so I switched to electric guitar, to start a band and be cool. I think I’m not wrong in saying that, after my friend saw this documentary on tv (exploring whether there was such a thing as a “new acoustic movement”), he wanted to play guitar too. I spent the first months teaching him the basics while he tracked down the albums from the bands involved.

Well, so he bought CDs by Kings of Convenience, I Am Kloot and Turin Brakes. He then tried to convince me that this was good music. I didn’t really know what to do with it: this was acoustic guitar music without big choruses, uptempo drums or things like that. It was understated, subtle music. Nothing wrong with that, but it just didn’t grab me. While my friend kept on playing me these albums, only one or two songs managed to grab me. For The Optimist LP, it was Underdog (Save Me). That song taught me a lot: for example that you can have a great solo on acoustic guitars. The rest of the Optimist songs I just didn’t get at first.

We were living in the time when people were copying CDs for each other and my friend made a compilation from The Optimist, featuring Feeling Oblivion, Underdog (Save Me), The Door and Mind Over Money. Slowly these songs started to grab me and keep me coming back. I didn’t love them at first, but I started to like the others one by one, starting with Mind Over Money. Then, I got a copy of the full album and things went from there. Early 2002 we started an acoustic duo type band, called Plain (how we liked our chips at the time, although our debut album would be called A little bit of salt, please), writing songs of our own and working out how to play songs from the acoustic bands we started to adore. I liked the music, but I still thought some of it was “boring”. By the end of 2002, we saw I Am Kloot live, my first ever real live gig. I think that by then, something had happened, because in October / November 2002 the Turin Brakes forum went online, and my and my friend were both amongst the first to sign up, though we weren’t really active. By March 2003, however, I remember we both went to buy Ether Song on the day of its release. By then, I was truly excited about a new album by Turin Brakes.

Something had happened, I finally saw sense, I could identify with the lyrics, and joined the forum and listened a lot to both albums. It took me two years to fully appreciate The Optimist LP, but these songs had become my friends. The album became a way of life to me. But that is not why I started this fansite. I started this fansite because I had been toying with HTML for the past two years as well and I wanted to make a website about all the bands I really liked. However, early 2003 everything was quiet at Kings of Convenience and I Am Kloot front and the only band to have an active website, was Turin Brakes – because they had just released Ether Song. So after a month or so THISISGOODMUSIC turned into Ether Site. I got some really good responses which inspired me to keep me going. A lot of people helped me by correcting lyrics and sending in stories.

So no, The Optimist LP didn’t stop me in my tracks. It did keep on bugging me, it did introduce me to a new kind of music and eventually it DID become a way of life (although I do have to admit that I didn’t buy a real, official copy of the album till 2004 – *ashamed*). These songs aren’t happy material, at all, which is weird, since it IS called The Optimist LP. But somewhere in each song, no matter how lost, there’s a flicker of hope, a sense of optimism, that things will be brighter. For me the album speaks of escapism of direction and of hopes and dreams. It’s an album for late night listening and for sunday afternoons. It’s an album that works in every season and every mood. I know, because it’s been with me for ten years now. We got off to a rocky start, but by now we’ve been musical friends for such a long time. Longer and more deeply than any other album. This is the album I would take to my desert island, it’s the album that comes on every trip and appears on every mp3-playable device, cd and record player I own. It’s the first album I listened to when I moved houses (twice) and it’s the album I listen to when I feel lonely, happy, homesick, adventurous or indeed a little lost in life. And even if someone where to take all the physical copies from me and delete all relevant files on my computers and devices, then I would still have the music in my head. I truly can’t live without it. Nor do I want to.


Check back tomorrow for The Optimist story from a very special Optimist! 😉


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