The Sore Losers – "Sabbath-esque bastard-blues" boys from Brussels

The Sore Losers band from Brussels

Every great rock’n’roll venture has a flashpoint. For Jan Straetemans, frontman with The Sore Losers, it happened in a sticky-floored shitbox deep below the city of Brussels. “This band started because of Let There Be Rock by AC/DC,” he recalls.

“In 2009 I was playing with a power trio in this very sweaty underground club. I was ripping through a cover of that song, giving it my all, thinking: ‘I’m Bon Scott and I’m Angus Young, all in one person.’ In the audience was Cedric [Maes], our guitar player. And after the show he said: ‘Hey, man, we should be in a band, and we should conquer the world.’”

Seven years and three albums later, that mission statement doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous, with The Sore Losers threatening a breakout from a domestic market that clearly frustrates them. “Brussels is a cool city, but it’s lacking the kind of underground spirit that you have in the UK,” Straetemans says. “We’re able to sell out two-thousand-capacity venues here, and that’s great. But we’re so happy this record is coming out outside Belgium.”

That record is Skydogs, a 10-track collection that rips, from the anvil-heavy, Sabbath-esque bastard-blues of Blood Moon Shining to the foot-down, spittle-flecked Cherry Cherry. In the grand tradition, the sleeve advises us to play these songs loud. “For that matter, every record should be played loud,” Straetemans clarifies. “We’re into good guitar playing with a groovy hard-rock rhythm section. But we combine that with the spirit of proto-punk bands like The Stooges and MC5. I guess it’s the combination of those two worlds.”

Even their tailoring salutes the classic era. “When you’re on stage,” Straetemans says, “you either have to go all the way, like Mick Jagger in a jumpsuit, or you go like the Ramones, with a straight black leather jacket.”

Given their vintage tastes, getting Rival Sons producer Dave Cobb for recording sessions was a coup – even if he made the band sweat. “Dave didn’t want us to have anything planned in advance,” recalls Straetemans. “He wanted us to knock out the record in two weeks. We were having slight panic attacks, because people don’t do that any more – just go in the studio and catch the core of a band. But I’m so glad he pushed us, because it’s such an honest record.”

In the lyrics for the album, Straetemans explores themes from nocturnal liaisons to the violence that rocked his home city last year. “Nightcrawler is about surrendering to the night and everything that crosses your path when the normal world is asleep,” he says. “Don’t Want It Here is about the terrorist attacks [in Brussels]. Everybody’s becoming paranoid and there’s so much fear.”

Thankfully, for The Sore Losers fears are outweighed by the hopes of hijacking the international scene. “It will take time and perseverance,” Straetemans acknowledges. “But we’re on a mission. This band is our life.”


“We love the Ramones and The Stooges, the guitar weaving of the Rolling Stones,” says Straetemans. “I think our record has lots of different songs within the genre. We’ve also got garage-rock songs and songs that remind me of Traffic. But the MC5 is the main influence, and Kick Out The Jams is the big one. Such energy.”

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.