“The ego of the group will not be tolerated”

© CPU – Chris Stessens

A crowded summer festival around a debut album isn’t even on the shelves; Chibi Ichigo has had the time of her life in recent months. This past weekend’s big Pukkelpop was followed by a show at Ancienne Belgique, followed by groups at DOUR, Suikerrock and Lokerse Feesten, among others. A special place, given the festival, is held a stone’s throw from where Sabina Noregieva grew up. A home match for the singer turned out to be one of the best live acts in our country, immediately as the club’s headline. Just before that big show, we spent fifteen minutes with Chibi and her dancers Gento Schaaf and Michael de Jeter, looking back at their development, but also looking to the future.

How do you feel when you’re in the big Pukkelpop after this full summer?

Chibi: It’s a lot of fun, especially because this is the first real copy since it’s been allowed back in (Chibi Ichigo was already on Pukkelpopkwartier in 2021, editor). For Jento, for example, this is his first ever Pukkelpop, so this is special.

Gentoo: And I’m from Limburg! Shame on top! (Laugh) It’s right that it’s the first time I’m on stage in front of people. I take it as a sign that it should be done this way.

You also instantly top the club.

Chibi: Yes, we were all shocked when we heard the news.

Gentoo: One word: difficult.

Chibi: The three of us were together when we heard it. We were on the train and at half past nine Helga (Nolens, manager, editor) called. I thought, ‘Either this is very bad news, or it is very good news. You never called this that late. And when you told us, we started screaming very loudly.’ (Laugh)

Mikhail: We all went. Some girls who were sitting on the train also looked at us very strangely. (Laugh)

And maybe the cool thing is that all of this happens without your album coming out, but the atmosphere is always so good.

Chibi: This is really very strange.

Mikhail: Our shows at Ancienne Belgique and Trix were truly some of the craziest we’ve ever had. The audience is very immersed in the music. We feel so much love, energy and teamwork! (smiling)

Gentoo: In the words of Nicki Minaj: “20,000 verses, no album coming out.” (Laugh)

Chibi: It gives me more confidence. If people are already dancing to something they don’t know, it will be more fun if everyone can sing along later.

What was the real album like for the first time?

Chibi: It’s a lot of work. Previous projects were pretty low-key, only at home and the mix happened with friends. Now everything is more compact. Then we have to mingle there and score there. It also costs a lot of money; Nobody talks about it. So I was relieved that I invested so much in myself for the first time. I felt so much bigger, but in a great way. (Laugh)

Gentoo: Not in a boring way! No taxes! (Laugh)

chibea: Yes it is! (Laugh)

Gentoo: Taxes too! (Laugh)

© CPU – Chris Stessens

You are also lucky to have the album with your friend UM! made. You always had a base nearby.

Chibi: Yes that’s right. You understand each other better. I don’t have to explain a thousand times.

And Jeroen De Pessemier of The Subs was behind the controls. How did this cooperation go?

Chibi: Jeroen mixed it all up and produced it, which is great. He is a very special person, but gradually we got to know each other better and understood each other better. At first I didn’t understand him and he didn’t understand me.

Did he also have an opinion on music?

Chibi: He’s given his opinion on each combination anyway. We didn’t always get along with that in the end, but we learned a lot that way. I have to give him that.

Are there other things you learned? For example because of this busy summer festival?

Chibi: Yes, a lot of fun stuff, but also less fun. With the latter I mainly mean the respect that is sometimes not shown on stage. And what to do in this case.

Gentoo: We’re not going to name names, but on stage you feel pretty weak anyway since you exposed yourself. To show a side of yourself that is still unacceptable… This is no easy feat. If that is destroyed somehow, it will hit twice as much as normal. It is not only offensive to you as a player, but also as a person.

Mikhail: We don’t move. We do not perform. We bring what we are.

Gentoo: And if one of us gets attacked, the whole group feels it. This is really crazy. That we had to play without Mikael at Lokerse Feesten because of what happened recently (Mikael was probably a victim of anti-gay violence, editor), is something I can’t describe. It was such a painful feeling not to be on stage together. And because I feel it so intensely, while I haven’t even been on stage with them for a year, I know it’s true.

So Chibi Ichigo is more than just Sabina?

Chibi: Yes we are family.

Mikhail: I instantly felt so much love from them when this happened.

Chibi: Mikael and Gento are also very important on stage because they show who they are. It is very good to feel connected with people. You feel accepted and welcomed. So we are a big love bubble.

Mikhail: It is a celebration of what we want to express.

Is that what you want to bring with your music? Because all of your songs are dance hard disks, but there’s always a story behind them.

Chibi: There is always meaning. Mostly it is about growth. This always comes back.

Gentoo: Self positivity and appearance too.

What next for chibi ichigo?

Chibi: Some surprises are already planned at the club. We will present the album and cover and open the pre-order, so from now on you can Sabina to ask! do all! (Laugh) It’s very exciting anyway, because it’s now happening on a larger scale. It’s no longer “just” for friends and family.

What does it do to you when you hear that Chibi Ichigo is one of the best living acts right now?

Chibi: We always feel a lot of love and that motivates us even more to do better. This does stress you out in the end, but it’s good pressure. When things get tough, we have each other.

Mikhail: The nice thing is that we don’t feel like we’re on stage. We never think, “Look at us!” We are just having fun. We are just human, like everyone else.

Chibi: The ego in the group is also not tolerated. If there is, it will not grow anymore.

Gentoo: The sky is the limit but the feet stay on the ground! (Laugh)

Would you do anything special to appear on stage so cool?

Chibi: I meditate correctly.

Gentoo: We are just there. (Laugh)

Mikhail: As we leave Brussels, I begin to meditate and I am already subconsciously engaged. When we arrive, it’s a bit of a rollercoaster. Everyone has their own way of preparing, but we respect everyone’s way. We have a ritual before the performance, which is to hug each other and wish each other a good show.

Is this house match giving you more tension?

Chibi: It’s even more fun, because now we’re playing for family and friends. Some of them I haven’t seen in a long time.

Gentoo: The accent alone makes me feel at home. The people who work here really speak flat Limburgish. It immediately gives me a sense of belonging.

© CPU – Chris Stessens

Can you tell us something about the new single “Beautiful”.

Chibi: It will be released on September 23 and it is about manifesting my dreams; What I want to radiate and being grateful for has already taken me away.

Gentoo: And that you have to take care of your garden. The lawn should also be mowed, even if you want to get to the top. If the lawn is not mowed, you cannot sow desires. (Laugh)

What does the future still look like? What are you still hoping to achieve?

Chibi: I just try to be as open as possible. I think this is really going to be an important learning process. Anticipate all possibilities and know that I really enjoyed making the album. Whatever happens, it just happens. This is the best power you can get.

You might also be glad that the registry is finally over and ready for release?

chibea: I’m glad I don’t have to compose new music anymore. (Laugh)

Gentoo: Oh, I can’t wait for the new music. (Laugh)

Do you, as dancers, really have a say in numbers?

Gentoo: Yes, we actually write and produce every single song. (Laugh)

Mikhail: Chibi is just a flip. No, but maybe sometime in the future…

Chibi: I can always tell what they’re thinking based on their reaction. So far, this has always been the correct response.

Mikhail: We’re always one of the first to hear the song, so we can think about how we see it visually and the choreography. So far it has always worked.

Chibi: Without “paranoia” I wouldn’t have had dancers. We made this song with you as a virtual idea in our heads.

So they are actually the trigger for your new chapter?

Mikhail: I’ve never looked at him that way.

Chibi: You were my inspiration, even though you weren’t in my world yet.

Michael: I remember asking last summer if we’d only seen Paranoia as a one-time thing or if we could stay in to watch an entire show. Then I thought no. And see where we are now. (Laugh)

Are Jento and Mikael also in the credits on the physical version?

Mikhail: Oh, good question!

Chibi: Yes, they are. That was a surprise, they didn’t know it yet. (Laugh)

Michael Gentou: number! You don’t mean it! My God!

Chibi: I could not forget you!

Chibi Ichigo’s first album Sabina It will be published on October 14.

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