Hooverphonic are a Belgian ambient pop group who initially became known for their moody, playful take on trip-hop during the mid-'90s. Since then, the band's sound has evolved greatly, incorporating psychedelic, pop, and orchestral elements. The group's songs have appeared in numerous advertisements as well as film and television soundtracks, and they have a considerable fan base throughout the world. However, they are superstars in their native Belgium; starting with 1998's Blue Wonder Power Milk, all of their albums (including compilations and live recordings) have hit the Top Ten of the album charts, and five of them have reached the top spot.
Initially known as Hoover, the group was founded in 1995 by guitarist/programmer Alex Callier, keyboardist Frank Duchêne, and guitarist Raymond Geerts. The band cut its first demo with singer Esther Lybeert, and industrial musician Luc Van Acker (Revolting Cocks, Lords of Acid) encouraged the group to shop its music to record labels. Eventually the group signed with Sony, but Lybeert decided to leave the group, so Liesje Sadonius became Hoover's vocalist for the recording of their first album. Hoover made their initial splash contributing the song "2Wicky" (an eerie trip-hop number sampling both Pierre Henry and Isaac Hayes) to the soundtrack of the 1996 Bernardo Bertolucci film Stealing Beauty. The hit was followed by the full-length A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular, a trippy album filled with breakbeats and samples. By the time the album was issued in America in 1997, the group had changed its name to Hooverphonic in order to avoid confusion with other bands titled Hoover, as well as the American vacuum cleaner manufacturer.
Sadonius left Hooverphonic a short time later, as she was uninterested in touring, and she was replaced by 18-year-old vocalist Geike Arnaert in time to record 1998's Blue Wonder Power Milk. Less eccentric than their debut, the album proved to be a success, with multiple songs featuring in films and advertisements even a decade after the album's release. Duchêne left Hooverphonic, leaving them a trio for 2000's The Magnificent Tree. The disc was even more accessible, and a bigger hit, reaching number two on the Belgian charts. The group wrote the theme song for that year's European Football Championship, which took place in Brussels. They then released the concept album Hooverphonic Presents Jackie Cane, which became their first number one. This was followed by Sit Down and Listen to Hooverphonic, an album recorded live with an orchestra but without an audience. No More Sweet Music, a double CD including a remix disc, was released in 2005.
Hooverphonic left Sony in 2006 in protest of the lack of support from the label, releasing a singles compilation as a contractual obligation. In 2007 they signed with the powerhouse Belgian indie PIAS to release the psychedelic-influenced album The President of the LSD Golf Club, but shortly after its release, Arnaert left the band to pursue a solo career. Undeterred, the band began the search for a replacement. After receiving thousands of applications from all over the world, they finally decided on a young Belgian woman, Noémie Wolfs, who had almost no previous musical experience. Their first album with Wolfs on vocals, entitled The Night Before, was issued in 2010. The album's title track became their highest-charting single yet, reaching number three on the Belgian chart. The release also marked their return to Sony, as well as their shift toward a more mainstream adult contemporary sound.
In 2012, the group released Hooverphonic with Orchestra, which contained newly arranged recordings of previous hits, as well as a cover of Massive Attack's classic "Unfinished Sympathy." The album was a number one hit, and it was followed by the CD/DVD With Orchestra Live, also a chart-topper. The band continued its streak with 2013's Reflection. Wolfs decided to leave the band in 2015. Instead of finding another replacement, Callier and Geerts worked with a revolving cast of guest vocalists for their subsequent recordings and performances. Hooverphonic returned in 2016 with the Europop-leaning In Wonderland, which was yet another number one smash in Belgium. ~ Jason Ankeny & Paul Simpson