As the opening band for Eagles of Death Metal, Austrian rock duo White Miles had already played and left Paris’ Bataclan theatre when the venue was the target of a terrorist attack — one year ago today (Nov. 13) — that left 89 people dead and scores more seriously injured.
Earlier in the evening, Medina Rekic and Hansjörg “Lofi” Loferer had performed their set of fiery blues-rock to an appreciative crowd. Afterwards, they stepped outside to grab some fast-food from a nearby restaurant, with the intention of returning to the venue to catch the remainder of Eagles of Death Metal’s headline show.
When they got there, they discovered that the venue was under attack and, on police orders, went back to the restaurant where they watched the tragedy unfold on television, desperately trying to contact their friends and colleagues inside the Bataclan. Their worst fears were confirmed when they discovered that their friend and Eagles of Death Metal merchandise seller Nick Alexander was among those shot and killed.
“It’s difficult for us to come to terms with the terrible incident,” the duo said in a joint statement shortly after the attack, which was claimed by the ISIS militant group. “We are happy, but miserable at the same time. Happy, because we are back with our families, who help immensely to make us feel safe again; miserable, because we know that many families have to mourn.”
On the first anniversary of the Bataclan attacks, drummer Hansjörg Loferer reflects on the tragic events and tells Billboard how the band survived and moved on. “Being on the road so much this year definitely helped a lot,” he says.
One year on, what are your abiding memories of Nov. 13, 2015?
The whole night is an abiding memory itself really. Better memories are when the [Austrian] Embassy took care and picked us up, so we could finally get out of Paris and fly home.
How did the attacks impact on you personally and professionally?
Everything you experience in life does something to you, in good and bad ways. But at least you make something out of it and that can only be good for one’s future. I think the band was really greedy to do a lot of shows after all that and we surely did so and that felt great. The past year was a good one.
You released White Miles’ second album, The Duel, earlier this year and have spent much of 2016 touring. How important was music in helping you recover and continue?
Lofi: We wanted to do a lot of shows. We wanted to not stop gettin’ kicks out of it. Spend awesome nights with new people and friends, go to a lot of places and play energetic shows. Being so busy and on the road so much this year definitely helped a lot.
Three months after the Bataclan attacks, you and Eagles of Death Metal returned to Paris to play the city’s Olympia theatre in front of 900 survivors. What was that experience like?
It was the thing to do after what happened. You can’t go to a city and leave that as a last impression. And it was not only about the “last impression.” It was about the people, ourselves, and the rest of the world who knew about it. And to show terrorists that they won’t break us.