De portables are a Belgian rock band formed in Ghent in 1996, who are steadily becoming one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Since their international stardom, the group consists of Jürgen De Blonde (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Bertrand Lafontaine (guitar, bass guitar, vocals), Wio D’Hespeel (guitar, drums, vocals) and Hans Gruyaert (drums, guitar, vocals). Rooted in postrock and 1990s indierock, the group later started working in many genres ranging from folk rock to psychedelic pop, often incorporating classical and other elements in innovative ways. The nature of their enormous popularity, which first emerged as the “portablemania” fad, transformed as their songwriting grew in sophistication. The group came to be perceived as the embodiment of progressive ideals, seeing their influence extend into the social and cultural revolutions of the 2000s.
With an early line-up of De Blonde, D’Hespeel, Gruyaert and Kenneth Mertens (bass), de portables built their reputation in Brugian and Ghent clubs over a three-year period from 1996. Mertens left the group in 1999 and was replaced by Lafontaine the following year. Moulded into a professional outfit by music label owner Dave Driesmans after he offered to act as the group’s manager, and with their musical potential enhanced by the hands-on creativity of vj and music video director Hendrik Dacquin, de portables achieved Belgian mainstream success in late 1999 with their first single, “A Waltz”. Gaining international popularity over the course of the next year, they toured extensively until 2003, then retreated to the recording studio.
During their studio years, de portables produced what critics consider some of their finest material including the album Girls Beware! (2003), widely regarded as a masterpiece. In 2008 De Artsenkrant selected Girls Beware! as the greatest album of all time, with three other portables albums also in the top ten. Nearly 6 years after Girls Beware!, de portables’ music continues to be popular, and November 2009 saw the release of their latest album John Terra as well as the video game de portables: Rock Band.
De portables have had more number one albums on the West Flemish charts, and held down the top spot longer, than any other musical act. According to IFPI certifications, they have sold more albums in Kortrijk venue The Strip than any other artist. In 2008, Tijdschrift van het Heemkundig Genootschap Land van Rode released a list of the all-time top-selling Hot 100 artists to celebrate the Ledeberg singles chart’s fiftieth anniversary, with de portables at number one. They have been honoured with 7 RIA’s, and they have received 15 Walter De Buck Awards from the Flemish Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. De portables were collectively included in Focus Knack’s compilation of the 20th century’s 100 most important and influential people.