What’s special about SULKA, a Glasgow based lo-fi melodic scuzz-rock songwriting and recording project by Lukas Clasen, becomes apparent as soon as you drop the needle on the first track of his new record “Take Care”. There’s a warm, moody, emotive radiance about his offering that gets in your cells, and escapes the often negative connotations surrounding the term “lo-fi”.
SULKA‘s debut album for Lost Map Records, Take Care, will be released on January 29, 2021 via digital services and in an initial run of just 200 hand-stamped CD-Rs in hand-assembled packaging, each with a printed A5 zine containing lyrics and illustrations by Sulka. Additionally, 30 cassette copies will be released in collaboration with Gold Mold Records. Today, we’re super pleased to give you the first listen, along with a special track by track commentary below.
“The first track ‘Fear It’ channels a lot bands I listened to in my late teens,” says Lukas, “Cloud Nothings, The Cribs, Dinosaur Jr, Elliott Smith for example. So it has a kind of nostalgic but timeless feel to it for me. Lyrically there’s a lot of angst and turbulence in there which I think sets up some of the themes of the album quite well. I’m especially grateful to my friend Niamh from Moonsoup for adding some last-minute backing vocals which makes it a million times more listenable to me.”
Sulka has been putting out a steady stream of albums and EPs since 2017 via various local cassette labels including Gold Mold, Death Collective, Common and Negative Hope. Luka’s songwriting draws its main inspiration from figures of the late 90s and early 00s alternative scenes; Elliott Smith-esque acoustic compositions, scuzzy upbeat indie-rock tracks reminiscent of The Cribs and experiments in sound collage in the vein of Badly Drawn Boy. The dynamic and stylistic range of the tracks are kept coherent through a DIY home recording aesthetic and a consistent lyrical tone. Throughout the tracks, raw personal subject matter such as relationships and mental health are often explored with a mixture of sincerity and tongue-in-cheek word play.
SULKA’S SONG-BY-SONG GUIDE TO HIS NEW ALBUM
1. FEAR IT – I wrote this one pretty late in the process and wasn’t sure where to put it, but it became clear it was probably the catchiest tune so it made sense to be up front and centre. It’s just a straightforward indie bop with these really emo lyrics about having an anxious brain. Niamh’s [from Moonsoup] vocals were added at the very last minute before sending off for mastering – so glad we did them.
2. HOLLOW DAYS – Possibly my favourite track on the record. I managed to sum up my lonely/reckless post-breakup headspace in the most accurate way, with a couple of fun word plays as well. “Drinking in all the expensive bars, hoping if I get lucky I’ll see stars” is my favourite line.
3. SHE CARES – Another indie bop with a little guitar solo in the middle, for a treat. This one has been fun to play with the band and will be great live. The lyrics are hard to sum up – it’s kind of about casual dating vs the comfort of a steady relationship.
4. PUNCTURED – Hard to say exactly what I was on about here, a lot of different themes going on. I think that sums up the song though really – it’s very dynamic, part acoustic and part electric, super quiet to super loud. It’s like a mood swing of a song.
5. SLEEP CYCLE – I like to put wee instrumental pieces like this in my albums. They help the transition from one section to the next and give you a nice break. This is quite a peaceful, dreamy one too – hence the name.
6. PORCH – He won’t remember, but I came up with this riff while chilling with my flatmate one time. I was all excited and said “I’m gonna make a song out of this”. He just said, “it’s a bit mental”. I took that as an insult and decided I had to develop the song to prove him wrong. Maybe he was right though, it is a bit mental.
7. YOU & I – I think this one should be relatable to anyone who’s been in a long-distance relationship. The “bad connection, frozen screen” line even more so during Covid times.
8. CHASING -I consider this song to be the thematic core of the album. The lyrics are all about chaos, life spiralling around me, feeling a bit dazed and out of control. This is in keeping with in the relentless pace of the track and its blown out fuzzy tape style. It’s like an explosion.
9. INSTRUMENTAL 2 – My bandmate described this tune the other day as “if Sulka did the soundtrack to Mission Impossible” and I can’t stop thinking about that now.
10. FELL OUT OF A SKY – Every album has that one track that doesn’t come together easily, and this is that one. Re-recorded and remixed it a hundred times until I got it into a state I sort of liked. Other than that, I’m proud of this song – quite an emotionally intense one that seems to really resonate with everyone I show it to as well.
11. BIG DIVIDE – My attempt at channelling some folk/country vibes. Another of my faves on the record, with a weirdly intricate structure despite sounding like it just kinda does the same thing all the way through. The lyrics are about having deep chats with your mate when you’re on class As.
12. IT’S ALL OVER – The rocked-up version of a track I released earlier on the Moonsoup & Sulka EP. I’ve always found titles like “the end” etc. a bit cheesy to put as the last track of the album, but f*ck it. It works.