I’ extremely proud to announce the first installment of my new series in collaboration with Post-rock PL! This new column has been launched in support of the first Polish post-rock / ambient / post-metal compilation! The kind guys at Post-rock PL put out an amazing set of 24 new artists and their debut exclusive releases. The whole thing has been released for free on March 21st, so please feel free to grab your copy at this location.
Post-rock PL is the largest Polish site gathering this much information about post rockish artists and dozens of genres and labels associated with it. They promote artists, book shows and support the scene the way the way it really needs! Lights And Air compilation is their newest move towards making Polish post rock scene more reputable.
So, I’ll be chiming in with interviews so you could learn more about the bands.
The first artist featured in this series is SPOIWO, hailing from Gdansk, Poland. Their music combines multiple layers of electric guitars with piano sounds and massive sounding drums parts, finally creating its instrumental story, full of elations and emotional changes, shrouded in post-rock convention. They’re readying their debut full length as we speak!
Hey, guys. Pleased to meet you. There’s barely anything about you online. I’m very glad I have a chance to change that [smiles]. I guess most of IDIOTEQ readers are not familiar with you, therefore would you please introduce yourself?
Hi IDIOTEQ readers, Hi Karol! We are just a bunch of friends forming a 5 piece music band (some would say ‘post-rock’ band). However, we started our musical journey as a 3 ==piece band. After graduating high school, I’ve started studying philosophy, Chris Z. psychology, and Chris S. started his full-time job. Our paths diverged, so under the pretext of forming a band we just wanted to maintain our friendship. Despite lacking even a basic musical skills, we had a strong desire to do something together. Even today, after Paul, and Simone joined us, we still can’t play instruments, but our desire is even stronger [smiles].
Cool. What instruments have you got in stock? Have you always played the same instruments, or have you tried adding new sounds to SPOIWO’s tracks?
At the beginning there were only drums, and guitar, but we knew that those were insufficient to fulfill our music vision. Over time we added bass, then synth, and another one, but even with those instruments we encounter some limitations. As a big soundtracks fans, we would love to be able to compose songs with orchestra [laughs]. Maybe one day… [smiles]. However, we are very pedantic sound-wise. We spend hours tweaking patches, and arguing about their sonic quality. I, for instance, love guitar effects, and my biggest goal is to modulate its sound in such a way, that you couldn’t tell what kind of instrument is being played. I simply hate the way electric guitar sounds.
Recently, during live shows, we’ve been experimenting with second guitar, but we’ve dropped the idea. We are still experimenting however, we could use live instruments like violin for example, or on the other hand, more computer generated sounds.
Who’s the main composer in the band?
When it comes to composing I think we are all involved in the process, each of us adding his own ideas and opinions. However, our tracks often revolve around some piano and/or guitar theme, which often becomes core of the composition.
So for example, if it’s Piter who came up with some interesting guitar melody (and he often does! [smiles]), he will lead through the rest of the composing process. It is worth mentioning that even though Paul is our bass player, he also plays keys and it’s kind of ‘leading-voice’ when it comes to piano department [smiles].
Do you rehearse a lot?
We used to rehearse a lot, now we focus mainly on finishing songs for recording, so we work individually on our parts, or in small groups, so we don’t disturb each other [smiles].
Oh yeah, the recording. Please tell me more about your upcoming EP. Will this be your first proper record?
Yep. We’ve released two tracks last year: Skin, and Years of Silence, both with music videos, as a part of promotion, but we haven’t released a proper CD yet. Our upcoming CD will consist of 5 tracks. Skin, and new, long version of Years of silence will be included, along with 3 new songs. Hopefully recording will be finished until April, but mixing and mastering process will take some time. We plan to release it in April. There might be also a new music video [smiles].
Wasn’t there a split with CALIFORNIA STORIES UNCOVERED back in January?
No, there wasn’t [smiles].
So what the heck is that? [laughs]
Back in January we played with CALIFORNIA STORIES UNCOVERED in Królewska Fabryka Karabinów, but that’s about it. So I guess it’s just a misuse of term ‘split’.
A sort of an unofficial promo release, huh? How was the gig?
That was a great gig! KFK is a place with vast potential as music venue. It’s spacious and has great acoustics. And it’s more than just a name, it really used to be weapon factory in the past there, so imagine empty industrial hall shrouded with post-rock.
And even though it was one of the coldest day of the winter, LOT’S of people showed up. So yeah, it was amazing. Organization-wise, it was not an easy task, but organizers were up to the challenge (Jakub Knera and Piotr Ryncarz).
Amazing! What other cool venues do you have in Gdansk?
That’s quite a problem. There are several clubs in our city, but few of them are really local band-friendly. There are some big venues, almost inaccessible for local bands, few smaller ones, often suffering from bad PA, acoustics, or lack of proper promotion, and few really small ones. Additionally, some of the clubs are state-owned, and have their own vision of how the public means should be spent [smiles]. Also, many venues do not have their own sound technicians, and stage lightening is often limited to one, static color. In my opinion there is not a single venue in our city, which is available for local bands, professionally run, with good PA and stage lights.
I disagree. It all comes down to two things: purpose and money. Big, well equipped venues are part of either cultural institutions, or commercially oriented clubs, the former aim for niche, alternative yet well-established bands and latter are after whatever brings people and money, and a lots of it. Most of the local bands (and we’re among them) are beyond the scope of both parties for obvious reasons. And that’s OK with me. There are still plenty of good places to go. Yes, PA could be better, lights would be cool and so on, but you can still have a great gig even despite this.
Yeah! For sure. We had some great gigs even though we had no monitors on stage (and we have two keyboard players). The technical side of gig is only part of the overall band experience during shows. There are lot of helpful, creative people, who organize shows with great passion and devotion and that’s the most important thing! But I still think, that Gdańsk is not as gig-friendly, as, for example, Gdynia, or Sopot.
Do you envy those who perform and rehearse in other Polish cities, such as Warsaw? [smiles] Would it be easier to run this band somewhere else?
Gdańsk or Warsaw, it doesn’t matter.
But maybe it would be easier if we would live abroad? Grass always seems greener on the other side…
[smiles] You know, musicians in Egypt might envy musicians in Poland, and musicians in Poland might envy musicians in Germany, and musicians in Germany might envy musicians in Great Britain and musicians in Great Britain might envy musicians in Iceland and musicians in Iceland don’t give a fuck because they are busy fishing in free time [laughs]. But sometimes I envy those guys who had luck to create in 70′ or 80′. It was much easier to become a “big band”, and make your living. Now situation has changed. We’ve got almost unlimited access to musical instrument and recording studios. It’s easy to record and release and album, but it’s really hard to be successful and to make your living out of it. It’s not an lucrative market anymore. Especially in Poland.
So what’s the key to become noticed, stay competitive and grow innovative in your genre? Is it kind of a goal of yours?
To become noticed… yes, one thing is to stay creative, recycle old elements into new, refreshing configurations and so on. But the other thing is that you really need to make effort to grab attention of your potential audience. There are so many good bands out there, why they should give us chance? And by “us” I mean really any band. You need to be visible, active and as you said innovative. Just becoming noticed, in my opinion, is not enough, you need to stay on the surface once you got there, you need to promote yourself. Not just passively wait till someone discovers you, but try to reach out to the people.
If you stick to post-rock you can’t be innovative [smiles]. I think, that our goal is to master our skills in transferring emotions over to the listeners. Music should evoke emotions, encourage you to introspect, dive into your consciousness, tear you apart. This an important factor which is often overlooked while composing music. Fully innovative music has no value for me, because it is counter-intuitive. You have to construct some kind of hybrid, which will take intuition as its foundation, and incorporate a new value on this firm ground. Perfect vessel for emotions is melody. I’ve notice a very disappointing tendency in contemporary post-rock music, namely a trivialization of post-rock concept. Many bands maintain form of a post-rock – explosions, slow passages and so on, but they lack an essence. Everything is empty inside. Void. Form without a matter. I think you should turn this process upside down, start from emotion, and then, find a way to express it. When you have this in mind you can escape genre limitations, and start to figure out your way. It’s not about being competitive, or innovative, it’s about not letting yourself to fall into constrains of form. There is also another side of this process – marketing. You have to really work your ass off to achieve something in this business. We work slowly, focusing mainly on the quality of things we are doing. We don’t want to record every idea, or every song, like many bands out there. Hopefully, this is the right choice [smiles].
So what artists do you embrace for continuous creation of a unique essence?
The best example is SIGUR ROS, but you can find “essence” also on some albums or songs. There is something magical about music of HAMMOCK, NILS FRAHM, TIM HECKER, some albums of ARCHIVE, M83, or music composers like Hans Zimmer and Wim Wenders, to name only a few. When it comes to polish music, the first band which comes to my mind is LENNY VALENTINO, and the best polish song ever recorded – Uwaga jedzie tramwaj. But of course, there are many more bands, and “essence” is quite a subjective matter.
Do you care about labels and names of genres and styles? Do you defend the differences between post-rock, instrumental and ambient? Does it make any difference?
Many bands don’t like being categorized, as they claim, that it distort the real value of music – it takes it’s ‘uniqueness’ away. But from the “users’ “view/perspective it is extremely useful. I use this option myself while searching for new music, or bands. Of course we have to treat it more like a simplified version of description which serves as a kind of a signpost. The multitude of music forces us to create categories and outlines, yet, it would be a weird situation, if the only chance to get to know the musical content of particular albums was by listening to it. Whereas for the author it’s not of big importance how someone describes his music even though attitude towards particular music genres shifts over time. Post-rock for example, is perceived rather negative nowadays, as a genre with finite form, exhausted, outworn relict of the past [smiles]. However the problem of definition of a genre and its boundaries is a completely different matter. For me, difference between post-rock and ambient is substantial, and ‘instrumental’ is a higher-order term, which contain both descriptions… in the end, it doesn’t really matter [smiles].
[smiles] So what do you actually think about the current state of post-rock / ambient / experimental music in Poland?
You force me to play the bad guy [smiles]. I’m not following polish experimental or ambient music, so I’ve got no idea, but I do follow polish post-rock, and it is currently at the stage of copying foreign bands. Hopefully this will change over time.
No Polish bands you’d like to shout out to? Nothing? Null? Zero? [laughs] Damn, and I was about to ask you about your idols and role models [laughs].
[smiles] You know, post-rock has been out there since at least two decades, and Polish scene is quite young. You either need a genius to do something refreshing in this genre, or you have to work out your style, and this takes time. It is simply to early to say something conclusive about Polish scene.
What are your thoughts on the Post-Rock PL compilation you’re taking part in?
Wonderful idea. For me it is like a census of Polish post-rock scene [smiles]. Very informative and quite comprehensive. This might be a milestone in promotion of Polish post-rock scene.
Tell me how they tapped you for this project.
Our history with Post-Rock PL and (great) people behind it goes back to
January 2012, when we released “Years of Silence” along with music video. I think they liked it (smiles) and gave us some spotlight on their page. Since then, we’ve been in touch with Marcin Rzeźnik, so when he told us about this project (compilation), we were more than happy to join.
A compilation like this provides a nice set of ideas for music, don’t you think? What artists are you into these days? Shoot me some recommendations and tell me about your musical inspirations.
Yeah, you have all kind of stuff on this compilation. As Piter mentioned before, polish scene is young, but “Lights and Air” proves it has much to offer, even if not immediately, if not today, or maybe not even tomorrow, future still looks promising for us, here in Poland.
Inspirations and recommendations. Well, can I just say I’m mind blown with recent SIGUR ROS? It’s so fresh. Darker, heavier…less gentle, animalistic, primal but no primitive? I don’t know, I don’t have appropriate word for it. Once again they show how much of unexplored space there is, in the post-rock world.
Have you seen these guys performing live?
Yeah, Warsaw 2008.
Which venue was it? I’m planning to finally check them out live this year.
Speaking of great bands, did you cry when they canceled last year’s THE AMERICAN DOLLAR gig with your supporting slot? What was the story behind it?
It was in Sowinskiego Amphitheatre, they are playing there again, this year, but I guess you already know that, right? [smiles]
Yeah, that was most unlucky. We were to act as support for THE AMERICAN DOLLAR, and we were very excited about it, but they were forced to cancel their Russian and European tour due to health issues if I remember correctly.
What other supporting slots are you most proud of?
One of my favorites was gig with IOSEB. Tiny club, loads of people. eS, our drummer, had birthday and everybody sang “happy birthday” for him, and after that we started playing u2 song “sunday bloody sunday” (he loves u2). Some random people got on stage, singing and jamming with us. Everybody got drunk. That was a good gig [smiles].
Alright, guys. Many thanks for your time and good luck with your new EP! Make sure to drop me a line as soon as you release this new video you teased. Feel free to add anything you like.
Sure! Thanks for Interview Karol! We had a really nice time being here in the studio [laughs]! We would also like to thank Post-Rock PL for creating polish post-rock community, and promoting post-rock in general! And we would love to thank everybody who was, is, or will be supporting us! Big, big thanks!
End, already? No more questions? Damn. I was just warming up! [winks]
Sorry, boys. I need to to spread the word about couple hundreds other bands and try not to lose my day job because of my excessive involvement in IDIOTEQ [laughs].
Let’s keep in touch, though. All the best for you, guys! Cheers!