Intertwined with the artful feel of their unique lyricism, the newest craft from Polish band ŻURAWIE (Cranes) echoes the sentiment of their alt rock, post hardcore, noise rock and post punk influences, but also settles their sound around their own, organic sounding ideas of intricate sonic naturalism that hooks the listener instantly.
Their sophomore album “Poza Zasięgiem” (Koty Records) marks a captivating follow up to their 2019 debut “Powidok“, and today, we’re thrilled to give it a nod with a special feature and their first-hand write-up about penning out a new DIY record amidst the pandemic.
Words by Żurawie
Żurawie – creating an album from scratch as an indie, DIY band in these weird times
As a word of introduction – we’re Żurawie (Cranes in eng.), we’re a trio from northern Poland (Gdynia, Sopot). As a band, our music blends post-hardcore/alternative rock/art punk while implementing elements of electronic music, creating this weird synth-driven emotional noise rock chimera (for lack of a more normal name for it). Our most recent album Poza Zasięgiem („Out of Reach”) was released on 26th February via Koty Records, an indie punk/alternative oriented label from Poznań. Here, at Idioteq, we’d like to give you, the readers, an insight into the process of making music over the course of the ongoing pandemic when you’re a small, DIY indie band, working out the way to do it on the go, with satisfying (for us) results.
Let’s back it up a bit though.
October, 2019 – “Blast off!”
Our first EP „Powidok” has just been released, and much to our surprise, it’s not only getting postive reviews from Polish underground music groups and blogs, but also gaining us a bit of recognition among people in the scene. Everything’s going great, right off the bat we start writing new material, people seem to really be enjoying what we do, we get invited to play a gig with one of Tricity’s alternative scene most recognizable bands, Kiev Office. To say that we we’re happy would be quite an understatement.
January, 2020 – “Happy New Year… hopefully?”
Gdańsk. The venue is Drizzly Grizzly, the smaller brother of B90. Three local nads are on the bill – Kiev Office, and two supporting acts: Żurawie and Feeria. Over 200 people come to the gig, everyone is having a blast – the audience, the bands, the personnel, the atmosphere is nothing but joyful (and extremely loud). Audience’s response to both our stuff from „Powidok”, as well as new material and performance are extremely positive. In our minds we’re already planning gigs in other regions of Poland. For Żurawie, the 2020 is off to a great start. We spend the rest of January and February at Michał Miegoń’s (Kiev Office) studio, Sound8, which over the last couple of years has become our main rehearsal space, putting 100% of effort and focus into the crafting of our new songs.
In the meantime, more and more news start pouring in about some kind of virus which appeared in China couple of weeks ago. Considering the fact that it’s 2020, none of us really bothered much at that point – medicine is so advanced, the technology is state-of-the-art, the virus shouldn’t cause any more problems, right?
Well, we couldn’t have been more wrong.
No one was really ready for the crisis that was about to hit every single person on Earth. Certainly not us – three friends, whose DIY indie band’s music has just started reaching people outside of our hometown, imaging all kinds of nice scenarios for the rest of the year.
March, 2020 – „What it is now…”
The virus has become the most talked about topic all around the world. SARS-CoV-2 has pretty much reached every single country there is. People are in panic, governements shut the borders, hoping to somehow minimize the number of the infected. No one at this point is really thinking about anything else than the safety of their own and their families. Businesses start shutting down, more and more people are losing their jobs (and still are, to this day) – the world as we knew it is somehow gone. The whole situation seems like some kind of bizarre, lucid dream that none of us seem to be able to wake up from. The music industry isn’t spared in any way, especially people who make their living writing music and playing shows. We’re witnessing people from the small bands that we know and are fans of, looking for any possible source of income. It’s bad, (almost) everybody sees it, it’s no revelation to anybody.
All of our plans, just like others’, became a thing of the past in a blink of an eye. We cancel all our rehearsals, because we’re all scared about our families and their health – this becomes the first major delay in the creating process. Every single one of us is used to working on ideas on his own, but we always bring those to the rehearsal, in order to figure them out collectively and twist them in all possible ways, until we agree they „sound right”.
So now each of us is isolating, trying to come up with some new things for Żurawie to work on in the near (or very far future, nobody really knows when it’s gonna happen). While writing songs and ideas alone isn’t something new to us, the lack of being together in one room with our instruments causes all sorts of problems with the songwriting process – the so called writer’s block hits, the motivation to practice begins to fade, and the only way of communication is via the Internet or a phone call.
We hear more and more bands disband due to simply lack of playing together – the motivation for doing this goes away, and is replaced with accomodating to what would soon become our new „normal life”. We’re friends, we’ve known each other for years so this „band” isn’t really the only thing that’s keeping us together – each of us cares about the other two, so the possibility of dissolving isn’t really an option that’s appealing to any of us, but neither is playing together with this nightmare going on.
So what is the plan? Well, in this case – wait and see. There isn’t much else anyone can do. Each of us has kept busy in one way or another, but just like any other person that’s into playing music, we’re thriving to do so. Instead, keeping in touch and constantly sending new ideas via the Internet becomes the way to do it. This goes on for about four months.
July, 2020 – „Country roads, take me home!”
The situation is nowhere close to being „normal”, but at least the amount of new cases of COVID-19 has decreased to an amount that could be considered as „satisfying” when compared to what was happening during spring. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t take the pandemic seriously – they either think that the situation is completely under control and there’s little to no risk of getting infected so they behave like the world is back to normal, or they straight up defy the existence of pandemic, completely disregarding any safety measures. Let’s not even get into that. It’s better, but it’s still bad.
We’re all getting tired of working apart from each other, and seeing that the sad numbers have lowered, causes us to consider finally meeting for the first time since February. One of us comes up with an idea, which was picked up right on the spot: „Let’s get our stuff packed and go to the countryside, so that there are no people around, let’s set up our gear there and complete writing the record.” So we decided – we made sure we hadn’t contacted anyone with COVID-19, we got our gear packed, drove to the destinied middle-of-nowhere, got to the cabin that would become our home/rehearsal space for the next couple of days, and started setting up drums, synths, guitars, etc. Little did we know, that it was probably the best decision we could have made.
With the ongoing pandemic, trying to minimize the risk of contacting people with COVID-19 became the most logical thing to do, so doing rehearsals in the city wasn’t the best idea, considering the amount of people there (with a lot of them not wearing masks, because why not? It’s not like there’s a pandemic going on, right?). The countryside was so much more appealing – a lot less people around, so the risk of contacting someone infected was decreased (as well as the risk of being fined for the amount of noise we were causing), and it would also have been the first time for us to ever write music in a compelety different place – we were curious how that would affect the whole process. It also seemed like a nice way to have at least a couple of „normal” days.
We sat down to work instantly, to get the most out of what seemed like a blessing to us and our band. Self-isolation as a band was a great way to try some new things sonically. We cut ourselves off from the bizarre reality surrounding our everyday life with the virus and just focused on the music.
The results of writing new material in a completely different enviroment was very refreshing (we highly recommend it to everyone). The writing for Poza Zasięgiem was finished in three days. The time to hit the „record” button is due.
Autumn 2020, Winter 2020/21 – friends with benefits?
The warm part of the year has passed, and with colder temperature, the COVID cases began to rise again. Once again everyone’s trying to avoid contact for our closests’ safety – the proces of recording the record becomes slows down to a painfully annoying tempo, without any real option of completing it faster. At first it seemed like a curse, but to our surprise, came out as a blessing – had we done the album faster, we probably wouldn’t have had recorded half of the ideas that came by in the meantime. This includes also the idea of adding guest appearance of our friend from fellow local scene, Michał Miegoń of the band Kiev Office – he provided additional vocals, guitar and keys in 3 of 9 tracks on Poza Zasięgiem, further enriching the songs. The mixing took its time as well – Ignacy put weeks of his time into the meticulous process, making sure everything sounded good before it was sent to mastering. So, that’s the first case of a friend helping us with the record. To our surprise, more of them were going to help us very soon.
During this time, we reached out to our friend from way back, Rafał Maciejski, who told us he’d master the album after mixing was done. And so he did – we sent him the mixes Rafał proved (once again) to be the right man for the job. His production skills were crucial to the sound of the album. We were happy to have him on board – the four of us had been together in the band years before Żurawie came to be (now he’s residing in the US). It was like a small reunion really, and it felt great.
Meanwhile, when Rafał was busy mastering the record, we reached out to a couple of indie labels, to see if anyone would be interested in releasing this stuff. Koty Records were the one to answer – and we’re very pleased with how the cooperation turned out.
With the recording, mixing, mastering, pressing done, the last thing to do was to pick a single, and possibly make a videoclip to help promote it. This is the moment when Szymon Skrzeczkowski (@_Videogun) and Mikołaj Olchowik joined us (once again – back in the summer of 2020 we wanted to do a video together, to accompany our song „Dźwigi”, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to finish it on time – we’ve put in on the shelf for later). With not a lot of time time left untli the release date, we’ve reached out to them, and asked if there was any way they could pull off creating a video for „Balkony”. Not only did they agree to the idea, but they were more than happy to do help us (and so were we!). They completed it in a couple of days, worked their asses off day and night to deliver the video on time. To say that their video was amazing would be an understatement – neither of us was expecting that such an amount of effort and quality could be put into doing this in such a short time. We were both amazed and grateful for their hard work, Szymon and Mikołaj delivered us more that we could have expected them to deliver (cheers guys, we’re forever grateful!).
26th February 2021 – „It’s here!”
So, the day has come, Poza Zasięgiem is out. What we thought would take us about three to four months of work to complete the album, extended to over a year, with lots of bizarre events that happened in the meantime (around the world, and locally as well). Much to our surprise, the album was very well received not only among the people in the scene, but even reaching people outside of our country (shoutout to all the 61 countries that appeared in our statistics, love ya). All in all, as much of an exhausting and painfully slow of a proces that making Poza Zasięgiem has been, the amount of people who helped us on the way to create this „thing” and who encouraged us was key. It was an enriching experience, showing us that not only do people care about one another’s passions, but also proving that despite the circumstances and the new „normality” in the world, people still crave for creating art together, be it music, video, graphics, any form of it.
Hope you all have people like those in your life.
To all of those who were with us for the previous year, helping us create Poza Zasięgiem – thank you sincerely, from the bottom our hearts’. Here’s to the next record. Hope to see you all healthy and well soon at some gig.
Thank you Karol for providing us with this great form of expression. Best regards man, hopefully until next time. Long live IDIOTEQ!
From Gdynia and Sopot with love,