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SULK

When I was a teenager, back in the 90s, I fell in love with one of the musical loves of my life, a band from Manchester, called Oasis. Only years later, when I had devoured every piece of information on that band that I could get into my fingers without the means of having an internet flatrate, Wikipedia, Youtube, Spotify, you name it, I realized that there were more great British bands who, in their turn, had influenced these cherished lads from the North. The realization that stung the most was that only some years previous these bands, like The Stone Roses, Ride, The Smiths, and so many more, had had their climax in popular culture. And I had missed it. Missed it all. Shoegaze, early Britpop and the peak of Cool Britannia had all happened while my 13-year-old self was busy dancing to shitty Europop in her Take-That-poster-wallpapered bedroom. And when I was finally able to appreciate the music that had been blasting out of another room in the house, i.e. my older sister’s bedroom, the moment was gone. “Britpop“ was dead.So, what was I to do about it? Apart from discovering supposedly “new” music in retrospect, the Indie music market was kind enough to offer fresh diversions in form of all sorts of bands, most likely carrying the definite article in their name. Still, when it came to British music, the tendency of incorporating more and more electronical influences and other developments turned out to be quite unsatisfactory most of the time, and also said bands’ new projects and publications left you with the impression of only being a surrogate, still making you crave the real thing.But finally, after about 15 years of waiting, my inner teenage-girl has been made ever so happy, because now it’s time for SULK, an impressive London based five-piece comprised of Jon Sutcliffe (vocals), Tomas Kubowicz (lead guitar/backing vocals), Andrew Needle (rhythm guitar), Jakub Starzynski (bass), and Lewis Jones (drums). Jon and I talked a bit over Skype.I'd like to start with some obvious stuff that I couldn’t find about you, like when did you guys meet and how did you start out as a band?Well, we were originally a band called The Ruling Class, we toured Germany as The Ruling Class, actually. We all met, that is at least me, Tomas and Andy, at a Psychedelic Night in London and Tomas had written some demos and was looking to get a band together and he’d seen me and Andy play in a different band. He asked us if we’d be interested in playing some music with him. We got the demos of him and got pretty blown away, so then we worked with him and got the rest of the band together, which is how we got Lewis and Jakub.That’s how it was born. So The Ruling Class didn’t work out so we started off again as SULK and that’s where we’re at now. So you’re not originally from London, are you?No, we’re both from a place near Leeds, up north, and Tomas is from Sweden. Lewis is from Chester, which is up north as well and Jakub from Poland, so, yeah, typical London band, really, people from all over before formed in London.I’ve read some of the reviews of your album and there is a special band that seems to be referred to all the time...Hmmm, who’s that? (laughs)So I’m quite curious, really, because, this obvious band... When they were around I wasn’t there to appreciate them, because I was far too young to do so. I can’t really imagine that you guys are older than me...Well, I saw the Stone Roses on the Second Coming tour, so I’m old enough to have seen that.I’m only old enough to remember them blasting from my older sister’s bedroom door and only could appreciate them in retrospective, so I’m quite curious how did you really get into that kind of music that obviously influenced you?I was pretty lucky because my best friend has an older brother, who was into that sort of bands like Ride and The Stone Roses and The Charlatans, all those Shoegazing-Madchestery bands. So we were too young to go out and go drinking and stuff, but we sat in the bedroom listening to CDs and watching the videos. I was lucky I was into that music from a very early age, a lot earlier than most of my friends. So this was the first music that I really got into. And then with Ride and Oasis and things like that I was just old enough to go and see them play. So we are not really guessing what it was like, we were kind of there, you know, to a certain degree. I was too young to see the first Stone Roses tour, though, you know. An older friend used to go and see them and stuff and we were kind of quite jealous, because we were too young to go.And Tomas, when we met in London, he was into the same thing. You know, all you hear about now is The Stone Roses and Ride and all this kind of stuff, Shoegaze this and Shoegaze that, but when we first got to London it was all The Libertines and Razorlight and all that kind of music. It was quite a rare thing to find someone like Tomas, who was doing that music, who was in a rage to do that music, to enchampion it.In one of the reviews for your album I read that it was described as “a more than decent addition to the Madchester canon albeit twenty years too late”. What do you really think when you read something like that?(laughs) Pff, I don’t care. That music has gone away in the public and what journalists are about to write. But we’re gonna do the music that we want to do and that we love and if you say it’s twenty years too late... I think it’s never gone away. I still put those records on my record player and I’m gonna do the music that I like, so...if that’s how they feel, I have to say they’re wrong. Unfortunately there’s nothing different that I’m gonna do, it’s gonna be that music. That’s also what was most exciting when we first started. Nobody else was doing it! Everybody else was going on about The Horros and stuff being Shoegaze while we were doing it but they were a Garage/Punk-band all dressed in black. It was so exciting then whereas now, when you open a magazine, there are bands that supposedly do the same thing that we do, it’s become a bit boring, it’s become kind of a bandwagon but as far as we’re concerned, we do it. We’re always gonna do it. We’d have done it twenty years ago, we’ll be carrying on for another twenty years and we’ll still be doing it.With all that talk of it being something that was there before, I think that it’s very fresh though.Yes, it’s done in a new way, you know, we’re just new producers.When I first listened to the album I actually felt that now I was able to be there when things start out, do you know what I mean?Yeah, yeah, of course, that’s a good feeling. People like nostalgia, I suppose. Maybe it does take people back a bit and it was a good time, British music was strong, you know, they called it “Britpop” later on, they tried to celebrate British music. And I think we’ve lost our way now, it’s all about American bands, you know, ‘cause the American music industry, they know what they’re doing, they look after their bands. In England, they build them up and push them down quickly. And our music dates back to when British music was flying high and was proud. It’s a right good thing.Your album came out in April. What would you say was the best and what was the worst experience recording it?I think there is no such thing as a bad experience when you record your debut record. I think the worst experience with our record may be that it took so long to get it finished, you know. ‘Cause it took us such a long time, and that frustrated us. A lot of people were really waiting for us to get an album out and we got a lot of messages like “When’s the album out?!” and we wanted it to get out as much as they did. That was the worst bit, how long it took. And the best bit is the fact that we got a debut record out we’re proud of and we think is a good starting point for SULK.Flowers as such seem to be a bit of a leitmotif with the album. Was that something consciously done or did it just happen that way?Well, we did all the artwork, the direction, the record, it’s all been exactly as we wanted it to be right down to how the credits are, everything. The artwork, I suppose it was in a way... “Flowers” is a very positive song and most of the tracks on the album are very positive and this is how we want to be perceived. We don’t want to be black and white, something like Joy Division, you know, that’s boring. We wanted to celebrate. “Flowers” is a positive pop song and that’s how we wanna be. Not negative.I mean, the video to this song is very original. By the way, how many innocent flowers had to die during that video shoot?Yeah, it was sad, wasn’t it? (laughs) Quite a lot! That was most of the money. We had to get up at three in the morning and go to a flower market in London and try to bargain with the market stall owners to get a deal on the flowers, really. Nice-looking flowers for the video, really, so they weren’t cheap. It was a tiring morning and then to get the video done... ‘cause they spoil and then they’re not fresh. Yeah, a long two days.And the artwork on the cover... Is there a special meaning about the particular flowers that are on there?Nooo, it’s just what we thought looked definitely beautiful to the album. I mean, we’ve done different ones for different countries. The Japanese artwork is the same but the flowers are different colours. And the American ones, we’ve swapped them around and there’s a similar colour pattern to the UK. So, yeah, it was just what looked nice...I just had this idea that since Victorian times flowers can carry a special meaning, but I don’t want to interpret too much into it...No, it’s just about being beautiful, we like beautiful things, things that look nice.I think that the album is very diverse. There are songs that are just plain beautiful, then there are songs that I can imagine being played on a big radio station and then there is this one song that got me from the very beginning, which is “Marian Shrine”. Everytime I hear it I feel tempted to take your album to my local DJ next time I’m at the party and make him play the song, ‘cause I so much feel like dancing to it.Do it! (laughs)Actually, I’ve been dancing around to it in my flat...I do the same! I dance to my record. (laughs) Yeah, if you can’t listen to your own music, that’s a problem I think. It’s like a chef not eating his own food.Yeah, that’s true. So what kind of people are you when you go to a club? Are you dancers or are you the guys that have a pint in their hand, stand at the side and watch the others?I’m the one that has a pint and stands at the side to be honest. It’s only ‘cause they’re not playing SULK. If they played SULK, I’d probably dance. No... I can’t dance. If you see us live, you can see how bad I am at dancing. Well, from what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t believe that... It’s not about how you look while you’re doing it, it’s more about how you feel, isn’t it? So there is no such music, apart from your own, that can tempt you to, you know, rush to the dancefloor and give it a go?Not current music, I’m afraid. You know, the clubs and the places we go to, at the moment the music isn’t doing it for me, to be honest. That’s another reason for being in a band for us. They’re not playing music we wanna hear and unfortunately we can’t always play our music everywhere. Personally, I don’t like the current music, the state of current music, it doesn’t seem to be anything. I collect vinyl and I like buying records, I’d love if somebody brought out a record that I’d wanna buy, ‘cause I’d be happy to buy it, but there’s nothing that I really wanna buy.And with bands that have been around for some time it’s always like when they bring out a new one... With me at least it’s like I try to like it, but it’s almost never as fresh as when you first got into them.Well, it's like a lot of people saying "What do you think about the new Stone Roses then?", "What do you think about Suede?", "What do you think about Blur?" and, you know, bands that we like. I think it's negative they're getting back together, personally, I mean, it's time for new people to step up and have a go but no one seems to be doing it or giving them a chance, so it's all about big reunions and ticket sales and I think there's a real dark side to that. I don't think positive about it at all. And like you say, bringing out albums... but the moment's gone, these bands hate each other, they fell out and now they're doing it for a bit of money. There should be new bands doing it, but this just doesn't seem to be.Talking about these old bands... I'm a massive Oasis fan. So what would you prefer? Beady Eye? Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds or just Oasis? Although I think you've just answered that question...Yeah, well, I think Oasis have split up but I don't quite like Beady Eye, although they have their moments that are pretty good and there are moments of Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds that are pretty good, but unfortunately that band is the two of them together that made it perfect. Noel Gallagher had some fresh songwriting at the time and back then Liam was the man to deliver it and Noel wasn't. I think it's good they're trying to do something new and that they're going their way. Unfortunately, Oasis were better.So what's the story behind the photo I saw on your Facebook page with Liam Gallagher holding up a CD of yours?It was a single at the time, the album wasn't out yet. Yeah, he was touring Japan and Japanese fans gave him a CD and he must have liked it 'cause he held it up for a photograph. And we've just had Johnny Marr do the same thing. It's nice, you know, when someone that you look up to or that you appreciate and respect gives you a little nod of respect. That's a good thing.Well, maybe you can open for them some time...That would be nice, I wouldn't say no.Do you have a favourite song on your album? You personally?For me it's a different song everytime I listen to the record, it's the same when we play live, you know. It's a hard one. I do like most of them. I like "Down", I like the direction of "Down", the words that are going on in that song.That's my favourite one as well.Yeah, it's a good track, it's a nice track. It's sort of the way the second album is sounding as well, it's quite a lot... I think "Down"... it's a clue where it's gonna go. It's still gonna be uplifting and stuff, and I know "Down" is a bit slower, but it's a good nod to where we're going as a band.Now you're getting me all excited!Yeah? (laughs)Definitely, yeah! So if I read that correctly, you're self-financing your band. Are you still waiting for a kind of record deal or are you rather enjoying a certain amount of independence that comes with it?Well, with the first album, you know, we had record labels interested and we went to meetings with various ones and with their schedules for releasing our record we wouldn't have released our record yet. They wanted it next summer. And it's like, it's only so long. You know, we wanna get on with it. And we felt the easiest way to get it out there would be to bring it out ourselves. So then we could choose the release date and we could choose how it looked and how it was and how it felt with the first record is important. You know, you hear about a lot of bands that get moulded and told what to do and make that decisions on that behalf and we didn't want something like that to happen with us. So we released the first one ourselves. The second one... Yeah, we're gonna hopefully go with a label. And as long as they fit in we wanna do it, so there'll be a label for the second one. The first one was self-financed and that is not easy. (laughs)I guess you still have to have jobs, where else should the money come from?Yeah, everyone has to work in our band and have different jobs. The band's the most important thing but we've found ways of having jobs allowing us to do what we wanna do.That's quite difficult, I guess...Yeah, especially in London. It's an expensive place to live.Oh yeah, I can tell from the times I've been there. The costs of food, for example, in comparison to here are... massive.It's not as nice as Germany, we like Germany.Yeeeahh, I read you like Germany, I'm quite curious about it. I only seldomly meet foreign people who say they like Germany. How come?It's just that when we've been there, I think the audience is very good, they're very friendly. You've got a good attitude towards music. It seems more genuine in Germany, from our experience. I don't know, I like the atmosphere. I like the architecture, I like everything, I'm a big fan of Germany.Where have you been in Germany?Where have I been? I've been to Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and where was that...? Crikey, what's it called? Dresden, somewhere close there...Leipzig?Yeah, Leipzig, we've been there.Have you been to the west of Germany, somewhere around here? Cologne, maybe?We've been to Cologne, we've never played in Cologne, though. We stopped in Cologne on our way to Germany, it was a good stopping point to get there, and yeah, I've been to Cologne a few times, actually. It's a beautiful place. But we've never played a show there. We need to get a show there!Yeah, you should! Is there any town that you like better than the other? As you've been to Hamburg and Berlin, I always say that I prefer Hamburg to Berlin...Yeah, I prefer Hamburg too, it's more laid back. It feels academic, Hamburg. I don't know, lots of cool coffee shops and a lot of places to relax. We've been there twice. A very nice audience in Hamburg. They're very into shoegazing.Have you got any specific plans to come over here and tour? Is there a European tour coming up or something?Yeah, there's a tour coming up, our agent and our manager are just dealing with it at the moment. Unfortunately, I don't know any of the dates or any of the towns or cities, but yeah, we're hoping to come over, 'cause there's gonna be a release of the album properly in Europe, so it's getting into European record shops. Hopefully we'll be touring to back that up. Should be around the end of this year or the beginning of the next that we're getting into Europe. Also, we're gonna record the next record in Berlin. So we'll be definitely over for that as well.So, recording in Berlin, which studio will you be in?It's called Kaiku Studios in Berlin. It's actually where the first record was mixed and finished off. We recorded it in Belgium with Ed Buller, the Suede guy, and Marc Waterman, who produced Ride's Nowhere, and then we finished it off and had it mixed by Jonas of Kaiku, who's based in Berlin. And we want to do the whole new album with him from scratch this time, because he's so good. And it'll be nice to do it in Berlin, just in new surroundings, you know...... and get some more German quality time.Yeah. (laughs)Now, the last thing is, I'd like to quote something to you about music. It's something I recently read while I was reading a novel. And it goes like this: "Music is life. It's physical emotion. You can touch it. It's neon-ectoenergy sucked out of spirits and switched into sound waves for your ears to swallow." For some reason, I thought this was a good way to describe music. Would you agree or disagree with this? Or is there any other definition of music that you can rather agree with?I agree with it. I mean, when music's made, you know, it is everything. It's my memories, I would say music is my photo album, my records... It's the music I was listening to at the time or remembering falling out with someone and listening to that record, or a good time, a good holiday, it's like a soundtrack to your life and I define life through the music that I listen to. So, yeah, it's kind of everything to me personally, yeah, it's the most important thing, 'cause it's how I can define something, I remember something, put me in the right mood or the wrong mood. When you're unhappy you listen to a certain thing, when you're happy you listen to a certain thing, if you wanna party... And then, when you get to the point where you decide you want to do it yourself, you try to give people the same things that great bands give me, that's it.

sulk Interview

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