The bittersweet age of the year draws nigh, and so I offer you this song, a reminder of a time long gone, with diaphanous tendrils weaved into our accelerated present. Chances are you’ve enjoyed, or at least heard about Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and/or Angel, Joss Whedon’s startup shows, back when the Millennium was a big deal. Or perhaps you’ve played the formidable Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines video-game, a true cult classic. Then you might have heard some of Darling Violetta’s songs, including “Smaller God”. If not, enjoy this first contact. It reminds me of Alanis Morissette in her “Jagged Little Pill” period (with vastly inferior lyrics, but so what?), and that’s no small praise as far as I’m concerned. A song like the autumn tide.
Back again with another mixtape! I’m joined today by my friend Remus, game critic and fellow occasional podcaster, to bring you a list of songs found on video game soundtracks, which stuck into our minds. Some of the games included are System Shock 2, Planescape: Torment, Frozen Synapse, Bastion and so on. It’s worth a listen, especially since we banter half the time, like geeks are wont to do. Enjoy!
Aaaand here we are, with that surprise I was mentioning before! They’re called Ebola Cereal, they’re from Poland, they’ve just released their first EP, they’re doing a great job promoting it online and by touring, and they’ve been gracious enough to answer my questions, hesitant and “green” as they may be, given this is the first interview I’ve ever tried to do.
ZaRecords: First of all, tell me a bit about the story behind your band name. It’s such a striking name – it must have a fun story behind it.
Karol Ryszawy (vocals, lyrics): It all began when we first started to play at our former drummer’s flat in Katowice (the city we’re from). We were having problems concerning our name, because everything sounded too pretentious, so one day I just came up with a list of a couple of names. This very name is mentioned by a minor character in a great video game called Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. It made me laugh my ass off and eventually everyone else in the band liked it as well.
ZR: Congratulations on your new EP, out this year! I see you have a demo issued in 2007. Do you consider this your first full-fledged release then, or your second? It sounds like you took a long time to make sure “Mapping the unknown” sounds just right. Tell me a bit about that process.
KR: It is pretty funny looking back, because our demo didn’t have nearly as much promotion as the EP and the quality isn’t astonishing either. We made it for 500 PLN (about $160) and it’s hardly our first full-fledged release. After all, we were just kids back then so I guess it explains a lot. We were aiming for a much more specific sound when we were making “Mapping the Unknown” and our attitudes along with our abilities were much more mature. We could’ve spent more time polishing it, but it was still only our second recording. We made some mistakes, but we learned from them and won’t make them again when we make the longplay.
ZR: How do you write your material? Is it a democratic sort of thing, or more of an authoritarian model?
KR: It’s more of an open discussion and we rarely disagree when it comes to details. In most cases an idea is just “in” or “out” and that’s it. Shit, that’s gotta change…
ZR: Your lyrics have many philosophical and religious references – are these themes central to your creative process? Are they incidental somehow?
Woe to us my kin, so error-prone, prodigal sons
We hate to stare on the obscure shades,
Handcuffed in the cave we’re in
Thus it appears that the gardens,
We tend to earn our eternal lives,
Had become unkempt, left us barren fig-trees… (Canticle)
KR: Those subjects are essential in our creative process. We try to make many references to ontology, behaviorism, cognition etc. Sometimes the meaning is hidden under tons of metaphors and allegories. We’re all Christians, so some lyrics refer to thanksgiving and evangelism. We try to make our lyrics as universal as possible, though. It’s because we understand the freedom of belief – so that every person can choose an interpretation to which they can relate.
ZR: Your website mentions your extensive live experience. Have you toured a lot? Tell me an “on-the-road” anecdote, or some gig adventures.
KR: It’s a tough question because we have a lot of those. We’ve played almost a hundred gigs across Poland so far and we enjoyed all of them almost equally. Some even too much! That’s why our memories are a little bit dim. However, I remember our last major festival/competition very vividly. It was called Rock In Minsk and it was very hot that day. After we did our job, we returned to our hotel, invaded the room of our friends from another band, partied a lot and decided to get a tan on the roof, wearing only creepy “Scream” masks.
ZR: Name five bands you’d like to share the stage with at a major festival!
KR: Difficult to choose, but those would be: As Cities Burn, The Mars Volta, Circa Survive, Norma Jean and The Receiving End Of Sirens. [note to self: only heard TMV out of these, must remedy]
ZR: You’re doing a great job promoting your EP – YouTube, Bandcamp, Vimeo, MySpace, Last.fm, all the heavy-hitters, and you’re offering it for free download! It seems like you’ve adopted the fresh business model for musicians. Have you had any traditional music-industry model interactions? You know – record labels, agents, contracts… Would you get into that, or do you prefer this new self-promoting model?
KR: We haven’t had any experiences with labels yet and we wouldn’t mind if the conditions were reasonable. We try to make it on the market, although it’s hard because it’s very fossilized and hermetically sealed against anything that has lyrics in a foreign language and sounds out of the ordinary. That’s the way it is in our country, at least. We decided to take a stand against undeveloped brand, market orientation policy, which can be perceived as premature commercialization, but we never considered ourselves a self-sufficient entity, despite having our own distribution channels.
ZR: Tell me a bit about the experience of directing and filming a video.
KR: It was something totally out of the blue, because we did it all by ourselves and none of us had any experience beforehand, neither in filming nor in acting. We had a lot of fun making the clip even with a budget so low it could challenge the “Turkish Star Wars”.
ZR: The visual of your CD is really striking! Who came up with the imagery?
KR: The whole graphic design was made by our guitarist, Dominik Czajkowski . Ideas that germinated in his weed-powered rasta brain are mainly the result of his love for sci-fi and cutting edge architectural solutions.
ZR: What are your plans for the next few months?
KR: We’ll lock ourselves up in our rehearsal room and we’ll finish the material for our debut, which we’re planning to release halfway next year. Apart from that, we’ll keep playing as many gigs as possible.
Thank you guys very much for taking the time to answer, and I wish you the best of luck in the future! I’ll definitely be there for your first concert in Romania, or whenever I get the chance to visit Poland. Or, you know, wherever. I hope you’ve enjoyed this “special issue” of ZaRecords, dear readers, and I’ll see you soon!