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Writing, or reading into existing writing, messages about the dark side of humanity is a compulsion for Trupa Trupa member Grzegorz Kwiatkowski.
The singer’s understanding of Trupa Trupa's songs – he writes lyrics for some and others not – is that some are reflections on genocide. The most palpable connection with the harrowing topic heard in Trupa Trupa’s recent output is, for Grzegorz, their upcoming LP’s centre-piece ‘Remainder’; lyrics written by his friend Wojtek Juchniewicz. Similar in its minimalist style to their earlier single ‘Wasteland’, it sees the words “it did not take place,” chanted above a melodic bass part and pummelling lo-fi drum style. If we’re to assume Grzegorz’ perspective that it is about Holocaust denial, it becomes a crushingly powerful song that hammers home the terrifying ubiquitousness of such bereft, sinister behaviour. To me, the track is an example of the power of art as a means of effective communication; it bares its teeth in a fight to bludgeon toxic discourses – of course, without being preachy.
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Given my substantial appreciation for their music as mentioned above, it’s with great honour to be sat in the presence of Grzegorz backstage at OFF Festival in Poland. It’s a regular haunt for this band, who have been chipping away at breaking out of the shadows of the European underground, and gradually encroaching on mainstream turf for the past few years. The slot they’d just taken on this year's bill has been great; it is indicative of their rising reputation: they had the second stage just before Stereolab and Suede and had a massive crowd baying at their feet.
Grzegorz, the meticulously styled singer – swept, short hair, buttoned-up shirt and embroidered black jeans – is also a well-known poet in Poland, specialising on genocide. Subsequently, his personality to the outsider is inextricable from heavy themes – and, meeting him, he’s as devout as you might think. To convey this to me, he grabs my notebook and scribbles with a pen the word “SHOAH” – Hebrew for the Holocaust – across the width of the page. I said he should leave a message and this is naturally the first thing that comes to mind.
I show Grzegorz’ bandmates the note in hope they’ll too leave a doodle. Instead, they look at me, apologetically although there’s no need, and try and lighten the mood. The bassist, Wojtek Juchniewicz picks up a table, wears it like a tortoise shell and crawls around. “That’s my bandmate!” laughs Grzegorz, proudly. A bit of boisterousness in this fairly small leafy gated back garden at the festival can’t be blamed; especially after the thrill of playing live.
However, Grzegorz isn’t distracted for long. And we dwell on the opening theme of our conversation for a little while:
“I’m very obsessed with genocide stuff,” says the singer. “Sometimes I think I’m stupid because I’ve got a son and I think it’s obsessive on my part that I’m so sad. On the other hand, I recently met with my friend from Syria. And she started talking to me about the genocide there. It reaffirmed that bad stuff is happening all around us non-stop. I hope until my last days that I will be conscious about this stuff.”
Against the odds, this darkly-affected soul is not as weary as you might think. “My character is I’m pessimistic but really happy,” he says, sitting under the canopy of the Katowice Forest Park backstage as a storm of publicity engagements hang over him. “I really don’t like the world. I think people are very cruel and don’t accept each other. I didn’t even want to bring a child into this world but my wife talked me into it. I’m super happy it’s happened, though.”
He also comes across as a fighter and his zest for life manifests in his approach to being in the band. He is someone who will never let something, or someone, get the better of him. A case in point: propelling this melodic, brutal, artfully subversive band forward requires festivals, such as OFF, to bring wider audiences to it; and there was a point earlier today where the show here wasn’t even going to happen. Pointing towards a massive bag of pharmaceutical drugs on the table – bigger than his head – he says: “I bought it this morning because my voice is fucked up. I decided before the gig I will shout. But the problem is my doctor told me I should cancel the gig because if I shout my vocal chords will be broken and I'll lose your voice for six months. So I asked him to give me drugs and he agreed. But during the gig I was sweating toxins like a pig. Anyway, I was shouting and this gig was really good.”
That is commitment. And, what is regularly frowned upon in post-Soviet countries like Poland: championing yourself. After all, if you too were on the cusp of releasing a record that is truly fantastic, you might too feel you are justified in a healthy bit of bravado.
As an album, Of The Sun, coming out 13 September, lands differently to the more relentlessly visceral live show. Its Stone Roses-esque dreamy moments and more stark melancholy are juxtaposed with strands of doom, post-rock, and krautrock. The production is immensely tight; bass riffs worm around with melodic panache Peter Hook would be proud of. It is honed by their own George Martin, Michał Kupicz, in their hometown on the Baltic shore city of Gdańsk, Poland, at studio Custom 34. It is a truly special record that feels like it could never tire and be passed down through generations as an example of..‘Yeah, there was great guitar bands in the 2010s’.
Ultimately, this music's compelling, fearless stuff; enough to add to the proud cultural history of the city they are based. They follow the likes of Can's Holger Czukay, who was born there, and philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, in having a notable artistic legacy. Sure, the more commercial sonics will sell more units but there’s a sense of longevity to this band. I'm certainly hoping they're sticking around.
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More about: Trupa Trupa