Words by Johnny Kowalski / Pics by Sarah Tohin
N.B. Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos play at the Hare & Hounds on Sat 20th May – celebrating the run up to their third album, European English – out this summer. For direct info and online ticket sales, click here.
It all started in 2014. We’d just made and released our album Kill the Beast, and to anyone who was listening (which wasn’t many people) we were selling that album. Inwardly though, we were already groping towards the album number 3. Our first album had been cobbled together DIY style. Our second album, Kill The Beast, was made in a ‘big name’ studio, and although Gav Monaghan (Editors, The Twang) did a great job, it pointed us in the direction of the album we wanted to make next. Which was something more fucked up.
So we set off on a five week tour of Europe. The phrase ‘five week tour of Europe’ sounds impressive, but it was a crowning children’s crusade in a surprisingly long litany of daft adventures. We’d managed to book around 12 gigs for that entire period, and though we had sporadic lodgings sorted we were effectively condemning ourselves to periods of pointless homelessness.
The first show was in Paris where we narrowly avoided a fight with some children on the way in, and played in a tiny, packed basement to an audience who seemed to take me very seriously, observing us as if they were at the theatre. After playing in Orlean we had a 14 hour van journey to the French Mediterranean to play in a steak bar by the sea. We stayed a few nights, met a guy who could balance a bike on his face, bought cannabis off a police officer and dreamed of bank heists. From there we went on to a squatted football club near Milan, and then eastwards across Italy. We spent a sweaty night in the van near lake Garda drinking cheap wine, a night so bad I had to remind myself being in the Sexy Weirdos isn’t compulsory. This was followed by a weekend of spontaneous gigs in beautiful Verona, then onto Trieste, stopping in Slovenia and Austria, before landing in our temporary home of Josefov.
Josefov is an Austria Hungarian fortress town near the border of Poland in the north of the Czech Republic. It has over forty kilometers of tunnels beneath its surface, and a wall around the outside so thick that goats and sheep live on top of it. It’s under populated, inhabited only by a small group of Romani gypsies and a few artists – one of which is a classical sculptor that rides his horse bare back around the town every day. All of this, as well as the preceding tour, meant that the Sexy Weirdos were feeling pretty God damn epic when we set up our equipment and played whatever was going through our stupid heads.
I’ve got to admit it; at first it annoyed the hell out of me. It felt like everyone was self indulging rather than composing, and there didn’t seem to be a discernible gap anywhere for vocals. I had no lyrics prepared, and was spooked by having to sing them in front of everyone without obsessing over them in private for months on end first.
However, something was emerging.
So that’s the romantic genesis story behind European English. The middle part of the story involves us slowly improving and adding to the tracks we wrote in that Austro Hungarian fortress town over the next couple of years, in rehearsal rooms and on stages. Being of limited financial resources and having poor organisational skills has meant that the recording process has been incredibly trying at times. Hell, it took us far too long to even start recording. Multiple deadlines have been missed. We’ve screwed it up; other people have screwed it up too. Tempers have been frayed, and at times, harsh words have been spoken.
However, no blood has been spilled. And the end is in sight. At present, we have mixes being finalised, two potential covers being argued over, and several pieces of video to launch at you in the near future.
We also have a limited edition E.P featuring two entirely new tracks (‘Megahorse’ and ‘Flight Of The Juniper’), backed with remixes and collaborations that have not been given a physical release before. This will only be available at our gig on Saturday 20th May at the Hare and Hounds (Kings Heath). We hope that you join us for that gig, buy a copy of the E.P and support the album when it’s finally released.
I’d like to leave you with the reasons for choosing the title European English.
The album is called European English for three reasons:
A) A reference to the dialect of English spoken between European people using English as a necessary second language.
B) An acknowledgement of the bands’ wider musical influences (see tracks such as ‘Serbian Rumba’ and ‘Sicilian Silian’). The cannon of cool guy bands we’re all supposed to like has been too narrow for too long.
C) A gesture of solidarity with those individuals from mainland Europe who have touched both our individual lives and our existence as a band, which includes our Greek percussion player, our violin player’s half French children, those that helped us stay at the Czech fortress town (Josefov) where we wrote most of the album, alongside many others from many different European countries. There is a good chance that without this support coming from overseas, our band may not exist today.
Our idea of Europe is wide enough to include anyone who comes here and peacefully makes it their home, of whatever persuasion, from wherever they may come.
This album is not a statement about the European Union.
‘Megahorse’ (taken from European English) – Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos. To play, click here or on the image below:
Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos play at the Hare & Hounds on Sat 20th May. For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.
For more on Johnny Kowlaski & the Sexy Weirdos, visit www.sexyweirdos.bandcamp.com