BPREVIEW: Sexy Weirdos Xmas Party @ Secret Venue 23.12.17

Sexy Weirdos Xmas Party @ Secret Venue 23.12.17

Damien’s pick… On the 23rd of December at 8pm, the doors will open on an evening of style and substance rarely found in this time of often unchallenged expectation. Not only is it a performance by the striking talent that is Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos, but it is the band’s only ‘home’ date on their European English tour and the latest installment in their notorious warehouse parties.

For more on this secret Xmas shindig, including online ticket sales – priced at £6 (adv) and £8 (otd), click here.

Luckily for us, on top of Birmingham Review having supported JKATSW since their first release, through to this current one and no doubt beyond, we also have the pleasure of having Johnny Kowalski himself as part of our contributing staff. As such, who better to introduce this unusual evening than it’s organiser and star performer? I give you; the lesser hatted JK….

Words by Johnny Kowalski

So, it’s nearly Christmas kids. This weekend will see dozens, if not hundreds, of Christmas parties across the city. Some of them will be intimate gatherings in flats or front rooms; some will have celebrity headliners, fireworks and thousands of paying guests. Which begs the question, why come to ours?

Well, I genuinely believe that ours will be the most fun. Or at least, it’s going to be as fun as we can possibly make it. Maybe seeing three of the Midlands’ best underground live acts whilst surrounded by a boisterous cross section of some of the best freaks and vagabonds I’ve ever met isn’t your idea of fun, but I deeply recommend you try it.

First, a word on the venue – the location of which can only be found out via direct contact with the Sexy Weirdos Facebook page. We’re leading you to a specially modified warehouse space that straddles the line between professionally kitted out club and nineties rave space. The reason why we, and other bands, do things like this is despite their best efforts sometimes even the best venues can end up falling flat on atmosphere. Sometimes you need to go off the beaten track to do something special. And our hardcore fans will assure you that you can trust us to deliver.

And so, to the bands. Kidderminster’s The Stiff Joints represent an anomaly to the mainstream scene – a band that has huge grass roots support playing up and down the country to thousands of people every year, yet has zero traction in the music press because they unashamedly embrace ska. If you come to see them, you will dance. You will smile. You will sing along to songs you’ve only just heard. This is all you need to know so make sure you’re there early to see their set, or risk looking like a massive tit.

Bedrock Bullets provided one of my favourite moments at a gig this year when one of their sets in Kings Heath ended with a double bass being thrown around the stage. At one point I thought the guy was actually going to throw his double bass at the audience. At a time in music when the words ‘rock and roll’ seem to be associated with timid, uptight people, this behaviour filled me with joyous wonder. Every great rock and roll band needs a great front person and Bedrock Bullets have theirs in the charming and talented Julie Bedwell.

And then there’s us – Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos, playing a mix of traditional numbers and a host of original songs drawn from our three album back catalogue. There will, of course, be something of an emphasis on tracks from our latest release, European English. If you haven’t seen us before, expect a wide palette of high octane grooves, manic fiddle lines, a demented peacock of a singer who alternates between yelling and trying to sing, and a bass player that seems to be trapped in a Wurzel Gummidge version of Iron Maiden. Oh, and a closing medley that segues Steppenwolf, Hendrix, Boney M and even ‘Ride of the Valkyries’.

Closing the night are DJ Tenov, seen this year at Bearded Theory and Horsedrawn, and local legend DJ Christie. Both have been given a loose brief to play disco but will almost certainly drift off into other genres as the dawn approaches.

Or you could just go to Wetherspoons with the people from work. The choice is yours.

‘Megahorse’ – Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos (taken from European English)

Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos host their Xmas Party as a secret location on Saturday 23rd December. For more on the event, including online ticket sales, click here

For more on Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos, visit www.sexyweirdos.co.uk

For more on The Stiff Joints, visit www.thestiffjoints.co.uk

For more on Bedrock Bullets, visit www.facebook.com/Bedrock-Bullets

ALBUM: European English – Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos

ALBUM: European English – Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy WeirdosWords by  Katherine Priddy / Pics by Sarah Tholin

It is through a haze of naked, tattooed flesh, sweat and Mad Goose that I first remember witnessing Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos performing live at the Hare & Hounds, many moons ago.

For those not yet acquainted with Johnny and his band of more than merry men, I am loath to try and confine such wild musical enthusiasm to a genre. However, if pushed, may I dare to draw a loose comparison in their maniacal Balkan and carnival-esque melodies to those of another local favourite, The Destroyers. Perhaps after a few cans of Stella.

It was with both pleasure and apprehension I sat down to listen to the Sexy Weirdo’s long awaited third album – European English, some three years after their last release, Kill the Beast. I say apprehension, as for a band whose live performance exudes so much unadulterated energy, I was curious as to how their songs could be translated effectively to a recording. However, the Sexy Weirdos have created ten stonking tracks that balance order and chaos, tempering them into a cohesive album that still oozes oomph… just a little less perspiration.

Opening track ‘Megahorse’ boots down the doors of the album and sets the tone; instantly commanding, with an aggressive sense of urgency provided by the driving percussion and hysterical woodwind and fiddle. It is the first of many tracks that bully your feet and fingers into tapping along in a bid to keep up.

Other tracks such as ‘Sicilian Silly’un’, which is largely instrumental, possess a stirring marching pace encouraged by Johnny’s primal howls and cymbal crashes, challenging you to dare sit still whilst the music lurches around you. European English strikes a pleasing balance between vocals and instrumentation; at no point does it feel as though one has more importance than the other.

Largely instrumental tracks like ‘Matthew Matthew’ are driven by John Joe Murray on the fiddle, whilst Matthew Osborne’s percussion throbs through the tracks forming the driving force behind ‘Death of a Relative Rude Boy’ and ‘Didn’t Find the Money’. However, Johnny’s vocals steal the show in ‘Serbian Rhumba’, a slower and much sexierALBUM: European English – Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos / Sarah Tholin track that gives a pleasant respite from the fever of the tracks it follows. His husky tones in combination with the slow drawl of his delivery create a fabulous come-to-bed voice and thus a strangely beautiful but unrefined love song is born.

I couldn’t review European Enlgish without broaching the subject of its title. ‘European’ is, sadly, a now loaded word that has come to embody political unrest and all the unpleasant emotions that accompany that discontent.

However, in his article for Birmingham Review on the making of European English (it really is an album genesis worthy of a feature length film) Johnny maintains that the album is not a statement about the EU. Instead, European English acts as an unabashed celebration of Europe and its vast array of cultures.

With tracks titled ‘Serbian Rhumba’ and ‘Sicilian Silly’un’, the three different cultures and voices placed side by side in ‘Ragga Dub’, and the blend of punk, rock and East European influence that underpins them all, European English is an album that banishes borders and steals shamelessly from various cultures. The political messages focus less on divide and more on everyone being in the same societal boat, be it sinking or floating.ALBUM: European English – Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos / Sarah Tholin

It is worth noting that European English became largely conceived in Josefov, an Austria Hungarian fortress town (seriously, you need to read Johnny’s article). The album bears tangible traces of its naissance within those thick walls that fortify an untouchable corner of Europe. On listening to an album that so overtly celebrates the diversity of our continent, I can almost imagine I am entering into a last bastion that stays immune to cultural divide and the political tumult battering at the doors outside. Within its ten track walls is a perfect piece of Europe – multifarious, rebellious, debauched and fierce.

But you’ll have to listen to it yourself to decide. So divest yourself of your stresses, to-do lists and clothes, grab whatever strong spirits you have to hand and enter the Sexy Weirdo’s very own refuge for disenchanted Europeans.

‘Megahorse’ – Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos

Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos release their third studio album, European English, on 22nd September. For more on Johnny Kowlaski & the Sexy Weirdos, visit www.sexyweirdos.bandcamp.com

OPINION: The making of European English

OPINION: The making of European EnglishWords 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.OPINION: The making of European English / Sarah Tohin

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 OPINION: The making of European English / Sarah Tohinrehearsal 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