The debut album from JAVVA is one of my favourite albums of 2019, because it combines so different styles like post-hardcore, jazz, psychedelic and afrobeat with surprising ease. No wonder that here are four great experienced musicians on board. In the interview Lucas (voice, organ), Miko (bass), Buki (guitars) und Bartek (drums) explained to blueprint, why they envision themselves as architects or designers, from a longing for a simple life and what that all has got to do with “Miami Vice”.
(Go here to the german version of the interview.)
First of all: Congratulations to your great debut album “Balance of decay”. You made it to our album tipp and, if I understand the translation from your Polish posts right, you received a lot of splendid reviews. Did you expect that?
Lucas: Thank you! We’re glad to hear it! Yes and no. No, because it is fucking hard for a unknown Polish band to receive so many reviews like we did. It is so great to see they were mostly positive, sometimes enthusiastic. You need to remember there are thousands of great bands all over Europe and we’re just another one trying to get some attention outside our home so we’re very happy to get so much attention. Yes, because we did something we haven’t done in the past. We decided to get in touch with Julien Fernandez from Five Roses Press – a professional PR agent, who helped us spread a good word about JAVVA all over the continent.
Miko: Once you try to do something daring, experimental but fierce – you can never tell if it will be accepted or declined by the reviewers or wider audience. I guess it is some kind of lottery, a game of chance but also hard work to be acknowledged, to be seen by the people who can really appreciate it. Hopefully with these kind of reviews we may hold the winning ticket.
Buki: Yes – I expected that.
Bartek: I knew from the very beginning that this band is kinda special because I managed to gather very interesting musicians in one place at the right time. After a short time, I realized that we are creating great music that people will like very much. So yes, I expected that kind of feedback.
You combine a lot of different styles from Postcore to Afrobeat to Psychedelic to Jazz. Which genre did I forget and to which scene do you feel the most related? Is it hard or easy for a booker to put you together with other bands?
Lucas: I’m feeling related to a lot of musical scenes. I grow up as a hardcore punk kid, who listened to heavy stuff – NATIONS ON FIRE, VISION OF DISORDER, SNAPCASE, HATEBREED, MADBALL, 25 TA LIFE, SCHIZMA and some more alternative stuff like SHELLAC, PAVEMENT, SLINT or JUNE OF 44. After that I met a lot of people gathered around a club named Mózg, which is located in my hometown – Bydgoszcz. Mózg is place, where you can listen to very weird and experimental music – noise, soundscapes created by plants, improvised orchestral music, free jazz, modern contemporary music and other kinds of music hard to fit in any kind of genre. Now I’m interested in all kinds of weird shit I find on the Internet or on physical records – Korean folk music, speed core, el music, grind dub, post vapor wave, Italian trap etc.
Miko: I grew up surrounded by all kinds of experimental, jazz, classical, rap or rock music. My father was a friend of local yass musicians. Yass is some kind of weird-punk-free-jazz born north of Poland in the early 90s. My parents sent me to musical school to play violin but I ended up playing guitar by myself, few years later. And so, besides jazz, rock and classics I became a metal fan, The more twisted, polyrhythmic and aurally violent it gets, the better. At the same time I’m a bit into experimental electronic, industrial and ritual music. But of course – nothing can beat the good melody! Maybe our melodies will help bookers put us anywhere they want.
I’ve read that you had been playing in at least eleven different bands before. What styles of music did you play and was that maybe even essential to form a band like JAVVA?
Lucas: We’re all hard working and pretty busy musicians. I’m a part of four more other bands. In ALAMEDA 5 we play more psychedelic, improv and electronic orientated music with a different approach for drumming – influenced by 70s jazz, krautrock and African music. T’IEN LAI is a group playing mostly rhythmical dance stuff – something you could compare to techno, heavy ragga, industrial, instrumental hip hop infused with fucking weirdness. There’s also a band called DUŻY JACK, were I sing. It’s a chaotic hardcore noise rock band playing intense and loud as fucking hell. The last one is MINA – an ephemeral black metal industrial dub duo. So far we’ve only played one show but we’re proud of it as hell.
Miko: I took part in creating all 5 albums by ALAMEDA ORGANISATION so there is a wide approach to multi-genre guitar music on these records. I’m really proud of them, especially with Duo and number 4 – two incarnations which apparently didn’t quite meet the critics’ expectations. I am also a part of T’IEN LAI and MINA duo but Lucas already described those pretty well. I also have a new band caller KUST which presents old Slavic chants used during rites of passage sung by three female voices. Those traditional chants are transposed into ambient/drone/noise aesthetics. Was any of it essential to forming the JAVVA? I guess what’s essential is, most of all, our friendship.
Buki: At the moment I play in a duo with Hubert Zemler “OPLA”. We perform traditional Polish folk dances using traditional noise rock instruments.
Bartek: We all went a long way as musicians before we founded JAVVA and this is the key to what this band represents now.
At your facebook page there is a pun with your band name. What does JAVVA mean?
Lucas: For me JAVVA means a good place, positiveness and strength, controlled chaos, honesty and love.
Miko: In Polish the word “jawa” may be translated into “waking” or “reality”, state opposite to dreaming. It may be also semantically slightly close to German word Offentlichkeit. If you have a power to face reality or to make your dream come true and also to present your desires – that’s a real strength and, in the end, maybe that’s what it is all about.
Buki: For me it’s a combination of a name of a beautiful Indonesian exotic island, object-oriented computer programming language and cheap, noisy (and very popular in eastern Europe) motor brand. For me JAVVA is a mix of those three pieces.
You have a lot of unexpected turns in your music. If someone doesn’t like the first minute of a song, it could quite happen that he or she likes the second half of it. How does the songwriting process proceed at JAVVA?
Lucas: It’s a collective process. We don’t have a leader or songwriter. Each of us brings some ideas and we try to build something interesting with it. We work like architects or designers creating a beautiful and original object made of seemingly mismatched elements found on scrap or junkyard.
Bartek: We have an obvious tendency to combine things that seem to not match, and this is the most interesting aspect of creating in this band. Everyone can suggest any direction in which we go further but it must still sound like JAVVA. This is the only condition.
You made a video for “Kua fu” in an outdoor knick-knacks-store, you performed in a little vintage shop and you seem to like the fashion of the 80s. Did this colorful representation just happen or was it a concept from the beginning of the band?
Buki: For us, the “Kua Fu” place is like a reflection in a mirror. It is huge and very well hidden in our minds. The reality (and the rest of Poland in particular) looks very similar to this place.
Lucas: Yep, there’s something about it. We thought it would be funny to mix this 80s aesthetic known from “Heat Wave”, “Miami Vice” or “Magnum” with a more punk orientated sound and this kind of African vibe you can hear on “Balance of decay”. These kinds of music remind me of contestation and a sort of “antiestablishmentism” as an art statement. There’s something interesting in mixing it with this 80s neoliberal prosperity and wealth aesthetic you can see in such movies like „The Wolf of Wall Street”. Some of the lyrics you can hear on „Balance of decay” are about an ecological crisis we’re witnessing right now so we decided to do something associated with the zero waste idea, such as playing in a second hand store or working with old and used instruments such as weird looking guitars or an old and heavy 60’s Philips Philicorda organ.
Also your cover artwork is pretty colorful and seems to have African influences. What’s it all about?
Bartek: The mandrill face you see on the cover represents a thought that we also smuggle in the lyrics. This thought is a longing for a simple life, without constantly staring at screens, counting bitcoins, virtual friends you don’t really know. The real thing, the real world, taking care of each other, something that we’ve lost in a way, and something that non-human animals still have. Third eye stands for spirituality, but it’s not related to any religion. It’s rather sensitivity to other people, animals and all things that surround you. This eye is responsible for anything that is unseen and can not be detected with any other sense. This beautiful cover was created by our friend and well known Polish designer Dawid Ryski. We are very happy that Dawid found a time to make this project for us, especially that he is very busy artist, doing illustrations for many international brands, newspapers and that kind of stuff on a daily basis. He’s a very talented artist that created a cover that in my opinion suits very well to the music from “Balance of Decay”. I think that people feel the same way. And yes, the colours and overall design strongly emphasizes our African factor but on the other hand it’s not the most important thing.
Your lyrics suspect that you are a political band. Would you agree? How do you assess the actual political and clima-political situation in Europe, especially under the PiS party in Poland? What would be your message to politicians and society?
Lucas: Political band? Maybe a little bit. I think that everything we’re involved in, as members of society, is political. What we eat, buy, who we vote for has a huge impact on us as a group and on us as individuals. These topics are something that permeates my work as an artist. The climax-political situation on our continent is quite shitty, when you think about homophobia, far right wing activism, religious fundamentalism, the lack of will to do something about climate change or the lack of ideas to reinvent capitalism. The PiS party in Poland is just a part of a larger problem that Europe is facing – the rise of right wing, anti-European, church orientated conservative governments. I hope it’s just an episode in the modern history of this continent but I don’t know. I’m just a lousy artist who don’t like politicians because I think they’re all sociopaths and liars. Someone said that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Miko: I don’t like to think about this band as a political one. Our lyrics are still supposed to be some kind of poetry. Sociological, technological and environmental crisis is nothing new. The same goes with left-right wing division. Any fundamentalism is a threat – it doesn’t matter where it’s rooted. Nowadays mankind just have more media to talk about it and every aspect of every problem mutates and permutates until we drown into the ocean of disinformation. And JAVVA is also about that – about constant reality-checks to be aware of what goes around. Message to politicians? Read more science articles and more books but less Machiavelli-like stuff. Go to a forest not to hunt but to listen. Message to the society? Don’t get yourself fooled and also, seriously, read more books.
What is the meaning of “Javva is part of Milieu L’Acéphale”?
Lucas: “Milieu L’Acéphale” is Polish artistic collective that consists of producers, composers and instrumentalists but also graphic designers and a photograph. L’Acéphale was the name of a magazine and a secret society founded in 1936 in France by Georges Bataille. Milieu L’Acéphale is in a way a homage to ideas and practices of Bataille and his friends, but for us it’s a vortex of thoughts, impulses, energetical exchanges between us as artists. We’re interested in raw art, created far away from mainstream, open, sometimes unfinished, born from improvisation, but aiming towards composition, uncompromising, but not exclusive and sometimes very intuitive.
So far you just performed in Poland. Are there also plans for a Europe-Tour?
Lucas: We’re touring a lot in Poland but now is the time to spread the good word all over Europe! We’re working on it and we’re open for invitations!