Foreign View: Kai Szuwar (Poland)

We had the idea of interviewing foreign musicians and other people from the underground scene about Ukrainian music in the past year. We've got the realization of this plan finally! The second hero in this topic is Kai Szuwar - the author of Psychodelikatesy Podcast (2014-2017). Currently works on the music journalism degree work about Ukrainian psychedelic movement.

About the whole scene

The main feature of the Ukrainian underground scene is a strong DIY spirit. Minimal budget and a lot of own work can provide an impressive result. Very determined people that are not afraid of creating everything from the scratch. Wow!

The main problem of the Ukrainian scene, in my opinion, is the inability of gaining some external money. Maybe it’s a lack of stoner-psychedelic industry in Ukraine and the government having bigger concerns than funding sub-culture.

Polish people and Ukrainians are pretty tight together. Nearly every fest in Poland invites Ukrainian bands. Somali Yacht Club is most praised I think along with Stoned Jesus. The second band although widely known from their magnum opus 'Seven Thunders Roar', causes some confusion among stoner-heads nowadays with their current very unorthodox approach.

About bands and artists

I know many Ukrainian underground artists. Somali Yacht Club, Stoned Jesus, Ethereal Riffian. Firejam was my biggest recent discovery. Soom, Pree Tone, H.Soror and even the better band Ghost Cities. Had a pleasant chat with Your Inner God. Sinoptik blasted at Soulstone Gathering Warm Up. Rising Sabotage, Krobak, and Voida by Igor, Sex Blender by Atanas, 5R6 (Doomed City now), The Heavy Crawls, Atomic Simao and Junket. Oh, I’ve got two Electic Funeral Cafes on my music shelf :)

I happened to know those bands by  Robert Ruszczyk (I did it: one man booking agency) who booked Stoned Jesus gig in May 2013 (20 people attending). A few months later I helped him to host Somali Yacht Club & Ethereal Riffian on their tour and I made some good friendships :)

I like them because they’re not generic, they’ve got something to say, and they express it in a non-cliched way. There’s also some unique kind of nostalgia or ethereal vibe I cannot find anywhere else.

The common features of Ukrainian performers: their expectations are pretty basic and the performance is astonishing. They are very perseverant. The only thing that keeps that internal fire is pure passion!

The Ukrainian language is very powerful in Folk-esques, but in Stoner it seems like a distraction to me. Specific accent captures my attention and I can’t focus on music. The only exception of flawless blend of slavic language and heaviness is russian (sludge?) band IL. And yeah, psychedelic-noise-philosophical-meme-post-cabaret band from Toruń, Poland – Diuna but the question was about ukrainian language, so I missed the point with those two honorable mentions.

About releases

Yeah, releases of Ukrainian artists reach Poland, mainly digital (Bandcamp. Spotify). Many people buy CDs at gigs. Nothing at regular music stores.

My personal collection contains Stoned Jesus – "Seven Thunders Roar", Somali Yacht Club – "The Sun", Electric Funeral Cafe 1 and 3, Early EP from Heavy Crawls and a bootleg from Junket.

On the streets I see no stoner merch at all. But at festivals, I often see peeps in Somali Yacht Club or Stoned Jesus tees.

About labels

When I was running Psychodelikatesy podcast I followed Robustfellow Prod to be up-to-date with their new stuff which I respect! Now not so much.

Electric Funeral Cafe is an awesome release! Also, the latest thing from SOOM seems awesome with all the merch available.

About concerts

I’ve been at Electric Meadow Fest. No security, no credit card payment, no toilets. Just the stage, lights, two kegs and a lot of ganja smoke. Awesome slim-core lean festival!

As for concerts of Ukrainian bands in Poland. Even though the border passing is a pain in the ass and band can show up on the venue being a few hours late and perform their gig with full force as nothing happened. It’s cool! They’ve got their own hooks. Hard to specify but everything seems so crafted – from music to merch. And they seem like your friends on stage – not any kind of stars. The exception may be Sinoptik with their rockstar attitude, but it’s good :)

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