Aleks And The Drummer


Written by Seun Mustapha
Photos and illustrations by Clayton Hauck, Adam Hoff, Aleks Tomaszewska
21 Monday 21st July 2008

Aleks and Deric, one woman and one man. How does being a twosome influence what you do?

It causes a great dynamic, we compete and complete each other within the music. I think this helps us both to step it up and push our skills forward. Being a duo and not using additional effects or loops to date, this "competing" for space or presence helps to fill out our sound. Only one other person to deal with keeps us fairly efficient though sometimes a mediator could be useful to tip the scale when we don't agree and get stuck and stubborn. Though the downside is that there are less people to help out with the busywork.

Your music has a playful fairground-accordion, or as you describe it on your Myspace, ‘Nintendo adrenaline’ sound. Where does that come from?

I'm not sure. Part of it is choosing the Farfisa to be the lead instrument. Though we've all heard this instrument in other bands and don't pay attention to it much. I have it set to how I like it and I find in it some accordion, some carnival, some Nintendo, some big orchestra impression, and it all amounts to this unique sound that really won my heart when I first discovered it. As far as Nintendo, I loved some of the music for it (Tetris) and I still remember the genuine emotional adrenaline rush you'd get doing this lonely, useless activity. Somewhere there's meaning in that.

Aleks, you sing in your native Polish. Is your sound inspired by polish music?

The two songs that I had on my Myspace page were covers of early Polish 80's songs. One that I loved as a little girl and one that I discovered a few years ago on an LP I bought by the same band. One I modified greatly and one I couldn't get myself to change very much, because I loved the original the way it was. I just wanted to celebrate it as is, or to be a messenger of its existence. Of course I always have to add something for fun.

And I can feel someone else's song just as much as my own. I do have some songs in Polish of my own that are not yet finished. If my sound is inspired by Polish music, it's a subconscious, loose impression. Maybe an amalgam of some Polish new wave, 60's underground cabaret, ancient folk, and 80's pop, but never isolated from anything else I like and that's rubbed off on me over time. Because there is not one overwhelming musical force that inspires me, I think it's harder to detect an influence in our sound or make a convenient comparison to another band.

Do you feel comfortable singing in two languages? Obviously most people don’t understand Polish; do you feel that language and music can transcend understanding allowing emotion and sound to connect with the listener on their own terms?

Absolutely. If instrumental music can move someone, then vocals can be affective whether or not you understand the words. If someone laughs or cries you know what's going on without them telling you "I'm laughing". Or they can say "I'm laughing" all they want but if they're crying they're crying and you know. The interesting I find is that when I sing in Polish it's more dramatic, maybe because I grew up arguing and yelling in Polish, not English. Maybe it's the R's and consonants, but somehow I take on a different persona in this language, it's a darker or sadder side of me. And I don't know exactly why, just vaguely.

Deric, your drumming is fast and infectious as are the frantic and dense keyboards. Aleks, your voice is more delicate and ethereal, the contrast is stunning. Do you enjoy little contrasts like that, do you embrace paradox?

I would say definitely, if I embrace any "strategy" in the mostly intuitive process of songwriting it's justify "this" with "that", when often this and that don't traditionally coexist. For example I'm working on a song where I ask Deric to play some gangster rap drums while I sing "pretty" over some Eastern European sounding melody. I'm not going to rap in this context.

I don't see my vocals as delicate and ethereal. I think most people that have come to a live show tend to comment how my "powerful" voice betrays my appearance, whatever that means. But if you must, there is that feminine aspect I guess, against these aggressive drums. Though I find that Deric's drums aren't all machine either, there's feeling in it. As they probably exist we use any male/female tensions/dynamic to our advantage.

You performed at Glastonbury this year, what did you think of the festival?

I thought it was very well curated and I forget the rest... :) No, I had much much fun in the audience as well as on stage. I almost set my organ on fire. It's at the doctor right now waiting for a donor for a new transformer. I also lost 5 pounds making the journeys from stage to stage shivering and sliding around in my new wellies but it was great. I wish I had mingled with new people more. 

Any English bands, musicians you’re into?

To be honest though I do have an eclectic collection of music I don't have this blanket knowledge of music that Deric has. I'll name off some better-known musicians, and ignore other stuff I've found in various Myspace crevices as to not have to research first if they're from Britain or not. I love the new Portishead album, I like The Cure, Joy Division, M.I.A. and as much as the safe and endless sea of current boy-bands gets on my nerves sometimes, I think Franz Ferdinand are quite talented. I'm not against any genre or type, as long as I like the band at hand.

001 Aleks and the Drummer from Kyle Obriot on Vimeo.

Instead of me trying to concoct a description give us a stab at self-definition.

It's different each time, I should document them once I throw one out there to always have one handy. Let's see... based on previous descriptions and what I feel now... frantic gypsy emolectro raucous circus dance hyper-romantic punk (when punk was more accommodating)

Hope is a future theme of Don’t Panic Online. What do both of you hope for musically in the future?

That radio stations here are more free. That this undertaking can be self-sustainable, that people stop looking to what they already know for the next "new" thing. That I submit this shit to some great labels and get some help with some of the things that take my time away from writing. I'd like to learn more and dance more and stay young till I die old and keep making music. I hope that this tonsillitis goes away before my next show. I missed the era when punk meant anything goes and I miss it still. I think it's returning with no name and I hope I'm right.

Check Aleks and the Drummer out at one of their live gis here.


I thought I’d throw a ‘highbrow’ question in. There’s a habit now of politicising Americans post-9/11 and soon to be post Bush. What are your thoughts on contemporary American politics and have you reacted to the situation in your music?

As far as 9/11 I'll have to say, acknowledging it as a great tragedy, it is one of 1000s in this world, and I couldn't dwell on it. We can't relate to bombs falling around us and killing off our family, yet we're doing that abroad and only mourning our citizens. How is one life more precious than the next based only on geographic location? I think the U.S. needs to work on its reputation in some of these countries that hate us, but this is seen as bowing down to a lesser power or siding with the enemy.

So no one in power will publicly claim this perspective and admit our faults. In the meantime everyone is recruiting more soldiers. I don't think I get in the mood to talk politics in my music. It just doesn't pull at my heart strings. I get really frustrated with the political situations and vent it in conversations with friends and family. We were all shocked when Bush was re-elected.

But you forget that you surround yourself with people that you relate to, so you're not aware of how many people out there don't inform themselves, or think in black and white terms (pro-abortion/anti-abortion, etc.) I am convinced that anyone who listens to our music doesn't need their mind changed about Bush. Even though it seems so clear that Obama should be the next President because Bush is fucking up the country, you live in a different reality than all those people who would have him again over a "black guy", or someone "less Christian". (regardless of how many resources are consumed and how much death and suffering and "evil" is being shat out of a Christian asshole)

Poor old Hilary?

I don't feel bad for Hilary Clinton as I gave her an excited, open mind and she really disappointed me. I've heard her speak in the past and found her to be a highly intelligent person with her head in the right place. I'd get angry when people would make fun of her and judge her on her sexuality just because her husband had a lover.

When I learned she'd run for president I was truly excited. However when it came to competing I was disappointed to find her weak and bending every which way to please everyone. There are many of us angry about things as they are now, you might as well make a positive change to appease a mass of people and piss off a few in power. She was way too concerned being criticized and overlooked the very real leverage of all of us that want a leader to withstand pressures and just speak up and do the right thing. In the end she appeared very self-conscious and easily manipulated.

There was no way I could trust her. Even though I believed she knew what was right I felt she'd go against her own opinions to spare herself some criticism. Her nitpicking Obama's words to create scandal were so petty I just started to ignore her altogether.

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