The Twoks Q & A
By Crimson Cat
How did you three meet?
The Twoks have been through many different formations. It started out as a drum and violin instrumental duo, went through several drummers, up to the current line-up which includes Xani Kolac on violin and vocals, Mark Leahy on drums and Stewart Taylor on bass. Stewart and Mark have known each other for quite a while having played on recordings and in other bands together. Xani was looking for new members and knew Stewart from hanging around in similar muso circles. So Stewart became the new bassist and Mark became the new drummer soon after.
The band name ‘The Twoks’ is interesting, how did that come about?
Originally, The Twoks featured Xani Kolac and drummer Manny Kechayas. We were looking for a band name and came up with The Twoks when we discovered that both our last names start with the letter K. So technically, we are the Two K’s! After choosing the band name, we realised that the word “twok” already had other meanings including a thief or someone who burns cars!
When and where was your big break?
The one gig that felt like we were onto something super special was performing in the Spiegeltent at the 2008 Melbourne International Arts Festival. The show was sold out and it felt like we played a really solid set. I still don’t know if you’d call the MIAF gig our “big break” because we’re still working at getting our music out there, but it was pretty big for us.
How would you best describe your music?
It’s not strictly jazz but a lot of it is improvised. It grooves and it has a strong sense of melody but the format is a little unconventional seeing as it uses electric violin, drums, bass and lots of electronic effects pedals. Our influences range from Radiohead, Bjork and Sigur Ros, to Astor Piazzolla, Martin Hayes and DBR.
You recently played at Federation Square for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, how was the crowd there?
The crowd was great! They all sat down in front of the stage and seemed to be grooving along. It was a really exciting and important gig for us being invited to play as part of the MIJF so we really wanted to perform with that same exuberance. Hopefully it came across.
How do you each prepare before a show? Do you do any interesting rituals beforehand?
Sometimes we have a little sing-along to warm up our vocals but also just to loosen up and realign ourselves musically. We haven’t included any crazy rituals as yet, but we’re still in the very early stages of our careers.
Tell us about your debut album “It Won't End That Way” that was released at The Toff Town.
This album was written as a kind of concept album that would reflect on the current issues that were affecting Australians at the time. It is a journey through drought, shark attacks, the recession and bushfire whereby it begins in a very bleak, glib place and resolves with a celebration of the caring and loving nature of humanity. However, this celebration does not last for long as the album then finishes where it started, with a dark, cynical comment on the repetitive cycle of life. There are many elements of The Twoks musical style on this album, from the more instrumental tracks to the more pop/dance tracks. All of the music is fairly epic which is what one can usually expect from a Twoks gig!
What was the most memorable part of the night?
One thing we always try to do is rearrange our music before every few performances. We consider a song as an idea rather than as a set score that cannot be altered. The album in particular features a lot of layering that cannot be emulated live without backing tracks. Part of our aesthetic is that we don’t use backing tracks, therefore the songs have to be rearranged in order to be performed. For our album launch, we decided to rearrange some of the songs featuring special guests including using a string trio for our song “Falling Sky”. This was definitely a memorable moment. That and having so many people come along to hear us play at The Toff.
Are there any plans to tour internationally? Where is your dream location to play?
We are actually planning our prospective international touring right now! We have decided that we want to embark on a world tour mid-next year! Some places that we really want to get to include Berlin, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Ireland and Japan, but especially anywhere in Scandinavia. So nothing too adventurous, really!!
What artists or bands are you listening to at the moment?
We are listening to a lot of Radiohead to learn whatever we can from them. Musically we’re not terribly similar but we play music that is neither mainstream nor experimental - it’s somewhere in the middle trying to break new ground - and Radiohead, in our opinion, plays this sort of music, too.
The Twoks will be performing at Red Bennies on Tuesday, 25th May.