Today I have the pleasure to interview one of the most promising bands of the current European rock scenario. They are The Sixtynine and play such pure rock, pure in the sense of direct impact in your mind and essential in heart. No superstructure and redundant elements, just rock. Melancholy, ager and mad and rebel too, all in the best measure and proportion you can imagine.
I strongly suggest anyone to know them better, from this interview (they are so fun and ironic too!) but especially from the music point of view. Let’s start:
– I’d love to begin quoting your own words about the sense of indipendent music: “We are an independent band and happy to be so. Not in the sense that we are signed to a so-called indie label or that we try to sound like we’re from a Cambridgeshire or Boston University dorm room, but in the sense that we run our endavours by ourselves, manage our websites by ourselves, finance our recordings by ourselves, and book our concerts by ourselves. And we’re happy to do so”. I think music scene disperately needs people telling things like these, for several reasons. I’ve really appreciated your thought. But here we want your opinion, not mine. So, why do you chose to underline this to your fans and to the world in general?
SIXTYNINE: We’re glad you noticed this. As this is a quote from our press material, it was actually meant more for the members of the press, and for concert organizers and promoters, rather than the fans and listeners. We wanted to underline that we KNOW this happens, all over the world musicians seem to think that it is a virtue to be similar to someone and something, instead of different. Well, we don’t really agree to that. As for the fans and listeners, hopefully this should be equally as obvious from our music, as it is from these words.
– Have you felt hurt in any way from bands who used to do the contrary?
TOMI: No, absolutely not. Every band functions in its’ own way. And so do we. Especially coming from a country like Slovenia, you have to take care of yourself – in society and in music. So you must first trust in yourself so it’s quite obvious that you need to start out running your own website, financing your own recording sessions, booking your own gigs… because all these things make you stronger. Everybody makes a lot of mistakes in the beginning, and it’s OK to learn from these mistakes.
Then again, of course it would be a lot easier to have someone that backs you up financially and from the media & promotion aspects, with everything an upcoming band needs. But as nice as that might be (and used to be, in the days when big record labels were actually doing their job), it would also mean you lose a lot of this initial “learn-it-the-hard-way” school, and a lot of the energy you build up with it, as well as part of your freedom – especially if one stumbles across a record company that at the end of the day doesn’t care about your music.
The bad side is that things tend to happen more slowly, sometimes way too slowly, and you only have yourself to blame for each and every mistake. But all in all, in our case, I’d say it’s good for the band, and for the mood & relationships within us as a team.
How do you feel about the current music scene, in particularly for rock music, in your country and in Europe in general? What in particular about the Eastern Europe where you come from? It looks like a boom of artists from there in the last years, is it true in your opinion or is it just the technology that has allowed us to know more bands from different contexts?
IGOR: Well, the whole concept of “Eastern Europe” is actually rather vague – if you move from one country to the other of the so-called former “eastern block”, which had more to do with the communist regimes than with geography, every country seems to think that this “Eastern” part starts East of them, is “somewhere else”. I’m not really sure how very eastern we feel, maybe even more so because we live right next to the ex-border with Italy, on the Adriatic sea, so I look at us as more Mediterranean than someone from Vienna or Bolzano, ha ha!
DANIJEL: Yeah, I’m a citizen of Europe… I just play an American bass and English amp that runs on Slovenian electricity!
TOMI: The information flow is definitely faster, easier. The internet made music spread more quickly – even this interview is the living proof of it. If Sixtynine existed 20 years ago, you’d have never heard of us… Or perhaps our music would have had a very, very hard time getting through to you.
TADEJ: He means if we still were from Slovenia – because if we were a band from London or LA, even 20 years ago… Ah, darling, you’d have heard of us alright!
TOMI: Getting back to your question – I’d say today rock music can be divided into rock that gets played on TV & radio, and rock that lives on smaller stages, in festivals, in the club scene. Today the network stations actually dictate the timing and direction of what we understand as mainstream rock. I get the feeling that record labels have bowed out to the media… Radio and TV used to drool over the latest release, the latest music news, the premiere of this or that artist or album, and once they finally got their hands on it they’d play it to exhaustion, give it maximum exposure. And the record companies were very picky about who they’d send the first releases to, this was how the relationship flowed. Today it’s the exact opposite.
And concerts used to be not only a way for artists to meet their audience and play live to them, but also great promotion for albums, records, CDs, cassettes. Today album releases are almost viewed as just another PR vehicle for selling some concert tickets, nobody sells any records except the current megahits and evergreens or classic album re-releases.
See, in this respect Slovenia gives us a slight advantage – it’s a country of just 2 million people, so it always was a market so small that you never could make a living out of record sales, it always was important to drag your audiences out to buy concert tickets!!
– In which ways rock music has influenced your life and your inspiration for composing music? Do you feel it as the best way to express yourself and why?
TOMI: It’s always been there, rock music is just a part of my life. Now this does not mean I don’t listen to any other stuff, I actually appreciate many musical genres. But only rock gives me that little “something more”. And I don’t really know why… or perhaps I do, but I don’t know how to describe it, I just can’t find the words. And frankly I’d say I don’t really have to. It’s mine, and that’s all there is to it.
DANIJEL: To me it’s simply the musical environment in which I feel free.
Free to play what I enjoy, and to enjoy what I play.
TOMI: Generally speaking, I truly believe music is a universal language, as much as you might think of this sentence as a cliché – think of it again, take a second to run some examples through your mind: it IS really true.
It’s a vehicle for the transmission of an energy that everybody can understand, that connects people regardless of geography.
That’s why you can never really say “this band is the best/the worst”, because every single human being understands this energy, this vibration in a different and unique way.
So what we aim for is that people enjoy what we do for whatever reason they find to enjoy it, and wherever they are. No major philosophy here.
SIXTYNINE:If you visit our Facebook page, there’s a little sentence beneath the cover picture that says: “From a time when music sounded timeless, from a music in which time is pointless, comes a band that will attempt the biggest trick of them all – to reach not only for your ears… but for your heart.”
And that’s it – not the mind, not the logic – the heart.
– In your music the combination between hard rock and blues is original and very interesting: how has it been born?
TOMI: I don’t know… it wasn’t actually a careful, purpose made concoction. It just happened like that, naturally, as we played. So if you say it’s an interesting & original combination of blues and hard rock, I must thank you for that, and I can just hope that other people feel the same.
IGOR: I’d like to add that your words really struck me, because most reviewers and journalists reach for contemporary, current and more superficial comparisons… I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to be compared to Velvet Revolver or to Guns’N’Roses, but if you think about it, what do they play?? Well, you could say it’s an interesting combination of hard rock and blues. Because it all comes from somewhere, it’s a matter of tracing the origins, of whether you go deep enough to dig up the archetypes, or you are happy with the later derivations. And it’s the same for us, we like to think we have the same roots, not just similar branches.
– The two singles from you Ep are both, in different ways, full of melancholy and bravery, and characterized by a clean sound but complete and touching in all its elements. Do you consider music a channel to express which emotions in particular?
TADEJ: All music, and all of music, is actually an emotion, or a beam of many emotions running together. So before it’s even a channel for emotions, it’s an emotion in itself, and it’s whatever you feel and have in you in that moment.
DANIJEL: See? He’s the guitarist, he has to say deep stuff like that! Yeah.
IGOR:It actually took us a long time to pinpoint the sound we wanted. What we play happened spontaneously, but how it sounds was a matter of research, and this is where our relationship with our producer comes into play, because things just fit together and he shaped our sound.
– How do you begin to compose a song in your band? Does the creative process born in only one of you or is it more a cooperation process?
TOMI: Our writing music is a collective process. This is why we’re a band. Even though the basic ideas may come from one individual. But it’s just the basics. Then it’s rehearsal time, and each band member adds something of his own or helps edit out stuff that doesn’t function well. And then, when we can’t add or subtract anything anymore from the song, our producer Andrea F steps in and this is where he adds his vision, and energy, to the songs that then become recordings.
Apart from the music we make, all this also moves and expands the boundaries of our friendship as human beings.
– I want you to satisfy a curiosity of mine about the video of “Don’t give up”: it is “essential” and particularly focused on the music instead of the images, as other bands instead love to do, building a story or something similar. Is this an intentional effect? What lead you to this decision?
SIXTYNINE: “Don’t Give Up” is our first single, the first song we ever released. The fact we opened our career with a slow song, a rock ballad is a bit different from what most rock bands do. As for the video, we look at it as our “business card”, it’s an introduction to us, for many people the first contact ever with us – so we thought it was important that the audiences are introduced to the band and the band members first, without too much interference or without diverting their attention to anything else. So that’s why the video is mostly about us and our music.
TADEJ: “Don’t Give Up” is also a very emotional song – we get emotional playing it, it takes us away, so perhaps both we and the video director felt that the playing and band performance would convey some feelings to the audiences.
IGOR: The lyrics of the song, if you read them carefully, don’t offer any answers, don’t offer any closure or solution. So to put in a story, with a beginning and an ending, in the video, would have been a bit alien to the song itself.
Yes, it is a 101% love song, and many find singing about love is a cliché, but the words “Don’t give up” should make you think it’s not all hearts and roses, all ideal and lovely and typical – you need to work on love, so because we all are different people, we’ll all find different starts and endings to our love stories.
– I’m sure our readers will appreciate you exactly as I am doing. You are being a wonderful surprise in the European rock scene for me and for Relics- staff, so, even more than in other cases, I care for asking you about your music plans for the next future, and in general about your projects.
IGOR: Well you surprised us, too, with your in depth questions and understanding of our music – thank you for that.
TADEJ: In other words… you rock, babe!
TOMI: First of all, thanks for the questions you asked. Next up, thanks for the kind words and compliments throughout this conversation.
We do have wishes and goals, and the very fact we sing in English somehow implies that we don’t wish to be confined to playing only in our country.
DANIJEL: Yeah, we’d love to play in Rome! How’s that saying?? “Vedi Roma e poi muori”?
TADEJ: No, it’s “Vedi Napoli!”
DANIJEL: OK, we can play Rome AND Napoli!
TOMI: By pure chance, our very first concert was in Serbia – and the last one we played was in Torino – so it’s safe to say we’ve trampled all over our borders.
Our album will be out soon, and we hope it will do the same, going to places we’ve never been to. Wherever there’s a heart.
A very special thank to the Roster of Plindo eLabel and Francesca Caloni for her precious cooperation.