The raucous Russian-inspired band Vulgargrad are launching their third album, The Odessa Job, at Sydney’s most prolific music venue, the Camelot Lounge, in April.
The songs on this album are “plundered” from Odessa, a city on the Black Sea in Ukraine. It includes pieces about Alyosha, the vodka-swilling, accordion-loving thief, and Aunty Haya, who is expecting a strange package from Shanghai. There are also songs about knife fights, dive bars and fishermen.
As the blurb stresses, “This is Russian criminal music at its best and baddest!”
Polish-born Australian actor, singer and frontman Jacek Koman explains why Odessa was chosen as the inspiration for this album.
“In the early 20th century, Odessa was a busy port, an ethnic melting pot, a place where trade thrived and crime flourished, the perfect birthplace for the music we love.”
Koman tells me how VulgarGrad was born.
“A man goes to Moscow to immerse himself in Russian Culture. He returns severely hungover dragging a suitcase filled with a peculiar style of music called blatnyak [known as ‘criminal music’]. He infects with the love for this stuff a bunch of his muso friends… and the rest is history.”
The name of the band is “a playful reference to Volgograd, a town on the Volga River, in Russia. Also, a warning that our material can get a little ‘low brow’. It does come from the gutter.”
Why does Jacek think Russian music would appeal to antipodeans?
“The energy of it is very contagious. It’s exotic, yet somehow familiar. It’s simple, but very powerful and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s anarchic and fun. And the venues are always very happy with the bar takings.”
The band’s first two albums, called Popular Street Songs Of The Russian Underclass and King Of Crooks, reflect the delinquent origin of the music.
The band mostly focuses on drawing on existing material. “There’s a real gold mine there,” Koman says, “some of it nearly century old.”
Publicity for the show says Jacek’s voice “is NOT mellowing with age – it’s rougher, tougher, and more powerful than ever”.
I asked if all the band members sing, and Jacek says, “Yes, we do. But only I roar.”
Band members are Andrew Tanner (balalaika); Renato VaCirca (drums); Ros Jones (trombone); Adam Pierzchalski (trumpet); Nara Demasson (guitar); and Phil McLeod (piano accordion).
Sounds like a riotous night of great fun! I’ll definitely be there!
Apr 6-7. Camelot Lounge, Marrickville Rd & Railway Parade, Marrickville. $32.90+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.camelotlounge.com
By Irina Dunn