To be honest I hadn't heard of Pospolite Ruszenie before an email ended up in my inbox with a request to check them out. I did and I wrote a review, coz I think that the Polish deserve recognition outside their home country. And so I jotted down a few questions to learn more about them, thanks to singer Jan Trebacz - who also play's hurdy-gurdy - for enlightening us!
Please tell us first how Pospolite Ruszenie started! Did you know each other before?
Some of us knew each other, but not everyone. Basically, I've had this idea of combining rock / metal with medieval / renaissance music, which I am a huge fan of, ever since I got into music, which was in my early teens. Later, during my time at university I met Krzysztof who was a great blues / rock guitarist, but also wanted to be in a hard rock / metal band. I sort of persuaded him that playing 'classic' rock / metal was boring and so we decided to go on with this idea for a 'medieval rock' band. It was him who suggested using original old Polish lyrics. We then invited Papirus (drums), who I am also with in other bands (Illuminandi, Direction), and an old friend of ours, Bako (bass, also Direction). We rehearsed for a while, but since we didn't know any people who could play medieval instruments, there was only so much we could do. Soon our other priorities took over and we stopped. It wasn't until Krzysztof, who has his own recording studio, met Paweł Iwaszkiewicz (bagpipes, recorders, shawms), a co-founder of the cult Celtic folk band Open folk, that we decided to start over. I bought a hurdy-gurdy and started learning how to play it. Since Paweł is not only a great musician, but also knows everything about early music, he suggested some traditional tunes that we could work on. The work went really well and so we decided to record our first material, the EP Świebodność. We also invited Paweł Muzyka (vielle, viola da gamba, violone) to help us with the project. Initially Paweł Muzyka was to be a permanent member, but shortly he decided to quit for personal reasons and was replaced by another Illuminandi member, Regina Szlachta (violin). So that's it in a nutshell... :)
What does the name mean? And did you ever think about an English name? Or at least something which is easier to remember for non-Polish speakers?
About the meaning: simplifying things a bit, 'pospolite ruszenie' was a medieval term for mobilization of armed forces. Every free man capable of wielding a weapon had to answer that call. We thought it was a perfect match for our band – it reflects the way we work as a band really well. :) I mean, we live in different parts of the country, even several hundred kilometers apart, so each rehearsal is like a call to war... :) You have to prepare yourself and turn up ready with all your gear. Also, it's a medieval term so it matches our music perfectly. :)
And yes, we know the name is extremely difficult for non-Poles. However, our objective was to bring back to life old Polish tunes and poetry, and so we thought it would be weird to use an English name... That would sort of go against our artistic vision... But if we ever become famous abroad, we will have to think of something to help our non-Polish fans.
You combine different sounds, but in an organic way. How important was it for you to use authentic instruments? To really melt the sounds together instead of only flavoring rock with medieval elements?
It was crucial. There are lots of medieval rock bands, especially in Germany, but none is actually 100% musically there for me. I mean, some (like early In Extremo) are fairly close, but we wanted to make music we would be 100% satisfied with as listeners, to do things our way. Using a lot of traditional instruments was and is essential for us. We want the early music part be as important as the rock part.
Do you partly use analog technology for the recordings? Or is all digital?
We didn't use any samples, if that's what you mean. Just replicas of period instruments and rock instruments. Everything was recorded using various microphones, tube pre-amps, a professional sound card and a Mac.
Did you know right from the start that you want to use poetry as lyrics?
It was Paweł who suggested 2 out of the 3 tracks on Świebodność, I suggested Nieście chwałę, mocarze, which was a song I had been familiar with and liked a lot. To start with, we had both the original lyrics and the accompanying music for all the 3 tracks. We 'only' had to rearrange them into rock songs, which actually turned out to be more challenging than we'd expected. The work involved not only coming up with song structures, but also inventing riffs, sometimes even additional tunes, etc. It was mostly Krzysztof who worked on arrangements (with some help from other band members), and he did a great job IMO.
As I don't understand Polish, are all your lyrics based on religious poetry? Please tell us a bit more about your lyrical inspiration!
All the tracks on Świebodność are based on religious poetry, but we've got a few secular songs too. The thing is, it's much easier to get hold of old religious poetry – there's more beautiful, authentic material out there that has been preserved and that is half-forgotten. Secular medieval / renaissance poetry is even rarer. We don't mind performing religious songs, in fact some of us are Christians, so we can actually relate to those lyrics. But the idea behind this band is to bring back some of our history to life, not to preach or to be a 'Christian band', which is how a lot of people label us. We don't mind that, really, but this label seems to scare off a lot of potential listeners, which is a pity.
The 3-track EP Świebodność is a free download, I guess, it makes people check out your music... Are you happy with the number of downloads? The response you got?
Yes, we are very happy with the feedback we've got so far. We are surprised at the amount of positive feedback we received from all over the world; I must confess that we had been aiming at the Polish scene primarily, but with so many encouraging reactions from abroad we may have to re-evaluate our policy. :) Funny thing is, some people in Poland reject us on the principle that we are 'a Christian band', which is not entirely accurate as I have already explained. But those who don't mind the religious nature of the tracks on our EP have been quite enthusiastic about our music.
You did a video for Nieście chwałę, mocarze. Please tell us a bit about the video shoot! Where did you do it?
For some of us it was the first video shoot ever, and so it was very exciting and a bit hectic at the same time. We managed to do everything in one day. Everything was filmed on location, a beautiful ruined castle in Rabsztyn (Poland). We had loads of fun, but if we could do it again, we would do it more professionally. But I guess we live and learn. :)
Are you already working on new songs? Can we expect to hear more from you guys in 2012?
Yes, we have recently started intensive work on new tracks and there are even plans of recording a full album in early autumn 2012. We would like to re-record the tracks from the EP plus record at least 6-7 new tracks.
What about live shows? Can we expect to see you somewhere in 2012?
Our next show is on 9th June in Tarnów (PL). So far we have only played in Poland, but we'd be more than happy to play abroad. :)
Thanks for doing this interview and for supporting us! Take care!
I'm looking forward to hear more of the Polish outfit and it would be nice to see them on stage somewhere...