s THE UNDERDOGS PT.1 - Swarm mag

THE UNDERDOGS PT.1

“Outcasts, pariahs, underdogs, rotten tomatoes, rejects, untouchables, oath-breakers, scapegoats, that's what we call them!”
THE UNDERDOGS PT.1 1

Tomáš / 31

Hi Tomas, do you play in any band at the moment?

I’ve been playing with a band called VOLE for about 2-3 years now, we’ve put out a record, went on a European tour, and now we’re preparing another record and have gigs constantly. We play hardcore-punk; it’s a bit atypical, it carries elements of noise and metal, also a dash of classic punk. 

What kind of music do you listen to?

I try to listen to good music, good for me. (laughter) I don’t really enjoy Czech stuff and if I do, it’s mostly made by some friends or acquaintances, and because I know these people, I feel another kind of energy than just the musical one, it’s more like ‘family’ energy. Just today, I’ve listened to Sun Ra, a sort of a jazz composer from the 70s’. I also listen to rap, the 90s’ kind for example, such as Mephis or Triple Six Mafia. I don’t listen to classical music now as I used to before, our Janáček is seriously good. Before, I played in a band called Lezok but as time went there was too much travelling so we’ve founded VOLE.

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Do you think that clothing can genuinely express an opinion or it’s too superficial for that?

I think it’s pretty important, one must look the part so he fits in with his ‘pack’ somehow, so others can recognize they all share or stand for the same thing. It’s also essential because bands mostly play live shows and looks are an inseparable part of those. The movement they create when they play, how they look like; it’s great that is has a certain colourfulness to it. All those people stick to some traditional model of punk – the same jackets, boots, badges and pins – but still, it holds something very lasting and constant, compared to fast fashion where trends change rapidly. All these subcultures were, in fact, raped by fashion. 

Nowadays, you can go to H&M and buy a cheap biker jacket made of plastic and a pair of slim-fit jeans that were always coveted by the punks but couldn’t be found anywhere back then, especially those good, ripped ones. And then it all transformed – this style is mostly worn here be people with whom you can’t really identify but its roots still stem from punk and heavy metal. I’ve been always interested in this because I liked these underground movies where folks looked weird and where you could identify with them as a kind of a social outcast and where your looks gave away your opinions. 

Why is punk still alive and kicking here and what does it represent for you?

Czech punk in the 80s, for example, was an anti-system issue. Punks palled around with Nazis because they both had a common enemy – the system – which rather changed after the [Velvet] Revolution. Suddenly, everybody was like, “the enemy disappeared and I don’t know why I should keep on protesting.” But after some time, you realize that the enemy never truly goes away and that this music movement is made possible because a lot of people are still dissatisfied; it’s necessary to keep engaged in social, employment, and other problems. 

Punk was always the music of protest, of mirroring these problems, and mainly of the lyrics – it wasn’t a matter of virtuosity. It was supposed to point people in the direction of current problems. So, I think it’s still alive but you also meet a lot of punks here who go to Mighty Sounds or similar, which doesn’t seem too politically engaged to me as others, mostly smaller festivals, such as Fluff, for example, Fluff I perceive as an absolute opposite to Mighty Sounds, where it’s mostly about having a relaxing weekend even though the organizers are openly against fascism, xenophobia and other stereotypes, sadly still present in the punk scene. Fluff has a bigger scope, such as animal rights, and is more intense about it. Concerning food and drinks, one could say it’s a straight edge- and vegan-friendly festival with positive mind and attitude people. Punk mirrors society here.

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Does Prague have a club that you frequent and that is still underground enough for similar genres of punk?

I would like to mention Bike Jesus. Even though they eventually asked for more money when we performed with the band and we barely covered our costs, it’s still pretty good there and they’re open to everything. 

We also play at Social Centre Klinika (defunct, former artistic squat) and if we make some extra money, we just leave it to them to use for the house repair. There’s plenty of clubs right now that can provide a band on a tour with anything they might need, e.g. the Eternia I mentioned earlier because it’s run by the same crew as Fluff. Klinika is more underground where you have to enter the chaos without looking back or fighting it – keep your mind open or you will be dissatisfied. (laughter) Sometimes, people who go see the concert don’t even pay, they throw lighters or screws or something into the money box. But we don’t do the music for money so if we’ll see someone young who can barely buy one beer that they’re gonna sip for the entire evening, we say ‘give a dime or whatever you can’ because it’s mainly about them having fun. If such events are not accessible, the people will stop caring about them.

The punk scene is often connected to drawing attention to some glossed-over or unsaid problems. Are there such taboos in the Czech Republic?

Punk is not only about the core of political engagement or social justice. Well, is and isn’t as there’s a lot of punks who were and are apolitical, and just liked the image and lifestyle but didn’t care for demonstrations. All in all, they were more inclined to uphold the system rather than to have it collapse. Punk today is not just politically oriented but I guess it wasn’t even back then when it came to life – Sex Pistols were against the system but they were still stars. I come from a more politically-charged background but punk includes athletes or fashion and art people, I think it’s a very diverse scene.

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Credits
Photo & Interview / Markéta Kosinová
PH Assistant & Styling / Kateřina Hynková
Hair / Michael Remo Birrer
Translation / Františka Blažková

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