Coming to Bristol as part of the fringe events for the Jazz and Blues Fest on 21 January, Moscow Drug Club are an eclectic collective of performance artists, with a resume that showcases their experience and repertoire.
Moscow Drug Club are an Acoustic Gypsy Tango Swing (phew!) band to have grown out of Bristol, taking their name from a song in the 1980s written by Hungarian-Canadian artist BB Gabor. Strange things happen south of the river, so it would seem – and what starts off as a quiet drink turns into a life changing moment of creative collaboration for a certain five musicians.
Just over five years ago, Katya Gorrie and renowned guitarist Denny Ilett met up with an old friend (who also happens to be a jazz trumpeter) in the local pub, and shortly after, their accordionist came on board with an infectious passion for French musette and Argentinian tango. Andy Crowdy, double bassist completed the quintet to form Moscow Drug Club.
“We are a Motley Crew, in that we all come from different musical backgrounds and experiences, which is part of what makes Moscow Drug Club exciting and musically diverse.” Songwriter Katya explains.
Not only do they bring their own histories to their music today, the band are also inspired by the classic swing music to have come out of the 1930s and 1940s – not to mention a healthy sprinkling of German Cabaret and 1950s Parisian sophistication thrown in.
” I think performance is an extension of one’s self. I try to give of myself, rather than be a different person.”
Katya’s personal experience was heavily influenced by her parents and their eclectic musical tastes, paving the way for her decision to pursue classical and jazz music professionally. She is also trained in theatre and dance and has an impressive number of live tours under her belt, including Canada, the USA and across Europe. Yet, it has been since settling in Bristol and starting out gigging in local bars and clubs that Katya has found a home for her diverse, creative impulses. It’s fair to say, that Bristol has got what the band needs:
“Bristol is a great place to be if you’re a creative person. The music scene here is very supportive so instead of feeling competition from your peers, you often get inspiration and encouragement.” Says Katya.
Moscow Drug Club’s self-titled debut album received massive critical acclaim and their second album Meglio Stasera, Baby! is also doing great things. The band have brought their unique gypsy swing sound to numerous festivals including WOMAD, Marlborough Jazz Festival and of course, our very own Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival. Their latest album is soon to be released, as Katya recalls the recording process across their three albums:
“We put more time into the recording and arrangements on the second album. On our first recording, we all sat around in a circle and recorded a live album, which was great, and captured a certain energy, but I prefer the results of our second album. Which is what we have done again on our new album that’s just coming out!”
It should come as no surprise that the live experience with Moscow Drug Club is downright charismatic – with an infectious feel for rhythm, and a tightly spun band dynamic, it’s clear that this music is that of seasoned professionals. When you scratch the surface, you might learn of Denny Ilett’s world class guitar technique, his touring history with the ambassador of music from New Orleans, Lillian Boutte – and his moonlighting as a regular columnist for Guitarist magazine. Then there’s double bassist Andy who not only knows how to work that beast of an instrument – he also has a Masters in Music Composition. The band’s pianist Mirek Salmon has composed music for the British Film Institute and the BBC, and then there’s Ben Cummings and Jonny Bruce – trumpet extraordinaires, who have collaborated with Jamie Cullum and Steve Waterman among others.
This is the kind of music that would happily seduce you in a smoke-filled French bistro, where it wouldn’t feel out of place to come face to face with Martha or Rufus Wainwright, brush shoulders with Tom Waits and Django Reinhardt or former novelist Bertolt Brecht.
Katya’s personal expectations of herself as both a songwriter and performer are high, and with that, comes a certain element of anxiety – but this is something that she definitely has mastered:
“I wouldn’t say I feel driven most of the time, because life gets in the way. But when I can, I try and find those moments to be creative. I definitely try to create stories and characters.I am putting myself as a songwriter in the same repertoire as Tom Waits and Jaques Brel, so the stakes are very high, and I’m probably foolish to even attempt it, but I do!” She says.
It’s lucky that the stakes are high, because invariably Moscow Drug Club exceed those self expectations, and thankfully, they have that unique dynamic existing between one another that enables them to fully explore their potential, as Katya says:
“We are a family and good friends which is a bit rare I think. We perform and create together well. Long may it continue!”
Catch Moscow Drug Club at The Lantern in Colston Hall on 21 January.
Tickets are available online: www.colstonhall.org.uk
Find out more here: www.moscowdrugclub.com
Listen to Misirlou – a traditional Turkish/Greek song popularised by Dick Dale.