artist Profile: Alexandra "Olenka" Krakus. part 2

Alexandra Krakus and I met 2 years ago on Myspace.  I was looking up acts to play with in and around Toronto, and was imediately hooked by her beautiful, challenging voice, and intelligent song-writing.  At the time she was playing mostly low key country-folk but has since evolved her sound, adding elements of polish folk, and gypsy music.  Her songwriting has progressed as well, taking on a more personal and political tone.  She also holds the distinction of being the first interviewee on this new segment, "artist profile".  Here is part 2. 

Tell me about your big news for June 12th

- I'm playing a North by North East (NXNE) showcase! YAY!  Thurs. June 12th.  9pm. C'est What.  With as many Autumn Lovers as are available.

As a memeber of your band The Autumn Lovers, I never know who I'll be playing with on any given night.  You seem to have a stockpile of players.  To set the record straight, how many Autumn Lovers are there?

-I don't know if the record can be set straight.  There are constant changes in the line-up:  people's lives dictate availability and priorities.  I'm happy to play with anyone who is generous enough to support me in my music and who can add a sound that I hear in my head (as I am now apparently writing orchestral pieces).  As long as the atmosphere is creative and supportive, I'm all for collaborators!  I suppose at present (i.e.  c. May 9th 2008)  the band consists of Keven Brasier (double bass), You! (sax, guitar, etc.) Sara Froese (violin), Paterson Hodgson (cello), Andrew James (accordion), and Pete Lebel (golckenspiel), with everone contributing vocals at some point or other.

How do you rein in all these players?  How do you get the best out of them?

Lots of vodka and promises of immense wealth.  Oh yes, and the occasional thai curry feast.

You just finished a short tour with the Autumn Lovers, what were some of the highlights for you?

1. Toronto- Our secret and blatantly illegal foray onto a 4-star hotel rooftop.
2. Kinston- Dear friends.  Delicious homemade feast.  First ever band recording session w/ the touring band (TBR soon).
3. Montreal- Casa Del Popolo show.  Graciously attentive audience.  Wonderful, generous friends.  Great food.  Beautiful language.
4. Albany- More dear friends and another delicious homemade feast.  And a lovely, fortuitous show.  
5. Manhattan in springtime- I wonder whether people are aware of the foliage in Manhattan.  There were so many beautiful, flowering trees.  Everything sparkled.  And the PIZZA!!!  and the MOMA!!!  and Central Park!!  And the acquaintances with whom we stayed were generous beyond the norms of hospitality (they put up a 8 stinky musicians in a Manhattan apartment that was already housing 5 people!).
6. NY State drive-  Sunset kissing a water reservoir while a liberal cyclist commiserated w/ us about the state of the world.  A star-filled sky and the choral serenade of an army of frogs 'round about midnight, on some side road that we stopped at so as to star-gaze in a deep, rural darkness.  We watched the moon rise: russet and radiant.
7. Niagara- MORE dear friends running an inspiring artists coordinated venue.  Earth Day celebrations in the undervalued old-city centre of Niagara.  Children laughing and screaming in the background as local politicians tried to woo their constituents with typically generic talk of the future and a need for change.  Niagara was a city of great sadness and potential.  Much like most of Canada and the Us.  

Your music has evolved a fair bit since we first met.  It seems far more political and personal in tone.  What elements would you say have caused this shift?

- I guess the change in my song-writing is largely a result of the change in the focus of my studies (or more accurately, the change in the focus in my life).  The songs have definitely become more political than my earlier traditional folk musings (though perhaps this political turn indicates a glorious return to my punk roots).  However, I'd say that the new songs are still as personal as their forebears; the may even be less personal than my earlier, more confessional songs (like those that make up The Coward EP) because I'm writing in character a lot more in my newest compositions.  The more explicit Eastern European colouring to the music (in terms of melody, topic, mood) is definitely a result of my renewed interest in my Polish heritage.  As for the elements that may qualify as political (characters voicing indignation, righteous anger, despair, resignation), my exploration of these ideas/ characters is a direct result of my having genuinely (and finally) accepted my role as an artist, first and foremost.  Although I'm constantly reflecting on the role of the artist in society, at present I'm guided by an overwhelming need to let the voices of the oppressed in our society sing their laments, shout their war cries, and toast to their miseries and resilience.
I feel that my role as an artist is to bring these voices to people that may otherwise be ignorant of their own and their neighbours' suffering, manipulation, and oppression, so as to help the public become more self-critical, socially aware and compassionate.  

Thanks Alex, I really appreciate you doing this for me!

You're more than welcome. 


Lesley Denford said...

Loved the tour recap! Wish I was there. I wholeheartedly agree with all the lovely things said about NYC. :)

Shawn William Clarke said...

woot NYC!