Tomas Kalnoky Interview

The Wezzul:  First of all, thanks for doing this, it's pretty cool of you.

Tomas Kalnoky:  My pleasure.

TW:  Obviously, there are alot of people in the band.  How did this project all come together, and who's idea was it to bring all of these people together?

TK:  Anyway, I was in Texas and I realized I was unhappy (nothing against Texans, it was the circumstances of my life at the time). I wanted to do something different and original for once.  It seems that no matter how much everyone complains about labels and strict genres, no one really does anything about it. I wanted to approach the forming of a band with the eyes of an infant: disregard all preconceptions and expectations for what a musical group of any one genre "should" look/sound like. Amass your favorite instruments, regardless of whether or not they are _______ enough. And approach every aspect of it (packaging, lyrics, distro, etc) as if you couldn't care less about anything but the music. no attitude, no scenes, nothing. do what you love, with people you love and if it's successful, great. If it's not, oh well.  So I called up a bunch of old friends and asked if they would be nice enough to come over to my house to record a little sumpin sumpin for a project I was toying with.  They all accepted (and thank god because every single one is amazing at his or her respective instrument.  And the Bandits were born.

TW:  I'll agree with that, totally, the CD is truly amazing. VERY unique.  Obviously, you worked with Jamie Egan in Catch 22, but was this the first time doing anything musically with all the other members of that band, or had you done things with them before?

TK:  As for the horns, most of those guys I knew from One Cool Guy, playing shows and what not. We were all friends from that "era" and I hadn't seen them in a while. It was nice to catch up, see what they were up to.  The strings are made up of my brother and his orchestra buddies, really nice people. I never worked with strings before, but I was dying to, so.  As for the drummer, he's an old roommate from Rutgers, a bit of a prodigy/math genius type guy. He barely picked up his sticks since high school.  I was blown away by what he could do.  If you liked the strings, wait for our full length.

TW:  Speaking of that, do you have any projected date on when that will be released, or is it still up in the air?

TK:  This EP was more of an experiment, and now we're working on our first "real" release.  Oh shit... schedules.  ): Well, right now we (myself and some of the guys from bandits and some others) are focusing on a little project we like to refer to as the Streetlight Manifesto, so that's up next.  Hopefully released around summer.  THEN we hope to release the BOTAR full length around Christmas time, with a double album experiment type thing out around summer 2003.

TW:  I read about that (The Streetlight Manifesto) in the CD booklet, and was wondering exactly what that is like?  Will it be anything like the Bandits, or music in a totally different direction?

TK:  Streetlight is basically a collection of songs that were written as a sophomore album for an old band I was in. then I quit and the songs were just sitting there, so I thought I'd call up some friends and see if they'd be interested in recording it. If it MUST be labeled: ska-punk (ooooh, I hate that).  It's the k. nights follow up.  We're very busy here (understatement of the year).  I have a mp3 sample of streetlight that I'll post soon.

TW:  I think I read somewhere that you left Catch 22 because you were going to school.  Is this correct information?

TK:  Well, it's complicated. School was an issue. I also wanted to do different things: a band like that is a full time commitment and there are so many things/places I wanted to explore that I couldn't at the time. And besides I'm in art school, so I'm learning to do what I love (film, recording graphic design, web design, etc).

TW:  Do you keep in touch with that band at all and/or keep up with what they are doing musically?  (sorry about the catch22 questions)

TK:  It's ok, I'm used to it.  I tried to keep in touch. then I read something on the net that surprised/hurt me, so I stopped trying. That's all I'll say, sorry.

TW:  Ok, next question.  What do you listen to, for inspiration or enjoyment?

TK:  Everything from classical to punk rock to trip hop to Czech folk to hip hop to ska to oldies.  Especially oldies.

TW:  So what is in your CD player at this moment?

TK:  a folkie named Mason Jennings.  He’s badass, I urge you to check him out.

TW:  Who were/are your musical inspirations?

TK:  Well, my biggest musical influence would have to be the "Stand By Me" soundtrack. We had it on vinyl growing up and I wore that bad boy out. Even in the stuff I write today, I look to the fifties and sixties for inspiration. Also, Nirvana changed my life in the early 90's. Simple, honest good songs.  You can't beat that.  And I love the energy of both.  But honestly I'm influenced by music from almost every genre.

TW:  Which is somewhat evident in the music you have put out.

TK:  I hope so.  What is the point of having only one flavor?  Boring…

TW:  In the "A Call To Arms" booklet, you talked about "Here's to Life", and the people in the song as being your favorites.  What other role models did you have that helped guide you to where you are today?

TK:  Honestly, my biggest role model has been my father. You can look up to what all these famous strangers have accomplished all you want, but you'll never know them. You have to take what they claim at face value.  Whereas if you know someone for real, you can discern what's fact and fiction. Without my father, I wouldn't be where I am today.  But it's easier to write songs about strangers, isn't it?  How bittersweet…  Other than that, I try to learn what NOT to do from most people, if that makes any sense.

TW:  What do you think of the direction of music today?

TK:  Quite honestly, I've given up on it (mainstream, that is). There was a time when I could be in a car and listen to the radio. Nowadays, I need tapes. I don't know if I'm just getting old or what, but 'today's music' generally sucks. And that's why we do what we do.  It’s all posturing and formulas.  Even the songwriting.  Actually especially the song writing.  But hey, it sells, right?  The best thing to do is ignore it and create an intelligent and creative underground.

TW:  Are there any plans in the future for a tour, either with The Streetlight Manifesto or B.O.T.A.R. (you'd need big stages)?

TK:  Yes, there are performance plans, but obviously logistics come into play, especially with BOTAR: we hope to have at least a few shows around the Jersey area this summer. As for Streetlight, I'd love to tour, but it's too early to say (the guys are all in different stages of their lives and it might be difficult). Either way, both groups should play the NJ area sometime soon.  Poor sound guy that has to work a BOTAR show.  I just hope there'll be more people in the audience than on stage!  We talked about just renting out a hall and doing it ourselves (as we prefer with everything).

TW:  Is the RISC group your label, and if not, are you going to put out records with any label so as your music may get more widely distributed?

TK:  That's an interesting question: RISC is more a loose collective of artists, musicians, etc that BOTAR belongs to. Both Streetlight and BOTAR are looking for a label, mostly for distribution: we do everything else ourselves, from recording to layout to production. We've gotten a few bites from the labels, but they were mostly small labels that couldn't provide better distro than we have now. We're very independent, as you know, and we are past the point where we'll sign anything to get out there.  I look at it like this: we've got nothing to lose: we own our own recording equipment and we're knowledgeable when it comes to record production, so we can do this on our own as long as we break even. If a label comes in to get our music to more people, great. If not, we'll STILL put it out. We'll just have to work a lot harder. And if we ever sign to anything, we'd keep ALL artistic control within the group.

TW:  Which is the way it should be.  So many times, an artist will leave a label, and get screwed out of the rights to the songs THEY wrote, THEY performed, THEY recorded... the music industry is fucked up.  Alright my last question is, in your words, describe how the bandits are "revolutionary"?

TK:  haha, I knew I'd be called on that one. I know it sounds grandiose: it was just a name that sounded interesting. I thought it'd be cool to pretend we were musicians on a quest to overthrow the (oppressive) state of music today by bringing it back to its roots: that of primitive acoustic instruments. To show that music didn't need a scene or a dress code or a formula to be, well, good.  We're acoustic guerrillas organizing a revolt to liberate the creativity that flourishes in the underground. (holy shit that was cheesy) Keep it honest, keep it fresh and keep it independent.

TW:  Well, that's all I got man, I really do appreciate it.  Your band is awesome, the best thing I’ve heard in a long time.

TK:  Thanks for all this (especially the site, I'll link to it this week) everyone in BOTAR thinks it's awesome/super flattering.

TW:  Thanks again.

TK:  Thanks a million