Ahead of our Northern Exposure Christmas Party @ The Frog and Parrot on the 21st December 2017, we met up with Sylwia Drwal, the lead vocalist and songwriter for her band The Mother of Crows, who we’re very excited to say will be headlining for us. When not doing that, she can be found as head curator for her art collective EYUP, a lead vocalist with The Consumptives and a lead vocalist with Mzylkypop).
Image: Chris Saunders
Tell us about yourself…
I sometimes think about myself as the glue between the two artistic universes of music and visual art. Everything is art, musicians are artists, painters are artists. I create multidimensional exhibitions including music, spoken word and of course visual arts. Together. I have witnessed many amazing collaborations following my events which is absolutely what it’s all about.
Who are your major influences and inspirations, and why?
Musically, I have many influences that shaped me to how I practise my vocals now, how I write and how I perform. Major ones are Kate Bush of course and that’s from a practitioner point of view – how creative her writing is and then how her performance is. I’d aim to be both of these things – I want to be seen as a writer and a performer creatively. When you see the work of Kate Bush, that is her writing and her performance together, you can analyse them separately and together. They are so interesting, how they are composed – I love that about her work. Janice Joplin, Led Zepellin, The Doors – I love old school rock, love the rawness and realness of it. I think that’s when the music is most exciting. When it’s alive, not perfect ,but alive. I think Janice Joplin and Jim Morrison really embodied that. Kate Bush embodies the high level musicianship I strive for, her writing ability is mind-blowing. I would say the same for Roger Waters – I’m a huge fan of ‘the final cut’. What Kate Bush offers is an incredible mix of high energy performance and writing, it’s a rare mix.
Sum up yourself in five words…
I would say: confident – curious – weird – dedicated – passionate.
Who writes your songs?
Mother of Crows initially started heavily rooted in beautiful Polish folk songs; songs that did already exist for me. Our sound has now changed and we’ve stepped away from that and I now write the songs. I write the songs alone but there is influence from Peter [Peter Rophone] on the guitar, Andy McAuley on bass and Chris McMahon on keys. They can easily incorporate braver chord choices into my ideas with their years of experience as session musicians and performers.
What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs?
Life is basically the topic of my songs and anything from old stories I heard as I child in Poland – the stories which describe elements of sorrow through beautiful folk metaphors. Although they are rooted in folk horror, some of them are now becoming more modern such as using Lol ( laugh out loud) in a song called ‘If God Exists’. I also wrote a song about Manson called Charlie. He picks the girls up at Corporation with intention of reforming his cult but accidentally kills the girl in this track – he then chooses to take photos of her body still warm:
What an evening, what a night
Under West Street’s neon light
You’re a goth, oh baby that’s alright
I drank so much you look like Rita Ora.
It’s funny and lighthearted but then it’s dark – one minute you’re laughing, the next minute you’re dead in a bath.
Who is your favourite unsigned/underground band at the moment and why?
October Drift hands down. I don’t know if they have a publishing deal but they are unsigned. They are going on tour and they have fourteen dates but not one of them is in Sheffield – I can’t believe it – so I’m going to see them in Hull. I’m obsessed with October Drift – the lyrics, the vibe, the vocals, the instrumentation… I love their music and listen to them so so much but they are 100% better live. They are an incredible live band. That is what I love about them.
What’s in your CD player right now, or the last song you streamed?
I’m going to say October Drift right now but I’m also really in love with a Swedish folk metal band called Myrkur – they do frequent acoustic shows but never go for the standard guitars and vocals set up. They use old Nordic folk instrument and it’s fantastic. They go acoustic quite a lot and they go full band for larger shows. You wouldn’t imagine when you hear their acoustic set with not one guitar in sight – it’s all acoustic world instruments.
What are you like live?
Good! I know it’s bad to say ‘we’re great live’ but I think of us as a live band as we have people who come to every gig and they look forward to seeing us live because of our show. I think of myself as a live performer – the stage is what I love. With a live performance I can dress up and decide on the looks and themes for a gig. We can plan around the venue and each gig will be different in each venue – the sound, the look, the stage, the audience – it all changes everything. Feeding off an audience is what I love. We are better live. Our recordings are great – we have recorded a single with Big Sky Records and they’ve done an amazing job but I love my live performances. I do a lot of studio work – I am always in the studio particularly with Michael Somerset for Mzylkypop but I prefer live performances. The band can agree on colour schemes and themes and we could be playing the same set but it’s never the same. The music moves and the visual element of our performance helps with that. We have people who come to every show and it’s only fair we give them some variety ! Haha. I am very privileged to work with musicians of amazing quality and that allows us to be so creative live as a band.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
Most up and coming will be 21st December 2017 at Frog & Parrot.
You’re stranded on a desert island and have one album with you, what is it?
It has to be The Kick Inside by Kate Bush – I nearly said Pink Floyd but right now it is Kate Bush.
What’s on the horizon, and what can we look forward to from you?
An album is on the horizon with Mother of Crows and then a couple of albums actually with Mzylkpop and Mzylkypop Live [working with Michael Somerset] and a lot – a lot – a lot of music and art collaborations with my wonderful team at EYUP! The Mother of Crows are in the studio again in early 2018 and we have a gig at Big Wow [formally Studio 60 in Sheffield] in early February 2018.
Image: Richard Sayles
Tell us about your recent release …
The first single from Mother of Crows I am so excited about – it is an original track called Stay – a bit of progressive gothic folk. It has a stunning clarinet solo [by Ceri Ashton] and it’s a love song. It’s a ballad. People might think it is an unusual choice to release a ballad for our first single but it is a song that everyone loves live so we decided we would record. We recorded it at Sky Records in Barnsley. The photo on cover is actually from two years back. It was from a photo taken by a great photographer called Gordie Cavill and was edited by myself and a designer we often work with called Chris Gray. We are very pleased with the release. Our first batch sold out but a new batch is on its way!
Image: Richard Sayles
WEAPON OF CHOICE – voice
BASE – Rotherham
FOOTBALL – I hate football
GUILTY PLEASURE – Britney Spears
HERO – Rick Stott is my hero. He is an amazing artist and person. He walks in to a room and has a calming presence. He is an amazing man who can flow between the dark subject matter of his paintings and the warmth of his presence as a human being. He is my absolute hero.
VILLAIN – I despise anything auto-tuned heavily. Just think Nicki Minaj or Rihanna. That sound hurts my brain.
BEST COMEDY SHOW – Brooklyn 99
THREADS – Leathery feathery blackness.
TROTTERS – Kurt Geiger
AT THE BAR – Gin
GIG YOU WISHED YOU’D BEEN AT – I actually wish I’d never sold my tickets to Fleetwood Mac. I should have gone but the tickets were selling for such huge prices I could not let that chance go. But I should have gone to Fleetwood Mac. I regret that now.
FILM – Pulp Fiction
SOUNDTRACK – Pulp Fiction and Into the Wild by [Pearl Jam vocalist] Eddie Vedder
TOP 3 TUNES OF ALL TIME – Purple Rain – Prince; Shine on You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd; Rooting for You – London Grammar
TOP OF THE POPS – Top of the Pops is a little before my time!
Facebook: The Mother of Crows
Twitter: No Twitter – we hate Twitter!
KATE O BRIEN