SKYWALKER (from l-r): Damian Kucera (drums), David Machalicky (guitar/clean vocals), Jay Kutcher (unclean vocals), Tom Rothschild (bass), Pavel Kolar (guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
With heavy riffs, intense breakdowns, tuneful melodies, and the inclusion of honest, intimate lyrics, Czech five-piece Skywalker combine post-hardcore with subtle elements of their pop-punk roots.
Having formed in 2010, the band’s sound has taken them all over Europe, wowing crowds with their natural enthusiasm for playing live. This has enabled them to establish themselves on the British underground music scene, where their third EP, ‘Sugar House’, has been most well-received.
I caught up with the Prague quintet as they arrived in Derby recently to support fellow post-hardcore outfit Canvas on their latest UK tour.
How did the band form?
JAY KUTCHER (unclean vocals): Me and Damian used to be in a pop-punk band together about ten years ago or so, but we started to get bored of doing that, as we wanted to be more experimental, so in the summer of 2010, I think, we first got the idea of doing something a bit heavier.
We then basically started the new band, gradually got more of our friends from other pop-punk bands involved, and we moved forward from there.
From where did the name Skywalker originate? It’s obviously a Star Wars reference, isn’t it?
DAMIAN KUCERA (drums): Yeah. We’re all fans of Star Wars, and when me and Jay started this band, we were looking for a name that was strong, but also easy to remember.
JAY: I think the two of us were originally going to call ourselves Anakin, but then it changed to Skywalker. Tom actually runs a booking agency back in the Czech Republic called Anakin, so the name is kind of still there.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
JAY: Slow. I guess one of us comes up with the musical idea first, then I write the lyrics, and then we try to mix them together, but most of the time, I think Damian comes up with most of the ideas musically. To be honest, I don’t really do too much in regards to the music.
DAMIAN: Yeah. The musical ideas basically change. When we have a good idea, we go around and change it, try to move it somewhere else.
JAY: The cool thing about it is that Damian has his own studio, so we can work there, so there’s not much of a difference between the recording and tracking of the instruments and making the demos. It’s kind of the same process for us, which is a bit strange, but it has worked so far.
What inspires the band lyrically?
JAY: At the very beginning, I wanted to be a bit more political, because at the time, we were really into sort of stuff, but then I started to drift away from that, moving more towards lyrics that were more personal to me.
It’s been like that for years now, but I think maybe now, the time is right to go back towards politics, so we can comment on the way things are at the moment.
Generally, the lyrics have just been about my life, and the lives of the other band members, so yeah, it’s about life in general. I know it sounds cliched, but it’s true for everybody we want to share our lives with.
Last September, you brought out your third EP, ‘Sugar House’. How was the recording process for that?
JAY: It was lengthy, wasn’t it?
DAMIAN: Yeah, it was. We recorded all of the instruments in my studio in the Czech Republic, and then we did one of the songs, I guess, on one of our UK tours, I think we did it in Wrexham in Wales, and then on another tour, we did a few more songs, and then when Jay was at university in Liverpool, we wrote the lyrics to the last two songs on the EP, so basically, we recorded the instruments at home, and did the vocals and mixing in the UK, so it did take some time.
JAY: Yeah, there was a lot of flying and driving and stuff involved in that. It was a lengthy process, but it was fun.
How has the reaction been to the EP up to now?
I think it’s been great, especially in the UK, because obviously, it’s easier for people here to relate to the lyrics than back home, because what you tend to get over there is that people are more into the music than the lyrics. Sometimes, they will sing along, but not really.
Once in a while, we’ll be contacted by someone from the UK, saying that the EP has been really important to them as a person, and they can really relate to what we’re talking, shouting and screaming about. To us, that’s really amazing.
The overall response has been awesome, and the personal feedback is what I value the most, so yeah, to be honest, it’s been great.
In the run-up to Christmas, you went on a headline tour of Europe. How was that as an experience for you all?
JAY: We did six weekends playing dates across the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and then we played some extra dates in Germany.
It was a very good experience, however, I felt the dates at home weren’t too great, because generally, Czechs are not as much into underground music as other places in Europe, so sometimes, there was just this weirdness of coming back to places where you have played before, meeting people who told you how much they have wanted to see you, but then, the shows weren’t that great.
However, generally, it was nice. Our merch sales were solid, and that counts as well, and the German dates were just amazing. I could just spend hours talking to you about how amazing Germany is for metalcore music, but I will just sum it up as amazing.
You’re playing with Canvas in Derby tonight, as part of their UK headline tour. How is the experience, for you all, of playing live?
JAY: That’s what we love doing, don’t we?
JAY: You want to say more?
DAMIAN: I guess we just do the music for the live shows, because that’s where you actually do the music. You don’t tend to repeat yourself all the time, which you tend to do when recording, and also, you don’t really think about it as much.
You’re actually in the music, and you’re at one with it. That’s what we love most about playing live.
JAY: I’m not saying we’re the best live band around, but we haven’t been super productive in the studio over the years, but we always have been live, because we just love doing it.
To be honest, we’d rather tour than spend a lot of time in the studio. I know, especially nowadays, that’s not the best approach, but we can’t help ourselves. It’s literally all we want to do. Without boasting too much, I think when you see us live, you can tell it’s all there.
What has the band got lined up for the rest of this year?
JAY: Well, when we get back home, we really want to start focusing on writing a proper full-length record, because up to now, we’ve just been releasing EPs.
We really want to get some record labels and bigger names interested in us, and I know what we need to order to get that is to have a real chunk of music that’s longer than, say, 20 minutes, so we definitely want to produce a full-length record, to step up our songwriting, get deeper into the structures of the songs, and make them bigger and better, so that’s the main goal for this year, I think.
There’s definitely going to be more shows and more touring, and hopefully, towards the end of the year, we’re going to look at heading back to the UK to play a few more dates.
‘SUGAR HOUSE’, THE LATEST EP FROM SKYWALKER, IS AVAILABLE NOW TO STREAM, DOWNLOAD & PURCHASE FROM SPOTIFY, iTunes, APPLE MUSIC, DEEZER & THE BAND’S BANDCAMP PAGE skywalkerofficial.bandcamp.com
FURTHER INFO ON SKYWALKER CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.skywalkerhc.com