Interview - Repeater
By: Brett Spaceman
Repeater are one of the most exciting, thrilling new band prospects in a long while. We might possibly have to go back to Turn On The Bright Lights or even the debut Puressence album for reference points of equal style and intensity.
With their new long-player, We Walk From Safety, Repeater are moving well beyond “prospect” status. Produced by Ross Robinson (Korn, Klaxons, The Cure) this record showcases a band hitting top form, a band realising what they are and what they can be. Icy riffs and twinky ambience serve as the perfect backdrop to the emotionally charged outpourings of frontman Steve Krolikowski. We spent time with Krolikowski to talk about his lyrics and the bands latest record.
Brett Spaceman: When did you realise you had a voice (that voice)?
Steve Krolikowski: I don’t think my voice is that good, tone-wise. But I think I do have a whole lot of control over what it can do. I was pretty shy as a singer and didn’t start trying to sing lead for real until me, Rob, and our friend who is no longer with us started a band called The Main Frame. That was a good place for me to learn what I could and couldn’t do on vocals. On We Walk From Safety I pretty much pulled out all the stops while still trying to preserve the melody.
Spaceman: How do you take care of your voice on tour?
Krolikowski: Lots of water.. Get enough rest, don’t stay out too late, and make sure to avoid unneeded strain. Warm up a little. But yeah, drink lots of water while singing, you don’t burn out your throat.
Spaceman: Since you hooked up with (Producer) Ross Robinson, have you felt a weight of expectation on your shoulders? Do you feel under pressure since We Walk From Safety?
Krolikowski: Well, we have been through a lot since we finished recording. It’s only the last few months where we felt we had the right opportunity to release this record and that people will consider it relevant. We have some outside support although the album is still completely independent. Ross worked hard with us and gave us a product that is unique and is really a combination of our music and his ideas about how things should sound. So, now that it’s all coming out, I feel less pressure.
Spaceman: Did you ever have any reservations about working with Ross? For example that he might pull your sound in a more nu-metal direction.
Krolikowski: Well, we are so far from nu-metal or metal of any type. We knew we were going to get a sort of dry, aggressive record, but we like the diversity of material that Ross has done, and we were really happy to go into the process and just see what happened. It wasn’t going to sound like Slipknot. We are still the same band.
Spaceman: Ross has a reputation for provocation. What methods did he use on you in order to pull a performance out of you?
Krolikowski: It was different methods for each band member. The main thing for him is to get emotion, intense emotion of some sort, into each musical performance or vocal performance. My lyrics usually have some sad aspect or bit that will make me emotional, so it was easy to tap those tear ducts by just getting really into one idea of the song. With other band members, it was more about personal or philosophical interrogation, trying to find something evocative, and sticking with it through the tracking of an instrument.
Spaceman: Do you regard We Walk From Safety as your second album, or do you regard Iron Flowers as a mini and this is the debut proper?
Krolikowski: Iron Flowers is pretty short, but I don’t think there are any filler songs. It’s a nice short album full of hooks and epic changes, and it has great production value. I would call We Walk From Safety our second album.
Spaceman: The song ‘Black And Selfish Love’ has the vibe of early Banshees and Cocteau Twins yet I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe the lullaby feel?
Krolikowski: That’s a very gothic song. It definitely has influence from those people and music like that.
Spaceman: Your lyrics are startling and vivid. Some will say dark, of course. What inspires you? Are you drawing from literature, dreams, life?
Krolikowski: Most of my lyrics draw from a life experience but they frame this experience in surreal metaphor. Sometimes the metaphor is pulled from other sources like film, TV, and literature, and sometimes it’s my own artistic mind at work. Sometimes it’s history or current news. Dreams and meditative thought can lead to the best imagery. My band mates will tease me and say all my lyrics are about science fiction, but that’s not really true. I draw from a lot of things I love, some obscure, some plain as day.
Spaceman: In our review for Iron Flowers we called you a “modern symbolist”.
Do you agree/accept that? Or are we missing some crucial point?
Krolikowski: To apply literary terms to song lyrics is difficult. I see similarities between the Symbolists and my own words, and some things from the 20th century. But, lyrics are poetry or prose only to a point; they have to obey different and stricter rules, and literary criticism does not guide them. I take great care to keep all my lyrics at the same standard, but I think the singing should serve the song above all else. I almost always write lyrics to serve the music, or take something I have written for fun and adapt it to the song. So, unlike literature, lyrics are meant to complement the rest of the music and to coexist with the melody. It’s all for the sake of the song.
Spaceman: Rooms seem to be a recurrent theme, locking out, does it refer to exclusion? Personality disorder?
Krolikowski: I have a lot of problems with anxiety. It’s not social anxiety, I am OK around a lot of people and have a good time with my friends and out at shows. But when stressful things get to me, I definitely like to stay in one place for a while. I would definitely say that a lot of my very memorable intense experiences, good or bad, have taken place inside. I don’t feel locked out, but sometimes I lock myself in even though it’s not really the best answer.
Spaceman: Do you have troubled thoughts, Steve? Is your music therapeutic in that respect?
Krolikowski: A lot of times anxiety gets in the way of my health, and prevents me from enjoying life. Creating and performing music makes me feel like I have done something good. When I finish a song with Repeater, especially when it’s recorded, I feel like a little tiny sliver of history has been created, however insignificant. To paraphrase a Norse proverb – “Cattle die, kinsmen die. You yourself must likewise die.
But the one thing that will never die is the verdict on each man dead”.
Spaceman: What happened after WWFS was recorded? Did you offer it to labels? I have a hard time accepting that you’ve had to self-finance the physical release of it. I would have expected a bidding war to be honest.
Krolikowski: It’s a great record, but a lot of great records get put to the side if they aren’t at the right place at the right time. I love this record but I admit that it is also challenging to sell from a label perspective. I’m happy that there is a push from our friends, allies and from the web press to get the record out the door with wind at its heels, and the road rising.
Spaceman: I really think it would sell. Ágætis byrjun sold. Funeral sold. Personally I have to question a lot of A&R decision making these days.
But you have recorded other material since WWFS. How did that go? Are you pleased with the results? And when might we get to hear that stuff?
Krolikowski: We have recorded a transitional EP, which is still in the process of being mixed properly. It’s really rich and natural, and it shows where we were for a time after the long recording process with Ross. This EP had a lot of natural sounding drums and a lot of piano accents. The vocals fall back into the space of the songs. We have moved to yet another stage now. I am now the bass player, and we are a 4 piece band. So our sound has become much less bombastic, but the writing is not all that different. We will see a new album in the works soon, and the result is far from predictable. I don’t know exactly what form the transitional EP will take, but it’s a few good songs which definitely show Repeater has a lot of breadth when put alongside We Walk From Safety and Iron Flowers.
Spaceman: What’s next?
Krolikowski: Well, I’m excited about this side project I have been working for called Fear And The Nervous System. I had the privilege to do vocals and lyrics for this very heavy, progressive super-project in which I am definitely an unknown voice. It looks like that recording might do pretty well and may increase traction for Repeater’s work for some time. Repeater is playing more shows now that we are comfortable in the new lineup. I think we’re doing things right. We want to know that there are hungry ears waiting for our next album, and to get through the process quickly. We already have half an album of really good songs ready, so that’s a good start.
[sic] thanks Steve and Repeater. All photos from band website and may be subject to copyright.
We Walk From Safety is available via iTunes and the bands own website. As this interview goes to press, the physical version of record will become available after a successful Kickstarter campaign. CD, vinyl and other goodies were all made available to early pledgers.