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Monday, December 07, 2009

Feature: The Howling Jeffersons.

Combining the hot jazz of 1910s New Orleans with the rocky edge of psychobilly, The Howling Jeffersons have swept Eastern Europe with their unique sounding style. Playing their first concert thirty seven years ago in the Turkish city of Tekirdağ, the band originally sparked controversy with their 1973 single 'Fuck Tha CHP', claiming that Republican People's Party's centre-left views were not liberal enough for them and didn't let them "rock out" enough (the original bassist Alaattin Jefferson subsequently left the band a year later due to alleged charges of rape). Since then, the band have gone on to release 27 studio albums, toured 23 countries and released countless live CDs and official bootlegs on their self-owned Franciscus II. Dei Gratia Sacri Romani Imperii & Transylvaniae princeps Rakoczi. Particum Regni Hungariae Dominus & Siculorum Comes, Regni Hungariae Pro Libertate Confoederatorum Statuum necnon Munkacsiensis & Makoviczensis Dux, Perpetuus Comes de Saros; Dominus in Patak, Tokaj, Regécz, Ecsed, Somlyó, Lednicze, Szerencs, Onod Recording Company (FIIR Records).

But despite this impressive run, the band have never quite conquered western Europe. I meet up with brothers Devrim and Emre Jefferson for their first stint in the UK, before their début gig at the prestigious Haygate in Wellington.
"It was always something I wanted to do," says charismatic front man Devrim. "Y'know, I always thought, 'what's out there?' I don't think I really believed the UK existed until Emre lent me the first series of 'The Good Life' on VHS. It was amazing - as soon as I saw Barbara walk onscreen for the first time I said to Emre 'we have to go there'. That was where my search for Barbara began."

After selling out two nights at the Philip II Arena in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, the band headed back into the studio for what would be their most ambitious record yet.
"We didn't know what it would sound like, all we knew was the title," articulates brother and guitarist Emre. "Yeah, it was going to be called 'Looking For Barbara'. We just started jamming and Devrim would just write the lyrics then and there in the studio, as we were playing. Sure it took a while longer, but I think as a result it turned out as our most cohesive piece of work to date."
Devrim nods in agreement. "Yeah, it's amazing what we created. We tried some new things on the record too, like there's this one song which is purely a capella." Devrim pauses and takes a sip of J2O. "It's basically me screaming into a pillow for twelve minutes. It's really ambitious."
"Yeah, we got Naat Veliov in from Kočani Orkestar to produce it, but I don't think he was really feeling it. He kept on suggesting we added more trumpets, but that wasn't the sound we were going for. In the end we just produced it ourselves." Emre pauses momentarily before looking for support from his brother.
"I think a lot of what made the record so great was this little sandwich shop across the street from the studio. A cheese and pickle sandwich could make or break a session." I smirk, but the two brothers look at me curiously. I put on a straight face as Emre changes the subject.
"Devrim told me, 'this is the record that will be our breakthrough in the UK'."
Devrim laughs. "Well, you gotta try sooner or later. There's a big gap in the market now that the Spice Girls have split up."
Smiling, I ask him if he feels that living in Macedonia has perhaps tainted his view of modern popular culture.
"Nah. A lot of people ask me that, but I don't think it has. We like to keep up to date with what's happening in the world. We've just watched the episode where Margaret goes to pottery classes."
Conscious of the time, I try to shift the focus back to their upcoming album. I ask them if they think 'Looking For Barbara' will be able to match the sales of some Spice Girls classics.
"Yeah right." Devrim laughs again. "When the president turns black."

MP3: The Howling Jeffersons - Hey! [RS]

'Looking For Barbara' is out tomorrow in Macedonia and the UK next Monday.


Tri said...

silly silly boy!

Chloe said...

i love you charles

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