I just finished an interview that will be published in Vents Magazine soon. I had a lot of fun with it and wanted to put it up on the blog right away.
So why don't you introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m an American who,
once upon a time, dreamed of escaping the conventions of life in the Empire of
Fake. In 2005, I left my comfortable yet
numbing life in Seattle and moved to Eastern Europe. After this drastic change, far less of my
time was taken up on work. I was freed
up to chase everything excites me.
When I finally found
the space and time to figure out who I really am…what happened is I found my own
voice. It started to make sense to
write, to record, and ultimately to perform.
I’ve been tracking this journey on the Abscondo blog since 2004.
I’ve been a huge
indie / alternative music fan for a long time and that sort of led to
songwriting. Eventually songwriting led
to recording. Recording led to a band.
How did you guys come all together and created this band?
The Abscondo band was
sort of a New Year’s Resolution. On
February 2nd, 2012, I just felt the urge to put together a killer
band. I had recently recorded my second
solo album, but it was clear to me that these were a collection of songs that
were actually written for a band.
I live in Kosice,
Slovakia. I had tried to work with
Slovak musicians in the past and had a few false starts. The talent here is pretty good, but to be
honest what is lacking is taste…especially when it comes to indie music. But I got lucky this time. I tracked down a very young guitarist called
Filip Kluknavsky. We sat down and talked
about the vision for this band. He
agreed to give it a couple years. Filip
called up some very impressive young musicians, particularly Tibor Dragon (bass) and Martin Lechman (drums). He had worked with them in the
past. After a few months experimenting
with different line-ups and making some difficult decisions, we had a really
What's the story behind the band's name?
To “abscond” means to
run away, taking something or someone with you.
I remember, back in 2005, I felt that I had escaped. I was living in a beautiful, old flat in the center
of Kosice (the 2013 European City of Culture, by the way). I would play guitar, take a nap in the
afternoon. I would listen to Roma
playing music down on the street. I
would watch people walk by below my window eating ice cream. It was such a magical time in my life…meeting
new friends, exploring new music, writing.
So this idea of “absconding”
really fit my life. I did run away, but
I also took my treasures with me: my beautiful wife and my software sales job
from Seattle. So I adopted the name “Abscondo”
as the moniker for my music, my writing, and my lifestyle. Up until 2012, “Abscondo” was something solo,
something personal. It was actually a
big step for me to use the name for the band…because then it became something more
collective! Also, when we started
performing, when we appeared on the radio and on a popular TV show in Slovakia…I
started becoming more of a public figure (well, in this microcosm of a
country!). I started to feel less like I
was “absconding” from anything and that kind of bothered me. But I
guess the name still fits well nonetheless.
What are your music influences?
Before I picked-up a guitar, I listened to a lot of U2, REM,
Matthew Sweet, and a lot of the “college rock” hits of the early 1990’s. By the mid-1990’s, two bands changed my
world. The first was Radiohead. I had “The Bends” and “OK Computer” on repeat
when I was at University in Colorado. As
a business student, unfortunately I was a bit too connected to mainstream
culture. Radiohead felt like something
more real, more human, and more filled with emotion than anything around me.
The second band that saved me, around that same time, was
Belle & Sebastian. Everything they
put out, in those early days, felt so pure, honest, and inspired. Their gentle sound was something that
connected with me at a really deep level.
They made it feel ok to be sensitive.
Belle & Sebastian helped me realize that the best music was not
I was also listening to a lot of Brit-pop. Then, when I moved to Seattle in 1999, I
discovered KEXP and began going to all of the local concerts I possibly
could. Up until I left the US in 2005, I
was obsessed with indie music from bands like Arcade Fire, The Killers, Muse,
Coldplay, Sondre Lerche, Sigor Ros, Rufus Wainwright, too many others to
mention really. Since then, I should
mention Damian Rice, Glen Hansard, Camera Obscura, Snow Patrol, and I also got
into a lot of Lounge Music…which I guess was a result of my more European
influences over the past 8 years. Of
course I’m leaving out maybe 200 – 300 artists who have had a huge impact on
I’ll also tell you what I despise, musically. Everything on MTV. Everything on commercial radio. Everything commercial. I despise it because it is meaningless. It says nothing about how I feel or about the
human condition. It offers no ideas, no
inspiration that means anything…nothing of value.
What's your songwriting method?
I write mostly when I
am traveling. Travel is integral to every bit of inspiration and every new idea
that I have because it removes me from routine.
I’m a big believer in routine, in optimizing each day to get everything
done that is important, to put a lot of hard work into everything I need to do
and into everything that inspires me.
But sometimes I work too hard, I get too stuck in a routine, and my
creative side starts to suffer.
The songs on our
Travelpics EP were written mostly on a beach in Croatia. But I also write in planes, trains, or
sitting in the middle of a field. This
is how I get the raw idea. Then I work
out all of the details at home later and just continue to refine it until I’ve
taken a song as far as it will go. And then the guys in the band take it even further....much further than I ever could.
So you went to Europe looking to put together a band or
it just sorta happened?
happened. I went to Europe to live in
the spirit of carpe diem. That doesn’t
mean I lived recklessly or foolishly (though at times I did). What it really means is that I listened to my
inner voice each day and then did exactly what I felt was the right thing to do
I remember, during
those first years in Europe, my American friends would ask me when “I plan” to
come back, when “I plan” to do this or that.
I realized the extent to which most of us are controlled by plans…so
much so that we become blind to today. Then
today becomes just an obstacle, an unimportant detail.
But there’s a line in
my song “Victory in a Landlocked Sea”.
It goes, “and yet, each moment is the only thing that ever means
anything to me.”
So in other words, I
wasn’t “looking to” do anything specific.
Just to chase what excites me.
This is how I’ve lived for the past 8 or 9 years and it has taken me in
very interesting directions and has led to a lot of growth and change.
Travelpics. How was the recording and writing process?
All of the songs were
written after I had left the US except for “The System”. “The System” was one of the first songs I
wrote in Seattle and it is a heartfelt political rant. I was very political in Seattle. I later realized that the US is not a
democracy and that there’s no point to being “active” in “US politics”. The system is a sham controlled entirely by a
ruling elite. We’re better off focusing
on real life, on real things, on things we can influence and control!
The other songs are
actually about this clear distinction. My
lyrics are about the external vs. the internal.
Yes, the other three tracks are very inward focused and they are built
around themes like life meaning, belonging, love, religion, and authenticity.
Why the title?
We’re starting to
incorporate travel pictures and inspirational quotes into our live show. Right now I’m going through travel photos
that were submitted by fans. I’m also
going through some of my favorite books (and my own writing) for quotes, and I’m
putting together a video to be projected as we perform. I’m really excited about engaging and
audience in this way and actually involving them, projecting their dreams into
our show. So we called it the EP Travelpics
to fit with this theme. Also, our fans
in Europe are mostly travelers and we really want to consciously connect with
Tell us more about the artwork cover?
I have a hard time
with anything visual. I guess I achieve
a degree of visual competence with the website, perhaps with the CD artwork,
but when you start talking about music videos and things like that…that’s where
I struggle. So Abscondo probably needs help in area!
Any hilarious moment while hitting the road or playing a
Every gig we play is hilarious
to some degree. Look, the fact that our
songs sit really well next to bands like The Killers, Muse, etc….the fact that
they are in English…and yet we’ve still not performed outside of the tiny
country of Slovakia!
hilarious are my attempts to speak Slovak.
This project actually landed me on a week-long cooking show on prime
time TV in Slovakia. I became known by
half the country as “that American who speaks funny in Slovak.” Now we perform at city festivals for people
who’ve never heard music like this. What’s
funny is watching how they respond. The
audience tends to stick around…but the whole idea of performing these intimate
indie songs in such a venue is kind of funny to me.
The other guys in the
band act like true rock stars on the road.
Our van is full of laughter and usually enough alcohol that I worry just
a bit. My fantasy is to create a reality
TV show of a US tour. Perhaps a show on
the Travel Channel! It would be something
like a rock band version of Borat! I’m
pretty sure we’d be the most controversial thing on TV. Maybe I’ll pitch the idea to somebody. I’m really starting to like this idea!
What's next in Abscondo's world?
I’d like to announce
a travel show on the Travel Channel! Kidding. But actually, I wouldn’t be
surprised about anything that could happen.
Personally, right now I’m focused on a Sales Agency business that I’m
starting. That is going to free up my time even more and I’ll make a lot more
money. The point is that I’ll be able to
invest more in the band and I’ll be more free to chase bigger projects and
tours even as I take care of my wife and young daughter. So that’s where I’m at over the next few
In the immediate
future, we plan to finish the full-length album. We’re currently close to closing a few
licensing deals, so I wouldn’t be surprised hear our music in a film or in an
advertisement of some kind. That would
be a really big deal for us.
We have big plans for
this project, but we have to find our own path.
We have to keep things authentic and do something different from
everybody else out there. Alternative
music has become so cliché. Music videos
are boring. So maybe we’ll do more
cooking shows! It’s all about staying
connected to big dreams! So I’m going to
keep pitching really big, ridiculously huge ideas to people I have no right to
call! I’ll keep doing it until something
really great happens. I want these songs
to be heard. I want to connect with
people on an emotional and intellectual level.
I want to inspire people to live radically differently than they do
today. That’s the whole point of this
project and it cannot happen unless it becomes big.