Debut album by Lesní zveř: nu-jazz adventures for your feet and head

24-07-2009

The band Lesní zvěř has been around for some eight years, touring clubs and festival in the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, and beyond. In June, the Brno-based group released their debut album. Their live acts are famous for high energy levels and a powerful sound; on the eponymous album, the mixture of jazz, psychedelia and drum’n’bass gets yet another twist with a guest Moravian folk band

The band Lesní zvěř has been around for some eight years, touring clubs and festival in the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, and beyond. In June, the Brno-based group released their debut album. Their live acts are famous for high energy levels and a powerful sound; on the eponymous album, the mixture of jazz, psychedelia and drum’n’bass gets yet another twist with a guest Moravian folk band. The band’s singer Miloš Rejsek says that back in 2001 when the band first formed, freedom in music was what appealed to them most.

“We felt we wanted to do something more freely, to express ourselves musically in a different way. And it was a time when this new wave of music was coming with bands and ensembles and musicians who worked more with computers. And it was also a time when Ondřej Liška got involved in music for the first time in his life, and he was the most important influence at that time.”

Lesní zvěr translates into English as Forest Game. Two of the band’s five original members do in fact have animal names – Rejsek means shrew mouse, while Liška means fox. But the idea for the name came from another source.

“The combination of words in Czech makes you think about more like agricultural things. When you googled these two words, say, three years ago, all the pages that popped up were about animals and deer in the forest and all the problems and road kill and things like that. But I think the name perfectly matches the feeling we have when we make music. It’s always spontaneous and also fragile in a way, very shy but there is also this pure energy. I like to compare it to the feeling people get when they see deer in the snow in the forest, trembling and all wet and you feel, oh, poor thing. But it’s not really like that. So there’s this contradiction in this.”

“We sort of put all the music we like together, and when this new kind of music came, done more freely and with computers, it was the most important aspect of the inspiration. Formally, we didn’t try to fit in some kind of genre. It’s always difficult to describe the music you make with words, so you just take the closest ones. But nu-jazz is a very good description.”

It took some time for Lesní zvěř to get around to making their debut album. The band did some recording along the way, but as vocalist Miloš Rejsek explains, they had to learn how to capture their live energy in the studio. With the help of producer Dušan Neuwerth, they believe they found a way.

“It was difficult because we are quite wild when it comes to playing live. But there was a trick we learnt along the way – you have to take things apart. The most difficult thing is to record these raw, very wild and energetic songs. So we had to learn how to bypass all those things and come back from another direction, so that it all falls into place. I can’t really describe it because it’s always intuitive. We came with a description- it’s a jam session with a computer.”

One of the most powerful compositions on the new album, Hostýn, features a folk band from the region known as Moravian Slovakia. It’s famous for its traditions, and it where folklore music is still alive. The band’s keyboard player, Jura Hradil, is from that area, and you can tell.

“It was nice to get something from there on our album because there is a sort of an inner link between what we as Lesní zvěř do genre-wise and how they sound and how they feel. It very raw, very spontaneous, not thinking about how it should sound or what they do but just do it. And that’s how Lesní zvěř came about.”

The band says that the voice for them is another instrument – and lyrics don’t take precedence over music. That might be the reason why the band’s lyrics are English.

“In the Czech Republic, we’d get this a lot because musically we are quite enclosed in our culture. But I don’t feel like this, I don’t have this kind of background, I don’t have roots. Even though I was born in the Czech Republic, when I look at my family, it’s a mixture of different influences. My grandfather was German, so it was like a natural thing for me to express myself in this way. Also, when we went abroad, it felt absolutely natural to sing in English. I just think it’s the way bands do it in Europe. Actually, I have a snobbish answer: why not.”

One of the band’s founding members, Ondřej Liška, is also a politician. Liška, who is in his early 30s, is currently the head of the Green Party, and for nearly two years was Czech education minister. He still sometimes plays concerts with Lesní zvěř, and he appeared as a guest vocalist on the album. But Miloš Rejsek says that he’s more like the non-playing captain of a Davis Cup tennis team.

“When we got together, he was quite influential. It was like this Davis Cup team in tennis where you have this captain or whatever you call him, who’s just this figure behind it. But from time to time, when he has time, he also performs with us live, still. But Jiří Hradil came up with a very funny explanation that we as Lesní zvěř wanted to become famous so he made a sacrifice and became an MP. It didn’t help us, so said, ‘ok, let’s take it a little further,’ so he became the president. Oh, sorry, Minister. Maybe president some time, I don’t know.”

Whether or not Ondřej Liška becomes president, Czech music fans will have a chance to hear the band on tour this autumn. Some of the shows will even feature the Moravian-Slovakian folklore band.

“It’s going to be at the end of September or beginning of October, there will be several concerts, a tour, or a launch tour, or whatever you call it. You can find out at our website, it’s www.lesnizver.cz. Or on Myspace, it’s not difficult to find us.”

24-07-2009