"You can’t make other people like your stuff when you don’t like it yourself"
It's been an absolutely fascinating year for Eskimo Callboy so far.
After spending a decade delighting and dividing opinion, 2020 has seen the start of a new chapter for the band with the departure of vocalist Sebastian 'Sushi' Biesler and the introduction of Nico Sallach, formally of To The Rats And Wolves.
What has followed is a viral sensation in the form of 'Hypa Hypa', currently sitting pretty at just over 6 million views on YouTube, and a new EP 'MMXX', celebrating the past, present and future of the band, which is set for release on Friday (September 11).
We caught up with vocalist Kevin Ratajczak to talk about the last decade, how it feels to still have people discovering them and what has kept him going all these years...
So what was your original blueprint for 2020?
“After we parted ways with our old singer Sushi, there was the big question mark. We didn’t really know what the future of Eskimo Callboy looked like. But what felt natural was for us to go back into the studio and start writing new songs. That was back in January. The thing was that we couldn’t really work with Sushi anymore. It didn’t have anything to do with friendship or anything. It was more in terms of the way that we were working together and actually getting along in the studio. It just didn’t work out anymore. So when we went back in the studio again and were on our own, we could do whatever we liked and not have any compromises along the way. It felt so natural and it was just so good to write music again.
“There were a lot of songs composed in this time, almost in the blink of an eye. We wrote ‘MC Thunder II’ in just a couple of days for example. That’s when we knew we had to search for a new singer. So we had some auditions online to make sure that we were able to reach out far enough to find the perfect match. There were three singers that we felt connected to, but then COVID came along and destroyed the game. We ended up only being able to meet up with one other guy apart from Nico. He was a great guy but actually working with him was a little bit more complicated than we thought it would be. So then we met Nico and it was so perfect. We had three days together and in that time we wrote a new song together. That’s when we decided it had to be him.”
It feels what this year has represented is you remembering why you started the band in the first place. Remembering how to have fun...
“Absolutely. The main word is authenticity. You can’t make other people like your stuff when you don’t like it yourself. I don’t want to say that I don’t like the music that we have written in the last two or three years, but there was a lot of compromise. Our biggest power is being able to combine all six of our minds into one album, but that also became our biggest weakness because of that compromise. That compromise then destroyed the music that we were making.”
So where did this new EP come into play?
“When Nico finally joined the band, we had to make the decision whether we were going to write a whole album or not. The thing is that if we did that it wouldn’t be able to be released until 2021 because it takes time. The thing was that being together felt like the very beginning of the band again. In 2010 we just met up and had fun making music together and didn’t think too much about it. We just did what we liked. I remember that our goal was to try and complete a whole album in 2010 as well, but we couldn’t wait. We wanted to show the people what we were doing so we released an EP. We had three or four songs, so let’s just drop them. That’s the main reason for us to do the exact same right now in 2020.”
On this new EP there are also two re-recordings of tracks from that debut EP, ‘Monsieur Moustache’ and ‘Drama Queen’. What was the thinking behind that?
“I really like being nostalgic. When I think back to the times when we started these were two songs that I really liked. To re-record them at the standard that we have now, in terms of production and even with Nico as a singer, it was really different. It was all a bit of fun really.”
So what about the other tracks?
“Well we already had ‘MC Thunder II’. Then we added ‘Hate/Love’ which we wrote with Nico. Then there’s ‘Hypa Hypa’ and an acoustic version of ‘Prism’. It felt like the perfect way to introduce the new version of Eskimo Callboy to the people. I feel as though it has the same energy that we felt back in 2010. It’s an unlucky situation that we aren’t able to play these songs live or at festivals because as much as we like being in the studio our music is made for the stage.
"We’re saving our energy though, and when we are allowed back out there it will be a like a nuclear bomb. It’s going to be a hell of a time.”
We need to talk about ‘Hypa Hypa’. What has it been like watching this song and this video blow up over the summer? It feels like a lot of people have discovered you for the first time...
"Every new listener to Eskimo Callboy means a lot to us. I don’t care how people get to know us, whether it’s because of our party side or because or because of a song like ‘Prism’. What counts is that they have heard of us, checked us out and decided if they like us or not. There have always been those two sides to Eskimo Callboy; the party and the more serious. I love both of them. I don’t want to be limited as an artist."
Did you expect the song to blow up like it did?
"I remember that me and Nico were writing some lyrics in our other studio room and I heard our guitarists Pasquel [Schillo] and Daniel [Klossek] putting together some riffs and electronics and was like, ‘Damn, that’s great stuff’. I was like a snake being charmed by a flute, drawn in to the room by the music. I felt so inspired by the song that we kicked the other work we were doing to the side and continued to work on that. I knew that it was good and I knew that it was something that you would expect from Eskimo Callboy. It was also perfect for Nico to be introduced because it’s funny but it’s also still hard. It’s the perfect combination."
And then the Internet took it and now here we are...
“The thing is that you can never control what is going to happen on the Internet. No matter how much work you put in or how much effort you put in, both of those things are very different to each other, there’s no way to control any of it. You just have to be professional either way.”
There’s always going to be two sides to the reaction as well. There's the people who are into it and the people who aren’t. But as long as someone is talking about you, then you’re doing something right. To be able to still do that after ten years is pretty crazy…
“You know what, the Internet is so spoiled. There is absolutely everything you could ever want on there, and to be recognised by anybody you have to be a little bit edgy. You can’t just be normal. People like to be entertained. And to be honest with you, ‘Hypa Hypa’ is professionally made and done DIY by everybody in the band, but it’s still easy listening you know? You watch the video and listen to the music and it’s easy to take in. It takes you with it and that’s good because it’s what it’s made for.”
Has the way that this year has played out effected how you’re looking forwards into 2021 at all?
“I wouldn’t say so, because we were thinking about the future so much before COVID came along. We had some expectations in mind already. But with COVID we have been forced to hope. Hope is all we have right now really. They can’t really tell us what’s going to happen. In Germany everything seemed cool again and the things were getting better and then the infection rates rose again and everybody is like, ‘Oh shit we have to lockdown again’. You just never really know what’s going to happen. I’m a very positive person and whenever something bad happens I try and grab at a step which will help me to climb back up again. At the moment I’m putting all of my work in at home with my wife and my future child, but then I'm also working for the music. A lot of bands who are stuck at home now only have the music to concentrate on. I’m pretty sure that all the artists in the world are cooking up something very special at the moment. I feel like there’s something very cool happening. “
Hope is a good way to descibe what you've done this year with the band. You had the inkling about ‘Hypa Hypa’ and this new chapter of the band, but you can only hope that people resonate in the way you want them too…
“That’s just a part of the game. When you’ve been working on something day and night for weeks on end and then you present to people in hopes that they like it, there is a chance that they could go, ‘Nah, what’s next?’ That’s half a year spent all for nothing. Luckily we are in a position where people still like what we are doing.”
Finally, what is the thing that has kept you going over the years? What’s the thing that has helped you stay just as passionate about this band as you were when you started?
"Before I met my wife and before I joined the band, I used to be a very materialistic boy. I would choose a big ass TV over a cultural event every single time. But with all the travelling to new countries and the meeting of new people that has come with touring with the band and with my wife, that has given me so much more than money could ever buy. This is something that I never want to stop. When I think about all of the other jobs in the world that I could have, I feel very fortunate and blessed to have a job where I can do what I love."
It all boils down to joy, and more specifically your own personal joy. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, as long as you’re happy then nothing else matters…
"Absolutely. And when I think about what we create and what effect it has on people’s lives, it’s just priceless. It’s the best thing in the world. When you listen to Eskimo Callboy or when you go to an Eskimo Callboy show, you just switch off the problems of the world just for the length of a song or an album or a show. You try and reboot yourself and get back in a groove, because it’s only with a good vibe and good outlook towards life that you can go back out there and handle all of those problems. That’s always been our goal."