Not that I ever mention it, but my brother and I were oddly named. Had I been a girl, my name would have been Joni, I’ve no idea what Graham’s name would have been: Grace? Sandy? Mama Cass? Alas, my parents had two boys. For me, apparently, my mother drew the line at Brian, and eventually they decided on their masterplan. Two boys, 4 names, 1 American, west coast, supergroup. I got lucky. I was first and gifted with Neil and Stephen. My brother, sheepishly showing his face a mere 1 year, 9 months and 29 days later, took what was left, Graham and David; our parents naming us in apparent tribute to the excellent if abundantly troubled Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
Given this tenuous connection, I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of the supergroup; from the Travelling Wilburys, to Zwan, through Cream, to Atoms of Peace or The Reindeer Section, they always delicately walk the thin line between bloated, indulgent, self-importance, to beautiful, breathtaking examples of musical alliance. Warsaw’s own indie supergroup, New People fall firmly in the latter group.
Having been introduced to the band through another member of Warsaw’s indie scene, Bartosz Chmielewski of Muzyka Końca Lata, I was interested to hear this disparate collection of musicians from an impressive list of bands: The Car is on Fire, Magnificent Muttley, Drekoty, Crab Invasion, Wicked Giant, and Eric Shoves Them in his Pockets, to name just a few. Some time in August, an envelope dropped through my postbox with 2 copies of the 2-track promo for the band’s album, featuring the songs “Better Ways”, and “Banana Split”. Since then,they have been on heavy rotation here at too many fireworks towers.
Last night, I had the pleasure – and while I’m acutely aware of it’s pomposity, the honour – of presenting and promoting New People’s debut concert, in support to the excellent ILO&Friends (of whom I will write another day, I’m sure). Prior to the show, as ILO and her friends were soundchecking, I sat in quiet awe as the band sang together, a cappella, for what seemed like the sheer joy of it, rather than any concerted effort to warm up, and I felt like a stowaway – “I’m not supposed to be on this journey”, I thought, “but I’m ever so thankful that I am”.
The music of New People is glorious; sublime in its joyful ebullience. It had the alchemical potential to create dancers of the most resolute wallflowers. Every one of the seven musicians on stage exude a gleeful delight in playing these songs to an audience for the first time. Natalia Pikuła and Alicja Boratyn in particular, harmonise and dance in a manner that is hard not to find endearing, even immediately adorable. Not wanting to single out every member of the band, of course, lest this become simply a list, another honourable mention should go to the animated, exuberant drumming of Aleksander Orłowski. Songs like “Better Ways”, and the dazzling “Rain Talk” set a rather ambitious manifesto for the band and if the album is anything as buoyant as the live performance it could be an early contender for Polish album of the year, 2017. I’ve never been a fan of the Polish scene’s trope of bands other than headliners taking an encore, but tonight it seemed absolutely inevitable and imperative and the band came back to perform a reprise of Better Ways – even more exhilaratingly than the first.
Excitingly, performances of both bands were recorded for broadcast on my forthcoming radio show on Warsaw’s Radio Kampus. We will plunder two or three tracks from each as our first live sessions, so if you didn’t happen along tonight, you won’t miss out – and I get to enjoy it all over again.
As I write, I’m acutely aware of superlatives peppering my text and it often reminds me of Graham Peel of Flying Matchstick Men’s relentless teasing of my overuse of the word “amazing”. Well, people say that if you accept you have a problem, that’s half the battle, so I’m going to lean in, commit, and state simply, New People are amazing. A new favourite band.