By Maryse Bernard
Upon hearing Vancouver-based Basketball, their sound is impossible to ignore. The four-piece band fuses together pulsing tribal drums with booming electronic beats, a combination built from travels through Africa and Spain. The chanting Croatian and Spanish vocals add to the blend of modern and traditional–culminating in a genre all their own. Their energetic live performances are reputed to bewitch participants into a trancelike state of dance. Basketball’s long-awaited album Maw, released last summer, was graciously embraced by both fans and music reviewers. Vocalist Tome Jozic and multi-instrumentalist Luka Rogers took some time to chat with Maryse Bernard about touring, their inspiration and what 2012 has in store.
Maryse Bernard: Your sound is something original and worldly that Vancouver hasn’t really seen before. What’s the reception been like so far?
Tome Jozic: It’s kind of been this incredible experience over the past three years that’s only gotten more wholesome and dynamic. Our crowds are phenomenal and the response has just been great. It’s wonderful to actually have a record out now because for the longest time we had one release. It was a long time coming for the album. Right now we’re working on having it shared outside of the Vancouver borders.
Are there any standout stories you would want to share from your travels?
TJ: On our last tour—this is pretty remarkable—before our album came out, we had a few videos online of two songs. They had just been put online within a few months before the tour. We landed in Spain and we did this 17 to 20 hour drive straight from Madrid to the concert in Düsseldorf for the first show. Almost hit a wild boar. We get to the show and we load in, we do a sound check, our escort takes us to the place we’re staying. We’re just burnt out. Some of us take showers and naps before the show which is something we never, ever do. We were just so tired. And I vowed to stay up just in case. You know, just to keep the team together, in case something went wrong. And I guess it was the steam from the showers and everything that made everybody fall asleep. I was at the table writing, and with my fist on my chin I actually fell asleep shortly after everybody else. I woke up five minutes before we were supposed to be on stage, and it was our show too, there were no other bands. So everybody that was to be there was there to see us. We’re on the other side of Düsseldorf, freaking out, and we’re kind of lost. We get out of the place we’re staying and try to hail a cab, and eventually we get to the venue. The room is full of people, maybe 150 max. We push through, do a quick little set-up and go into the first song and everybody kind of lashes to the front of the stage. And it’s this little room, so it’s wonderfully tight, everybody’s close together. And everybody starts singing and I’m just like, ‘what the fuck!?’ How can these people know our songs? It was amazing. In the front row the people were dancing and singing back to us, and the album hadn’t even been released yet. Then we go into the second song and they knew the words to that one too–just overwhelming.
You guys put quite a heavy emphasis on your live shows. Does audience participation always play an important role?
TJ: I think that one of our goals with Basketball, one of our first missions, is for our music not to be inclusive. In order to be totally experienced and to take live experiences to a new level, it has to be a perfect mix of the performer and the audience. Sort of eradicating the idea of there being an actual performer and making it like everybody riding on a wave together. Whether it’s good or bad, it kind of has to happen together. We strive for that, and most of the spontaneity is natural.
I’m curious about where you draw your inspirations from. Do you think that some of it comes from the travels you’ve had?
Luka Rogers: Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of it is just a combination of what we listen to, which is predominantly Middle Eastern and Persian music, and a lot of modern and old electronic music. Anything from Kraftwerk to Hudson Mohawk. And yeah, with our travels—just meeting people, people showing us their music, and listening to different stuff on the radio. We believe in sharing music and making it our own. We’re not big into expressing ourselves, I think we’re big into just continuing a tradition within music that is also using modern instruments or traditional instruments.
As far as your music-making process goes, do you generally start off on more of a rhythmic or melodic idea? Is there a pattern or is it different every time?
LR: It’s more or less different. We start with rhythm patterns, and fill it from there with a lot of jamming. Or it’s a melody that we write on the banjo or the guitar or a vocal part. Sometimes we do cover songs and then just make them our own songs too.
Do you have any projects on the horizon?
LR: We’re working on a lot of new songs, hoping to have a record out in March. We’re going to be touring a lot more then and going back to Europe for a while to try to get on that full circuit.
TJ: We’re aiming to try and get some international distribution for Maw and lots of touring next year. It’s going to be a really big year for us, I think. We intend to spend more than half of the year on the road—that’s a goal. And so far, with some really good people, it looks like it’s going to happen.
Along with her involvement in UVic’s writing program, Maryse Bernard is pursuing her own musical endeavours.