We caught up with EXEK's bandleader Albert Wolski to discuss the band's latest album Advertise Here, pairing mesmerizing visuals with a DIY impulse, and the several albums his band are sitting on.
Since the release of their self-titled debut EP in 2014, experimental art punks EXEK have been called one of the most important bands in Naarm/Melbourne underground scene so much so they've caught the attention of punk juggernauts John Dwyer and Henry Rollins back here in the states. They once even made the late Flying Nun legend Hamish Kilgour purchase one of their t-shirts. Originally beginning as a studio recording project for frontman and bandleader Albert Wolski, EXEK conjures up the ghosts of This Heat, Swell Maps, and Metal Box-era PiL, painting an enthralling picture of never-ending studio wizardry with a sardonic din of dubbed-out post-punk tension.
Across EXEK's latest LP Advertise Here, Wolski's unhurried stream-of-consciousness and farcical one-liners are backed by a twisted hybrid of krautrock and otherworldly art rock conjured by Jai K Morris-Smith (guitar), Ben Hepworth (bass), Chris Stephenson (drums), Andrew Brocchi (synthesizer), and new recruit Valya YL Hooi (trumpet, backing vocals). The band's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink creativity is both hauntingly sparse and sonically rich, leaping further into the unknown — think an anxious post-punk styling melded with the score of Videodrome. Take for instance the charming no-wave groover, "(I'm After) Your Best Interest," which weaves together searing guitars and synth glitches or the surreal "Parricide is Painless," which juxtaposes its freewheeling guitar jangle with ruthlessly dark poetic musings — "Well predicted that the father is killed. Psychiatric accuracy. Mother meets the same unfortunate fate. After hours, obviously."
To unravel these discordant soundscapes, we caught up with Wolski who walks us through the recording sessions of Advertise Here, pairing mesmerizing visuals with a DIY impulse, and the several albums his band are sitting on.
Paperface Zine: What has the EXEK crew been up to since the release of your latest LP Advertise Here?
Albert Wolski: Mostly shows. We toured Europe back in November. We got another album about 90% finished. As soon as that one is done then we're gonna start the next one and so on, and so on.
PZ: What can listeners expect from it and when do you think it will be out?
AW: Impossible to say when it will be out, but Advertise Here was finished about two years before it was released. So maybe 2024? I think this next album is perhaps a bit more classy, a bit more late night, and smooth. Might be a bit less krauty and more R&B.
PZ: So what exactly was the vision when forming EXEK?
AW: I wanted to do a band that sounded a bit different. I felt there was a lot of soundscapes still yet to be explored by fusing genres and styles like kraut, dub, hip hop, funk and post-punk.
PZ: You guys incorporate a lot of styles in your music from krautrock to dubby post-punk. Given the tendency toward experimentation in the studio, is there an infinite nature to EXEK?
AW: Totally. We can always add more genres to the pile and explore even more fusions.
PZ: What's it like constructing songs for this freewheeling project in comparison to other bands you've been in?
AW: The way we construct songs is perhaps counterintuitive for other artists. 90% of the time we start off with a beat. We go to the studio and track an hour's worth of drums, which is basically a montage of ideas. So I scour the file and find interesting breaks and beats to create loops from. Then all the other instruments get overdubbed on top. Half the time there's no telling where the song will end up while other times I have a clear vision and guide our drummer with ideas on what beats to try. But still, everything gets overdubbed.
PZ: You released your latest LP Advertise Here through John Dwyer's label Castle Face Records. How did you get connected with them and what has it been like working with them the past few years?
AW: He just emailed us out of the blue saying how much he dug our first two albums. Then we teed up a show supporting Osees on Halloween in Los Angeles back in 2018. The label has been great to work with as John is obviously an artist himself and so he knows what's up.
PZ: Where did you record Advertise Here?
AW: I record at home. Apart from the drums. I would if I could, I just don't have the room and would feel pretty bad for my neighbors. I mix as I record too.
PZ: Were there any songs that turned out way different than their initial idea? Were there any that really surprised you?
AW: Not really, it was pretty smooth sailing throughout. "ID'ed" was a bit of a gamble as it's got so many strings in it. "Sen Yen for 30 min of Violin" and "Beyond Currency" were gambles too just cause they're so long and I had to tie everything all together.
PZ: Some of these visuals have been absolutely stunning, particularly the Alexandra Millen-directed video for "Parricide is Painless" and the live video for "(I'm After) Your Best Interest." How important is it to pair visuals with your music?
AW: Thank you. Yeah it's very important. Love getting my wife involved to do the covers of our records. And we've collaborated with some other close friends for either covers or film clips.
PZ: You've been playing some shows the last few months so what's it been like translating these newer songs to a live audience especially coming out of lockdown?
AW: We really struggle to learn the new songs for shows. Everything is recorded months and sometimes years before it's released. So by the time we have an album launch, we frantically need to learn how to transpose the recorded material to a live setting. And since I record most of it myself at home, I've forgotten what I've played, and therefore I struggle to even relearn it myself. Basically it's a nightmare. I should take better notes, but part of the fun is not being bogged down by note taking and just doing things on the fly. That leads to better experimentation and originality. Also our guitarist lives 1000 kms away, so he can't exactly pop over every odd afternoon and learn stuff. It's frustrating.
PZ: Talk to me about your new collaborative book with photographer Robyn Daly.
AW: We've been wanting to do a book for a while now. It's called Rio and Robyn is a photographer and was sitting on a bunch of unused photos and I've been wanting to write some short stories for a while. So in the planning stage, we decided to use photos from a recent trip (well, relatively recently in terms of lockdowns getting in the way) which was our travels throughout the Balkan states. And so I set the stories there and it all gelled well together I think. Might be one or two copies left by the time this interview comes out.
PZ: Following last year's tour, what's next for EXEK?
AW: Jerkfest in March and we have a new-new record in the pipe so hopefully a major label picks it up and we all buy more houses on top of all the houses that we've already bought so far from the music industry.
Advertise Here is out now through Castle Face Records. Stream it below.