Weird Interview: Laki Lan
After they topped our Weird 100 chart last month, we were determined to learn more about bug-themed Polish funksters Łąki Łan. But English-language info about the band is scarce. So we reached out to them directly. Here’s what they had to say for themselves via email in their (probably) first-ever English interview. (We’ve edited their answers a bit for clarity and coherence, but not too much—we didn’t want to lose that English-is-not-their-first-language flavor entirely.)
P.S. All questions answered by Laki Lan’s guitarist, Bonk.
Weirdest Band: You call your music “meadow funk.” What’s meadow funk?
Łąki Łan: “Meadow Funk” is a title of one of our songs (“Łąki Funk”). So we used it to call our music. We call it techno twist or techno live funk as well. Many kinds of music are intermingled: you have funk section, rock ‘n’ roll guitar, techno keys. We didn’t want to be a typical funk band or rock ‘n’ roll band. Nobody want to be a pigeonhole.
WB: How did you all first meet and come to play music together?
LL: In about 1999 there was a group of people who got a great passion. They visited [abandoned] buildings, industrial zone and many interesting places. We made a bonfire , smoking joints and had a good time. We had many very cool places in this time in Warsaw. Old communism factory…a huge factory about two or three kilometers from the center of Warsaw! Paprodziad was a spirius movens [spiritual leader] of this informal group.
WB: What’s Paprodziad’s story? Most of you seem to be insects but he seems more like some kind of mad wizard.
LL: He wasn’t a typical vocalist to begin with. He was a kind of showman or performer, a theatrical person on the stage, something like a mad wizard indeed. He did a lot of performances like changing brains to clump of grass. He was singing a few lines in a few songs, but we played almost only improvisation in those days. Some riffs, but it was open form on one chord on most of them. It was cool, but it was sometimes working and sometimes not, so we felt we needed [more structure] to get our show up. Paprodziad always was a writer, and he started to sing own stuff and we started making songs.
WB: Are your influences mostly other Polish bands? Or bands from other places, too?
LL: I think only bands from other places. We listened to funk ’70s stuff, James Brown and George Clinton of course, and RHCP [Red Hot Chili Peppers], Frank Zappa, all new stuff like Chemical Brothers or Groove Armada, techno music and house music, we loved it. And rock ‘n’ roll ’60s , all acid jazz, Jamiroquai, Snoop and all hip-hop stuff, Beastie Boys and AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Slayer, and also Burt Bacharach or Elvis. And Bob Marley of course. And Prince.
But when we saw George Clinton it opened our eyes! We said yeahh, we can do it in the same style. Let’s dress up. Let’s make our own world. We tried a little bit to be an ambassador of funk in Warsaw because nobody playing this at that time. DJs played that but not a live band. In the late ’90s we have got only rock bands and old communism stars and awful pop stars. But most of them were really shit. It wasn’t our music, young people music. Only hip-hop and rap was interesting at that time.
We tried to be different and fresh like music we listened to, Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim. We always wanted to play techno as live band. Techno is some kind of jazz, you’ve got a groove full of places to improvise. We tried this on a really big techno party for thousands of people! We tried to play like Prodigy or Chemical Bros.
WB: What’s the music scene like in Poland these days? Are there many other bands playing your style of music?
LL: We are a village country so most popular artists are playing disco polo. It is our traditional [songs] but played on the Casio. Something like Balkan turbo disco. It is wedding music, too. But it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of bands playing good music, more and more. And more and more hip-hop artists using live bands so we have got more funk characters in Poland. We have got many reggae bands as well. They are very popular. I think people in Poland have a great feeling of black music like reggae or funk. It’s huge but still underground. It isn’t mainstream, but it could be in YouTube times. Times they are a-changing nonstop. It is good for us. But I haven’t seen any bands playing our style.
WB: Do you ever tour much outside Poland? Where is the farthest away from home you’ve ever played a show?
LL: We working on that. We were in Georgia farthest. We’re still waiting to show in New Zealand and Alaska.
WB: Some of your lyrics are in English. Do a lot of Polish bands sing in English?
LL: Not many but much more than ten years ago. I think people prefer Polish language because they could understand what’s going on, a heart feeling. This is poetry at the end. But much more people using English. Language is kind of instrument as well, so if you play funk or rock ‘n’ roll for example, when you using English it sounds good. If you play flamenco you [use] Spanish language rather German. It’s not a rule, but it is easy to make an odd thing doing this way. And believe me, when you get English texts and sing them in Polish it is a big comedy. Polish language is a very different, it is another context.
WB: To an English speaker, “Łąki Łan” sounds a bit like “Wonky One,” which means something like “Weirdo.” Was this intentional?
LL: It is a play on words. Paprodziad was writing a lot of stuff and he tried to use a Polish words to get English sound. We’ve listened only to western music almost (western meaning west from us) and English language is part of those [songs] like guitar sound is part of rock ‘n’ roll . So he [put together] Polish words in special way and everybody thought he sing in English. We love that because we were different and sound western but we used still Polish words. Łąki Łan is two words of one line of text, we said, “o yeahh!” It sounds great. It sounds like the name of the band. Many people in Poland still asking us what does it mean.
WB: Your live shows look like fun. Do a lot of your fans dress up in their own Łąki Łan costumes?
LL: There are much more! It is amazing! Thanks, everybody! When I see people dress up like me it is so huge a power and happy. They dress up like me, wow, and I only play music! This is nice.
WB: What are you working on these days? Will there be new Łąki Łan music coming soon?
LL: We are working nonstop because we love it. We have got new stuff so I hope it will be coming soon.
WB: Do you consider yourselves weird?
LL: I don’t know. It is hard to consider this from inside. It is normal for us. We are people like others. We know much more weird people, everybody knows, but they are not famous usually. Really weird people for us are still normal when you know each other.
But there is one kind of weird people for me.
They believe in money.