interview: xani kolac of the twoks
Pop music has gotten an undeserved bad reputation. When we think of pop music, we think of scantily clad, bubblegum princesses and manufactured careers, in spite of the fact that we all know it just means ‘popular’ music.
Xani Kolac, the darling vocalist and electric violinist of Melbourne’s The Twoks, is someone who knows how beautiful and meaningful pop music can really be, and it’s something she attempts to bring to her own creations. Since picking up a violin at the age of 7, Kolac’s musical tastes and interests have covered quite a spectrum; from what she describes as “crappy pop music” when she was considerably younger, to jazz and Latin music, to alternative music such as Bjork, Camille, and Sigur Ros (‘which is pretty much pop music with outside influences’, she says). But her love of pop and efforts to incorporate it into her own music hasn’t been without its challenges, with peers and colleagues often looking down on the popular music genre.
‘The kind of criticism I was getting at uni [was that] pop music is not real music, but pop music is a very big part of my life.
‘It’s such a broad category. I’d define pop music as that kind of really accessible structure to music, so at one time, classical music would have been the popular music because it was a structure that everyone understood, so now popular music would probably take the form of something with a recognisable chorus and something that isn’t too long.’
Although The Twoks is a project that has been in existence with various line-ups for several years now, it was only when her third (and current) drummer, Mark Leahy, came along in 2009 that she finally found a perfect musical mélange.
‘We’re on the exact same page in [that] we don’t like our music to ever have to be set and structured the same way every time. We like the risk-taking, we like the improvisation without being jazz, or wanky or anything. We just want it to be not self-indulgent but exciting and fresh, and that’s the best way we find performing it, is to be spontaneous.
‘Finding the right person for the band makes all the difference. You can’t go forwards if there are things that aren’t quite fitting together. You can go along and it’s okay but just having Mark in there just made it all fit together.’
Being the frontwoman of the Twoks, and having worked with a number of male members, both in The Twoks and in her previous musical projects, Kolac has had the chance to see firsthand any sexism in the music industry. But she’s been fortunate enough to have had rather different experiences to many of her counterparts, although she’s quick to point out the sexism still rampant in every day life.
‘I have spoken to a lot of girls about this and whether it’s because I’m predominantly an instrumentalist, I’ve never found any difference between the way I’ve been treated as opposed to my male counterparts, and I’ve had some of the most supportive people around me that have been male. Whenever I’m up fronting a band, I get a great response. I just have never really felt like I’ve had to be something that I’m not. I think it’s really interesting because a lot of particularly female vocalists, when they’re talking about this issue, they’ll say, I’ve got to be more ballsy or gutsy or fierce or whatever, and then there’s other ones that are like, I’m going to ride on this cutesy, girly kind of thing, and I don’t think it has to be either way, I think you just have to be yourself, and I think I’ve always just kind of stayed true to that.
‘I just think it’s so interesting, because I really wanted to understand it, but I’ve never encountered it. But that being said, I think [sexism] is so relevant in just about every other facet of life. Like I feel it in all other facets of life, and not as a musician. As a musician, it’s the one time I feel so equal, so strong as a sex, and not because I’m like, oh I’m the frontwoman and I’m dominating this. I just feel so natural, whereas in normal day to day life, in magazines, my appearance, just walking down the street … I’ve always just felt so equal and as powerful in music as compared to everyone else.’
There are plenty of reasons to love The Twoks; foremost it is their blend of pop music, that combines the catchy nature that is the reason we can’t get pop songs out of our heads, with a thoughtfulness that comes through in both their lyrics and their music.
The Twoks will be appearing at the Idolize Spiegeltent in the Garden of Unearthly Delights on Monday, March 5, as part of Adelaide’s Fringe Festival. Find out all the details here and make sure you catch what is sure to be an amazing performance!
Check out The Twoks’ mean cover of ‘Sexy Back’ at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival!