I’ve been to the Baltic States rather often and I have seen a lot of bands. I’ve been reviewing and writing about music for various Dutch sites and magazines for a couple of years so I have seen and heared a thing or two. So when I was told about Alternative.lv and asked if I had some ideas or wanted to write something I was excited. So here I am, writing about bands from the Baltics for your pleasure as an outsiders look at things.
I actually got to see Kastete in Rock'n'Riga in 2010 on a warm day in July. I was impressed by their oldschool hardcore sound. There's a review of it in Dutch to prove it on Roar E-Zine. This band sounded really, really good. They played with the fiery temperament of some guys who are rightly angry about stuff that’s happening in their world. The fact that only two people were dancing, while others were happily nipping from their drinks at their little tables didn’t seem to bother them at all.
The fact that members of this band have been or are active in Collide, Saving Daylight Remains, Seborrhea, Trauma Moralis, Hidden Well, Mutilate Myself, Apatija, Gatling, Huskvarn, Frailty, and others, stretching the whole spectrum from punk to grind, was rather dazzling to me. These guys are not just part of the scene, they are the scene! Atleast so it seems to me, coming from a country teeming with bands and local scenes.
Lyrically the band tries to represent daily life in Latviaand the struggle one faces on a regular basis. The lyrics are in Latvian and the sound is raw, heavy and powerful. Gritty sounding hardcore with metal elements woven into it. After a short break-up in 2011, the band is back together and that is a good thing.
Their sound, in my humble opinion, resembles the sludgy streetpunk sound of the likes of Sheer Terror and Warzone, heated up in the sludgy metalcore marinade of early Biohazard and Merauder. But that’s not all, this band knows how to change and develop and picking some of their songs out you can hear a range of similarities from the straight up sound of Expire to the passion of Lewd Acts. That’s what you get when you’re representing a scene on your own I suppose.
Fortunately I found XedzaX from Kastete willing and happy to tell a bit more about his band. Fortunately he does remember the show I went to but luckily this is not a typical show according to this singing drummer. “I don’t really like to generalize things, it’s hard to draw a picture of a typical punk rock show. Every place and show feels different. I have to admit it took me a while to recall the gig back then Rock’n’Riga was a particular place.”
“I think we feel good about our sound and lyrics. It’s not strange to use our own language instead of conforming to English like everyone else. We did do a few songs in English. I believe we are all individuals with different backgrounds, who contribute different things to our music, creating our particular sound. We hope people like it. The scene here is not in its best shape now. A lot of people talk about the ‘good old days’, when there was a lot more of hardcore and punk bands around. Bands are appearing and disappearing, but not many play hardcore like I’m used to hear. There were the times when it shifted to metal and now again to sludge. Music and people are living things, so it’s natural to see these deviations.”
The Netherlands are a country where nothing comes really hard. The experience I have from friends I made in the Baltics, is that life can really be tough at times. So I’m curious what Kastete feels to be their mission as a band. “We’ve tried to point out some social or personal issues and our attitudes towards them. In our lyrics we try to reach the listener on whatever topic we have in that song. We hope to create awareness and respect. As a band we don’t wish to judge or preach, we just wish to express our opinion and make others think about it. We don’t do the positive cliché stuff, there’s to much injustice around for that right now I guess…” I was wondering what the life conditions in Latvia do for the sound of this band since they vary from where I’m from and I knew some people who had some hard times getting through their days. “Although there is still a difference in the economic situation between Latvia and the west of Europe, I don’t think it changes our music anymore in a big way right now. When I joined the hardcore scene in the late 90’s it was a different situation. People back then could tell how hard it was to get decent instruments and how different life was back then, which brought people together. This was even more so in the 80’s. So the music was different. Now we have the same stuff as everyone else in Europe so I don’t feel that there’s still a typical Latvian scene.”
Now, as I said, I struggled to categorize this band and write down what I hear when listening to their music. “It would be hard to list the bands we’ve been listening to and which influenced us over the years. I guess a great influence have been all the bands we played in or still play in up to this very day. Personally my biggest influences are Latvian bands from the late 90’s and early 2k’s. Lately I haven’t heared that much interesting stuff from the other Baltic states, we don’t seem to share the same gigs. I did discover some new bands this year. We played with a band called Johnny & The Burnouts who played some thrashy stuff. I also like the band Nekad, which is a band of my friends. They will have their first show in October.”
So, without further a due, I want to know the story behind Kastete, so we get to that. “Back in early 2009 I felt an urge to start a hardcore band, mainly because I’d been spending too much time playing metal in other bands. I knew JanisZ (guitar) already, who also played in a bunch of metal bands and we decided to give it a try. We started to do some rehearsals and felt like we were on to something and started looking for a a bass player, which we found in Janis J, also active in metal bands. It’s hard to say how it got together that way, but hardcore and punkrock is something we feel deep in our hearts. The name came from playing around with some words and ideas for a name.First it was “Kas te, te?” (which means: “What’s here, here?”). We stuck with it and put them together creating Kastete (which means brass-knuckles). We somehow feel that this word describes our way of playing. I don’t think we dream of being a famous band, we just want to make more music and play shows, record something and maybe make a video. Playing outside the region would be great to. That would be it for us.”
Final question I had is one I kinda stick to. I ask bands what kinda food they would describe themselves as to someone who doesn’t know them. “Cabbage stuffed pastry…”. Feel free to listen to them, if you didn’t do that already to find out why they sound like that food tastes.
Thanks for your time reading this. Are you in a band and totally worth checking out? Let me know, you can find me through the regular channels and my website.