James Button Band are a Polish hard rock/psychedelic band formed in Szczecinek in 2012. Their sounds are inspired by American classic rock bands. Their most recent release is Charlie Speaks on the Radio, released in January of 2020. It’s available to stream on Spotify right now. I’ll include an embedded link below so you can stream it. My favourite tracks on the album are “Boogie Nr 4”, “Ms Sunset”, “Sweet Sweat and a Dozen Roses”, and “There’s Still a Chance For That Blind Man”.
I had the privilege of speaking to one of the band members and a fan of the blog, Jakub “Kuba” Legan about his band and their music. If you want to learn more about James Button Band and what they’re all about, keep on reading!
Angie: How did James Button Band get started?
Kuba: Officially? The great and wise Sir Lord Button has landed in my hometown. A mysterious person from Great Britain. He met me somewhere in the middle of the street and became my mentor and my friend. One day he decided that he loves my solo and my bad sense of humour. And then he gave me permission to form a new band. He is still around watching and smiling.
Unofficially? After 3 to 4 years of recording solo stuff, I felt ready to play this music live. My hometown was full of metal fans. It was very popular then and every boy with long hair and a guitar wanted to play only this kind of music. So imagine that one day in 2012, during some city party, three characters dressed as hippies enter the stage. Their guitars don’t quite tune up, they play like amateurs but they have enthusiasm and something pushing them forward.
I was lucky to meet people who really wanted play my weird music. Metal fans and random people immediately drew attention to us. Something was already there. Since then, tastes have changed a little. But I still feel it during concerts, something that pushes us forward, promises amazing things, lets us fly away.
Angie: What or who inspired you to go into music?
Kuba: It was probably not a matter of sudden inspiration. Music has been with me since I can remember. My father was a guitarist himself. I remember the countless cassette tapes he was listening to. I soaked up by the music next to playing with Lego blocks or toy cars. I think it passed from my father to me.
But in my case it manifests itself very strong. Besides, my first big band was Queen. And even as a 6, 7 year-old kid, I felt Freddie’s power. Even without understanding all these bisexual nuances in costumes, words and gestures, without going into the theatricality of this music, without analysing anything. I just bought it immediately. I wanted to be Freddie on stage and then Brian May.
It’s funny that now when I’m in the band I’m both guitarist and vocalist. The idea survived 🙂 Queen is still a huge inspiration for me and I see Rock’n’Roll in similar aspects – as a crazy theatre that takes people away from the earth. It allows them to do this and nobody can blame them.
Angie: How would you describe your band to a new listener?
Kuba: At concerts, I always say “welcome to our circus on three wheels” We are a trio that plays Rock’n’Roll in an American vibe. Our music combines the early seventies with today’s vibrations. Sometimes psychedelic, sometimes bluesy, sometimes heavy. In our own way and style, it’s very emotional music.
Angie: What are your live shows like?
Kuba: Our concerts are always full of energy and we really don’t know what will happen next. Of course we have a setlist, but each song is a different journey. We have a glam rock image and we don’t want to say “I’m sorry, I’m shy” on stage. Emotional ups and downs. We rely on feedback from the public. Jimmy Page called it “sexual energy” and there is something to it. We are someone else on stage, charged with energy from people, we give a show that allows them to have fun. What is happening to us on stage is best seen when we leave it. We have a problem with coming back to reality for an hour. And all without any drugs! We think that every concert is a ritual. Because we know that music is the first magic.
Angie: Let’s talk about the album. What was recording Charlie Speaks on the Radio like?
Kuba: Oh it was an interesting process. Interesting because recording each album is something that always takes something of us. This is not a simple recording of a few songs. It can be very exhausting, because we put all our guts and heart into it. And it was no different this time.
We’ve done many experiments with drum recording. We set the microphones far from the amplifiers so that the guitar could fly around the room. Many manual solutions that probably can be done with a single “click” in the digital age, but we are so crazy, so in love with the old analog sound that we wanted to do everything ourselves, even if it would involve breaking the ribs and hands.
However, I remember recording vocals best. It was three long days that joined together into one long day. I didn’t sleep at all and ate almost nothing. I fell into a strange trance and sang these songs full of emotions. Something was boiling in me and it affected the tonality and emission. When I finished, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I listened to my vocals not to be sure if it was me or someone else. I was so charged with the overall vibe of the album that it probably just took me away to some strange place. But that’s our album recording policy. Each album is a different, deep journey.
Angie: What makes this album different from the last one?
Kuba: We were recording this album after having had long concert tours and a lot of sleepless nights behind us. We were different people from those who recorded the debut Another Sleepy Album. More experienced in concert travels and better coordinated with each other. We also wanted to record some crazy ideas that go beyond our style. That’s why we didn’t stick to one source on this album, we were simply guided by inspiration and emotions. This album is also frustration and getting rid of illusions about many phenomena on our Polish music scene.
Once we started travelling all over the country and giving concerts, we naturally started to meet many bands that loudly proclaimed hippie ideals, referred to the same inspirations as us, something about brotherhood, etc. We began to dream of a common scene of such bands. The ideal was the stage in San Francisco in the 1960s. Ah dreams! We were ready for cooperation, friendships, making festivals etc.
It turned out later that this is just a nice talk that probably sounds good when you pick up girls. The bands turned out to be lazy, exaggerated, and weak in same time, and false. Everyone does their own thing. And I don’t mind. But we had naive hopes. Well, nonsense. The recording of the album also coincided with the fact that we began to appear in competitions organised by the music industry. We saw this world from behind and suddenly we found that there is probably no place for us in Poland.
Our music sounds in a certain way, English language dominates, apart from the two songs we recorded in our native language, again hoping that maybe we will go in this direction. Finally, we decided that we would continue to do it in our own style, without compromise. But this time we will start to aim our music at foreign audience. So Charlie is an album that has all these emotions. You can hear it in songs and you can see it on the front cover.
Angie: What are your favourite songs on the album?
Kuba: I love “Ms.Sunset”. It’s summer inside the song, and all the illusions that you have when it’s hot and pleasant.
“There’s still chance for that blind Man” – listen to this slide guitar, flying around, haunted and crazy! And of course lyrics – all of it is true.
“Love” is great too, it’s like a musical journey, taking you away, through the clouds, places and planets.
“Grasping for Resurrection” the heaviest one, but still crazy with these jazz parts.
And of course, “Sweet Sweat and a Dozen Roses”. I was reading a biography of the French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette at the time. The world of Paris before World War II especially appealed to me. All these poets, liars, bastards, prostitutes, actors, drug addicts. Everyone full of poetry, taste and secrets. I drank wine and wrote a poem that turned into a song. There are a lot of metaphors referring to my life and what was happening around me at that time. But it’s best if everyone finds something of their own in it.
Angie: Is most of your following in Poland or outside of Poland?
Kuba: Well, most listeners comes from Poland so far. For the long time, we just played concerts and got fans in the country before there was a moment of self-awareness about our position on the national stage. And now, because we consciously promote our music outside Poland, we have slowly gained fans in America, England and Germany.
Angie: Do you feel like non-Polish speakers are receptive to your Polish songs or do you feel like they would respond better with English songs?
Kuba: Good question! I think that our English songs works better abroad. In my opinion English is the basic language of Rock’n’Roll. I’ve always wanted to sing in the language of my musical heroes.
Although recently our song ‘Agent Orange was played on American radio – By the way big greetings for the KRFF 95.9 Side Stage Show! In Fargo! – The song in Polish. A total surprise that they chose this song!
I don’t even think about how Polish sounds to American listeners! One of my English friends once said that for him Polish sounds like the sound of playing on the drums. All these elements “ksch”, “psch”, and other words with strange sound. So I guess someone who speaks English, who listens to songs in Polish, can only focus on the sound of the vocals and how something is played.
Angie: I remember you saying your goal was to get to the US. Where in the US do you want to go and why?
Kuba: We have small but brave plans to visit California. We feel that there is an ancient source of our music. We want to stand on that land and see if we like it. By the way, the big surprise for us was that there is still a stage of psychedelic hippie bands. The girls dress in a specific way, the guys looks like guys from documents about Swinging London guys haha! And everyone meets at concerts and they seem to be very open. Of course we want to play to any audience we can. We want to play our music for them and see if we fit the west coast. A Polish band that is inspired by American music is quite an exotic phenomenon. Especially with our sound. California we are coming!
Angie: Where else do you dream of touring?
Kuba: Great Britain is another target. We also have plans to visit Germany, our neighbours.
Angie: Who are your favourite American and Polish bands?
Kuba: I’m a little ignorant when it comes to the Polish music scene. I don’t follow the news. I am totally in love with American and British music. And even if we close only in the 60’s and 70’s, I still discover something new. But! There are two exceptions on the Polish scene. Both female. The first is Ania Rusowicz. A great artist. Ania is also inspired by the 60’s and 70’s, she is a magical soul and I consider her as my older sister. I had the pleasure to meet her and I really value this friendship.
Note from the editor: A spot on suggestion. Ania Rusowicz reminds me so much of Grace Slick and Mariska Veres. Goes to show you that you really miss out if you only listen to music in your native language.
The second artist is Marta Zalewska. Marta also has similar inspirations, her own style, and all I have to do is get drunk with her somewhere, cheers!
Angie: What have you been listening to lately?
Kuba: Recently, I was a little obsessed with Dorothy, her last album produced by Linda Perry knocked me off my feet. I have also passionately listened to everything from Mamas & Papas lately. I even had a dream with Mama Cass. She said to me “you Poles have a really strange songs” – she is right haha!
Angie: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
Kuba: If you feel the music inside you so strong and you want to play it – Never worry about anybody and anything. Be persistent. If you treat music as magic, all the rest will work in its own order.
You can follow James Button Band on Facebook, Bandcamp, and Instagram.
Shoutout to my friends Patrick and Matt for supporting the blog.
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