How many albums have Odd Crew released? Erm… Where are they next playing live? Just give us a sec on that one… How long have Odd Crew have been together? That’s easy – 25 years. With no, repeat, NO (one more time for the people at the back – NO!) line-up change. Jo Wright’s got a word limit to stick to, she’s got their new album ‘Dark Matters Part II’ to reviewed already, but she can’t, nay, won’t get over the fact this is a band that has been together for a quarter of a flipping century…
(Six, and Bulgaria and Serbia by the way…)
Family. There are a fair few clichés Devo could use to really hammer home the point that Odd Crew are, indeed, like a family. A family affair? Friends are the family you choose? Mmmmm. Lead singer Vasko Raykov can do a better job than Devo’s years of studying and practising journalism ever could. ‘I think it’s more than friendship,’ he says. ‘Friends hang out together and do cool stuff. We’re more like a family because we go through all the bullshit too. There’s really good times as well as really bad times.’
‘We grew up together,’ says drummer Bonzy Georgiev. ‘The band was part of our lives before we were grown-ups. I don’t remember life before it!’
Vasko tells Devo, ‘We started when we were kids. Our guitar player (Vasil Parvanovski) and I, we wanted to form a band when we were 10. When we were 11 our bass player (Martin Stoyanov) joined – we were at the same school. Bonzy came along aged 8 and we just loved playing music. We were really into Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and we wanted that kind of life. So we managed to keep it together and keep it going, and 25 years later here we are!’
Bulgarian alt metal institution Odd Crew have stayed solid over all this time, but the same can’t be said for the world around them and us – for better or for worse. ‘In terms of music everything’s changed,’ says Vasko. ‘[In Bulgaria] everything has always evolved 30 years behind what is happening in the USA and the UK, and the other leading musical countries. Our dream was always to keep up! Technology has helped us a lot to get to where we wanted to be, and now it’s common sense to use everything we have at our disposal to make our music better. But we still like getting together and jamming, and trying out stuff.
‘In general, for us, technology has worked well. My personal problem is it made a lot of musicians lazy, because they can now record in their bedrooms and this is not how a band should work. A band should get together and feel the energy of everyone.’
So how about the matter in hand? ‘Dark Matters Part II’ to be precise…
‘We just started a tour and [the reception’s] really great,’ Vasko tells us. ‘I think a lot of people have expectations of what it will be like because of ‘Dark Matters Part I’ but they’re kind of different vibes.’ As well as their new release going down a treat, it also feels good for Odd Crew to be playing live. ‘A band is a band when it’s on the road,’ smiles Bonzy.
Music-wise there is plenty more to look forward to. ‘Dark Matters Part III’ will be released next year, followed by ‘Part IV’ in 2025. Oh, and they’ve started work on another new album too. These boys like to be busy.
Bonzy has done all his drum parts for the ‘Dark Matters’ series, and he tells Devo he can’t wait for the next project. For Vasko, however, there is still work to be done. He explains, ‘I’m still finishing the lyrics for ‘Part III’. We have the guitars laid out, and everything else, but I’m still re-doing some of the lyrics!’
Don’t forget the day jobs either…. Bonzy teaches drums, Vasil Parvanovski teaches guitar, Vasko Raykov records and produces for other bands, and bassist Martin works with a company involved in acoustic projects for cinemas and studios.
Are there enough hours in the day for these boys? ‘For us, Odd Crew is number one. It always has been, so we managed our lives around having Odd Crew as plan A,’ says Vasko, before adding, ‘I personally didn’t have a plan B. Plan A took a lot of effort and nerve. Now all of us have families and we have to manoeuvre how things are going to go, because of our kids and everything else. But the good thing is our families are now part of our band family, and they know what it takes and are really supportive of us.’
The four boys who started the band as children now have children of their own. The family has grown, and if you’re a fan (affectionately known as an Odd Crew Zombie) you’re one of the family too. The guys speak fondly of their fans during our interview, and absolutely love engaging with them live too, with Vasko admitting to Devo, ‘I think sometimes I overdo it! The band tries to block me by starting a song while I’m still talking! But it’s so cool to speak with the audience.’ He adds, ‘It’s about sharing a moment. You can feel the vibes in the air. Sometimes you think you’re at a party and you can just speak to everyone!’
Vasko and Bonzy have been an absolute joy to speak with. You could argue that their friendly and easy personalities are at odds with ‘Dark Matters Part II’ which is doomy, heavy, exploratory metal with frequent doses of headbanging opportunities. If you did argues this, however, you’d be wrong. Because underpinning the record are uplifting riffs, and intricacies which are the sound equivalent of optimism and positivity, with Vasko’s vocals as hopeful as they are haunting.
Music is Odd Crew’s lives. It’s what they have focused on since forever, it’s what they do every day and it’s what the future hold for them too.
Because as Vasko says, there was no plan B. ‘I wouldn’t change a second,’ he says. ‘I love all the mistakes we’ve made because they’ve taught us so much, and I wouldn’t do anything else with my life.’