“Solidaritine is the substance that unlocks our empathy and our full human potential. I suppose it’s a brother of Adrenaline… or, at least, it rhymes with it. So turn your Adrenaline into Solidaritine and let’s go! May this be your punky uplift for our packed with troubled times.” – Eugene Hutz, Gogol Bordello
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Perseverance carries us through the most turbulent, traumatic, and trying of times. When all hope seems lost, it shines a light from the inside that’s impossible to extinguish.
That light also burns bright at the heart of Gogol Bordello.
Since 1999, the band have consistently riled up audiences with an inimitable patchwork of raucous punk and Eastern European Gypsy-swing. Since then, these sonic insurgents have been on the verge of infiltrating the mainstream, remaining undeniably embedded within the zeitgeist. A multicultural band that combines Eastern, Western and also Latin traditions, they’re the rare force who could light up stages alongside System of a Down and Primus, go on Warped Tour alongside Rancid and Dropkick Murphys, duet with Regina Spektor, cut an album with Rick Rubin or Steve Albini, or appear in art house films such as Liev Schreiber’s Everything Is Illuminated with Elijah Wood or Filth and Wisdom helmed by Madonna. Gogol Bordello is also the subject of several documentaries, including Gogol Bordello Non-Stop, The Pied Piper of Hutzovina, and a new one in the making.
“Just as Adrenaline is the substance that is linked with alarming us and often preserving our lives, SOLIDARITINE is all of that… plus empathy and unity. It’s a kind of a collective Adrenaline,” explains frontman Eugene Hutz about the title of their eighth full-length studio album SOLIDARITINE. This title reflected the shift of the times in terms of political and cultural polarity, violence, and strife, addressing it head-on.
“Songwriting is a sacred craft and punk is a great place for it,” says Eugene. “For me, punk rock was always about that Woody Guthrie-ness and work-ethic: ‘All you fascists are bound to lose!’ It’s music of pure impact with that experience-driven intellectual insight into class struggle that comes only with working class territory without the bullshit or pseudo-musicality. “
The New York-based collective—Eugene Hutz (vocals, guitar), Sergey Ryabtsev (violin), Pedro Erazo (vocals, percussion), Boris Pelekh (guitar), Ashley Tobias (vocals), Korey Kingston (drums), and Gil Alexandre (bass) proclaim the spirit of resilience in the face of adversity louder than ever on SOLIDARITINE (Casa Gogol/Cooking Vinyl]. “Our music was always about perseverance,” says Eugene. “Take a group of people who have endured immigrant traumas and dislocation and then through the magic of band-synergy and band-alchemy, they make something out of it—like an uplifting gypsy punky party that entertains and inspires people worldwide. Suddenly, humankind encounters a worldwide pandemic, war, and multiple calamities. This is when punk rock is needed the most and where Gogol performs the best because that’s where we came from. It’s not like we’re invincible, but I feel like maybe we got a bit of natural resilience. When the Chernobyl disasters happened in 1986, I was only 13. That was my first evacuation.”
In 2021 as the live music world reawakened from the pandemic pause, Gogol Bordello was one of the first to restart touring, but inevitably several members caught Covid and left the tour to recover. Eugene grabbed an electric guitar along with his usual acoustic and played them both interchangeably to finish the tour.
“When I got home, I wrote SOLIDARITINE from that mindset of keeping things going no matter what,” he explains about the energetic rush he still had post-tour. “Usually I write on the acoustic to make sure the song works as a bonfire-style version first. This time, it was loud and electric and full of adrenaline from the get-go.”
There was no one better to capture this unbridled spirit than hardcore legend Walter Schreifels (Gorilla Biscuits, Rival Schools, Quicksand). Retreating to Vermont to cut the bulk of SOLIDARITINE over a four-day session, the band and Schreifels found a dynamic working relationship.
“Working with Walter felt like when you start a band with your best friend at 14, bouncing things off each other to make them more sizzling,” says Eugene excitedly. “It was such a joy to watch Walter sizzling it up in the studio, sharing so many common references, and guiding processes confidently. I was bummed we finished in no time!”
“My intro to Gogol Bordello was at a festival where they are just undeniable. I got to with tour them, which was amazing to see the layers of subtlety in their performance,” explains Schreifels. “Working with them in the studio is where I really came to appreciate the genius of the band and Eugene’s songwriting in particular. When they play live, there’s the excitement of so many unique players swinging in and out of musical view like pirates whipping the ship within inches of its capsize but only by the strength of the songs does it keep from tipping over. Every song on this record has its central lyrical point to make, backed with passion, intelligence, and an unyielding sense of fun. Despite the amount of care and attention to detail, the key to a great Gogol Bordello song is its sense of joy and natural occurrence, as if it was just appeared out of the ether. As a songwriter, it was a joy to be swept up in the energy of SOLIDARITINE as it took shape.”
Back from Vermont, the music was mixed at Rift studios and added a handful of tracks previously recorded at legendary DC Inner Ear studios with Don Zientara (Fugazi, Bad Brains, Dag Nasty), including a rip-roaring cover of Fugazi’s “Blueprint.”
The track “The Era of the End of Eras” was blessed with a cameo by H.R. of Bad Brains, who punctuates the song with a key moment from the Bad Brains anthem “Sailin’ On.” Eugene smiles, “Walter and I were practically in tears when H.R.’s voice was added to the mix. It discusses worlds collapsing around us like dominos.” “Fire on Ice Floe” is the closet case philosopher, tackling the riddles of our lives on the dance floor, while the funky “Knack for Life” rages against age discrimination and is an ode to the kind of street smarts they don’t make anymore.
“Attention is the hardest currency there is, so invest in that,” suggests the song “Focus Coin,” where Schreifels and Hutz pack their combined hyper sonic energy into a hook-after-hook stomper. “The song is about people losing their ability to focus because their filters are broken and nobody is coming to fix it,” Eugene explains. “So you’ve got to become your own disinformation analyst. Quality of your attention defines quality of your life.”
Seeing the tragedies in Eugene’s homeland of Ukraine, Gogol Bordello released the single “Forces of Victory” (feat. Ukrainian Nobel prize nominee poet and singer Serhiy Zhadan and electrofolk Ukrainian artists Kazka), which features jaw-dropping word smithery and moral bust for the fighting nation uplifted by virtuoso violin from Sergey.
Eugene tells a different story about his homeland on “Huckleberry Generation,” which finds him back in the corner of Kyiv he called home in a nostalgic anthem ripe for a singalong. “My borough back in Kyiv was very much like the Bronx,” he says. “There are a lot of housing projects and pretty much nothing else. There were urban tensions, cliques, and danger and it looked like a coloring book, before you colored it in. So I always felt like Huckleberry Finn. It’s how we grew up. This was a dedication to being street smart and surviving.”
“Even though SOLIDARITINE combines everything in the clusterfuck around us and respects the issues the world is going through, it’s not directly attached to the war since it was completed before it escalated. SOLIDARITINE is about the pure impact of solving these problems and remaining upbeat about them no matter what they are. It’s about elevating above all the things that weigh us down,” Eugene affirms. “We just want to make an album with the timeless messages of human potential, empathy, and humor too.”
“If you go to Ukraine now, people are fighting with integrity, heroism, and, believe it or not, humor too,” he concludes. “Despite anything, the Ukrainian people somehow just find a way to rise above these atrocities. They are demonstrating exactly that human potential that we are talking about. It’s there within us if you cultivate it”