By Ben Sir
EDMONTON – It’s easy to butcher the pronunciation of Winnipeg-based Zrada’s name (Ze-rah-da: you’re welcome) if one doesn’t speak Ukrainian. Given that the band sings in their heritage tongue it’s an easy detail to draw focus to, and one that Andriy Michalchyshyn knew was a potential impediment to their band’s exposure.
“We knew there was a danger in being from one ethnic community. Really, we want to play world music and to as many audiences as possible,” he explains over the phone from the plains of Manitoba.
One of the descriptors often used with Zrada is “ethno-fusion” — an intriguing yet ambiguous term that makes obvious sense if you search for the band’s videos on YouTube. Their style is distinctly Eastern European, though the raucous, jumping and dancing audiences are not. The live show clearly connects with Canadian audiences despite the linguistic barrier.
“We’re in our own little world, but when you play you have to give the audience credit,” says Michalchyshyn. “We’re no longer emulating a folk style, and that’s needed.”
Michalchyshyn adds that there is some doubt that can accompany playing alternative ethnic music within an Anglo-culture. “Suspend your own disbelief. Sometimes you ask yourself, ‘Should I be doing this?’ and question it.”
Yet despite those doubts, 2019 is a year of expansion for the band. The lineup has changed bringing some new creative fuel to the collective fire, and the creative process has become more collaborative. In the past Michalchyshyn wrote most of the material, and having new contributors has been a welcome change.
Since releasing their last album Legend in 2016, the band has debated what medium to focus on in the future. They debuted the new single “The Fog” online in November as they prepare to re-release Legend.
“None of us do this full time, we all have day jobs,” explains Michalchyshyn. “The new questions for artists are, ‘Do you write or release something as an album or individually? Is it going to get a million plays? Is it going to make your money back?’” It’s a frequent conversation amongst musicians, but for the time being the band is focused on their immediate itinerary, with their first Alberta shows in a number of years.
Zrada are at The Station On Jasper in Edmonton on Jan. 25 and at Broken City in Calgary as part of BIG Winter Classic on Jan. 26.BIG Winter Classic, Broken City, punk, The Station on Jasper, Zrada