Right now you’re kind of big deal, but let’s talk about the beginning of your career. I know it was hard to achieve, what you have right now. How do you feel about it, if you had to compare then and now?
You mean how I feel about the shows? It’s simply amazing. When I go back to how it looked before, I remember, we were playing shows in our hometown El Paso, they were pretty little attended. Obviously no one really cared about us. We had a few fans, our friends, but mostly we were not making an impact on the music scene in El Paso. We went to New York, same thing happened. We played a show for, like, one person. Not something I would like to revisit. It was pretty rough. But it didn’t matter; I was there because I love music. So I didn’t need an audience, really. But at some point we uploaded stuff on YouTube and it kind of led us to success. It almost looks like it happened overnight, but we were working on it almost 8 years. It’s pretty wild, but I got used to playing the small venues and great big shows.
It all started in 2016, it was this great boom, then you started putting out songs one by one, sort of teasing the album. How does it feel to finally see the whole thing out, seeing people singing along and jamming to it?
It feels like exactly what you would wish for, that people are getting the album in the exact same way, helping them in tough times and good times as well. It’s just beautiful and it’s nice to see the love returned, what you put out there comes back to you.
Since all the band members were changed, you’re the last “original” one standing. How did you choose the new members, was it totally accidental, or is there some sort of story to it?
It’s strange, because it happened in a very casual way. Cigarettes After Sex was a solo project to begin with. So I was just playing with people live. But it wasn’t till 2012 when I actually had a band to record the songs together, they were all on record. I’ve never done that before. Our keyboard player is playing with me since 2009 and recorded in 2012, so he was like always in the band. At that point, when I left El Paso and went to New York, I was trying to play with some other musicians as well, but they weren’t really cutting it. I just happened to see Randall Miller – bass and Jacob Tomsky – drums; they were playing in another band, sounded great together. So I just pouched them. Phillip and I met in El Paso and Randall and Jacob in New York. We make sort of like an even split, 2 New Yorkers and 2 El Paso guys.
What about your inspirations and the music you actually listen to? Is it the same kind of music, or are you secretly head banging to Marilyn Manson when no one is watching?
Sure (laughter). It’s actually pretty eclectic, but I can go from pop to rock, it can even go to something like metal, like Metallica’s Master of Puppets. So it’s just kind of round the map. I just always listen to music, writing. Why am I saying this is, the songs deep lyrically are making the deepest impact on you. Of course those influences are not the ones I want to spend the whole day with, so I just keep them in a special drawer and reach for them when I need them. But what I will listen to depends from my mood, so sometimes it’s deep and sometimes it’s a silly pop song.
Are you also a fan of today’s hits, like Despacito?
Yes. This is one of the songs you just hear everywhere. Or like Bodak yellow.
This song kind of sinks in. But I’m more of a Miley Cyrus kind of girl, when I need to recharge.
Me too. I like Wrecking Ball and Party in the USA, Adore you, just to name a few.
Since she came back, she seems to be in a very good place, personally and artistically. What about you? Are you feeling like everything is just perfectly in the right place right now?
It’s strange, because we’re always on tour. I mean, it’s amazing, but it sort of interrupts the creative process, since I’m used to writing all the time. So I can’t just focus on creating, since I can’t relax and get to it. We have some great shows behind us, Bratislava, Warsaw, South America and India. Then we go to Australia, Mexico, later we just go back home and focus on the new record. We have two months break, so I’ll just spend those days creating.
Are two months enough?
Not really. We usually write the instrumental part really quickly. But lyrical part usually keeps us a bit back. We have the music already. Now it’s just the matter of lyrics, which I need to sit with and start writing, which is going to be a little tough. So I need to see what I can actually do in two months’ time and if I can actually accomplish anything.
Are you a big star in your hometown?
It’s a good question; I haven’t been back for a while now. I am going there for Christmas. So let’s see.
In a small town you’re always recognized in some way, since the beginning, everybody knows everybody and is in everybody’s business. Is New York better for you personally and creatively? Or were you overwhelmed with the freedom you have in a big city?
I think I’ve spent so much time in El Paso, I kind of absorbed it and there’s nothing else to do for me. After graduation I’ve made a decision to be more serious about music, to create and be sitting here with you as well. So I went to New York to make it happen. New York provides opportunity and inspiration, there are so many great venues, bars, things to see. And actually the next thing to be is to go international. El Paso was like “Oh I know things here, but I can’t stay here”. It felt like people were not interested in the music scene. In New York it felt like people were actually enjoying music, when they joined the band.
Why New York? Why not Los Angeles, for example?
I don’t know. I went there and I thought it was just for fun, but then I started thinking of artistic heritage, all the artists, that come from New York , it’s like unparalleled for me, like Ramones, Martin Scorsese, Andy Warhol, a staging list of artists I think were just unbeatable. To get to that and say “I want to be in this world”, I had to go to New York and try.
I know you’re not playing in America, touring all around the world, but after all those shootings like Manchester and Vegas, does it cross your mind before you go on stage?
I think it is somewhere behind my mind, but I don’t want to be scared, it’s out of my control. It is the same kind of scare, when you’re afraid of being hit by a car. It’s not something predictable. Obviously it is a huge tragedy and there’s no concrete reason behind those shootings. So I choose to not be scared.
How do you feel about America today?
It’s interesting. It’s weird, since we’re so disconnected from it, but I’d say tumultuous, with the president, a big crash, all the crazy ideas, it’s just kind of a mess. When you’re there, people seem happy, but when you go online, it feels very crazy. Online, people are always arguing.
And how do you receive Polish fans? Are they crazier than any other crowd?
I remember the first show, we played in Kraków. People were cheering and singing every line of the song. They were so enthusiastic and so kind to us. We are really so grateful.
This show has sold out status for a while now. It doesn’t happen often. You’re adored here, why do you think people are digging this kind of music?
I think what we provide it’s kind of meditation for your mind, that I think we all just need to slow down our thoughts, before we get too overwhelmed with everything. And every song can help to put it off a little bit. I think music provides us with an escape.
And if music was off the table completely, where would you be?
I would definitely be a filmmaker. And if not this, I would be a painter or something. I love film making as much as music, so I think I would be at home, directing or writing screens. It’s something I actually attempted to do before.
So I’ve read in an interview, all the musicians you played with before 2012 at some point left music and just chose normal jobs. Is that true?
Not exactly. There was always a really casual atmosphere in the band. So the door was always open and sometimes we were just splitting up. Even with the smallest reasons, when people were just unable to go on tour. It’s part of being in a band.
For those eight years you were not touring, what were you doing? Since everyone needs to earn money somehow…
Luckily for me it was always music. I was playing in jazz bands, playing in restaurants and bars. The only job I’ve had beside music was in New York, where I was managing a theater.
No washing dishes, nothing like this? You’re living the dream! Thank you so much for the talk.