“I won’t bow, I won’t beg to your lack of respect / The big desert you spread in my head”
Peddling intelligent bluesy-folk with a gypsy jazz swing to it, Antun Opic has been creating rumblings over in Europe for a while now. After cutting his teeth in Munich street band Wildwuxx and getting his onstage education touring with punk-cabaret group Strom & Wasser, Opic decided to set off on his own, enlisting the help of acoustic bassist Horst Richard Fritscher and guitarist Tobias Kavelar (who actually used to teach Opic guitar).
While Opic’s driving guitar and idiosyncratic vocals take centre stage, Kavelar’s fluid lead embellishments complement Opic’s gypsy rhythms in the same way Stéphane Grapelli’s slinky violin lines kept Django Reinhardt on his toes. Meanwhile, Fritscher’s mellifluous bass playing anchors their ramshackle grooves and together the trio evoke the musical raggedness of Tom Waits, fused with the wild-eyed conviction of The Birthday Party era Nick Cave.
Although he was born in Croatia, Opic was mostly raised in Germany with his family making regular trips to see his grandparents in Croatia, even during times of war. “Much of the sunny country I used to call home had suddenly turned into a political hot spot,” he says. “Today it is mostly a desolate place and people are traumatised”. As a result of his mixed upbringing Opic feels rootless, saying “I come from Croatia and Germany: A half breed. So, I don’t feel home anywhere.”
Perhaps that is why his songs are populated by wanderers and outsiders, the kind of Film Noir strays that Opic freely admits are “the ones you don’t want to know, actually”. Some, like the embittered snitch of ‘The Informer’ or the twisted enforcer of ‘Juanita Guerolita’ are vicious misfits. Meanwhile, others are just looking for a way out as on ‘Moses – Let My People Go’ which approaches traditional tales of exodus from a new perspective. This assortment of Brechtian characters comes partly from Opic’s love of theatre, but also from the distance that writing in another language affords him, as he reveals “I think and I speak in German, but when writing in English I step back and I can create a character which has nothing to do with myself”.
After putting out an album of demos entitled You Can Spare A Dime on his own digital label Antuned, Opic released his first album proper, No Offense, in September of last year. Rather than hiring a producer the trio decided to record and produce the album themselves, allowing them to push each other further in what Fritscher describes as “a constant creative process”. The band have had considerable success in Europe, touring across Germany, France, Croatia, Slovenia and recently made their UK debut with a show in London last month. Although there are no further UK shows planned as of yet, it is a significant step toward Opic’s desire to bring his songs to an international audience and more are sure to follow soon (we hope!).