Scala On The Rocks

Scala On The Rocks are regulars on the Festival circuit in Europe, but it wasn't till XFM picked up on their cover of U2's "With Or Without You" that the band really got noticed in the UK. The basic premise of the band is based around 2 brothers, the Kolacny's, who arrange the likes of U2, Depeche Mode, Muse, Radiohead and Sinead O'Connor to just a piano and a 60 Strong Girls Youth Choir. Designer Magazine spoke to Steven Kolacny about the differences between rock and classical music and we've also persuaded them to cover either S Club 8 or Phixx when they play their first ever UK concert.

Q: Blurring the lines between traditional classical music and & contemporary rock music can often turn out sounding like an embarrassing novelty, but  Scala On The Rocks have done it with a refined style. When you started was there an effort to come across seriously as a valid musical force?
A:When we started rehearsing the ‘On the Rocks’ arrangements, it was just some improvisation. We didn't know what to do or what would happen. We had no plans for recording all that stuff or making CDs. We just tried to create something we had never heard before: a new (choir) sound, a new kind of rock song cover.

Q: Why did you decide to simply arrange the songs with piano and vocals. Was it never the intention to include a full orchestra?
A: I like to “undress” the songs we cover. I mean: less instruments = pure result. Mostly, I'm inspired by the original band, playing an acoustic version of the song (only guitar or piano). But maybe Scala will work with a full orchestra in the future.

Q: How do you go about deciding which songs to cover? Is there any set criteria you go by when choosing a song?
A: 1° We all have to like the song, the band and what they stand for. 2° I must be able to play my arrangement on the piano (no drum solos or R&B vocals, etc.). 3° There (mostly) has to be a very strong melody - the more (vocal) technique, the better. 4° If possible, the lyrics have to be interesting (and be part of the Scala girls’ world). But there are not really any “rules”.

Q: Are they any songs which are just too big or personal to yourself to imagine covering?
A: No, not really. But in the beginning, I had problems covering Radiohead (Creep) because I'm a big fan of the band. But now I think that covering some of their songs, and trying to add something to their music, demonstrates the biggest respect you can have for the band.

Q: Do you ever get feedback from the artists you've covered?
A: Yes! Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters & ex-Nirvana) likes the cover of ‘Smells like Teenspirit’ very much. Same goes for the members of Muse and Indochine. Nicola Sirkis is a really BIG fan!

Q: Have any artists refused permission in the past for you to cover their songs?
A: No! J

Q: Do you believe Radiohead, Depeche Mode and Sinead O'Connor will be seen in the same way as classical composers are now in 200 years time?
A: It depends: not all the bands will stand the test of time, but the best will! I'm sure that Radiohead, for example, will be like “classical music” in 200 years time. Its always the same: “cool” pop or rock music will become like “cool” classical music eventually! Or else people will forget it!

Q: The choice of The Divinyls "I Touch Myself" seems quite an abstract choice in the context of the album. Why did you choose this song in particular?
A: It was a bit like the “joke” of the CD. Often, people make jokes about the fact that 2 brothers are surrounded by 60 beautiful young women! “I touch myself” is the song for all those men in the audience, who just come to see “girls” (only 2.5 % of the Scala-audience! J)

Q: Are you of the believe that a good song is a good song regardless of the genre or do you hold the theory that "pop" music is less credible artistically?
A: “Credible” is a very dangerous word! Yes, good song = good song. There is not that much difference between Schubert songs and U2 songs (played on a piano!!) And you will always find trash in all kind of genres.

Q: Would you cover Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake or something of that ilk?
A: Britney Spears? Don't know. Justin Timberlake? Why not.

Q: We've got 2 great british pure pop acts, S Club 8 (formerly known as S Club Juniors) and Phixx. You can listen to a few tracks on Kazaa or the internet. Please Please Please cover one of their songs for us as Designer Magazine readers would love to hear it?
A: OK, why not make a competition of it – let your readers chose their favourite S Club 8 or Phixx song. I will listen to it, make a cover (if possible), and we will sing it at our first concert in the UK!

Q: Throughout Europe you do major festival appearances. Are you going to be doing any live shows in the UK at all this year
A: We would really LOVE to come to London, or some place in the UK! A perfect dream! I’ll start praying now...

"Dream On" is out now
For more info

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Also you can vote for which Phixx or S Club 8 tune you want the band to cover