RSS B0YS appeared out of nowhere with a buoyant and ritualistic take on techno. Although the identities of the project’s two constituents are veiled in mystery, it’s no secret that they hail from Poland and are affiliated with one of the country’s most important imprints, Mik Musik. The duo’s penchant for enigma is mirrored in its cryptic song titles and the name of its latest album, HDDN, which surfaced in January. The music therein follows in a rhythmic, technoid trajectory to trance-enducing shamanistic effect, a tendency that’s apparent on the unreleased bonus tracks they’ve sent us as an exclusive premiere.
The pair’s compelling compositions earned them a spot on the SHAPE roster, a platform for innovative music and audiovisual art linked with the ICAS network—check out our recent news story about the upcoming ICAS Festival for a complete description of the program. The association has won them slots at three innovative events this month, first at the MeetFactory in the Czech Republic on April 9, then at the SHAPE showcase at the Intonal Festival in Malmö, Sweden, and then at ICAS’s eponymous festival in Dresden. Although RSS B0YS are staunchly anti-hype—their debut release was titled W D0NT BLV N HYP—we’re pretty much frothing with excitement about their forthcoming performances, so we met up with them to chat with them in an attempt to uncover some information about the secretive Polish project.
Lucia Lucia Udvardyová: What is the genesis of RSS B0YS?
Boy1: The general idea was to test how anonymity in music affects people. It was a fight against ego and hype, so our first album was entitled W D0NT BLV N HYP. It was just a test, and then it appeared that next steps should follow, that if you say something unusual you need to take it further.
In what way?
B1: For the first two years, it was only a studio project. Then we realized that it would be nice to play live shows and that it was necessary to rethink the idea. Obviously, it’s really complicated to play shows anonymously, especially in the beginning when we had no idea how to stay ourselves and not exaggerate. From the moment RSS B0YS started to play live, the real work started. The new album definitely is the result of this live work. We’re at a moment when we can refuse our initial ideas, like the Afro-techno concept, and we can do whatever we like and remain ourselves.
Was it a conscious choice to choose Afro-inspired techno because of the rhythms, like a sort of primordial tribalist concept?
B1: For me, Africa is at the heart of everything. Humankind comes from there, as do many musical ideas. For us, another keyword could be “post-colonialism,” but right now we’re absolutely not related to anything folksy.
The idea of “post-colonialism” reminds me of a musician from Serbia who claimed to be from Nigeria.
Boy2: We definitely don’t pretend to be African. Non-Western music is a big inspiration for us. It’s just a simple decision to go beyond the Western musical tradition, whether it’s African or Caribbean or otherwise.
Then what’s the most important element of RSS B0YS in terms of audience reception? The dance element?
B1: Yes. The ritual, the catharsis and the dance are interconnected. You can express every feeling with music and dance.
B2: It’s an invitation to the ritual, and we conduct it. It’s symbolic. Ours is not the usual techno stuff.
B1: It’s not even techno really at all. Of course, it has a 4×4 rhythm, and there’s also a provocative element involved, but we move the body and the mind.
B2: Maybe it’s a projection of techno as we would like it to be. We play music that doesn’t exist, the music that we would love to hear at parties. We provide it for ourselves and expand the definition of dance music. We like to push boundaries because usually it gets pretty boring on the dance floor.
But your music is pretty functional, right?
B2: Yes, but you can really expand it and the audience accepts it. You can do a lot of things that other artists might not dare to do.
B1: Maybe we’re also just brave.
B2: Brave, stupid and funny.
B1: When we get onstage, sometimes we hear people laugh because we look unusual and funny—but after five minutes, they’re not laughing anymore.
B2: That’s how we get their attention.
That’s a difficult task these days.
B2: It is. It’s a cheap trick to wear a mask and look different, but it’s fine when it serves a purpose. The mask is only an interface, and it allows us to test things out, attempt to go beyond our usual capabilities and make a lot of mistakes. We often lose ourselves and wake up after an hour, sweating, and the audience is cheering. It’s an emotional experience. It’s not just about going on stage and operating machines; it’s also about inducing a trance, a somehow tribal state. Wearing those masks becomes a part of the ritual. And, very often, the audience goes there with us.
So the anonymity liberates you.
B2: Yes, for us as well as the audience. Sometimes when I’m listening to a performance, I feel constrained by the artist’s presence on stage, which skews my judgment. And the thing with RSS B0YS is also intuition. The live performances are thoroughly improvised, and we do things that surpass even our own imaginations. During performances, there’s often a collision between us, a mutual madness. Our output is a stream-of-consciousness that draws upon all of our previous musical experiences. When I was a teenager, I used to dream about doing fully improvised sets; I couldn’t believe it was possible. Now I know that you need to build up some knowledge over the years to be able to do it—you can’t do it at 15. In a way, playing with RSS B0YS fulfills my teenage dreams.
The emphasis on anonymity makes you the ultimate “death of author” band.
B1: It’s getting really complicated. We have a lot of doubts about whether the anonymity makes sense, whether it’s helping us or distorting something in our brains. Sometimes we can’t even see the audience because it is dark, and we don’t use visuals—we only have lamps to help us find the knobs, plus a mask which blurs everything. It’s a psychedelic experience without psychedelics.
B2: It also alters the way we operate our instruments. We can prepare our tracks with full visual help and we go on stage with covered faces and can only control maybe 1/10th of the initial idea. The lights go out and we’re lost, so we have to simplify our thoughts and movements. A smoothness comes out of it, because we need to move a bit slower.
Are you inspired by other masked dance acts?
B1: Like Daft Punk? Burial? No. It’s nice pop, but definitely another philosophy.
Since you’re anonymous, would that mean that the set up of RSS B0YS could change in future and no one would be any the wiser?
B1: We’ve been playing around with the idea of having two performances happen simultaneously, to multiply RSS B0YS. We could send someone else instead of us when we can’t make it, but honesty is really important to us.
You’ve revealed your place of origin, at least.
B2: At this point, it’s no secret that we’re from Poland. There’s no point in pretending that we come from Benin.
B1: But we’ve never said we’re from Benin. We only met there.
The Polish music scene has gained a considerable amount of attention in the press recently. Do you think that’s because of the size of the country, or has something changed in the public perception, or in the country itself?
B1: Something extraordinary has happened, and one of my theories is that it’s just a reaction to the so-called economic “crisis.” Nobody wants to help us, so we must do it ourselves. We’re brave, creative and strong, and finally it’s starting to bear fruit. For years, we’ve lived with an inferiority complex; we had no instruments nor access to fancy equipment, so we thought that we must be somehow worse than other musicians. But we’ve found many ways to make things sound good without all those expensive things.
Finally, we can access almost everything we want in terms of gear, but we still use the tools the way we want, not as manuals prescribe or as musicians we admire from the West use them. All the best artists from Poland right now have developed their own ways of producing music and sounds, but most of all, they employ many unusual ideas and enjoy freedom from any stylistic boundaries. It’s quite a big bunch of people in which everyone is different, and we’re usually very supportive of each other. Of course, we don’t live in paradise; there are lot of things to improve and develop, but I’m quite optimistic.