Welcome to the sound of The Twoks.
Xani Kolac juggles playing the electric violin, singing and tapping synths barefoot while, Mark Leahy unleashes an arsenal of rhythms on percussion. The pair manage to squeeze gypsy rock, classic violin, jazz and tribal beats into their live performances. Using layers of string, drum and vocal samples as a foundation for their echoing sound, they work it up to a level of frenzy. The kaleidoscope of snares, kicks and bass beats that Mark delivers helps to solidify the mesmerszing melodies and ground Xani’s airy vocals. They push the boundaries further still with their live improv jam session where Xani rocks trancelike, lost in a whirl of sound. Although it is truly experimental, they manage to make it accessible for listeners by weaving the familiar with the undiscovered.
State caught up with them for a chat outside the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne where Xani was performing every night for a month while also gigging at the weekends. “We’re all about the energy,” said Xani, her eyes wide with excitement. This vibrancy is clearly expressed in their new release 240 Volts. The six tracks on this album bring you on a smorgasbord of styles from the more conventional track ’240 Volts’ to the obscure ‘Take Me Home’. Vocals are a key element although the singer admits she still often struggles to ‘work the lyrics into the song’.
The highlight of their European tour earlier this year was performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where they completely sold out the copies of their new album. It came as a “real surprise” to the pair that the crowd received them so well. They also managed pay a visit to Cork to meet some of Mark’s relatives who “all love the music”.
The media has so far defined their sound as “Mozart meets Massive Attack”, “art-pop” and “nu-jazz”. They admit however, “it’s really hard to define or our sound… maybe that’s something we have to work on”.
When describing how The Twoks came about they said it “just kinda happened, we didn’t know each other before, but it just clicked”. The band originally formed as an instrumental trio with a bass player, but over time found drummer Mark at an audition then finally added vocals to the mix. Xani eager to get the sound of a full orchestra without actually having to invest in one experimented until she achieved the current cinematic feel.
Xani studied classical violin for over a decade but didn’t like the constraints so broke away developing her own style while Mark picked up the drums in his teens. Both musicians are heavily influenced by Sigur Ros, while Mark appreciates anything with a strong rhythmic beat.
The Australian duo have won Best Music Act at the Adelaide Fringe, performed at the Melbourne Festival, Brisbane Fringe Festival, State side in New York City and at the Banff Centre in Canada. No doubt, they are on their way up.
They have just announced they will be at the Adelaide Fringe festival again next year. However, the ambitious band want to build on this momentum “I really want to get into more festivals but it’s quite hard to break into here” said Xani. Another European tour might be in the horizon for the band, hopefully with a stop in Ireland, to perform this time.