Gogol Bordello has been releasing expressly anti-hegemonic music since 1999 under the banner of gypsy-punk. Now in their 14th year, the group have just released their eighth studio album, entitled Pura Vida Conspiracy (translation, “pure life conspiracy”) – one that represents a period of philosophical enlightenment for the band.
On stage, founding member Eugene Hütz is reminiscent of a whirlwind as he cavorts across the stage, moving from spitting words into the microphone to a guitar solo or a face-off with accordion player Pasha Newmer. So it comes as no surprise that on the phone from his part-time home in Rio de Janeiro, Hütz talks about the album as though it’s an ungraspable concept, constantly changing form and meaning.
“One of the obstacles nowadays is that people think too much about music – they think too much, period. Everybody confuses intelligence with thinking – or rather, they confuse consciousness and thinking,” says Hütz. “People are misinformed who believe thinking is the sole activity of the mind. I believe the ultimate activity of the mind is insight and intuition and revelation, and that doesn’t come from thinking, that comes from perceiving and observing and experiencing, and not necessarily over-analysing. Pura Vida Conspiracy revolves precisely around that – this music demands your attention to exist in the present.”
Pura Vida Conspiracy also represents a huge personal revelation for Hütz about what has kept the band constant since 1999. Gogol Bordello has become far more than just him telling a bunch of other musicians what to do. “Gogol Bordello is a band that produces music that propels this kind of transparent feeling, a kind of subconscious momentum. For example, if I start feeling that I’m having too many thoughts in the back of my mind while I am doing the show, I see that as my cue to change the set. That feeling means the performance is not a moving meditation anymore. And that’s kind of how we keep the songwriting technique fresh.”
“This album came to [exist] because the band was actually whistling to each other and using rehearsals as kind of a collective revelation. On our previous records it was me who wrote all the songs and the band is just backing me, but here we all propel the creative energy.”
One song from Pura Vida that feels like something new for Gogol Bordello thematically is the seemingly very personal ‘Lost Innocent World’.It features the lyrics, “Lost innocent world, where did you go? / I paid too high a price.” But Hütz blows this theory out of the water, contending that the song in fact speaks a universal message. “In a way, that song is personal to the whole of civilisation. There’s an old saying that, ‘Every man has to go through his hell to get to his heaven’ … it is still just as vital now that we have gone through this process. It sounds paradoxical, you constantly submit to change so that you can stay the same; you constantly need to upgrade the essence of yourself to remain yourself. The more I change the more I feel like I am when I was 16.”
“I am 40 this year – I am completely shocked by it every time I remember it,” Hütz adds. “I just don’t feel like how people describe it to me as what it is like being 40. For me it is pretty fucking great actually.”
BY DENVER MAXX
Pura Vida Conspiracy is out now through PIAS.