The Olympia Theatre, Dublin: 14th June, 2019.
Scala & Kolacny Brothers are a unique musical project. They are an indie-rock choir, comprising two brothers, Steven and Stijn Kolacny, and Scala, their all-girl choir. Steven plays the piano, Stijn is the conductor. The brothers usually perform with 15-20 singers, aged 16- 30. Currently the choir has more than 150 singers which allows to perfectly meet the ever growing demand for concerts.
Scala & Kolacny Brothers revisit classic rock and indie songs and reinvent them as elegiac hymns – to breathtaking effect. In the early years, the piano was the sole accompaniment to the voices. Nowadays Scala performs throughout the world, still with the piano on stage, but also with drums, sequencers and synthesizers.
The inspiration to do rock songs came to Steven in 2001 after a friend in London sent him a Radiohead CD with some recordings the band had done for the radio station XFM, including a live version of “Creep.” “There was something so touching and emotional in his performance.” Scala & Kolacny Brothers had already been going for a number of years – the brothers had formed the choir in 1996 and it became successful in their native Belgium, where it was voted Choir of the Year for 1999-2000. But it was a traditional, classical choir, “performing for older audiences” says Steven, which was “very nice, but you always play the same old music again and again. It’s like cover versions – there are a trillion cover versions of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. And I didn’t like the feeling much, so that’s why I started making my own music”.
Stijn took some persuading. He was worried that the classical press would see Steven’s “indie-rock choir” idea as a cheap gimmick. His fears appeared well founded when the brothers expanded their repertoire to include their new songs in traditional choir competitions – they were disqualified from one for using “bad language”. But before a backlash could begin, interest in their music soared in the rock press and on the radio, leading to a record deal with PIAS in 2002; their debut album, “Scala on the Rocks”, went gold within weeks of its release.
In its new indie-rock incarnation, Scala & Kolacny Brothers found fame in France and Germany, releasing albums in French (Respire in 2004) and German (Grenzenlos in 2005). In 2006, they signed to EMI and launched their own record label and production company, Fratelli. They have released two albums on Fratelli, including “Paper Plane”, a 2008 Belgium- only release of original songs written by Steven. Steven even had a club hit with the dance music track “I Fail” that he recorded with the Belgian DJ Regi.
When the email arrived in May 2010, the Kolacny brothers thought it was some kind of joke. It purported to be from Hollywood, an enquiry about their music. There was a particular song they’d done that would perfectly suit the trailer of a forthcoming movie, it said. “Yeah,” the brothers thought, “right.” It wasn’t the sort of email that two classically trained musicians from a small Belgian town were used to receiving.
But the request was genuine. And the film turned out to be The Social Network. It transpired that the director, David Fincher, is a huge fan. The song in question is a hauntingly beautiful acoustic reworking of Radiohead’s Creep – sung by a female choir accompanied by a single piano. In July 2010, two months after the brothers received the email, the Social Network trailer was released – featuring Scala's version of Creep. The powerful music was centre stage, heightening a growing sense of unease like a chorus of fallen angels. Like the film itself, the trailer has been a huge global hit – more than 250 million people have seen in the cinema, on TV or online. Thanks in part to the subsequent buzz on social media, traffic to the brothers’ website went through the roof: their interpretation of Creep is an internet phenomenon.
2011 has been a breakout year for Scala & Kolacny Brothers as they conquered the United States and Canada with a major tour, in support of their first North American CD release, including dates in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago as well as headlining stages at SXSW and Coachella. This success was immediately followed by a first record release in the U.K., a sold out show at London's Union Chapel and a triumphant ‘special guest’ performance at the Latitude Festival, where they played the prestigious and exclusive Sunday noon slot. 2011 has brought Scala & Kolacny Brothers the status of international phenomenon and it all seemed to start with a simple email.
After performing abroad for months, in 2013 the Kolacny Brothers entered the recording studio for one of the most ambitious artistic Scala productions ever: the Black Moon album and concert tour which ended here in 2014 and allowed them to première in Singapore and South Korea. Original songs - all by Steven Kolacny, well-thought-out choreographies and an amazing light show all magically turned into a mesmerizing performance.
In 2015, exactly 10 years after the release of "Respire" and "Grenzenlos", Scala is going to launch two brand new albums practically simultaneously, viz. "Et si on était des anges" and "Unendlich", an all-French and an all-German album, respectively. Two releases which once again show the group's great commitment towards its local audiences and the strong bond with them.
Scala’s music has been used in many trailers, TV series and documentaries, among others “The Simpsons”, “Homeland”, “Downton Abbey”, “Evolve” and “Montage of Heck”, the authorized documentary on Kurt Cobain.
Meanwhile, their live act has evolved into a formidable multimedia experience featuring custom-made video projections, animation, light shows, electronic sampling. The girls’ headset mics allow them to move freely onstage or even mingle among the audiences. They continually reinvest in the latest technology for their live shows – audio and video equipment, new film clips, ... “And that’s really powerful,” says Stijn. They attract a far more varied audience than they did in their classical days – now classical fans young and old mix with rock fans and indie kids. Gig venues can be anything from churches to rock venues for a couple of thousand fans to huge outdoor performances and music festivals.
They now travel like a rock band in three state-of-the-art tour buses. “Can you imagine, all those young women on tour?” laughs Steven. “It’s pretty much rock’n’roll – so you need to have discipline or after a few dates you will have singers being ill.” Having a large roster helps. “It took years to learn our lesson, but now we ensure there are always other singers available.”
Early April 2016: Scala turned 20! Celebrating this anniversary meant 11 concerts in Aarschot (Scala’s hometown), several concerts in Europe and the release of the album “20 years Scala”. The small local choir, a nice hobby for many youngsters at the time, has become a successful international project, from Aarschot to Saint Petersburg, New York, Berlin, Seoul, ... “We have managed to place the small town of Aarschot on the world map. Involvement and creativity, but above all believing in our own abilities and trusting the people whom we work with have allowed us to become what we are today and to keep performing enthusiastically even after 20 years for our fantastic audiences!»
Scala & Kolacny Brothers have been asked to perform on the international music scene and in Belgium and go on reinventing and improving their own success formula based on the intimate and unique sound of the Scala voices.
Scala and Kolacny Brothers