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The Scarlet Opera Talk About Their Brand New EP 'Comedy'

The Scarlet Opera is a Los Angeles five-piece band, which is led by Luka Bazulka, the band members include Colin Kenrick (keyboard), Daniel Zuker (bass), Justin Siegal (drums), and Chance Taylor (guitar). They released their debut single, "The Place To Be," followed by "Big City Thing" last year. With their recent release, "Alive," all off of their EP, Comedy, which came out March 24th, they are headed on tour this April.

Press image for the Los Angeles-based pop rock group The Scarlet Opera.
Photo courtesy of Kirby Gladstein.

You’ve explored different topics in your music. What would you say is your favourite topic to explore when making music?

Probably without intending it to be, my youth, childhood, and Pennsylvania. That and wild nights out I’ve had with my friends, I probably say yes more than I should. It has made for a great wealth of stories to tell. I pull a lot from my childhood, and that actually surprised me while writing the EP. I’m finding that I’m writing about my youth a lot. Not so much lessons learned, as much as just stories and memories.

You have a very distinct and gorgeous sense of style that has been prominent in your concerts. Do you have any specific inspirations or influences behind your stylistic choices?

Luka dresses us until we met him, we were in sweatpants. He said this is not going to work you’re backing me on stage boys. We’ve worked with some wonderful people, Athena Lawton, who has done a lot of personal styling for Luka and some custom designs, Ken Law, who jumped on board to help design for the boys. I have a couple of movies I pull inspiration from, Velvet Goldmine, Sing Street - it is the euro-punk glam rock that I think is just so romantic and youthful. It is also paired renaissance jester. I’m really into being the biggest clown I can be. I think, that if I can be the biggest fool on stage. Then, everyone else will be more comfortable. Here’s how every show goes, two days before, we call Luka and say, what are you wearing, and he sends us a picture. The four of us scramble to find something to compliment what he’s wearing, we try and make it work. So far, it’s been successful.

Alive” is a great hit with incredible and relatable lyrics. What was the writing process and inspiration like?

That was one of the first days I got to sit down with the producer, and David Stewart sat down at the piano and started playing this idea. It started really slow, and as it developed, he kept playing different parts, and we were just singing vowel sounds and melodies over it. It ended up getting energy and momentum. The song revealed what it wanted to be, in a way, and just picked itself up and start running. It immediately made me start thinking of ideology on life and the difference between giving up and giving in and making a choice to really give in to life and the experiences I believe worth having. As we kept working through the lyrics, there were certain specific things that we ended up taking out to make it more accessible. Everyone can fill in the blanks as to what their memories worth having are. The boys come in, of course, and flush out their parts and give their input on their overall aesthetic of the song, and we got what we got.

The artwork for each single has been beautiful and fitting for each song. What was the creative process like?

The artwork has been really fun to pick out. I think that the first one, “Place to Be,” came out, and we had done it ourselves with our old music. I was kind of tired of having just like my face and our faces so obviously on the cover, at least at first. I wanted something a little bit more like the feeling of it and we ended up getting this photo from our friend Julian Buchan. I was wearing like my grandmother’s Ralph Lauren slippers and this Dior bag sitting in front of me. I was like, what if we crop it stomach down, and it felt like we were headed somewhere but somewhere out of this time and era. It just felt like the right place to be, there was movement in the photo. “Big City Thing” we had another photoshoot with Julian as well, and I had this dream of always doing sort of like a band photo shoot that was more caught in the moment. Obviously curated but candid moment, and we did this dressing room scene, Julian, and I kind of went back and forth about. We had the boys dressing me while we were getting ready for the most glamorous show, and that felt very much like “Big City Thing.” It was funny to be wearing Dior and all these like designer name brands, and literally the next morning, I had to go open a restaurant and sling burgers, so that felt very of the moment. “Alive” that was my mad conductor since we started performing that song live. I always do this crazy conductor thing just because it feels so good to do. I ended up doing like a crazy conductor photoshoot. It was really fun. My hair is going everywhere, and my arms are up. Ashley Pawlak ended up taking “Big City Thing” and “Alive” and turning it into this sort of euro-punk glam rock aesthetic that we all really love and formed the Comedy cover too.

What was the creative process like for making your upcoming EP, Comedy?

It was new to us because it was the first time, we were doing this in a professional setting we're leading into it, it was very much like five of us in a basement being like you want some music. Then you sign to label, and there's kind of like a difference in the tone of what you're going for. It was the first time working with a producer, and David Stewart helped write all the songs with us. A lot of it would start with him and Luka sitting down with an acoustic guitar and flushing out the idea of a song, a melody and some lyrics and then after they would bring us in and show us, we talk over the vision. It kind of built upon that brick by brick, so that was new to us. We didn't have a process before. It always happened different, and, in some ways, it still is that way. It's just you're writing in a recording studio now. You sit at the piano, and then you run to the next room you lay down that part, and it's a scratch, and then you throw everything away, and you start fresh, and it's like it's all happening within two rooms. You start at like 11 a.m. sometimes, and you leave at 1:00 a.m., and it's a very focused energy. Whereas, before I think it would take weeks to write songs because we have the luxury of time, it's just kind of like let's like take our time with everything. In here, it's kind of like you have to make bold choices, and you have to make them fast, and you got three weeks to do it. There's something really good about that because you get out of your own way. Like I said, it really challenges you to make bold choices, and I think some of our best work has come out of this new process. Something I've learned just coming in the room and being there with you and David is that before we get an idea and we've got stopped let’s wait on it and push it through. The way it seems to be working in this system is if you got an idea go for it, if you get blocked, next idea. Table it come back and start fresh. You just kind of constantly turn out that process because the thing that's going to work is going to be a thing that just flows easiest. You come back to those ideas as well, some ideas take time to make something great, but it seems to be the ones that really connect are the ones like, oh, it's revealing itself. We wrote most of this EP and some of the next one, with what's being said within three weeks, so more often than not, we didn't have to table ideas. I think it was sort of kismet with David Stuart, we ended up finding a lot of inspiration from each other quickly.

Are there any songs you're looking forward to performing live on The Comedy Tour?

“Alive” for me. It's always been my favourite to record and favourite to perform. We tend to end the shows with it, and it has this great climactic moment that I think people really respond to, so I always feed off of that personally. I think one that I like performing that's it's not on this EP probably won’t be on the next either. But I love playing “Can’t Stop Falling” just because it's like one of our dancier songs, as opposed to rock, that was kind of our signature. “Riot” is my favourite song to play, we usually open the show with it. I feel like it really sets an electric tone. I don't really know another song like it, and I love it for that reason. It's just very flamboyant, and we talk about musical theatre, and you listen to the verses. I love it because the audience members are these characters in this play that I'm writing on the spot, and so I love that one. It's really fun.

What was it like when you got the call you were going to go on the James Corden show and how did you pick the song and the performance?

Everything happened quite fast actually. Zachary -our manager- was telling us that they want you to perform “Alive.” I think it was sort of slotted that “Alive” was everyone's favourite, and luckily it was a lot of ours as well. We've done quite a few live performances, and they're already so big, we just had to kind of pull back a bit and make it for television and camera. So, what you're seeing on that stage is a lot of tried-and-true performance choices that we had already explored from New York City to LA. We were toning it down. We’re on TV like, let's bring it back a little bit. Athena Lawton, who is a longtime friend of mine from college- she works with me and has been since day one when really it was just the faith everyone had as the potential. She made that long Cape, and I knew that I wanted to create this new-age renaissance image of what it means to be fine art and to embody fine art and redefine that with sexual prowess and energy.

Obviously, The Scarlet Opera isn’t an opera, but similarly, what kind of stories do you try to tell when you're up on stage?

After we had made the music, we decided on the band name. What it means to me, and I think us is what we try to convey in all of our music, even in just like, an overall thematic way, is to rid yourself of any shame that you might have grown up with and to let go, and become your best self. I think that's really like overarching what we hope to convey to the world with The Scarlet Opera. The scarlet lettering of the misunderstood comes with a lot of shame, and I think the opera kind of takes the person who feels like the scarlet and lifts them into this fine art world and idolizes them and makes them beautiful. That's sort of the messaging, I think, overall. With the Opera, in general, taking the idea that this is something reserved for the few and making it accessible for the men. We want our shows to be a big tent where anybody can come to. We want you to know truckers and people wearing drag. We want everyone sitting there screaming these ridiculous fun bombastic songs, and that's the world we hope to create and the stories we hope to tell.

What really inspired the name The Scarlet Opera?

The music. We were sitting in the studio with our old band name, and the music informed the change. It was like our final days, kind of wrapping everything up. We were like it wasn’t delusional enough, it wasn’t grand enough. We really started getting to talking about the messaging that we just spoke about, which is, you know, lifting people up from the trenches and making them feel glamorous. There wasn't enough drama in Perta, and nobody could spell it.

How has the Pandemic affected your music and theatre process over the past two years?

We are a direct result of the pandemic; it provided us a lot of time to really hone our craft as songwriters and to reflect upon what we've done and what we hope to accomplish. At the time, it felt like a curse a bit because we felt we were ready to just get out there and being put on ice for a bit was challenging, but in hindsight, I think it was a blessing. I think we all feel it was a bit of a blessing because it just allowed us to grow really profoundly. It also opened a lot of doors. We got signed and were ready to go off to the races, and then the world shut down. Truly, not much longer after that, two months after, and so when he says it felt like a curse, it was very disheartening. Not soon after, we realized that everyone’s schedule was suddenly wide open and that we could make music on Zoom, which is not as fun, but I ended up honing a lot of my like writing skills by having about two sessions a day sometimes over Zoom for months and months. Then it brought us to David Stewart, who otherwise we might not have met, we were taking so many writing sessions, and the word was getting out between the writers and the producers that this new band was hitting the scene, and David Stewart caught wind, and we had one meeting with him, and it was love at first sight. I think also with “Alive” too, I don't know, it was a kind of subconscious or after we made the connection. The meaning behind “Alive,” we say it to each other a lot, which is, life keeps rolling keep the party alive and in a weird way, that song kind of become a love song to the band, to the five of us, we're missing Daniel -our bass player- right now, but it became this kind of like a rallying call for us of like look at what we were able to get through. We were able to get through the global pandemic and come out the other side a stronger band. Not only musically but as friends, as communicators, and as collaborators. We talk about it all the time. It's hard enough in this business to make it on your own and get yourself out of bed every morning. I want to do this. I believe in myself and the fact that the five of us can do this with our lives, schedules, work, families, all these things. It's kind of remarkable and, in a weird way, “Alive.” We've adopted that as kind of a rally call for us.

How do balance individual creative vision with the collective vision of the band as a whole?

It’s a work in progress. The driving factor is the music. Whoever's got the best idea in the room takes the lead, that's really what it is. A big part of this process especially being a band, and it's been the warning to us from the beginning, is like check your ego at the door. It's so easy to say that and go, yeah, check your ego at the door, and then the moment, you're like, is what I'm saying coming from my own ego, or do I think this is the right decision is there a difference between the two. What I think is best versus my ego. It's a learning process especially adding not only the five of us but adding David into this writing process, who is truly like a sixth member of the band. Who is kind of the objective view, all of us have subjective views, and we even disagree with him too sometimes. That's the nature of creativity. We've been very blessed to have a pretty smooth process, but we also know that grinding up against things warrants the best art. You kind of need that friction to make something meaningful. I don't think we'll ever have it totally figured out, honestly. I think as long as we have the vision for the greater good and what we want, we will always have our moments where maybe it wasn't my best self today because I was a little prickly about this maybe someone else took the lead, but I think it's a forever working progress about your own vision versus what collectively serves everyone.

You've released three singles from Comedy so far. How did they fit together thematically, and what can fans expect from the EP as a whole?

It's this funny storytelling mixed with stories that are if you just cut them down to the words are a little like heartbreaking. All high energy and I think somebody said this earlier, but underneath all like the Whitty banter and the one-liners is something so aggressively human, so I think that's why we decided to go with Comedy because they all sort of live in that world. It's very high energy, fun, and silly, you can be flamboyant music, but if you listen to the words, they're little trials and tribulations over and over. The two unreleased songs, I think they're kind of the connectivity between what we put out and act kind of a story. There's a 5-6 part story in there that's yet to be fully revealed, so these will provide that context. When writing it too, the live show is very much in mind. We see ourselves more than anything as entertainers, a live band more than recording artists. We all love the recording process and love doing our thing, but without getting together the five of us and having that connection and connecting with the audience right up close, it doesn't feel as important, so when we wrote the whole thing, we were like what will this translate to in a live show. When the boys like to sing with me on stage, stacking vocals and literally having them sing them in the recording booth knowing that live, and that's so exciting when you're in the writing room. The ideas are already happening while we're recording it for how we're going to play it.

What can fans expect from the tour this April?

This is our first tour. If you have seen our LA shows, there are a lot of fun little tricks. We like to play on stage, and we hope to keep it for the people who are seeing it now, but at the same time, we want to keep things fresh for ourselves. It's a very big show. It's very fun even if it's a small little room, we will make you feel like it’s a stadium.

What is your favourite memory from the making of the EP?

Weirdly, I think it was like the last day. There was a very weird, beautiful, already nostalgic energy. We had spent so much time in three weeks in these two rooms, and I remember sitting in the console room while the boys were packing up their gear, and it was the end of a long day. Our final day of tracking some of the instruments for the record before David took off to Europe to start working on the production elements. I remember sitting there and just kind of looking at the boys and feeling really proud of them and myself and what we had made. I had felt a shift within all of us that we had found what we had been looking for, so in seven years that we've been working together, and I was, of course, getting emotional because I love these boys; they're like family. It was weird to see them through a window, and I don't know we're like growing up together it's very bizarre to do that, so it's the family dynamic. That's probably my favourite moment, just really having that moment to take a step back and look at what we had just done.

My best moment was also my worst moment. I was really struggling one of the days with one of the parts of “Alive,” and it was one of those long days when you’re in there forever, and I was not nailing it, and it took me forever. I had to take a break, and l came back the next day, and I came in and was talking to Luka and the guys, and I was like, I feel like a fraud and a failure. Having a very vulnerable moment of why can't I do this and all of them were like don't even worry about it this is music. This is the process. We're going to get it, it’ll be fine, we'll figure it out. It all worked out, and just that moment of being vulnerable in a studio, we're on a time crunch, there's a budget in place, there's people who are like relying on us to get this done. To have these people that I’m so close to, being like we have your back, meant the world to me. At my lowest moment, I had the people closest to me supporting me, which brought me back up.

If you could set fans up in the perfect environment to listen to the Comedy EP, what do you imagine it looking like?

Growing up in Pennsylvania, this is a dream of mine to play in this really beautiful theatre that I sort of grew up in the Civic Theater in Allentown. I love the idea of putting a bunch of like cushiony things on that stage. I always felt very at home there, so I just think it would be really a beautiful thing to bring everybody there, and I'm big on going to the places where the songs are from originally. I think that would be ideal to just have a bunch of people on that stage. At a circus, honestly, I don't even care if anybody's listening as long as the music is playing and everyone is having a good time. So often, music becomes the background noise in your life, so if we can provide that space where people have a good time, that works for me.


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The artwork for The Scarlet Opera's brand new EP, Comedy.

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