It was musical kismet last month when Louise from Banny Grove—stars of the upcoming Sean Carnage Friday at Oracle Tavern, October 14th—suggested her NYC friend René Kladzyk, aka Ziemba, join the bill.
Oh my goodness, I immediately thought, this is the music I have been waiting for!
Then I noticed the latest Ziemba release was titled Unsubtle Magic. That’s the life I want to live: unashamedly, unabashedly magical.
The universe—and Banny Grove—definitely gave me a gift that day with Ziemba. (Thank you.) Now, I share that gift with you.
If you’re a true music fan (I’m guessing you are if you’re reading this site), you recognize this process. Probably yearn for it. You ask around and search and listen, encouraging every sort of random musical encounter to find that honest emotional sound. More than that—the emotions need to take advantage of all the incredible musical devices and modes of expression musicians have cultivated over the eons.
Ziemba is the gold at the end of the rainbow.
René Kladzyk’s music is consummately listenable, polished, memorable—yet rarely takes an obvious path from A to B. This music has the sophistication of the great album artists of the 1970s (swinging rock-jazz-synth innovator Annette Peacock comes to mind) but Ziemba never suggests nostalgia, at least in the conventional sense.
Ziemba is NOW music about current issues told in a way that’s informed by the classics (hat tip for referencing Jerry Garcia Band, see below). René’s got a playful, non-ironic wry sense of humor to boot.
In fact, Ziemba’s press kit—perceptive and not hype-y, much like the music—calls it:
Ziemba is the sometimes band/sometimes solo project helmed by composer, writer, producer and perfumer René Kladzyk, who until recently was working as an immigration reporter in El Paso, Texas. With songs described as “daringly unflinching” by Bandcamp, “electrifying pop and smart balladry” by The FADER, and “so cheesy that it could soundtrack a Tommy Wiseau sex scene” by Pitchfork, Ziemba is not into subtlety. These are big, all caps “FEELINGS” in sonic form. Ziemba’s most recent album Unsubtle Magic, released on Sister Polygon Records in December 2021, grapples with the holiday season through the lens of grief. The preceding album, 2020’s lauded True Romantic, is a collection of bombastic power ballads.
‘Unsubtle Magic.’ ‘Cheesy.’ ‘FEELINGS.’ Post-Covid, that’s all we really need right? Especially from the mind and vocal cords of someone as skilled as René Kladzyk.
René was kind enough to take time out from the road to prepare Los Angeles for Ziemba’s awesomeness. Read below. And don’t miss the show! Details at the end. It’s going to be a music-lover’s delight. See you there?
H, René, long have you been playing under the name Ziemba?
I’ve been performing as Ziemba since 2013. My first show was on the day Lou Reed died in a little bar in the East Village called Cafe Dancer that I don’t think exists anymore.
Is there a significance to the name?
Ziemba is my paternal grandmother’s maiden name, and a type of Polish songbird.
How would you describe your musical aesthetic?
What are your biggest inspirations lately?
My most recent heartbreak is the biggest one.
Have you written any songs recently?
I wrote a song a couple weeks ago about old angels who come back to earth on vacation. It’s called “The Pleasure Seekers” and I’m thinking the production will be very Abba-inspired.
Your videos are so immaculately composed and memorable! What comes first—the music or the image?
Thank you! The music (almost) always comes first. Sometimes when I’m arranging or producing a song I do have music video fantasies as I’m making production decisions, but normally those fantasies are way too expensive to make in reality.
When do you feel the most power when you’re creating?
I don’t know about power, but I think the most exciting time for me is when I really lose myself and feel open and free. This can happen during writing, recording, performing, and I guess other points in between. But feeling like a conduit for some energy or force that’s greater than myself, as though perhaps I’m tapping into something universal and timeless, or a line of communication that needed to be opened, that’s the best feeling.
Are you touring right now—is Los Angeles a stop on your tour?
I am! Though I’m touring in a pretty impractical way: only going to places where I have family or close friends, and spending a couple days in most of the places I go. It’s a way I’ve always wanted to tour, but is definitely not efficient.
Will you be playing solo at Oracle Tavern on October 14th or with a band?
I think I’m going to have Jay Heiselmann joining me on guitar. Jay and I have collaborated for many years, both in Ziemba and in our country band Rhinestone.
If you had to take three songs to a desert island, what would they be?
One of the songs from Woo’s Into the Heart of Love, I’m not sure which one. “Rubin and Cherise” by Jerry Garcia Band. Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto.
Have you experienced anything out of the ordinary on tour?
One time in Copenhagen I was playing my song “With the Fire,” and an old woman came and sat on the edge of the stage during the end of the song and began singing with me. She came up with a descent to the chorus, singing “with the water with the water with the water, oh it rains!” She had a gravelly, soulful voice, and after the show she came up to me and told me I had too much fire in me and that she needed to pour some water on me.
How did you meet Banny Grove?
I think I met Louise briefly many years ago when Banny Grove played at the Glove in Brooklyn, but I’m not certain of whether we actually met. But we have been in contact through the internet for a couple years now, and this will be our first time playing shows together.
Is it true you were a reporter on the border in Texas?
It is true! I spent the past couple years working as a reporter in El Paso, mostly reporting on immigration, human rights, justice, and arts & culture. I’m not sure I can easily pinpoint the ways that has impacted or informed my music yet, but I might have more perspective if you ask me again in a couple years.
What can folks expect from your upcoming show at Oracle Tavern?
If Ziemba was an ice cream, what flavor would you be?
I want to say my favorite flavor of ice cream, which is Mackinac Island Fudge, a flavor you can mostly only find in Michigan, but I don’t know if that reflects the sound of Ziemba.
I think Ziemba is maybe more of a Neapolitan, but with some teal food coloring in the vanilla.
Don’t miss René Kladzyk / Ziemba at Oracle Tavern on October 14, 2022: