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Saturday, April 3, 2021

CNQ Spotlight On: Syf Records (Poland)

Here recently I fell in love with the noisy, lo-fi output of Poland's Syf Records. I reached out to Ingusz from Syf to get a feel for what, exactly, is going on here:

CNQ: So here is what I've gleaned from the Syf Records Bandcamp page. Syf Records is a small DIY lo-fi garage punk label out of Szczecin, Poland. Since February of this year, Syf has released 14 EPs from 12 different bands, each as lo-fi, raw and as rockin' as the previous one. From what I can tell, some of these are first time digital releases of old demo tapes going back as far as the 1990s, and some are new stuff recorded on Zoom or an iphone. Can you tell us more about who Syf Records is, and how it came to be?

Ingusz: Yeah, we already have 15 EPs and working on new compilation so probably we are one of the most productive labels aroudn the world haha. But this is due to the concept we adopted and which relates to our view of the creative process and its relationship to community.

We do not want to get involved in the typical process of creating albums, but we inspire our community to frequent meetings and creative work in the collective - hence the new releases, of which there are indeed a lot. Hence, there are new bands that are formed in new personal constellations, because it is very fluid situation between band. All members of the collective work together and have the power to attract other talented, creative people.

Of course, the pandemic does not make the task easier for us, for example Vulgar, a violent on stage and devastating drummer, often helps people as a paramedic instead of being with us on rehearsal room.

And yes, you’re right, we also have some stuff from the past, like Parole In Liberta, solo project from Szczecin from ’90. And this is not the last word of PiL.

CNQ: Despite some stylistic differences in these releases (i.e., some are a little more electro, some are more noise oriented, some are more post-punk, etc.), there's certainly an overarching lo-fi sound threaded through these. Does the label have a mission statement?

Ingusz: We don’t think about that as "mission statement” but for sure we attached to DIY way of thinking and I think lo fi sound is part of it. This is the best way to catch this special moment when few people combine their skills, their expression and create something. That's why you can find in SYF scary noise punk from INSTRYBUTR or more new wave / post punk from Salnos, more experimental attitiude from KILØFF or event lofi country from SZLAM. This is the moment that was captured. This is pure emotion and we love to make it possible to see it the light of day.

CNQ: I looked up Szczecin, on Wikipedia. For readers who, like me, had not heard of the city before, Szczecin is the capital and largest city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in northwestern Poland. Population-wise it's about the size of Tulsa, Oklahoma, here in the States. What can you tell us about Szczecin's garage punk scene -- a little of its history, is it generally political, anti-political, what's the current fashion, or anti-fashion -- anything to give us a feel for who's putting out these killer recordings?

Ingusz: Szczecin is a unique city in Poland because it is very ‘western’. It is located near west border, just over an hour from Berlin and this influence is very important, both in terms of lifestyle and art.

In Poland it is often said that "Szczecin is not Poland anymore". This is because until 1945 Szczecin was a German city, but after World War II the borders changed and Szczecin joined Poland. During the Cold War and the Iron Curtain, Szczecin was also unique, because as a port city it was a window to the world. We grew out of these feelings.

Today it is a city where different cultures meet and it has a great influence on art and music.

The punk scene has been living underground for years, organizing itself into various collective groups that cooperate with each other, and until the pandemic, concert and musical life flourished.

It is worth getting to know the compilation of Szczecin's DIY underground from the 80s and 90s:

Now we are trying to breathe new life in a more disorganized way. Seemingly.

CNQ: My touchstone for sound like this is Estrus Records, Homestead Records, and In The Red Records. What are some of the bands/labels that influence Syf Records and the bands on Syf? Are the bands on Syf all from Szczecin and the surrounding area?

Ingusz: We started as a local label associating people from Szczecin, but we are in contact with our friends from different parts of Poland and we do not rule out the possibility of extending the cooperation. It would be great!

Thanks for the appeal, it's great labels! we certainly draw from what grew up in the Szczecin underground, it is one of our inspirations. I have already mentioned the influence of Berlin. There are people with very open heads around Syf, so we soak up loud sounds from the USA or Australia, we are impressed by the egg punk trend, cold post-punk from Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine and Russia, and experimental approaches to punk from Japan, California and the UK.

We have a lot of plans for the near future and there will certainly be new materials. Will the intensity be maintained? It does not matter, but this is the way we want to act.

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Check out the first Syf Records compilation, "Our Ugly 15":