A small country located in Northern Europe, Estonia isn’t exactly known for its thriving rock scene. But Ewert Sundja, frontman for the indie rock band Ewert and the Two Dragons
, says there’s a good bunch of bands playing there. And lest you think the place is ultra-primitive, according to Wikipedia, it’s “one of the most wired countries in Europe.”
“There’s a really cool music scene there and with technology nowadays, everything is so connected,” Sundja says via phone from a Philadelphia tour stop. “You can hear all the albums that are released on the same date as anyone else. The distance and location doesn’t make any difference anymore. I think we’re quite connected.”
The band's 2011 album Good Man Down
became one of the best-selling albums in Estonia and earned a slew of awards. In 2012, it won five Estonian Music Awards for “Best Band,” “Best Video,” “Song of the Year,” “Best Rock Album,” and “Album of The Year."
“It’s a weird result for an Estonia band to have English language music that turns out be a record breaker in Estonia,” says Sundja. “No one has ever done that before. It’s a new experience for us. I do believe there’s something about the music and the way we approach things that are important. It’s also about storytelling and people like stories. Good stories and good music. It makes it easier for people even though the album in a lyrical sense was maybe not that happy. People say ‘Good Man Down’ is such a happy song even though it’s not such a happy song. People take what they need at certain times in their life. That’s probably why the album was successful. It could have gone either way with that. You can take the happy feeling or the feeling of solitude from it.”
Sounding a bit like Radiohead and/or Jeff Buckley, the band plays with a quiet intensity. Some of the songs on its terrific new album, Circles
, which it recorded in the states with Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers), even have elements of jazz.
“I don’t think there was any plan,” Sundja says of Circles
. “I suppose we were in a different time and period in our lives. That’s probably significant. With a circle, you’re in the same place but not the same place anymore. We just wanted to make a good album as we could possibly do. We tried not to think too much about the how and those artificial elements in the album. We tried to work as naturally as possible.”
The band’s strength lies in its ability to still bring intensity to quiet songs. So what does the group do to ensure that the mid-tempo music still has an edge to it?
“I think I can say that we try to be as honest as possible,” Sundja says. “What I’m saying is that we don’t really have a proper plan before we start making music. We don’t set out to make quiet music with intensity. It has to be a natural process of getting to the end. We’re all pretty much alike and share the same aesthetic values. We all like Radiohead, for example. I guess that transfers to our music in some weird way.”
Ewert and the Two Dragons, Jack and the Bear, Noon, 8 p.m. Monday, March 2, Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $10, beachlandballroom.com.