They say that Russians never smile for fear that their mustaches will fall off. As a Russian-speaking western Ukrainian, I can attest that this is absolutely true. What most people don’t know is that there is a hidden clause in the “No Smiling” subheading of the Blood Oath to Zombie Lenin contract, a contract that all Russian speakers sign at age seven in exchange for the powers of manly facial hair, complete imperviousness to any form of overdose and the finite capacity for a precisely Slavic amount of [redacted]. This hidden clause states that this rule does not apply while somebody is drunk, wearing a funky hat, or is in a state of Jigy-Jigy.
In all seriousness, Jumple is Toronto’s very own and very underappreciated Gogol Bordello. This comparison of “Slavic Gypsy Folk” falls on both sides of a razor-thin blade. Gogol Bordello marketed themselves as an immigrant interpretation of punk, a genre which has been a Western reference point since London Calling. To contrast this, the beauty of Jumple is they make no compromise in regards to their influence, showmanship, goals as musicians, or even the sheer size of their testicular fortitude.
If you were at Jumple’s show on June 24th at the Rasputin Vodka Bar, you would have seen all the members of the band tearing it up on stage: Eugene (singer/acoustic), Ruslan (violin), Kirill (accordion), Matski (drums), and new bandmate Mike (bass). You’d also had seen a hundred people swing dancing, with about ten ladies having taken residence on top of bar tables to start their careers as PG-14 burlesque dancers.
Jumple – Jigy-Jigy (2011).
This is the magical energy of Jumple. The traditional Russian influences find new life within their songs, and restore dignity to the modern definition of dancing socially—for fun, not as an excuse to dry-hump a stranger in a club or boot someone in a mosh pit.
What many will not understand is that you cannot take a group of music majors and toss them a Red Army Choir vinyl, as you may result in the bag of goober-sounding Soviet Pop/Discoteka music my parents still embarrass me with. The real source of Jumple’s energy is how Eugene effortlessly projects his grandiose vocal styles through his thick accent that represent a great number of cultural feelings and hardships. It’s how Kirill plays the accordion like he’s paid millions, but he most likely has a history playing like that in public for the sake of art and expected little in financial compensation. It’s how Ruslan shreds the violin like a sociopath, but then stops to hold a single feeling conveyed in an uncomfortably prolonged note. You will get a feeling yourself, like a single tear has formed at edge of your eye and is slowly sliding down the side of your cheek.
And then you actually tune into the lyrics, and realize the song they are playing is “So Good” and all the goddamn lyrics are about eating delicious chicken wings.
This flip of the finger to serious subject matter is excellent for Canadian fans. While not all of Jumple’s songs are in English (because “Kalinka Kalinka” is always appropriate), rest assured that screaming along is absolutely encouraged. What some may not understand is that Jumple is a product of a particular time period in a different culture, which was in turn heavily obsessed with American culture. Resultantly, when you see Jumple live, you may be lucky like I was and take in covers of “Enter Sandman” and “You Gotta Keep Them Separated” through a thick Russian accent and accompanied with violin and accordion.
After the show ended I conducted a very brief interview, in Russian, with Eugene:
A.S.: Which parts of Ukraine did you guys immigrate from?
Eugene: Me and Matski, the drummer, are from Kyiv. Ruslan on the violin is from Odessa. Kirill on the accordion is from Minsk, and Mike, our new bassist, is from Toronto.
A.S.: Nice! I’m from Donetsk myself. How would you describe your genre of music to an average Canadian?
Eugene: We are Gypsy Folk.
A.S.: Well what would you describe as your influences? I was going to say Gogol Bordello, but then you covered “Start Wearing Purple” and I had my answer.
Eugene: Our influences stem from traditional Ukranian and Russian folk and gypsy music, but also augmented by the sound and attitude of American & British pop & rock, especially in the ‘80s & ‘90s. And Gogol Bordello, of course.
A.S.: So, what do you think Canadian fans enjoy most about your music?
Eugene: Honestly, it is energy, dancing and atmosphere. To be fair, we do abuse the “Russian Stereotypes” card a bit too often, but that way we can provide a meaningful avenue for Canadians to show interest. It’s a very big culture shock thing initially, but once they get over it, they join in and begin to actually have fun learning and participating in our culture. But that is a very hard thing to achieve. Canadians are so reserved, it is borderline impossible to get them to move.
A.S.: I can see that. North American culture conditions the individual to fear committing a social faux pas and being embarrassed. Okay, I got one last question: what is the most badass ting you, or your band members have ever done?
Eugene: Honestly the most badass thing we have ever done is get Canadians to move.
While the repetition may have been for comical effect, there is a grain of salt in it. Most people nowadays are too afraid to make a spectacle of themselves. Unless there is a “cool” reason to swing-dance with a complete stranger, most of the folks sticking around the edge of the goofy dancing area really do like the music. They just need to be eased into it with vodka.
If you were intrigued by the bold and unique nature of Jumple and their enormous balls, check them out live. You owe it to yourself to come get Jigy-Jigyed. On an unrelated note, be sure to jumble’s first album Jigy-Jigy on Bandcamp; it’s free to stream and only $5 to purchase.
Check out Jumple!
Author: Alex Slakva