Remixing traditions with Lemon Bucket

Elizabeth McFaul

Hailing from Toronto, self-described Balkan-klezmer-gypsy-party-punk-su-per band the Lemon Bucket Orkestra brought traditional folk with a modern twist to Kitchener as they celebrated the release of their sophomore album “Mookra” at Boathouse on April 22.

Starting off with a traditional Ukrainian folk song, the band captured the crowd’s attention and brought most of the room to their  feet. It was hard not to be clapping and dancing along while watching a band with such momentum and energy. A celebration of tradition and culture with a modern Canadian twist, Lemon Bucket Orkestra creates an infectious feeling in the room. A church bulletin brought older patrons, for whom the folk songs and stories in Lemon Bucket Orkestra’s music were an integral part of their childhoods. The opening act, The Ever-Lovin’ Jug Band, provided a great start with a calmer brand of folk music in the style of jug bands of the 1920s.

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra began as a busker group in 2010 but made headlines in 2012 when they played an impromptu concert on their delayed flight to Romania for a three-week tour. Since then, the band has grown into an international sensation, known for its unique blend of traditional Eastern-European folk, modern sounds, and gypsy-punk vibes.

Building on their experiences in Eastern Europe, their new album, “Mookra,” is inspired by last year’s trip to Ukraine. Members of the band were immersed in the crisis in Ukraine in early 2014, where they spent time participating in the revolution and sharing these stories with the world through the Lemonchiki Project.

“The album is all the songs we learned in Europe the summer before, and songs we learned from local bands and virtuosos we had learned about in Romania, Ukraine, and Serbia,” explains vocalist and violinist Mark

Marcyk. “When it was [originally] time to record, we were in Ukraine and really involved in the revolution. That really changed our perspectives on the songs, and what they meant in a culture that’s afflicted by war.”

According to Marcyk, the album reflects “a mix of celebration, angst, and despair; and the anxiety that we had in representing this part of the world that was very torn, through celebration. It is a dense and fraught expression of what we were feeling at the time of recording. It’s a really different album than our first full-length album.”

Even the title song reflects this dichotomy: an old Russian prison ballad about a snitch named Mookra that people in Ukraine see as a symbol of the oppressor, but at the same time, it’s still part of the culture.

“We used that as a musical battleground as we explored what our feelings were about the political climate,” said Marcyk.

This summer, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra is preparing for a public wedding in Toronto for two of its members, touring South Korea with a traditional Korean drum band, and touring across Canada and Europe. The band also has plans to remount
a multimedia theatre experience that allows the audience to experience how the revolution unfolded first-hand, to be performed at Summerworks this year.