The second ‘Introducing’ of the weekend is devoted to Bulletproof Poets, a relatively new (November 2022) Swedish band for which the lead singer is Helena Montgomery, who is no stranger to NMC and whom I’ve previously described as “a gentle, thoughtful, philosophical type whose credentials are very visible in her songs.”
Because I’ve never read a bio I only just discovered that she grew up during the 80s synth era, devoted to bands and artists such as Depeche Mode, Howard Jones and The Cure. Did Howard ever find out what love is, anyway, Helena?
Tommy Jensen is the main songwriter; he plays guitar, and does backing vocals. Tommy has recorded ten solo albums in his own name, three albums with the research-led band Organising Rocks (sounds like a fascinating pursuit), and one album with (his former band) Stockholm Kallar.
Tomas Lundborg is the bass player. He’s been around since the early 80s, mainly playing bass, but also other string instruments and keys. He’s not committed to a specific genre, it’s more important that it “feels good”. But hard and/or psychedelic is better.
Christer Larsson plays the drums. His penchant is for hard rock and he formed a cover band playing everything from AC/DC to Metallica. He put the drums aside for a while but years later started playing again, together with a guitarist he got to know as a student at university in Gävle. And from there on there was no looking back.
The band name comes from a song about Henry Charles Bukowski, the German-American underground poet, novelist, and short story writer whose work was influenced by the social, cultural, and economic ambience of his adopted home city of Los Angeles and who used his poetry and prose to depict the depravity of urban life and the downtrodden in American society. He’d be having a field day if he was still around.
That song was written by Tyla and his band The Dogs D’amour – originally called The Bulletproof Poet – and is replete with poetical lyrics like “He gave Jesus tattoos and took the devil’s soul. He got the angels drunk and gave them the gutter for a home.”
The picture I’m building up is a complex one. A band mainly influenced by hard rock but based on the ramblings of an early hippie, and with a singer whose preference is for philosophical wholesomeness; a sort of latter day Joan Baez or Melanie Safka.
But there’s a further complication still. The main inspiration for the band as a whole is a poet, Monika Kostera, who is also, bizarrely, a Polish professor in organisation theory and management. Her Wikipedia entry doesn’t even mention poetry.
But her skills in that department were more than enough to attract Tommy Jensen, who coincidentally is also a scholar of organisation (as, indeed, ‘Organising Rocks’ suggests).
He has said of her,
“It happens something to my songwriting when I turn to poetry. I get sick of my own lyrics, always ending up in the same space. Using poets and poetry is great because it upsets song-structures, and the mood of the songwriter becomes very elastic.
Monika Kostera’s poetry is in minor, I read it in the keys of Am, Em, Bm. It is blues, outspokenly honest. Most importantly, Monika is blues, and as the tradition has it, she is constantly on the road. This book of blues thus invites you to access many places and people. Have words, will travel.”
Bulletproof Poets plunge into Monika’s poetry with the blessings of Monika herself. As she said, “You know in the past – the beginnings of poetry – it was shouted, moaned, talked, sang. Poetry cannot be read only. Something disappears.”
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
‘2017’ is the first single from Bulletproof Poets’ forthcoming EP ‘In the Surrounding Space’. The lyrics are poems written by Monika Kostera and the music is written by Tommy Jensen.
(Before we start I have to comment on this propensity that exists within central Sweden in particular to take someone else’s poetry and transpose it in lyrical content for musical purposes. It is no mean skill, believe me).
Having rambled on for the best part of 1,000 words, ‘2017’ bears no relation to what I was expecting. It is quite heavy and portentous folk rock, the chunky bass especially sounding like a tunnel borer somewhere in the Alps, and of the type practiced in the 1960s by the likes of Lindisfarne, Fairport Convention, The Strawbs, perhaps even Jethro Tull at a pinch.
Helena Montgomery has even modified her vocal to fit that heavier sound.
And it all comes together very well.
There is undoubtedly a market for this sort of music here in the UK. It’s been slumbering for a while and the time has come for a revival. Bring on the Bulletproof Poets.
The band is rehearsing to play concerts in autumn 2023.
Find them on: