Last year New York-based guitarist and singer-songwriter Sylwia Kloc and her band, The Troubadours, gathered for their first album photo shoot. The Troubadours include percussionist Katherine Stock and cellist Anastasia Golenisheva.
Kloc, who studied classical guitar at The Mannes College of Music, has deviated joyfully into the singer-songwriter realm to write her own original folk, rock and pop tunes with a Slavic influence. She teaches guitar at Molloy College, a private liberal arts school on Long Island and at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. We Will Fly (Records DK 2017) is her debut album release, featuring nine of her spirited, jaunty vocals and instrumental arrangements.
We met in downtown Manhattan on what turned out to be a chilly, overcast Saturday. I had an image inside my head of Sylwia flying along on a playground swing, given the album’s title. However, we faced two major concerns with this: Sylwia was 3 months pregnant, and the one day the band could get together for the photo shoot was on a Saturday, which is playground primetime. How were we going to pull this off? Also, faced with the propensity toward the new-fangled and weird in modern playground design, it was going to be challenging enough to find a good old-fashioned swing set. Our best bet, I figured, would be a swing set that I knew of downtown along the harbor.
We trooped over there eagerly and discovered the park to be perfectly empty. It was too good to be true: yellow CAUTION tape zig-zagged over the gate posts on account of a repaving project at the park’s front entrance. It wasn’t entirely clear if jackhammered rubble was the only reason for the tape. Were the swings safe, we wondered? We agonized because the park was so perfectly empty.
We exchanged glances and decided to go for it. Anastasia hopped the fence first and Katherine and I linked hands to create a stepstool to help boost Sylwia over the edge. Once we were inside, I volunteered to test each swing for safety. An older lady who was walking her dog nearby called out to us with a conspiratorial cackle, “I had such fun watching you girls struggle to make up your minds and then climb over that fence. None of you noticed that the back fence over here is wide open.” She pointed out the now plainly obvious. Fabulous. It meant the swings were fine.
The Troubadours now have a hysterically funny reminder of their album shoot which serves as the backdrop for their album credits.
“I felt like classical music was not enough for me,” Sylwia says, explaining how she launched The Troubadours and found her musical voice. “Plus I teach lots of kids who want me to play covers with them so I have all that music stuck inside my head. “At some point, as a result, I started creating my own melodies and writing lyrics. The second I started writing music, I knew it needed lyrics,” she says. “I feel like my songs are a mix of classical music, music that I teach and music that I listen to. I always encourage my classical guitar students to learn how to play different types of music and learn how to improvise and accompany other players.”
“For me, singing quickly became a liberating experience. I find creating and performing my own music to be deeply satisfying. Classical musicians will spend hundreds of hours practicing and playing someone else’s music and there is so much competition in terms of who plays it better, faster and more accurately. I find that aspect of classical music to be very exhausting.”
Sylwia encountered her first bandmate during a gig at Café Vivaldi in New York during the spring of 2015. “I was performing an open mic session and Anastasia was a waitress. After my performance, we started talking and she mentioned that she plays the cello. I asked her to accompany me during one of my performances and the rest is history! As for Kat, who plays percussion on the album, we’ve known each other for a long time. My younger sister Lidia was friends with her in college and we often ran into each other at various parties and mutual friend gatherings.”
Kat, who teaches percussion at a New York City public school, is a graduate of the Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College. She is a former band member of the ska bands Spider Nick and the Maddogs and now performs with The Troubadours and a group called Colectivo Poetas en Nueva York, where she works with poets to build performances with music, poetry and dance.
“I freelance mostly classical percussion but play drums as well,” Kat says. “I started playing drums in the third grade because one of my brothers told me it would be cool for a girl to play the drums. In terms of the band, I really enjoy playing in The Troubadours because I love writing and improvising percussion parts for Sylwia’s songs, which I feel have unique sound and perspective.”
[Above: An outtake from the photo shoot, not used in the album but it captures much of the mirth of the day. Kat made some kind of wisecrack that set off the hilarity. From left to right: Anastasia Golenisheva, Sylwia Kloc and Katherine Stock. Photo credit: Julia Crowe.]
Many of the songs on the album speak of love, longings, travel and everyday life, all set to Kloc’s airy lilt that flies over gorgeously crafted string and percussive arrangements.
“We Will Fly” is available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Google Play, and Groove.
The Troubadours will be playing from 2 PM-2:45 PM this upcoming Saturday, May 5, 2018 at the Morris Country Library, located at 30 East Hanover Avenue in Whippany, NJ. Admission is free and seating is limited (max of 80). Do plan to arrive early as there is usually a line to get in. The room will open at 1:45 PM.
Planes spotted flying over downtown during the day of the album photo shoot. Photo credit: Julia Crowe.