Kosovo is known for a lot of things, good music not being one of them. That is not to say it can’t be found though which is why I was stoked to learn a couple of the people I had hung out with while I was in Pristina were not only talented in partying and running one of the better hostels in the city, but that they were also members of a pretty legit indie rock band called The Glasses.
It’s been over 15 months since we first met, but better late than never – here is everything you should know about “one of the most exciting new bands around Kosovo”, the situation of the music scene there in general, and why you should consider visiting the second youngest country in the world sometime according to lead vocals of The Glasses, Flamur Xhiku.
Tell me a bit about The Glasses – when and how was the band formed?
The Glasses were formed like almost every other band, so probably we’re not the coolest band in the world. I had the idea of the name stuck in my head for a while (some other names as well) and even the name is probably not the coolest name ever but I liked that “you can add things to glasses”.
We got together in the end of 2007 and started to practice and jam any place we could find for some rock n’ roll. The scene in Prishtina is a bit small so we wanted to bring something fresh – some fresh rock n’ roll. People started hearing about us and coming to our shows, we kind of started being known for our music, and then people were saying that we were one of the most exiting new bands around Kosovo and Albania which was nice to hear.
We then started playing concerts and festivals; of course in the beginning we were doing covers, but quickly started to do our own stuff and put an album out two years ago. We would love to do more records, but as I was saying earlier, the scene is kinda small and as it’s expensive to record with a small budget…We will work hard to have another record next year for sure.
How would you describe the music scene in Kosovo? Is rock n’ roll/indie rock very popular?
Like I mentioned earlier, the scene in Prishtina is kinda up and down and very small. You know almost everyone involved in music in the rock-alternative scene. Even known or older bands usually don’t get paid that much or not at all, only logistics. There also aren’t very good venues to play a good gig, but music is our key and we’re trying to do good stuff that people will remember (I hope so).
How has the music scene in Kosovo changed over the past couple of years, if at all? Is it growing?
The scene in Kosovo has changed of course and I think that it’s growing, but again it has up and downs. There is sometimes nothing going even though there is a demand from the people who love rock n’ roll music, but pretty much it’s limited. Some other music genres are more popular than rock like hip hop, electronic music, and of course Turbofolk music.
And what about your place in the Balkan music scene? Is there a “Balkan music scene”?
Yeah there is kind of a Balkan scene. I mean, from every country in the Balkans you have some good bands and sometimes they play in other countries, but the Balkans are known more for Turbofolk music which a lot of people consume around here. I would say bands from the countries that speak Slavic are more connected with other Slavic countries rather than Albanian-Kosovo bands playing in other countries.
What are some other good bands from Kosovo (or the Balkans) that you can recommend or are inspired by?
There were a lot of good albums released the last couple of years in and around Kosovo. I really like a band called Cute Babulja, Por-No, Telex (older band). There is a treasure pit with good music from the Balkans.
I noticed you were listed on Wikipedia under “Albanian rock”. Would you consider Albania and Kosovo’s music industry pretty much the same? If not, what is the difference?
In Albania and Kosovo there are still no serious labels that would offer tours or recordings so again the that makes things more limited and bands make everything on their own with most with their own money. There is no big difference at all when it comes to the Albanian and Kosovo scene, both are small and we sometimes play in Albania.
We call ourselves Albanian but everyone knows what 92% of Kosovo is Albanian so either Albanian or Kosovo-Albanian. The term Kosovarian is actually in my passport but nobody feels like a Kosovarian. First Albanian, then Albanian from Kosovo.
Which bands/performers are your biggest inspirations?
A lot of bands and different artists, not only musicians, but to name a few… The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, brmc… I’m also a big fan of Jamiroqaui.
If you could go on tour with any band in the world, who would it be?
Definitely I would love to tour with Jack White or Shkelzen Jetishi around Kosovo.
What other countries have you played in? Where has been your favorite place to play?
We’ve played several times in Albania and Macedonia, and last year at a festival in Luzern, Switzerland. My favorite show I would say up until now was when we released our album which over 400 people showed up at the release party/gig it was a nice feeling people were buying our cds and for a young band it was a big success.
Any big plans for the future?
Yeah we have a lot of ideas and plans, but we got kicked our of our garage 1 month ago because some one bought the garage for herself and we were just renting it, so now we need a new place to practice. We have a some plans to release something in the winter, like an EP and a music video, if we’re lucky we will start working on the second album.
For someone who has never been to Kosovo, can you give some good reasons to visit? Or recommend any cool things to do?
Kosovo is safe, first of all, not like many people still have pictures about the war and stuff, people are really friendly and there are a lot of good spots around Kosovo with beautiful nature sites and all the nice touristic things. It’s beautiful and wild. Another good reason would be to try the food which is great. And yeah…probably to see The Glasses live somewhere.