Interview: Repetitor, not like in the news

Serbia’s most exciting rock band takes a trip to the holy land. Playing three gigs in Kosovo, Repetitor bridge the gap between the two countries, at least for a moment, speaking the universal language of punk

Repetitor playing Secret Lounge, Pristina (Kosovo), Dec 9, 2011. Photo by Luka Knezevic Strika

When Serbian band Repetitor started listing all their gigs in 2011, the only confusion was – they were not really sure if they played in 5 or 6 different countries around the Balkans. No, they were not that wasted to forget, but the status of this one specific country is still unclear in the minds of many people in Serbia. You might guess – they ventured into the exotic territory of Kosovo. The most expensive word in Serbian language, as many Serbs say, also the everlasting local political issue seemingly never-to-be-solved. Many questions arise when you think of Repetitor (one of the youngest and most promising Serbian alternative punk-noise-rock bands) going to play there. We asked a few and found out in reality things look quite different from the news report. Of course.

Now seriously, what was the initial (and final) click that made you decide to go on this exotic tour?

We were asked to play and we said yes, it wasn’t that hard really.

It did coincide with Kosovo/Serbia tensions at their peak, with massive propaganda on this subject. What were the reactions of your friends, neighbours, family and fellow musicians?

Families took a little convincing that the trip was well organized, but they were all glad or fine with it. Milena didn’t tell her folks we were going to Pristina thou, but it was so they wouldn’t worry. Neighbours are all crackheads, gangsters and grandmothers, we live in a tough neighborhood, so it was better not to tell them.

Secret Lounge, Pristina (Kosovo). Photo by Luka Knezevic Strika

Have you wondered why nobody ventured on this trip before you guys did?

Well, there was the war. But now, enough time has passed so that the generations having nothing to do with the war can start communicating and connecting.  Can’t think of a much better way to do that then through music. There is a lot of young people in Pristina, and they have the same present, and not at all a bright, smiling future, just like Belgrade’s youth, similar problems and similar kinds of habits and interests. But we are taught that we are so different and sometimes we believe that, so we stand divided.

In the daily newspapers in Serbia one could see the headlines “Serbian punk rockers conquered Pristina”. Did you ever think your mini tour could be used as some kind of diplomatic propaganda and political scores on both sides of this endless conflict?

Don’t think those fucks know or care that we exist.

So, how was it there, actually?

For us as a band it was awesome, but we can tell it’s not that awesome for the people living there. We felt perfectly safe talking in Serbian with random people in Pristina, and everyone was polite and friendly, and all three concerts were awesome but you can feel the conflicts of the near past glimmering, it’s a strange feeling. And all three places we visited are in three different systems, because Gracanica is a Serbian enclave right next to Pristina, and Leposavic is on the north, right under Kopaonik, out of reach of government, both Serbian and Kosovo’s.

Audience going wild, Secret Lounge, Pristina (Kosovo). Photo by Luka Knezevic Strika

Did this visit change your perspective on the ‘everlasting’ burning question of Kosovo?

Yes it did in many ways.

Do you believe there will be many more acts performing at Kosovo now or this will stay as a lucid one/off?

I don’t know, but this showed it’s doable. I know they would love some other bands from Belgrade over there, and we hope they are gonna have the chance to hear them.

Did you get any new fans among extreme nationalists and/or fanatic Orthodox Christians?

No, but Boris saw a guy from Vetëvendosje [Kosovo’s radical nationalists] kissing a guy from Obraz [Serbian nationalists]. Then they left to the bathroom together. It was no shock really, happens all the time. Same kind of people attract each other.

Better than Novak Djokovic's birthday party: Repetitor at Secret Lounge, Pristina (Kosovo). Photo by Luka Knezevic Strika

Did Novak Djokovic invite you to play on his next celebration now that you have visited the country of his ancestors?

No, he said we would just ruin it. We don’t like tennis anyway.

What are you doing these days? Recording, touring? Anything new we can expect from you in 2012?

A new record. And in the full meaning of the term because it’s gonna be out on an actual record, vinil, LP for Moonlee Records from Zagreb/Ljubljana, our new label that we are happy to be on. We played like crazy this year, and recorded when we got the chance to do it for as little money as possible without compromising our idea of how it should sound like. We did it in our friends’ houses and house studios in Vrbas, Ljubljana and Trbovlje, so it was pretty DIY and fun. It’s gonna be out before spring hopefully.