In September 2013, they published two tracks (with Polish lyrics) online: Słodko-słony cios (A Sweet and Salty Blow) and Nie słucham (I Am Not Listening), which quickly reached nearly 250,000 views – a result that was unheard of on the Polish music scene, especially with virtually no promotion.
Soon after, The Dumplings ventured to their first well-received concerts. They were noticed by the media, but it is their constantly growing fan base – which, importantly, is not exclusively on the internet – which became their true driving force. A few months after their foundation, they signed a contract for their debut album, to be produced by Bartosz Szczęsny of Rebeka. No Bad Days (Pomaton/Warner Music) was described as one of the most important Polish albums of the year even before its release.
The members of The Dumplings both come from Zabrze (Upper Silesia). They first met in 2011. At first, they played acoustic guitar songs, to later turn to electronic music, with great results. They have been performing under their current name since the beginning of 2013. To call them “electronic songwriters” would be taking it too far, but it is fair to say that their electronic sounds are very enchanting and melodic - inviting one to daydream rather than dance. However, it still seems too soon to speak of the final style of The Dumplings.
The singer Justyna Święs was born on 16th April 1997, while Kuba Karaś, responsible for the music – on 2nd February 1996, which made them 16 and 17 years old respectively at the time of their debut. Karaś plays guitar, drums, piano, makes use of a computer and samples. They record their music at home. They write the lyrics together in Polish and English. They are a factory of hits. Justyna’s vocals are seductive and melodic. The very personal texts always contain an element of understatement or mystery – and such is also Święs’s style of singing. They also work well as a duet, although they don’t sing together in many songs. The music is often dense with bass, resembling dub or hip-hop, but sometimes also has an ambient-like sound. One will find inspirations both from Kanye West and Yann Tiersen.
The calm Nie słucham (I Am Not Listening) could be a twee ballad, but the ‘80s-like background is filled with a crushing bassline. The lyrics are also far from being merry: “I’m not listening again, I can’t hear anything / They talk to me when I don’t want to”. And yet, the song is a hit that won’t escape the listeners’ head for weeks. The single Technicolor Yawn, with an impressive guitar part, also has very strong vocals and rhythm. Today, the duo still gains new fans. The Dumplings successfully perform at festivals next to established artists, such as at Poznań’s Spring Break, or Warsaw’s Free Form Festival and Fashion Week.
A singer-producer collaboration is nothing new. The clue of such combo is openness to new, clashing approaches to music and hard work on both sides. At such a young age, their experimental approach and freedom in borrowing from a wide variety of genres is all the more vivid. They like to speak about themselves in an honest and modest fashion. They don’t want to be compared to the well-known names (Justyna’s singing has been likened to that of Monika Brodka, while their general style to that of M83) – not out of pride, but simply because – as they admit – they haven’t established their own style yet.
They say they want their songs to “speak of simple things in an extraordinary way”. The energetic Słodko-słony cios (A Sweet and Salty Blow) is, according to them, about “the combination of chocolate and salt”. The chorus of Betonowy las (Concrete forest) is indeed quite lyrical: “Smoke has filled our concrete forest / we get lost in the traffic lights / we pass the shadows, they bow low / and now we are standing at the red light”.
Finally, what connects The Dumplings and The Arctic Monkeys? They have both covered Drake’s Hold On, We’re Going Home (according to Pitchfork, the single of 2013). The Zabrze-based duo also reached out for songs by AlunaGeorge or Lykke Li. They have represented Poland at international events, and also on records - their Słodko-słony cios was featured on the Don’t Panic We’re From Poland compilation.
Arctic Monkey’s debut was one of the most important (Anglo-Saxon) music events of the previous decade. The Brits also recorded their first album soon after their songs became extremely successful online. The way ahead of the Poles is thus paved.
2014 – No Bad Days
Jacek Świąder, Gazeta Wyborcza
Transl. AM, May 2014