The Vienna-based indie rock band Those Angry Men are actually 3 nice guys and a cool woman playing acoustic rock with a twist
I met Vienna-based indie band Those Angry Men in late January for brunch and conversation. A band that had popped up in Leo Sigh’s Facebook messenger a few weeks previous, when lead singer and guitarist Chris Slevin contacted me to see if I would be interested in attending their concert at Vienna’s Cafe Carina on February 21st.
“Those Angry Men is an international group of musicians with a unique blend of acoustic rock’n’roll that is steeped in classic rock with a pinch of funk to top it off. From the smoky voice of Irish born Chris Slevin to precise licks the riffs of lead guitarist; Guido Kirchner. Add a bass slapping Italian; Riccardo Alberio, and Claudia Heidegger, a classically trained Austrian violinist and you have yourself a interesting aural experience. If you like rock’n’roll, then this is for you. ” he messaged.
I was intrigued. Not only because I wasn’t familiar with their music, but also because they were a rock’n’roll band with a classically trained violinist.
And you don’t get that every day.
I also found out their upcoming Cafe Carina concert was the first time the band had played all original songs, as they usually play quite a lot of covers. On top of that, Those Angry Men was just getting started on music for their upcoming debut album.
So I decided I needed to get in on the ground floor with this interesting band, and learn more about them before everyone else did.
What I found when I arrived at Cafe Ritter on the city’s Ottakringer Strasse were two Austrians, an Italian and an Irish man who were incredibly friendly, relaxed and funny, and who took my constant “Why are Austrians…..?”, “Why is the Austrian music scene so…” “Why do Austrians not….?” in the way it was intended on my part. Interest in learning more about Austria and the Austrian music scene, without any intention of putting the country or its people down.
What I learnt was a helluva lot more about Vienna’s music scene than I knew before, and that Those Angry Men were a band that was doing something quite different than most other bands in the city. And yet, they are also right at the beginning of their path.
Had a lovely brunch with Austria-based acoustic rock band Those Angry Men (@thoseangrymenmusic) today at Cafe Ritter (now that’s a nice cafe!) A cool bunch of guys (and a very cool angry woman 😁) The band has a slew of gigs coming up in Vienna in the next few months, including at Cafe Carina on Feb 21st, and they’re working on an album. I’ll have an interview with them up on my site (LeoSigh.com) early next month. Thanks guys! Enjoyed it very much, and think I might take your advice and get a dog. Could be married by the summer if I do. 😂😂😂😂 #ThoseAngryMen #AustrianBands #AustrianMusic #CafeRitter #Music #Musik #LiveMusic #RockMusic #Bands #Wien #Vienna #Austria #IgersVienna #IgersWien #IgersAustria
Those Angry Men are:
Chris Slevin: Vocals and rhythm guitar
Guido Kirchner: Lead guitar and vocals
Riccardo Alberio: Bass
Claudia Heidegger: Violin and vocals
How long have you been in Vienna? Do you play in other bands? And what do you do besides play music? Or do you support yourself with your music?
Chris: I’ve been in Vienna for 15 years. My wife grew up here. We were living in Ireland and came over to visit her mother, and I fell in love with the city. Then we decided, “Let’s travel the world. So we’ll start in Vienna and then we’ll move on from there.” And we’ve been here ever since. I used to be an English teacher, then I moved on from there. In the meantime, I play music.
Riccardo: I work in IT. It’s a good job. I’ve been in Vienna for 12 years. I moved because of a job because I was actually based in Germany before, then got a job and moved here. And I like it, so I stayed. I don’t play with other bands. But I do have small projects I play on now and again besides Those Angry Men. I play Irish traditional music, and we book weekly sessions. I also have a band in Italy if you like. We play very rarely, but we’re still in touch.
Before Those Angry Men, I played with the folkies (folk artists), with lots of different people. I play with total promiscuity (and he laughed).
Guido: I’m a teacher. English and music in a middle school. That’s my main income, but it’s flexible enough that I can also pursue music. And I have been for…almost 40 years. It’s more than a hobby. It turned out to be my second profession. I’ve been playing in bands mostly, and projects here and then. But, right now, Those Angry Men is my only thing.
I think teaching is a good thing though. I have a degree in teaching, and teaching others helped me be a better musician. Because you have to analyze what’s helping others and, a lot of times, you learn from your students because of something they’re doing.
Claudia: (She is the one person in the band solely supporting herself from music). At the moment, I’ve got seven projects I’m playing in. I try to do as many things as possible to make it work financially. I’ve got a solo project, just acoustic singer/songwriter and folk. Then there’s a duo – Lions & Thieves – we play…we’re still trying to find a name for the genre. It’s an acoustic guitarist and we play…kind of the way Mark Peters does, but with more percussion. Then there’s Those Angry Men.
There’s another Irish guy I’m playing with, Shane. Then there’s another duo – Portrait of Today – that’s pretty new, with another singer songwriter, Anne Dromeda. She’s Austrian. We just started to work together, and we’re planning a co-headlining Germany tour. There’s also another one with a singer from Brighton — Nicolas and the Viennese Saints. Then there’s a seven-piece band from Linz, where I play violin, guitar and backing vocals.
How long has Those Angry Men been together?
Guido: This line up? One year.
Chris: When we played before, it used to be three of us. Myself, Guido and my nephew. (The video below is the old line up, with the three of them). My nephew moved on to better things (he laughed). But we started about four years ago with that line up. We started with covers because, I think, by doing covers you kind of learn what you’re good at. Later on, we started to write our own music.
What is it like making a living in Vienna playing music?
Guido: Making money in Vienna as a musician is unbelievably difficult. First of all, for a real band, there are almost no venues to play. If you play more than six times a year, you become almost redundant. Because it’s almost always the same people that come, as attracting new people is super hard.
But if you’re a cover band, you can play out of Vienna in the countryside in the beer tents and all that, and you might have to play things you don’t want to play, but some bands do very well because it’s quite a big business. But that also means that every weekend is gone, as you’re playing music somewhere in Austria. I did that for eight years. I taught during the week, and then played almost every weekend.
Those times meant you played almost four and a half hours of music, and it would be an almost 18-hour thing to do in total. You’d have to get there, set up, play the whole show, break it down, come home at 5am. It’s a very different way to play music than I do now.
Chris: In Vienna, to get noticed, you have to play the pub scene, which has its ups and downs. Because we used to play covers that we didn’t like but that people loved. But then you can also put in original songs now and again, which is nice, and they might say “Oh we like that”. Then they’ll request it again.
Guido: I think to stay afloat, until you either have a hit or a presence, you have to do that. Throw in cover songs. Because people who go out want to listen to music they know. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But when we get a good response to our own material, that’s really nice.
Chris: Because you’re playing and you look out at strangers and they’re trying to figure out if they know it. And then you see their heads bobbing, and sometimes you even see them mouthing the words to the song. And you think “How are they doing that?” But it’s great.
How many originals and covers do you play in a typical concert?
Guido: About half originals and half covers.
Chris: There are going to be more gigs where we do only originals. Because we want to start recording an album soon, and so we’re trying to figure out what songs work, what songs don’t.
But you play quite a lot of gigs every year? I was surprised when I saw the list of how many you’re playing in just the next few months.
Claudia: Chris is good at booking!
Chris: It’s actually really hard too. For instance, for the Cafe Carina gig we have a drummer. Normally it’s just the four of us due to the space constrictions.
Guido: And noise. Once you add a drummer, you can strike 80 percent of the venues in Vienna. They’re too small, or the drummer is too loud.
Chris: Yep. There’s neighbours upstairs etc.
That is an interesting thing with Vienna. I’m surprised at how many venues are close to or underneath actual living space. Plus, it’s such a small city, that you are obviously limited in venue space.
Guido: And, it’s a small city yet you’re competing with the world. If you stay in the German language, you have Germany, Switzerland and Austria. With English, though, which is what we sing in, you’re open game basically. Of course, that market is huge, but you need to have a little bit of luck and we just haven’t gotten there. Yet.
Plus, we’re not necessarily in it to become hugely successful (although it would be nice). We just love getting out there, playing together and exploring. Seeing what it’s like playing a certain song. How do people like it, or not?
Who writes your songs?
Guido: Chris is usually the one that has the ideas for lyrics and stuff.
Chris: What happens is I write the lyrics and half the melody, and then I send it on to these guys in a huge file, and I think it’s the best song in the world, then they come to rehearsals and say “Let’s cut this, this, this and this, and change this, add this, do this differently..” (and he laughed).
And then you have to unlearn what you’ve learned. But then it turns out amazing.
Chris: Yeah, because you have like the history of music from different parts from three other people. Things I’ve never thought about, but these guys have.
Guido: This kind of band democracy, open-mindedness thing works really well. I’ve played with people before that, if you change one note, they would be mortally offended. And eventually you quit, because there’s no point to it.
Chris: Well, because we’re in rehearsal and Riccardo will say “Why don’t you play it like this? Or with just the C instead of the A”, and I’m like “Okay, that changes the dynamic so now we have to start again”. But it sounds good when it’s finished.
Riccardo: But there’s not much discussion. I mean things grow naturally by themselves.
Guido: For some reason, there’s always been good chemistry with us from the beginning, Despite the name (Those Angry Men), we really do have respect for each other (and they all laughed).
Riccardo: We also all have different backgrounds that we bring to it, and that works well.
Chris: I grew up with Brit pop, then we have the classic rock from Guido, and the folk from Riccardo and, if you listen to our music it incorporates everything. Because I’m headstrong at playing this way, Guido is headstrong another way and then Riccardo comes in and says “No, let’s play it like this”. And Claudia is the same.
And so, Claudia, where do you come in? Because you’re classically trained?
Claudia: I’m just weird! Yes, I am classically trained but I don’t really play classical music now. I grew up playing in kids’ orchestras, and then I went to university and studied to become a music teacher, Then I decided I didn’t want to teach. It felt like a struggle, and not my calling. Later, I pretty much ran away and moved to London for a few years to do another degree – Commercial Music at the University of Westminster. I lived there for four years but, what you said before about how it’s difficult to get gigs in Vienna, it’s so much worse in London.
It’s just over saturated there, with so many people trying the same thing. And they’re just used to not paying anyone anything, so you don’t make any money either.
Riccardo: If I compare Italy to Vienna, much more is happening here too. Milan for instance has more people, for sure, but there used to be many clubs where bands could play. Nowadays, I think the club scene is declining, so it’s much more lively here in Vienna.
What are your goals with Those Angry Men right now?
Guido: To get as many good songs as possible, and to get to a level where we say “Okay, that’s good for recording”.
Because you’re working towards an album, right? And will that be this year?
Chris: 2018 is when we’ll record it, and release it in 2019. We’re trying to do the old way of recording, where it’s just a live band in a room playing, and to have that sound. But, to get there, we have to be super tight. We’re definitely getting in that groove now, though. Every gig we play, we’re tighter.
Plus, we’re still trying new stuff. Even at the last gig on Friday, Guido was trying new stuff on the guitar and I was like, “Wow, I didn’t hear that before. It sounds good!”
And how will you fund it? Will you pay for it yourself?
Chris: Yeah. That’s what all the gigs are for!
We have lots of songs already too, we just don’t know which ones are good yet. Hence, our gig at Cafe Carina to try out some of our original songs in front of an audience and find out.
The Cafe Carina concert is your first all-originals concert. How many songs will you be playing?
Claudia: About 12 or 13.
Chris: We’ll probably play some cover songs at the end of it too. It’s also our first gig with a drummer, which will be a different dynamic. It brings the music to a completely different level, though.
But we just play gigs because we like it, which is a bonus, and people seem to like it, which is an even bigger bonus.
How did you guys meet?
Guido to Chris: We met through your mother in law and my wife. We know Riccardo through…
Riccardo: Your brother (Chris’s brother), basically.
Claudia: And I know Chris through the Vienna Songwriting Circle. Playing with the band, though, just started as something fun for me that I did now and again. Then in the last few months it started to become something important.
What genre would you include Those Angry Men in?
Chris: I don’t know. Every song we do sounds different. One song is like an upbeat swing song, and another is a rock song, another song is punk, another is a ballad.
Guido: We just say “Acoustic Rock”, and it covers all of it. I think the only thing that binds it together is our instrumentation. I think a lot of musicians struggle with that “What are you?’ question, though. But I’m not so sure it matters.
Claudia: I think it’s sometimes not good to give it a name, because that’s what happened with some of my old stuff. My solo stuff is mellow, singer/songwriter stuff. And I heard somewhere it sounds very medieval. So I tried to call it “Modern Medieval Folk”, but it didn’t work for me because then I felt like I always had to write something that fits the label.
Guido: I think we’re a modern urban band, also an international band, but I think that’s the case with a lot of bands these days who are in a bigger city. That’s a good thing that’s happening here in Vienna, because 30 years ago that would not be the case. Now it’s more open. Inter-nationality is not seen as a bad thing.
Learn More About Those Angry Men
Those Angry Men have a huge list of gigs they are playing just in the Winter and Spring, 2018 (see graphic below for concerts and dates). Their next one is tomorrow night at Vienna’s Cafe Carina.
The bar is right next to the Josefstädter Straße U-bahn station, so couldn’t be more easy to get to — head there if you like rock’n’roll, as I’m told it’s going to be fabulous.
As for their music, they have a debut EP available on Apple iTunes, which was recorded as their old line up.
The same goes for their YouTube video above (it’s Chris, Guido and Chris’s nephew), but I included it as it gives you an idea of how good they sound. But, as I complained to them enough about their not having more YouTube videos up, hopefully we will be getting more new music and videos on their channel soon.
Meanwhile, I’ll be at their Cafe Carina gig tomorrow night. You should be too.
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