If you flick to the index pages in the back of The Great Escape festival programme, there’s a lone name sitting on top under ‘Bulgaria’. Jeremy?, a new alternative rock four-piece from the capital Sofia, were listed among hundreds of artists bound to rock in Brighton in May. But what sets them apart from the lot – except for that eccentric addition of a question mark in their name?
‘We are the first Bulgarian band to ever land gigs at this festival – although that’s probably not such a deal after all,’ said band manager Martin Mihaylov somewhat unconvincingly. But he needn’t be so humble – ever since he teamed up with the band, Jeremy? got off to a flying start bursting into the local scene with distinctively mature Brit-rock. As their popularity grew rapidly, their hit single ‘Fake Fruits’ gained airplay on MTV Adria, the music channel customised for parts of the Balkan peninsula, and they were soon en route to a seven-date UK tour.
With catchy guitar licks, melodic yet powerful sound and strong vocals, Jeremy? – Ersin Mustafov (lead vocals/ guitar), Tasho Kolev (guitar), Rosen Vatev (drums) and Emiliyan Bonev (bass) – play 90s-infused modern rock comparable to Kings of Leon and Editors. ‘I’ve always wanted to come to the The Great Escape, even as an audience member,’ admitted Ersin. ‘So playing here was a dream come true.’
After gigs across the UK including Liverpool, Dublin and London, Jeremy landed a 9.15pm slot at Brighton’s new nightclub Patterns on Friday, 15 May – the time and date suggesting a big crowd were anticipating their new material. ‘That was the gig we were looking forward to the most – and it really was electrifying. There were a hundred or so people and I think they had lots of fun,’ explained Ersin. The crowd was exposed to a variety of distinctive styles – Jeremy? were squeezed between 36? (a Canadian psych rock outfit), Mountain Bike (unruly punk heads from Belgium) and Hector Bizerk (a high-energy hip hop act from Scotland).
In the allotted half-hour, the Bulgarians showcased their new tracks – rousing modern rock songs fuelled by passion and poignant love stories. Channelling grunge – the music that inspired Ersin and Tasho to name the band after Pearl Jam’s infamous single – the quartet’s riff rock layered the emotional core of the songs with an added subtlety from the vocals. The buzz came to a halt in the band’s last number, the single ‘Fake Fruits’, where melancholia gave way to an explosive chorus dominated by Ersin’s pleading refrain ‘Don’t live in a lie’ before the track finished in a whirl of emotion and guitar distortion.
As we exited into the sunlit Queens Road after their Saturday 12pm gig at The Hope & Ruin, the spirits were still running high despite the exhaustion of two weeks of touring abroad. The Great Escape was a success then? ‘It was revealing – it served a proof that it’s possible for a band like us to come here and get a good reception – as long as we do things the right way,’ explained Ersin. ‘We aim to play in the UK even more in the future – hopefully get under the radar of a label and record the songs you heard. Simply said, we are hunting the hunters!’
As Jeremy? continue to tour in Europe, they’ll be looking to return to London and the south coast with more spirited rock’n’roll. So watch this space!
By Teodora Lyubomirova