Interview: The Dropout Patrol

The Dropout Patrol - Photo by René Greffin

The Dropout Patrol - Photo by René Greffin

It has been more than a decade since Jana Sotzko (aka Jana Punchline) first began writing and recording songs for her solo project, The Dropout Patrol.

Today, Sotzko’s brainchild exists as a foursome, which also includes members Kristof Künssler (Mystery Boy), Stefan Diesner (Stedie Wonder) and Ulrich Kalliske (CJ Kalle).

“The current lineup is actually pretty new,” Sotzko said, referencing last summer as when it first became a reality.

Prior to that, various other individuals joined and quit or collaborated with the group, but for the majority of the project’s tenure – or at least up until about three years ago – Sotzko has been the only staple.

Looking back on it, the way in which the existing lineup came to be isn’t much of a surprise, as all the members have been involved in the Berlin music scene for some time.

“We all got into punk pretty early, I guess, and then it just evolved,” Künssler said, explaining how that interest prompted them to join bands. “I think from that point of view, we have similar backgrounds.”

The various permutations came about through being in bands that knew one another, toured together, and put out splits together.

Currently, The Dropout Patrol has a handful of one-off recordings, including demos and live versions, but no official full-length. That’s not long off, however, as the four have already recorded a 10-song debut, scheduled for release sometime this summer.

“I never thought this would evolve into something like an album, really,” Sotzko said. “So, for me, personally, it’s really exciting to get to do this. And I’m happy that it can happen in such a pretty easy way.”

By easy, she of course is referring to the fact that all the members are musical veterans, and not brand new to the prospect of recording music. This prior knowledge has made the entire process much more smooth.

As for the reason why an album hasn’t been a reality until now, Sotzko admitted that her own personal reservations about both perfectionism and vulnerability have gotten in the way of committing the music to something as concrete as an album.

“It took so long to have enough songs together and to be able to play them in a way that I think it’s now OK to sort of fix them, because I’m always scared of recording something, and then half a year later, I hate it,” she said. “I guess, in a way, it’s nice to freeze that moment in time too. I can see the charm of that, but in this case, because it’s so personal and such [an ongoing] thing, I really want it to be nice.”

Opening up more in regards to the personal aspect, Sotzko shared that in her main project, Petethepiratesquid, she feels as though the music lends itself to being less revealing, on the whole.

“Because it’s louder, you can hide a little bit more behind the noise, and there’s like four people being noisy on stage,” she shared. “And this, because it’s so quiet, and you can hear the lyrics…it’s more vulnerable I guess.”

At the same time, Sotzko is also quick to point out that, regardless of how it began, The Dropout Patrol is not a bunch of people playing her songs, but a creative collective.

“We hope that it comes across as like a band, because it is a band now,” she said.

One of the factors influencing this is that, although many of the songs began as Sotzko’s personal tunes, the band members have been able to have a noticeable effect on the musical outcome.

“It’s a cool way to like, come up with songs,” Künssler said explaining how the foundation is already laid, but the band members are able to come together and build on top of it. “I mean, [Sotzko] always had songs…and it’s so much easier to work on stuff that’s already there, but change it and to come up with completely new stuff…it completely saves us from jamming.”

Although it’s still relatively early in the year, The Dropout Patrol is planning to do as much as possible this year. In addition to the forthcoming album, the plan is also to continue touring, even if it only consists of weekend stints.

“It’s hard to find time, obviously [with] working [and] other bands and stuff, but we want to play more,” Sotzko said.

Additionally, the band plans on writing together, which is a natural extension of the direction things are already headed. However, all four are interested in seeing how it turns out, as having two guitarists is a relatively new and recent development, albeit one that is definitely welcomed.

“It’s more, like, varied, as opposed to just one person with a guitar,” Sotzko explained. “It’s more structured, I think, and the songs are more [rounded]…it makes a lot of sense.”

In fact, the only negative to the current instrumentation is the added challenge of trying to stay quiet.

Or as Diesner put it: “We’re learning how to reduce music.”

Yet even given their respective musical backgrounds, the band members found that together they are continuing to grow and learn, both as individuals and as a whole.

“For me it still feels pretty new, in a way,” Künssler said. “Especially musically, it’s kind of the band I always wanted to play in…[and] I still learn a lot.”

The Dropout Patrol plays tonight at Studentisches Kulturzentrum Potsdam in Potsdam. The show begins at 20.00.

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