A look at the Romanian Punk Rock scene from Romanian punk act TBA

The punk rock scene in Romania is like a ghost, haunting places and minds but somehow never really there. Although the first bands started to appear in the early 90’s, after the revolution, the situation here is “stranger than fiction”. Almost everyone knows that Romania’s current social and economic status is somewhere around 20 or 30 years in the past relative to western countries. It’s kind of the same with the punk rock scene. Truth be told, there are some local bands that manage to gather more than a hundred people for a show, have been doing this for more than 10 years and are doing a good job musically. But still, many bands came, more bands left.

Along the years, the scene became nothing more than an isolated bubble. Isolated in the terms that everyone knew about the local hero bands but few were interested in other countries’ underground scenes. With a few exceptions, none of the Romanian bands tried to tour outside Romania or record a split with a foreign band. One of the only relations between the outside-of-Romania punk rock scene and the Romanian punk rock scene were the small opening bands that would play for a 2 beer/each share, lasting no more than 1 or 2 years, never releasing a record because of the difficulty and expenses and not getting too much help from the bigger bands. It is a little bit strange that many of these small bands adopted a proto-punk sound, with a big Ramones, Toy Dolls, Adicts or other old school band influence or a reggae-ska feeling. It’s like it was obvious that the spirit and the will of starting something bigger were there, but the interest of doing it for the present, expanding their views, looking outside and not only living in the past wasn’t. It somehow feels like a nationalist thing but I don’t wanna go that far. And I don’t want to criticize or blame anyone in particular for this. Maybe it’s the lack of interest from the public to search for something new, maybe the bands’ attitude of singing mostly in Romanian and being content with seeing some happy kids at their show, without trying to educate them in the spirit of this movement. The underground scene at some point shifted towards other musical genres like indie or metal and the punk scene was left with a couple of popular bands and a bunch of smaller bands that wouldn’t last a year before splitting up.

A lot of people nowadays associate the word “punk” with either very popular local bands or piss-drunk, strange-hair-money-for-beer beggars. It seems that we killed the punk from punk. That’s why, when an active and well known underground band from any other country tours in Romania, sometimes there are less than 10 people attending the show.

It is still a good thing that we have one or two venues where this music can be played, at least in Bucharest, but for a city with 3 million people it shouldn’t be enough. No squats at all or autonomous places, even though some people tried to do this but were defeated by the spirit of this country. And I’m talking more about Bucharest because its the city where I saw my first punk show and got in touch with people from the scene. There are some promoters here and there in the country that try to keep this movement alive and over the past years, the cities closer to the western boarder obviously had a more active scene compared to the one in the overcrowded, communist-like capital. But things are getting messy in these cities too. It doesn’t feel like the scene is dying because it was never really there. It was there only in a superficial and mostly local way. I like to think that we are destroying ourselves only to be recreated into something new and stronger this time.

TBA was born out of the few people attending the underground punk shows and out of frustration of not having a proper scene. I mean really, how many Romanian punk bands do you know? Some Romanians go abroad to pick fruit, some to steal and, to be honest, we are not far from that. We go abroad, steal information, gain some experience, pick up some details, come back home and try to do something with what we have.

Just like all bands, TBA started when a guy (Matei-bass) wanted to start a punk band and he knew some other guys (Leo – vox, guitar; Matei – guitar, vox; Razvan – drums) that wanted more or less the same thing. Picking a name was easy since we had more important things to worry about and TBA seemed like the name you’d someday see on a concert or festival poster. About a month after our first rehearsal together we had written our first song, Lost and Found, and had our first concert, riddled with covers and guest appearances from our friends in the local punk scene.

A few months and one drummer (enters André from Portugal) later we were ready (or so we thought) to embark on our first tour, with Volstead Akt (Fr) and Agora (Ro), with a rented van and no drummer, since André couldn’t make it on such short notice. Halfway through the tour, after a dull set of concerts in Romania (except Sibiu) we had abandoned the drum machine and put Leo in charge of the drums without knowing how to drum, crashed the van, somehow replaced it with a small hatchback, got to France and met up with Dragos, a hitchhiker friend of Leo’s, who took over on guitar whenever he could find a ride to the next gig. It was there that we had the best two weeks of our lives, playing and sleeping in squats, being treated like old friends and recording our first demo at our friends’ place.

In the following year we played every gig we could that didn’t require a van, we followed Gnarwolves and Despite Everything on tour (we only needed a regular car) and opened for them on all three of their romanian dates without anyone asking us to and we started working on our first EP, Evenings, which we recorded over 3-4 days at our rehearsal room and released through our own record label, Overdue Records.

TBA plays an unequal mix of punk, melodic hardcore, pop punk and post rock and stands for not waiting around. Not waiting to find that perfect name, not waiting to have more than one song, not waiting until the songs sound perfect to play them, not waiting to find a drummer before you plan the tour (actually when we planned the tour we did have a drummer, he just bailed in the meantime), not waiting to get your own van and not waiting for someone to magically offer you a record deal.

The only possible plan for the future? Keep on doing stuff…

We’re happy to say that, as pessimistic as the story of the Romanian punk scene may seem, the situation isn’t really so dire as proven to us by the audience we had when releasing our first EP, just a few weeks ago. If all those people keep showing up to support the scene and not only local bands, we have a real chance!


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