Slovenia 2023: Joker Out
Photo: Urša Premik

Joker Out: "We're on a mission of getting Slovenia interested in Eurovision again"

INTERVIEW The band Joker Out submitted a song for EMA. It made the Slovenian broadcaster scrap its national selection plans, and selected the band for Eurovision 2023 instead. We met with the five guys from Joker Out to hear about them, the band, the song, and the whole Eurovision circus

The sun is shining in Barcelona and the temperature is quite warm. It's Friday afternoon and, because of that, the streets are even more crowded than usual. Plaça de Catalunya is no exception. But amongst so many people, five guys sit on two benches with a cameraman around them: that's Joker Out from Slovenia.

Right before the pre-parties started in Barcelona, the band made sure to let everyone know that they were going to attend all of them. Not only for the fun aspect of it, but also for working and for the promotional opportunities. Let's get to work then!

It was back in December when the Slovenian broadcaster (RTVSLO) announced that Joker Out would be representing Slovenia in Liverpool at Eurovision 2023 with the song "Carpe Diem."

After a few changes to the band's lineup, Joker Out consists of five guys:

  • Bojan Cvjetićanin (vocals, lyrics)
  • Jan Peteh (guitars)
  • Jure Maček (drums)
  • Kris Guštin (guitar)
  • Nace Jordan (bass)

Back to their announcement, little did we know that a whole national selection (Slovenia's EMA) was scrapped in favor of the guys:

– For the last few years we discussed the possiblity of applying to EMA, Bojan says.

– We were always asking ourselves: "Is it time to go?" We knew that we wanted to do it, but we also wanted to wait for the right moment. And this year, I guess, we were listening to the universe and it told us to go. And when we applied for EMA, the broadcaster automatically invited us to represent Slovenia.

There was no competition for you?

They laugh and agree in a playful way. On the same note, Kris adds that going to Eurovision was a childhood wish for the group as well as a career goal:

– Subconsciously, Eurovision was always part of our career goals, but now it felt like the right moment because we also want to spread our music internationally. We've started writing songs in Serbian, and we're planning on releasing English singles shortly that will culminate in an English album to be released soon, says Kris, who continues:

– The fact that we've been internally selected does add more pressure to perform well and to deliver at Eurovision because people didn't directly vote for us to go.

– They did indirectly, though, because a lot of people come to our shows and, in a way, we consider it to be indirectly voting.

Joker Out has performed their Eurovision song "Carpe Diem" on numerous occasions. The reactions have been very positive so far.

– The reactions are always mixed. It doesn't matter if there's a national selection or not, some will always say it's rigged, but the general reaction was good. We're glad that most people who were unhappy with it didn't see a problem in us but in the fact that EMA didn't take place but there's nothing we can do about it. The broadcaster asked and, of course, we said yes.

We're kind of on a mission of promoting ourselves and getting our music out there, but also to get Slovenia's interest in Eurovision back.Kris from Joker Out

Kris adds an important detail once again:

– I also want to highlight the international reactions that have been overwhelmingly positive. Everybody who we've met and who is a Eurofan has mainly said good things about "Carpe Diem" and that we're amongst their favorites. That's really good.

Slovenia's track record is not that good when it comes to Eurovision. Out of 18 contests, they've only qualified for six Grand Finals. This year, the bookmakers are quite confident that the guys from Joker Out will qualify for the Final. But, this is "a bit silly" according to Bojan:

– The thing hasn't even started. Until you see the staging and everything it's kind of impossible to predict. There have been a few winners who've stayed on top even before the song had been released.

On the other hand, Kris is a bit more enthusiastic about the predictions:

– It's very great to see we're doing good. Slovenia has had some troubles qualifying in the past years and that influences how Slovenians, in general, look into Eurovision, Kris says and continues:

– There's currently this dissatisfaction, and some even contemplate us withdrawing like some other countries did. We're kind of on a mission of promoting ourselves and getting our music out there, but also to get Slovenia's interest in Eurovision back and that's possible with getting into the finals.

The evolution of Joker Out

Reaching a bigger audience and an international public is definitely part of the plans for this band that was created in 2016. Two of the members, Bojan and Kris, had known each other for many years before that:

– Me and Kris met in primary school when I had my previous band, and a few years later he'd form his own with Jan.

Jan approaches us:

– That's me.

We laugh and Bojan continues:

– I remember when I attended their first concert, I really enjoyed how they played guitar. Back then, I wanted to upgrade my band so I called them up and we played like that for a few years. Once things became more professional, because we wanted to, we took Nace and Jure, who were already established musicians, and together we formed this family that is Joker Out.

Let's go a little bit back to when Bojan and Kris first met: in primary school. It's not common for people that meet at such an early stage of life to stay in touch for so long. How many primary school friends do you still have contact with?

– Reality is, we met quite later on, says Kris.

– I think we met in the 8th grade when we were 13. He (Bojan) had a concert at our primary school, and a year later I remember they were recording the official anthem of the school where I was selected to be the journalist who'd inform everyone of the whole process. And that's when I got inspired to start playing the guitar.

Bojan continues:

– A big thing here is that me and Kris lived especially close to each other, and Martin, our previous bass player, lived 20 meters from me. So, I'd say proximity made it a lot easier.

– It all also developed so quickly, we didn't have time to lose contact, concludes Kris.

How was it to become famous so quickly?

– It did happen in such a short amount of time, but it also happened gradually. We've been doing this for half of our lives basically, and we really got to live every step of it. Of course, we're young and all of this happening to us is a lot for someone to take, but we kind of went step-by-step. Take Måneskin, for example, who became super global. Big as you can get. It would be shocking, but in terms of that we live in Slovenia, being a small country, there's no such thing as stardom. Our lives are pretty normal, we just get recognized on the streets, tells Bojan.

A couple of members left the band, whereas two others integrated into the missing places. How was it adapting the members to the group?

– The first day when I arrived to rehearsals, it truly felt like I was part of the family already, Jure says.

– I don't know, we were just having fun all the time, and then Nace came in later and that feeling of knowing each other for a longer time happened again, it was just so natural.

Nace is a bit quieter and a bit more distanced from the microphone, but agrees.

How about the older members?

– I guess we were lucky that whenever a new member came into our band, it felt like we'd known each other for our whole life, it's like we were already best friends, says Jan.

Kris is talking about changing people in the band:

– In Jure's case, for instance, we chose him after watching a video of him and really seeing his vibe. When we saw him playing drums, we knew he was different from the other guys. For Nace, our bass player actually left because he wanted to. But before he did, he chose Nace to replace him, he suggested him so we knew it'd be a good choice. There was a great energy around him, he recalls.

– It's, of course, important how you play, but more than that it's what kind of person you are and these two were perfect matches.

It's important how you play, but more than that it's what kind of person you are and these two were perfect matches.Kris from Joker Out

So, you're a reference, Nace! It must carry a lot of responsibility?

Nace laughs and Kris adds:

– I know, our former bass player really appealed to us to take Nace. He begged!

The group laughs, and you can tell the chemistry as a band truly works with the guys. But being together 24/7 must have its challenges?

– You know, we don't really think about that. We just understand that this is how it's got to be and how we want it to be, Kris says.

– Of course, sometimes it leads to conflicts but we all see that as a good thing rather than a bad thing. Because once in a while you have to wear it out and we just have to understand when somebody's pissed off. We may have to scream at each other sometimes, but in the end we're friends and we move forward.

Shagadelic Rock 'n' Roll

How will the guys describe their music style for someone who is not familiar with who they are?

– Shagadelic rock 'n' rollers, says Bojan.

Kris elaborates:

– It's a genre that we actually created ourselves. It kind of tries to replicate the energy of "Austin Powers," which is one of our favorite movies, and has this great energy to it. He (Mike Myers) is a great actor and we are all fans. That's where we heard "shagadelic" for the first time and we thought: "That sounds great, we want that to be our music!"

– Britpop would be the closest, to truly compare it to something else, adds Bojan.

Music Video: Joker Out – "Carpe Diem"

Besides their favorite movies, what sort of bands inspire Joker Out?

– For me personally, I'd say a lot of Slovenian and Balkan bands, and Green Day were actually really big for me, says Bojan.

ABBA, The Beatles, and Arctic Monkey later on, adds Kris.

Jan has more of a special soul, though:

– Yes, I was mostly inspired by my older brother who is a hip hop producer, so I was very into hip hop and then metal, blues, jazz, and later on, Britpop.

Let's talk about "Carpe Diem." Was it always the song they wanted for EMA and Eurovision?

– Before we were announced, there was a demo of the song in English and it was really gibberish. It was quite similar to what we have now in terms of vibe, but I don't think we ever hesitated about the song, we just felt really good about it, and it worked very well in rehearsals. We're a live band, so if a song doesn't work live, it doesn't work for us. This one did, it truly was a no-brainer, explains Bojan.

Kris continues:

– Also, it really is our sound. It's completely our sound, and everybody who has heard our previous stuff assures us that we didn't compromise 1% for Eurovision. It's a completely shagadelic rock 'n' roll Joker Out sound, and that's how we want to present ourselves to Europe and to the world.

Bojan mentions that the song was first written in English but assures that it will be 100% Slovenian at Eurovision. Why is it important for them to keep the Slovenian language?

– Well, first of all we're representing Slovenia, our fans, and we believe we're the most authentic in our own language which is completely natural. So, we never thought of not doing it in Slovenian.

About the English version, he assures that it's only to reach a wider audience.

Not everyone who'll see Joker Out perform "Carpe Diem" at Semi-final 2 will understand the message. What is the song about?

– The lyrics are a very feel-good generational anthem, explains Bojan, who is also the lyricist of the song.

It's completely our sound, and everybody who has heard our previous stuff assures us that we didn't compromise 1% for Eurovision.Kris about "Carpe Diem"

– They came to life when we were in Hamburg recording, and by then we were secluded from the world for about 10 days. After spending three or four days in the studio, a feeling of a different kind of freedom kicked in and we realized how much we enjoy each other's company, our music, our passion, and everything related to it. We saw that there's more to life than what we live every day.

– It's about us and our vision for the generation around us, concludes Kris.

Eurovision and the aim for global domination

It's less than a month away for Eurovision. How are preparations going?

– We have already delivered our song and performance plans to the EBU, so 90% is done, says Kris.

– We've basically already won, laughs Jan.

– We're really going to stay faithful to our showcase performance and true to ourselves. We will keep the energy which we had in it so it won't be a surprise, rather an upgrade of what people have seen.

Showcase Performance: Joker Out – "Carpe Diem"

The band has spoken with some former Eurovision artists, both Slovenian and others, to get advice for the whole Eurovision circus:

– They've told us just to be ourselves and to enjoy it, as it is an amazing journey. We also met Ronela (Ronela Hajati, Albania 2022) last night, who was extremely nice and told us she likes our song, she thinks we're sexy and advised us to smile a lot.

Ronela may like "Carpe Diem," but which songs does Joker Out enjoy from this year's edition?

– We kind of agree on a few. All of us like France and Spain, those are quite popular. Finland is also special, Kris says.

As the big day is approaching, is there anything to be nervous about?

– The only thing I am afraid of is losing my voice prior to the competition. Otherwise, there's nothing to be scared of. It's just a stage, and we don't see the 160 million people on the other side. We've been doing shows like this before and we believe it will be very fun.

When asked about their goal for Eurovision, the answer is simple:

– Global domination!

Joker Out will take the Liverpool Arena stage on 11 May in Eurovision 2023 Semi-final 2.

About the author: Pedro Santos (Portugal)

authorPedro comes from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 30 years old and graduated in journalism. He has attended Eurovision Song Contest three times live - 2018, 2019 and 2022 - and covered the show twice more (2021, 2023) but his first Eurovision memory takes him back to 2007 when Sarbel delivered his catchy "Yassou Maria" performance. Pedro's favorite Eurovision song is Albania's 2015 "I'm Alive" by Elhaida Dani which is also his favorite Eurovision edition.

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