Ewert and the Two Dragons

Music Features Ewert And The Two Dragons

It’s just over 200 miles from Ewert Sundja’s hometown of Tallinn, Estonia, to St. Petersburg, Russia—only the distance between New York City and Boston separate David from Goliath in the history of Baltic-Soviet relations.

The smallest and northern-most state in the Baltic region has endured a tumultuous past with its gargantuan eastern neighbor since the 1700s. Even before that, from the 1200s almost until the 21st century, the Danes, Germans and Swedes, in addition to the Russians, took turns claiming the land now recognized by the European Union as the Republic of Estonia.

As such, during the first eight years of Sundja’s life, his country and his home were not even his own.

Speaking on behalf of his band, Ewert and the Two Dragons, Sundja says, “We all spent our childhood [in] a rather exotic place called The Soviet Union. Estonia got independent in 1991, when I was eight years old. People from the Western part of the world usually seem to compare it with growing up in North Korea today, but despite it all I think I had a nice childhood. No, we didn’t have MTV or any other music channels. But we did get foreign records and people listened to The Voice of America and watched Finnish television.”

Luckily, Sundja did have access to a number of British and American records while growing up, citing The Beatles and Queen and early English-speaking influences for Ewert and the Two Dragons. Although musically dissimilar from Brian May’s unmistakable guitar solos and Freddie Mercury’s exuberant, theatrical presence, Ewert and the Two Dragons should fit quite snugly in any American record store’s indie/folk section.

Comprised of Sundja (vocals, keys), Erki Pärnoja (guitar), Ivo Etti (bass) and Kristjan Kallas (drums, percussion), Ewert and the Two Dragons began performing together in 2008 and the band’s first record The Hills Behind The Hills debuted in 2009. Last April, though, the group’s sophomore effort Good Man Down was released in select markets abroad via Latvian indie label I Love You Records.

“We released our first album by ourselves with a little help from our friends,” begins Sundja with a perceived nod to The Beatles. He continues, “We actually weren’t really thinking about a sequel when we first met people from our future label. It seems weird, but from where we come, it has not been too common for bands to perform or release music in neighboring countries. So at that time, we were very happy to get a deal with the Latvians. We thought that if nothing else, we at least get regular gigs there. Now, a couple of years have passed and we obviously went a bit further than just our southern neighbors. Releasing Good Man Down when we did and how we did it, has proved to be a very right decision.”

In the year and a half or so since Good Man Down’s European release, Ewert and the Two Dragons has toured extensively, garnering particularly devoted fans in Germany, France and the Netherlands. They’ve also performed at Positivus, the largest music festival in the Baltic region, three years in a row.

Now they feel the time is right to bring a bit of Estonia to the United States. “I actually don’t really know how we’ve ended up here in the States thinking about a release,” Sundja says. “I think it got a kick-start in Musikki and Media showcase in Helsinki, Finland, which is a two-hour ferry ride from our native Tallinn, Estonia. There we first met out future agent Justin Bridgewater from The Agency Group.”

Without knowing about the Ewert and the Two Dragons’ Estonian roots, it would be easy to peg them as another American indie outfit, which surely elevates the group’s domestic marketability. The band writes, sings and promotes itself in English, thereby essentially eliminating one of the most difficult aspects of breaking into the Western market. Throughout Good Man Down, Sundja’s vocals are calm, clear and soothing amidst the band’s bouncy, mostly acoustic instrumentation. From the upbeat opening track “(In the End) There’s Only Love,” the album streamlines into more mid-tempo, mid-album tracks including the rhythmic “Sailor Man” and closes with the soaring “You Had Me At Hello,” a ballad marked by a luscious combination of sustained piano chords, xylophone tinkling and distant horns.

While the band and their management continue to work on an American release of Good Man Down (hopefully for later this year), Ewert and the Two Dragons will be traversing North America—from Los Angeles to New York City—with an Ohio’s The Lighthouse and the Whaler over the course of October.

Having already performed in New York earlier this year, Ewert and the Two Dragons are excited to return to States. “We are very much looking forward to the U.S. tour this fall,” says Sundja. “I hope the venues are cool and audiences friendly.”

And as for the rest of the band’s jam-packed schedule, Sundja maintains, “The gigs are rewarding and the people lovely, but everything that comes before and after a gig can be described as exhausting. I’m not gonna tell more about the distances we have to cover, how little we get to sleep, how we miss our families and so on because it would sound as if I’d be complaining. In fact, I think we are happier than ever before.”

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