In every great hero’s journey, the protagonists are called to accomplish a feat in the face of adversity. For The Scarlet Opera (formerly known as Perta), their feat was to write and produce an EP during a global pandemic.
The Scarlet Opera’s story began in 2020. Between slinging burgers they managed to secure a record deal with Republic Records just a few months before the world shut down due to Covid. “It felt like a curse,” Luka Bazulka (Lead Vocals) said.
However, that “curse” turned out to be a blessing for the quintet of Luka, Colin Kenrick (keyboard), Daniel Zuker (bass), Justin Siegal (drums), and Chance Taylor (guitar).
“We’re a direct result arguably of the pandemic, because it provided us a lot of time to really hone our craft as songwriters and to reflect upon what we’ve done and what we hope to accomplish,” Justin lamented. “At the time it felt like a curse a bit because we felt we were ready to just get out there and being put on ice for a bit was challenging but in hindsight I think it was a blessing. I think we all feel like it was a bit of a blessing because it allowed us to grow really profoundly.”
The Scarlet Opera began writing first over Zoom and eventually in the studio.
“That was one of the first days that I got to sit down with our producer one on one,” Luka recalled about writing their theatrical single “Alive,” “David Stewart sat down at the piano and started playing this idea. It started really slow like the beginning does but as it developed and he just began playing different parts and we were just singing vowel sounds and melodies over it. It ended up gaining energy and momentum. I think the song kind of revealed what it wanted to be in a way because it wanted to pick itself up and start running.”
Much of their writing for the band’s Comedy EP, which features “Alive,” began with Luka and David fleshing out each track. Over the span of three weeks, they developed an authentic narrative; which is inspired by Luka’s journey from Pennsylvania to LA, identity and quest to succeed in romance and music.
“Underneath all the witty banter and one liners is something so aggressively human,” Luka shares of the hopeless meets hopeful writing that inspired the EP’s ironic title.
With the music in the can, they needed a name. “The scarlet lettering of the misunderstood comes with a lot of shame and I think the opera takes the person that feels like the scarlet and lifts them to this fine art world and idolizes them and makes them beautiful,” says Luka.
That same sentiment can be felt in Queen’s work, a group that the band is often compared to.
“Obviously, it’s an honor we are compared to such an iconic band,but it’s pure coincidence – we never really set out to be one thing. When we started making music, our soundscape was so many many different things and we narrowed in on this because it’s the type of music that brings most of us joy,” Luka says of embracing comparisons and leaning heavily into theatrical and glamorous rock.
Their mission to lift fine art to the masses was highlighted on their Late Late Show with James Corden appearance from the staging to the over the top costumes. “We wanted to create this new age renaissance image of what it means to be fine art and to …redefine that sexual prowess and energy and all of that.”
Athena Lawton, a long-time friend of Luka’s, along with Ken Law brought the band’s stylistic vision to life. Athena and Luka met in college and have been working together from day one. Athena’s understanding of Luka’s “new age renaissance image,” helped her to create the stunning long-cape that Luka wore during the performance.
Ken Law then threaded the vision together for the rest of the band. “Luckily Ken came on and he was able to see what Athena and I were doing and take little elements of that and spread them amongst the boys, especially for the Corden performance. I was really really happy with how we got to what we got to. We wanted to show a true rock opera and there was something romantic and slightly hypersexual about the clothing choices we made,” said Luka.
As for the song, it seemed only fitting to play “Alive,” which Colin considered, “a love song to the band” with its empowering lyric, “life keeps rolling. Keep the party alive.”
It has certainly been quite the journey as things “keep rolling” for the Scarlett Opera. When asked to recall his favorite memory of this rolling adventure, Luka said, “weirdly I think it was the last day. There was a very weird, beautiful, already nostalgic energy. We had spent so much time in three weeks in these two rooms. And I remember sitting in the main room …while the boys were packing up their gear and it was the end of a long day, our final day of tracking some of the instruments for the records before David took off to Europe to start working on the production elements. I remember sitting there and just kind of looking at the boys and feeling proud of them and myself and what we had made and I think I had felt a shift within all of us that we had found what we had been looking for in the seven years we had been working together and I was of course getting emotional. I love these boys. They are like family. It was weird to see them through a window. We’re like growing up together. It’s very bizarre to do that. It’s a family dynamic for better or for worse.”
Although Luka would love to eventually bring an intimate version of the show back home to Pennsylvania and Colin would love to play a circus, five cities will get to experience the quintets’ theatrics and authenticity this month.
“The idea of the opera in general is taking something that was kind of reserved for the few and making something that’s accessible for the many,” Colin explained. “We want our show to be a big tent where anybody can come. Drag queens and truckers, we want them all there screaming these ridiculous, fun, bombastic songs. That’s the world we hope to create and the stories we hope to tell.”
Be part of their world this April during their west coast tour, and stay tuned for more music and a second EP currently in the works.