We try to tell ourselves that we don’t care, but in reality the Eurovision Song Contest remains one of the most eagerly-awaited dates on the calendar for us Maltese. And this year there’s plenty to expect, as a band that started life performing on the indie circuit will be bringing in the wow factor on the Liverpudlian stage between May 9 and 13.
Meet The Busker, a three-man outfit – Sean Meachen and Jean Paul Borg, Sean Meachen and Dav.Jr – that will be competing with Dance (Our Own Party), an upbeat track with an intro that hooks you in immediately, exploding into a sax-fuelled, dancey earworm.
It’s a song that, as Dav.Jr says, started life at a late night barbeque jam. Initially called Unloveable, its theme, music and vibe were entirely different from the song that ended up stealing the show in February.
“We kept working on it through 2023, as I was hoping to propose it to the band as a Eurovision entry for last year. But at one point we realised that the festival had taken a very definite dance direction. The song kept evolving, we kept the sax, drums and instrumentalisation, added new lyrics and… here we are,” he says.
Here we are indeed. Sean says that he knew the band had a winner on its hands, as this new track had just the right “bite” needed for that Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) signature. The lads decided to focus exclusively on perfecting the track, giving it what Sean calls their “100%, undivided attention”.
“The change in lyrics made the song a lot more relatable in my eyes, and the theme really fit the global narrative that the world was going through after the pandemic. Then Dav introduced the bass idea and Stefan Xuereb, the recording bassist, put some really nice personal touches. I heard the recorded saxophone and crisp vocal takes, and I knew we were there,” he says.
For those of us who follow the local music scene, The Busker is, perhaps, not the kind of band that one associates with the ESC. But in reality, Jean says that the band had been aiming high since around two years, when they were discussing using a new platform to promote their music.
“We decided it was a good idea and we tried our luck. You could say it was an experiment for us, entering a new world from our humble beginning as a garage based local band. We met a lot of amazing people and artists along the way, and we all shared a common interest of being gathered with our families watching the Eurovision from our living room sofas. Last year was the first year that we watched it together in anticipation for our submission this year. Safe to say we haven’t looked back since,” he says with a smile.
Since the big announcement, life for the band has changed considerably. Sean describes how the change in social media reach for the band grew astronomically over the span of the semi-final week, with random strangers messaging about their performance.
“We had people sending in videos of their kids bouncing to the track, and the cherry on the cake was seeing someone dressed as Dav.Jr at the Carnival weekend in Gozo. Even simply having a coffee at my usual local was an experience, with people stopping to say how much they loved the song and the performance. It fills you with pride, and makes you appreciate the beauty of getting out of your comfort zone,” Sean says.
If you have only just heard about The Busker because of the ESC, in reality the band has been around for the last 10 years. As one of the founders, Jean reveals that it was always one of their dreams to evolve, to challenge themselves and explore new territory.
“It’s been an amazing journey with a lot of ups and downs. Two of us moved on to pastures new along the journey. With every setback come new opportunities, and that opportunity came in the form of Dav.Jr. He brought in a new dynamic and a new sound that Sean and I really clicked with, allowing us to experiment more and to challenge our boundaries.”
While this will undoubtedly be the biggest stage, and audience, The Busker has faced as yet, it won’t be the first international performance. The Busker have already stretched their musicianship with performances in London, Ortigia and a short tour in the Greater Manchester, Bristol and Leeds area.
“Taking our act to Liverpool is really significant, considering we were busking right in front of The Cavern Club just a few years back. It’s amazing for our journey to take us back to the same place, taking on such an immense challenge in the name of our beautiful country. Looking forward is an understatement,” Jean says.
All three agree that the most exciting part of all this is to experience it as a team, with Dav.Jr adding that the three of them, their partners and their teams have become quite the family over the past few weeks. But what can fans expect to see on the big nights?
“We’ve been encouraged to maintain our style and image, and definitely the same track and general vibe. The challenge will definitely be adapting to a bigger stage than the local one. We plan on keeping the same wardrobe image and stylistic direction. Our image has been at the forefront of what helped us come to this position of representing Malta; people enjoy the fact that we are wearing our sweaters and the concept of being dressed down to the point of feeling comfortable in your own skin. So we plan on delivering just that,” Dav.jr says.
As for post-Eurovision plans, Sean and the lads are adamant on one thing, whatever happens.
“As most of our closer followers know, we never stop. We are always working on something fresh and challenging. In terms of what happens next – that will happen once it happens. We will evaluate what comes our way in a diligent manner as has always been the case for us. But we plan on relishing every moment that this experience brings with it. The baseline for us is not to get caught up in too many moving parts, but to focus on enjoying each others’ company and making our country proud,” they conclude.
One thing’s for sure. Whichever way ESC2023 goes, we’ll be hearing quite a bit more from The Busker.
The Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Liverpool, England, between May 9 and 13.