Pinkshinyultrablast: How Russia is Losing One of its Best Bands

pinkshiny

In a dark room of 24 square meters, on the fourth floor of a building belonging to the company group OOO Aston-balt, Roman, Igor, Sergei, and Rustam are practicing. They keep playing the same bit, which, in the recording takes up a maximum of ten seconds. They practice it for about half and hour. The music can be heard from the street, walking up to the building from the Sverdlovski promenade. Meanwhile from the yard, the sounds of nonstop rattling from their deathcore neighbors ring. Today is the 16th of December – Black Tuesday – the day when the Euro briefly cost more than one hundred rubles. Today is the last time that Pinkshinyultrablast can practice as a full band in the upcoming three months.

“Hi,” Luba, the vocalist is running past me on the stairs, and without awaiting my answer, bangs twice on the door. Luba will be gone until the end of February so that she can take care of some things – she doesn’t expound on the details. In general, Pinkshinyultrablast  give evasive answers about their everyday activities, “Everyone just does their own thing.” The first thing that Luba mentions hysterically as she walks into the room is that the crowd at the bank is in a good mood.

Keds have been dumped to the left of the entrance, and behind the door stand two longboards. In the adjacent corner – a table where a frequently hissing teapot neighbors some packets of Alokozay tea. The walls are adorned with posters from Rainbow and Asia, Freddie Mercury, Chris Squire, and Yes, as well as cover art from albums by Stars of the Lid, And Their Refinement of the Decline, and a fox mask. “We don’t know where that came from,” says Roman the guitarist. They share their dwelling space with the hard rock outfit Next Round (previously 5 Uglov: 5 Angles) and a sludge metal band by the name of Grave Disgrace. “Our practices are like an eleven out of ten,” says Luba who is just recovering from tinnitus and now recommends that everyone who goes to concerts wear earplugs. “Our neighbors watched us practice once and asked how we can play so loud and why we haven’t gone deaf yet.” Roman agrees, “But they have less live drumming and more electronics, so they put the volume up to the maximum comfortable loudness. We don’t know how to do that.”

Blaster is the first song from their first EP Pinkshinyultrablast which brought them several thousands fans from all around the world (judging by their Facebook activity). They don’t perform Blaster live anymore, although they are often asked.

Before, Pinkshinyultrablast had their own practice space on the Pirogovsky promenade, where in 2013 they put on, according to them, their very best concert. In 2013 before, The KVB got big, one of my friends recommended Pinkshinyultrablast to me as a “legendary St. Petersburg group”. The legendary status is based on events from 2009. After their four song EP Happy Songs for Happy Zombies, nobody heard anything from Pinkshinyultrablast. However, those songs inspired many music bloggers around the world to use phrases like, “We are insterested in Russian culture, be it Tolstoy, Eisenstein, or Pinkshinyultrablast.” “We didn’t go anywhere,” says drummer Sergei. “We were mum for different reasons – we lived in different places for some time, and after the EP, our aesthetic became very different,” adds Luba. Right now they’ve been working on new songs for a year. “The problem is, the album came out, but what we are doing is now very different,” explains Igor, and they all fervently agree.

Although Roman and Luba speak more than the others, having met in 2005 at a White Stripes concert (“I hated that group back then, but I went for a birthday celebration,” says Roman), there is no leader in Pinkshinyultrablast. Physically, they each have something characteristically theirs: Roman’s beard, Luba’s high jeans, Sergei’s military getup, Igor’s wide smile, and Rustam’s mustache. Yet, there is something that ties them all together – maybe it’s the baseball caps, their glasses, or the way they smile. “We always have arguments, like who will be standing in front on the stage,” says Igor, who they all met in 2008, when they almost got in a fight with someone on the English beachfront for the Scarlet Sails graduation party (“everyone gets wasted and turns into beasts”). Before Igor, Ivan was on the bass, but he left to study in the United States. And for a year, Andrey was Ivan’s replacement – a current member of Supervitesse who are rehearsal space neighbors of Pinkshinyultrablast – they recorded their EP with Andrey. “It all came really easy – the songs from that period are really simple, pop-oriented format, as inherent to shoegaze’s guitar and melodic vocals – Roman and Luba never had trouble with that,” Andrey recalls during our correspondence. “I remember a song that Luba wrote – we all went out to smoke, and she grabbed a guitar, plugged in the fuzz, played two notes and sang a gorgeous melody on top – and boom, we had a song ready. She sang it just like that in the concerts with the guitar. When Ivan returned, they offered Andrey to play on the second guitar, but he thought that “everything was alright with the guitar sound already.” Then, Ivan left again to study, and Igor came into the picture, and the last person coming in became responsible for the electronics – Rustam – the most quiet one, preferring to sit off to the side on the stage. Thanks to him, their sound on Everything Else Matters is vastly different from the sound on their EP – the new recording, as Roman points out, is covered in an ambient cloud. All the members of Pinkshinyultrablast love My Bloody Valentine and Stars of the Lid – two extremely opposing bands in terms of dynamics: loud overdriven guitar and a hushed, barely perceptible electronica – it influences their sound. They are also all fans of Гражданскую оборону (Grazhdanskaya Oborona) and Landing, the latter of which they asked to remix their song Umi. Landing didn’t refuse.

Landing’s remix of Umi – the original’s music video was filmed in California among other places (“we needed the sea”)

The story of Pinkshinyultrablast is a story about five people’s resistance against the entire Russian music industry. “The one nagging feeling that we have towards St. Petersburg is that we can’t perform anywhere here,” says Igor, who is interrupted by the sounds of metal from beyond the walls. “The best show that we put on, we did there where we always do.””There were times when we were happy to perform at the Sokol club for free, but then we would say no to random places that asked us,” explains Luba, “no one seems able to obey the technical rider. You ask the sound engineer to do one thing, he says, ‘okay,’ and then once the show gets going, it all gets lost. One time during a concert, during the song “Dada,” the sound guy said to Andrey, “your guitar sounds like shit.” Moscow isn’t much different – in 2009, Pinkshinyultrablast played at Gogol for the Kraft magazine event. The art director was going around and saying, don’t touch anything!” Roman recalls. At the Outline Festival, the band was taken off the roster because the event had to be wrapped up before schedule. And last time at Powerhouse, the audience complained that you couldn’t hear the instruments separately. We were always called to go and show up at the same four places, and we couldn’t take it anymore,” Luba explains. In that sense, it’s really hard to develop and get motivated – there’s a feeling of creeping claustrophobia. You’re constantly pushing up against the ceiling.”

The United States have their own problems: “We were talking to one American, who was saying that he’ll bring us over, but he kept postponing and left us high and dry, all the while, thinking he was doing everything as he should” tells Roman. We were recording and mixing the EP and album finally in St. Petersburg with Vladimir Nosyrev, the sound engineer at the AnTrop Studio, where Kino, Alisa, and Petersburg Recording Studio, the successor of Melodia have previously worked. After having spent three days recording our EP at AnTrop, a year had passed, and they got raided” recalls Roman. “With Volodya (Vladimir Nosyrev), we fought a bit about the first recording, cause he’s a very classical guy,” adds Luba. “But time went on, and he stopped saying, ‘don’t do that.'” They changed Volodya’s life. “I, of course, knew My Bloody Valentine and listened to shoegaze, but to deeply dive into the genre, that didn’t happen for me – I found something new for myself instead,” Vladimir told me later over the phone. “We have some good arguments, in the creative sense, but we were always able to cme to a consensus. It took longer for us to record the album, we mixed it for several months. Our approach to it was deeper.” “Volodya is a very intelligent guy, it’s a good time, working with him,” says Roman, who has been collaborating with Nosyrev since his group Jumbo Jet. The guitars on Everything Else Matters were mixed at Добролет (Dobrolet) because it was only there that they had the necessary equipment. “At Melodia they have an insane control panel but half of it’s not working, that’s why we mixed everything digitally.” The process was also halted due to the fact that the mixing and mastering engineer, who is an American working with Explosions in the Sky and Black Angels, cost a pretty penny.

 Ravestar Supreme :: the latest clip from Pinkshinyultrablast

Pinkshinyultrablast are signed onto three labels, each of which is responsible for distributing their records in different regions – England, the United States, and Japan. The most active of these labels is Portland’s Shelflife – not in the least because its owner, Ed Mazzucco, has also done releases for Thieves Like Us and The Radio Dept.,and has been a huge fan of Pinkshinyultrablast from the time of their EP. In Russia, Pinkshinyultrablast didn’t seek out labels, as it didn’t make much sense to do so. The domestic media which regularly wrote about them includes Volna, and also an interview at Colta. Their album premier took place at Noisey, the songs and clips published at NME, The Guardian, and others. There was a lenghty discussion with the band, published on Drowned In Sound. The only thing missing from their canonization is a review from Pitchfork.

Of course, western journalists love to ask Pinkshinyultrablast about Pussy Riot. “I’m against political art and I think it’s like a spectacle,” Luba notes sharply. “Everything that I’ve seen is borderline rat king – it’s disgusting. You gotta go above these things. I think it’s important to try and build a minimal civil society, but you absolutely should not do it through music. You need to enter social movements, not political ones.” In another interview, she said that the lyrics from Glitter are politicized, but only in the same sense as Nausicaä in the Valley of the Wind. I ask about the band Jack Wood, the vocalist of which flew to New York with Pussy Riot – would Pinkshinyultrablast be against this kind of invitation? Everyone looks on curiously, “Who is Jack Wood? What do they play?” “In any case, we would refuse and puke from that kind of thing,” Luba sums up. “I don’t know anyone who listens to Pussy Riot. And that’s that.”

On the 17th of April it became clear that Pinkshinyultrablast didn’t present their album Everything Else Matters in St. Petersburg. Yesterday, for the the first time in a year, they performed in Moscow, and in less than two weeks they’ll embark on an eight-city tour of Great Britain. Three shows will take place at three different venues in London. On the roster of the English festival Rockaway Beach, their name appears right after The Fall and a few slots before The Telescopes. “Right now everyone in the west is into reading Sorokin, so there is a wave of interest in Russian art and events. And one could speculate that we are a Russian group but we’re not interested in that,” Luba points out. I ask them if they get a sense of success, that they’ve accomplished it all, that they are, here and now, cooler than the rest – though they are yet unaware that tickets to their Moscow show will be sold out in advance. Next comes the association game, “Success is glory. It’s the money. The ladies. Moscow. Cars. Yachts. Coke! I will say this, it wouldn’t be so bad to fill yourself up with all that,” Luba interjects. “To satisfy yourself with success?” Sergei asks again. “Well, really, yes. Success does feed you. In general, we do certain stereotypical things like anniversary shows with champagne at the table,” says Igor. “Many get written about in the west, but Rolling Stone hasn’t written about us,” recalls Roman. “But they did write about Yuri Loza.”

Original article can be found at : http://volna.afisha.ru/heroes/pinkshinyultrablast-kak-my-teryaem-odnu-iz-luchshih-russkih-grupp/

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