Recently, the young Moscow band Glintshake has turned their back on the past idols of Sonic Youth and Nirvana; now they write their songs in Russian, picking out native heroes like Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Mosolov, and Zvuki Mu. Starting February 18th, the group is showcasing a new Russian set of concerts at the CHA (Central House of Artists), the eve of which saw the release of their single “Semihuman.”
For the song’s premiere, Glintshakes’s Katia Shilonosova and Zhenya Gorbunov answered a few questions from COLTA.RU.
Glintshake began with music inspired by alternative rock from the 1990s. Tell us about your 90s – were they difficult or were they fun? How and were did you spend them, and what kind of music were you listening to?
Katia: My 90s were really nice, with Kinders*, Sailor Moon, a variety of pop music and visits to a music school. I started consciously listening to music towards the end of school, and that was by the year 2000, so before that my head was really fed by 90s, which to me seems like it had a great influence as a result.
Zhenya: My 90s were spent in a grey vest that my mom had knit for me, and when one would become worn out, Mom would knit me a new one. The most useful thing which I took away from this period is being surrounded by total absurdity in the most aggressive manifestations (though that hasn’t gone anywhere) on TV, in the city, everywhere; I tried not to pay any attention to it, but now it’s very inspiring. I didn’t listen to 90s music. My favorites were Bravo, ABBA, two Melodia records from Akvarium and organ music from Dieterich Buxtehude. I got into Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and the rest of those much later on.
By the way, who is in your pantheon of heroes in alternative 90s rock – who are the main ones? It seems that I didn’t see you at the Moscow show for Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore – is that because you’ve forbidden yourself to listen to alternative 90s music?
Katia: Yes! Zhenya has banned all rock written from 1991 to 1999. It’s cruel but tolerable. By the way, when Moore played in Moscow, I was in Seattle. At the EMP museum they had a big screen where, on different floors, they showed videos of the Smashing Pumpkins – I had to close my eyes and ears. Ha ha.
But in all seriousness, it’s very simple for me: Nirvana, Blur, and early Sonic Youth, though that’s already 80s.
Zhenya: It seems that the organizers of Thurston Moore’s concert did everything in their power for us not to find out about it. It’s not surprising then, that the venue was empty. In general, we played alternative rock with teenage memories, hardly referring to the pantheon of heroes with some sort of trepidation; it was more the atmosphere of freedom and the attitude of total indifference, which, around 2012, began coming out again with guitar players lik Yuck, Wavves, and others.
Then it became clear that’s it’s most likely a dead end and there won’t be any kind of revival, just as for some reason, there wasn’t a trance revival in 2009. We learned to play to that, and right away, that whole semi-pubertal act became uninteresting. What did become interesting was growing something of one’s own and to stop reconstructing roles, trying to hold on to the lost world of childhood.
As I understand it, you are now opening yourself up to native music. I’m curious to know about your latest discoveries. Who inspires you?
Zhenya: I’m inspired by, of course, Soviet rock and jazz musicians from the 1980s who played as if they had nothing to lose – bravely, like punks, and at once super-intelligently, like the early stuff of Bravo, Pop Mechanica, Zvuki Mu, Strange Games, and the like. I think this is really apparent on Glintshakes’s latest songs. But I’m even more into composers from the 1920s: Mosolov, Roslavets, Protopopov, Zhivotov, and of course, Stravinsky – where would we be without him? Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich, etc. They were just as much rock stars for their time. They each created a revolution in the social consciousness of music that couldn’t go back to what it was before their influence. They offer much to learn from, especially working on one’s own musical language. Today, the biggest issue I see in pop music are weak melodies, completely unnecessary poppy tunes, which grow over into different sounds, but their gist is the same: take indie pop, mainstream rock, EDM, or bearded folk – there’s only one melody for the lot. They could have been performed by some soulful Youtuber accompanied by a ukulele. I don’t really understand why after such a wild leap in technology, which seemingly hasn’t helped sound to evolve, there hasn’t been anything new in pop music since 2003. The only thing that changes is the method of how it’s sourced. Not getting involved in the modernization of one’s own music, why not turn to the great stratum of melodic variety and approaches? For example, Olivier Messiaen, working in the mid-twentieth century, wrote down musical transcriptions of bird songs and used them in his pieces; this had a much more radical and interesting sound than all these embellishments to the resurrected IDM or spinning the rings of a one hundred year old tree trunk through a MIDI interface*. In other words, it’s such an ubermodern approach these days – the dialogue between technology and nature… already in the 1940s, Messiaen anticipated this and created something with it – music which was beyond original. Today we are taking small steps towards our own musical language, we feel things out. I’m not saying that we’ve completely superseded our clichés, but we have overcome some hurdles.
Katia: Prokofiev, always, and also Musorgsky. Although, by and large, I’m in a silent period. Even on the subway I’ll put on my headphones and not play anything. I don’t really understand if this is normal or not, but in general it suits me. Silence is very valuable and incredible. There aren’t many who can live through silence nowadays.
I saw Glintshakes’s joint concert with Sergey Letov at the Jagermeister Indie Awards, which I really enjoyed. How did this collaboration come about and will it be continued?
Katia: Zhenya can tell you better about how it came to be. For me it was something really wild. The night before I was late for my plane from New York to Moscow, I barely made it. Getting back, I went to the club, having slept a total of three hours…I did a five minute check, went into makeup and there they were – Letov and Garkusha. These were really interesting feelings – I was just in New York and the next day I’m watching Garkusha and Letov eat sandwiches and tell me hilarious stories about their lives. It’s very surreal.
Zhenya: Initially, the organizers of that night offered Letov to perform with Krovostok, but finally he declined and we were chosen since we were already on the program. The guys from the Stereotactic agency contacted me and offered a joint show with Sergey. I was ecstatic but there was a risk there – that we wouldn’t have the chance to practice everything, that Katia won’t be back to her normal self after her flight…basically it was a very loaded experiment. I really liked interacting with Letov, he’s a very simple and humble person who does his own really cool thing and doesn’t glorify himself by his almost cult-like status. There aren’t any concrete plans for collaboration but in the future maybe we will churn something out.
I’m also intrigued by the announced collaboration with the artist Anatoly Osmolovsky – what will it be and when?
Zhenya: That will probably be in March at the Winzavod’s XL Gallery. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I will say that it will be an audiosculpture called “Face.”
At the February show premiere of your new album you have announced an extended list of instruments in your band: saxophone, flute, and vibraphone. Will these sonic experiments be reflected in your recordings? What else can we expect from the new album?
Zhenya: I don’t think you can call the instrumental expansion an experiment – for us it’s a bit unusual, but we never experiment, everything that we achieve is a result of clear thinking. Even the improvisation. The one who experiments doesn’t know what he wants to say. Us – we know everything. The guys help us beat the game with the background, the intersection of Russian jazz, dub, some academic things – strengthening the expression. I think they will be apparent in the album as well, and anyway, the album is turning out to be pretty diverse, but with a super-localized Moscow axis, very high-brow-and-reservedly-hysterical.
Katia: Besides the album we’re also gonna release a cassette with our jams with hits like “Arms are Previous Legs,” and covers of Vivaldi. That’s where the real experiments with sound will be!
Here’s a question for Katia – you’ve been to the states where you were part of various “educational” programs for musicians: Red Bull Music Academy and OneBeat. Tell us about that – which one is better? What did you get out of them? Are there any specific problems that Russian indie artists come upon?
Katia: It was very difficult to not compare RBMA to OneBeat once I got there, but finally it became very clear that the two are quite different and it would be unwise to compare them, in terms of which one is better and which one is worse. You don’t compare, for example, tea with juice.
RBMA is really a small academy with its own lectures, experiential learning in the form of concerts, workshops, and a possibility of completing the course with a track. OneBeat is more like summer camps where you collaborate for two weeks and then set off for an adventure.You join forces to put together performances – you write music, compositions, so that you can later present it as a whole to the public, who will be your audience at your shows on tour. This is probably the biggest difference: you are very much solitary in RBMA. You’re surrounded by talented people but you are very independent, and you perform a solo show, sort of like telling your own story. OneBeat is the opposite, there are no solo shows in principle, and you show who you are through your collaborations and nothing else. This is apparent even in the rules through which the participants are chosen: RBMA, after all, is a producer’s thing.
About being an autonomous musician – there aren’t a lot of performers at OneBeat, just unbelievable virtuosos, composers – in other words, very talented individuals who sneeze on studio gadgetry and record music completely differently, than guys who collect tracks on Ableton Live. But that, by the way, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people like that. There’s just a lot less of them than at Red Bull.
It’s also worth noting that OneBeat is only four years old (while Red Bull has been around since 1998) and the guys who make it are just like us, musicians and artists who won a federal grant and have built the program from practically the bottom up.
It’s the same as if tomorrow I were to go to Gorbunov and say, “Zhenya, I’ve got a wonderful idea – let’s brings 25 musicians from all different parts of the country to Moscow and we’ll get the government to pay for it!” And he’d be like, “Katia, would you like your tea with or without sugar?”
I got a ton of value from both programs, but the main and common thing is that these are cool, normal people – they’re not snobby at all. Inside, they are deep, they are ready to love and to open up to something new. You could even say that music is a language, but really language is just the same way of looking at the world. If you are close to a person by how they take in the surrounding reality, then you can understand each other without words. It’s impossible to crawl into a stranger’s mind, but you could feel around and make something even greater than what’s expected of you. Then I suddenly realized that people like that exist and now I know them.
I also realized that everyone’s problems in general are the same – there aren’t many places where music is taken seriously, until you’re bringing in thousands of people to your shows, and still they struggle to find a label or a manager. It’s a widespread problem – laziness, I think, and it’s the fact that most of the movement happens in America, for example. And meeting people from your favorite American label is much easier than in Russia.
Kinders: Refers to Kinder Surprise (or Kinder Egg), a candy made of a chocolate egg shape with another plastic “egg” inside which contains a toy. It is manufactured by Italian chocolatier, Ferrero. I myself would often buy these, discarding the chocolate (?!) and keeping the toy.
What does a tree sound like? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYLaPVi_I2U
Original article can be found at: http://m.colta.ru/articles/music_modern/9896