Polje, Luxe Prestige, Local joke, Sadlikedead, Yoro King — in the last seven years you’ve had a lot of projects. How do you find new ideas for them?
At the time of creation, each project except Yoro King was a little bit ironic. Irony is, in general, a lifeline for me, because the ideas for new works are usually born out of strange coincidences of circumstances and thoughts.
Your musical output consists of, for lack of a better word, “acoustic” (or “guitar”) and “electronic” works. Since 2017, you have been prioritizing “electronic” releases and playing electronic live sets under Polje moniker. Why so?
By 2017, my projects with “electronic” and “acoustic” sound were developing in parallel, in the form of Polje and Yoro King projects. Yoro King was influenced by contemporary American indie rock at the time: UMO, Yuck, Cloud Nothings, etc., and Polje was influenced by everything else. However, the distinction between “acoustic/guitar” and “electronic” music is very conditional. Instruments are just instruments, that’s it. Although I'm focused on Polje right now, it's a fairly broad focus. In this livecast, there is an abundance of guitars as well as drum machines and synthesizers, there are various groves, field recordings, jazz arrangements. It’s a whole package. However, this diversity is not an end in itself, I just tried to arrange everything so that it is fun to listen to.
The lyrics in your music can be especially ironic. How do you go about writing these texts?
Writing poetic text and song lyrics — well, there’s a difference. Speaking of the lyrics, I usually think of a line, and then desperately try to supplement it with a few more lines. Then I realize it's futile, and as a result, I just repeat the same line a number of times. Sometimes I write a long unrhymed monologue. One day I came across an English translation of a monologue of the main character from the movie Belarusian Psychopath, reworked the text a bit, and as a result ended up with a very interesting lyrical character. Coming up with a full-fledged lyrics, as it is in the case of Local Joke – Illaijah or Sadlikedead – Coffin, that’s something that is the least likely to happen.
Lo-fi and vintage sound, home video aesthetics and graphic design of the 80s and 90s — these motifs are frequently found in your work. When and how did you get into all this?
I have always been fond of vintage sound and images. In music, my introduction to lo-fi began with John Maus and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. When you have neither the equipment nor the skills to record or shoot, lo-fi is an easy and inexpensive way to create at least some kind of aesthetics. The main thing is not to go overboard with it. Now, I still resort to this technique, but more consciously. Speaking of video, the story is more complicated. I prefer to mix contemporary and vintage formats. For example, in the Sadlikedead - Coffin clip there is Hi8 footage and there is footage shot on the iPhone. My favorite moment is when a 4:3 aspect ratio shot is broken up by the subtitle DIE. It all worked well for the overall aesthetics.
You’ve said earlier that in your music, “the main thing is the vibe”. What do you actually mean by “vibe”? What kind of vibe that dominates your performances?
For me, the vibe is a certain mood that the music conveys. It induces a state that is different from the everyday condition. With my live set, I try to get the listener pleasantly confused. I want them to feel that they don’t understand what’s going on but enjoy it nevertheless.
Most of your tracks have this warm and lo-fi sound that one can easily associate with the atmosphere of the South. You grew up in, as you’ve stated in a conversation with Český rozhlas, “hot and lazy Odesa,” where people are “too lazy to look for good music.” Do you think Odesa has influenced your artistic style?
The place where you were born and lived for 21 years will definitely affect you. In Odesa, I have emerged as an individual: listened to a bunch of music and met a lot of wonderful people. Since 2012, been hanging out at the Odesa Film Festival, played bass guitar in Blagodat' post-punk band when I was 14, and then assembled my own band where we played lo-fi surf. I love my hometown very much. My family lives there, I did Polje, Luxe Prestige, local joke, and Sadlikedead there, and I became part of a cool community there as well.
Tell us more about this community. What does Odesa underground scene look like?
In respect of musicians, I am primarily in contact with a group that does an annual (or almost annual) festival at Kuyalnik, ODS. They’ve been releasing on система [system] label a lot during its heyday. I really love those guys and their music. I remember, after my set at Kuyalnik in 2018, I’ve been walking around for three days with a smile on my face because I felt I belonged to a cool local scene. Chillera, Mlin Patz, Bryozone, Sasha meets Vova, Potreba, Konstantin Karpin (though he's in Kyiv now), Alexei Volusunov, Ацефалы [Acéphales] band — these are the Odesa musicians I love now. I should also mention Daniel Syenichkin (aka Bejenec), as he’s an integral part of this community.
In my hometown, like in any other place, there are hardcore rock fans and rappers; there is, of course, commercial techno, you couldn’t have it otherwise. I think the Odesa scene is quite distinct, in a good way. There's a very strong influence of dub, krautrock, noise, techno. However, this scene has a very small audience, even though more than a million people live in the city. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, Odesa has become increasingly provincial — basically, a resort town. Under such conditions, it is difficult to create anything which isn’t a business that builds 25-floor apartment buildings.
Are there any places left in Odesa that inspire you, among these high-rises?
I'm not inclined to rely on inspiration. If you want to make something happen, you work, you do not wait for a magical moment. And speaking of cool places in Odesa, there are lots. And in Kyiv, my favorite places are the famous backyard with ravens on Reitarska street and the 20ft container on Nyzhnoiurkivska street.
Yeah, you’ve moved to Kyiv relatively recently. Do you enjoy the Kyiv vibe? And in general, why did you relocate?
The Kyiv vibe is when you're in a grocery store, and a stranger dude gives you a fake Balenciaga cap filled with poisonous mushrooms, with a hefty fly agaric on top, and is like, let’s trade. In short, a nice city. It's nice to walk the noisy streets and encounter a jazz band around the corner. Actually, in Kyiv, I recorded a mini-album Художник на пленэре [The Artist on Artist’s Retreat] which contains a lot of Soviet jazz. Now I’m considering a small release in the genre of “eco-paranoid psychedelic criminals’ song.”
It turns out, Kyiv has influenced your music as well, didn’t it?
Of course, it did. In any case, my style changes over time, and Kyiv contributes to these changes as any other environment would. Since 2015, I've been regularly playing at Worn Pop shows, both as a part of Yoro King and as Polje. When we recorded the Yoro King album, I lived in Kyiv for ten days. So at the time of the relocation, I had no romantic image of Kyiv. I moved because I wanted to try something new and had favorable circumstances to do so.
Tell us about your collaborations with Worn Pop. How did it start?
I met Nikita Netrebko, the founder of Worn Pop, back in 2012 or 2013, it was just a handshake at the time. Already in 2015, we performed at the Gesheft design market as Yoro King. Cold Comfort also had a show there, and Nikita came with them. After the concert, he offered us cooperation. Since then, I've been performing at Worn Pop events. I like the musicians that Worn Pop brings, and the dudes from Worn Pop are very nice, although at first it may seem they are vampires. I like being asked to play concerts, they’ve even brought me to Berlin once. In fact, we recorded an album in their studio. You can listen to three tracks from in on Worn Pop’s Soundcloud. Due to certain circumstances, the album never came out, but I'm not sorry, it turned out to be not that great.
Worn Pop also released your single Schengen. When will the eponymous EP be out?
At some point, everything just stalled. There are three more tracks with similar sound, but they are not mastered. There are neither specific release dates nor plans for a release on other platforms. So I'm open to proposals.
This livecast is significantly different from your track Schengen, as well as from your Daytime performance. How did you make it? And what’s the main idea?
When I record tracks, I rarely get to do the same thing twice, and during live performances, I try to keep in mind the context of the event. I like this mixtape/livecast format because it doesn't limit me as much as an LP or performance format. I have been preparing this livecast for about a month. There are unreleased tracks and new music recorded specially for Сxema inside. As for the idea, I was trying to figure out what kind of music I miss. In the tracks that make up this record there is place for memories, meditations, and reflections on new influences, as well as for the recently purchased synthesizer, several sharp transitions, and a single storyline. The structure is simple: there are two parts with a small break in the middle.
While working on the livecast, you took your time to plan everything. What do you do when you play live?
I make up the general structure in advance, but the tracks that form it are improvised. I used to rely on Ableton Live during my first performances, but now I only use hardware, that’s much more fun. The centerpiece of my setup is Korg Electribe Sampler, most of the beats and synth sounds come out of it. You can’t comfortably play melodies on it, though, so I have to record samples, loops, and sequences in advance.
You have performed a lot at rock concerts, as well as at the DJ table. How much of a difference do you feel between these two types of shows?
After the concerts, our band was often reproached that, say, “the music is great, but you guys are kinda boring to watch.” The audience at the concerts craves the show, and that's fine. Being a DJ in this regard is not easy either, it is necessary to know the music, the dance, to feel the connection. At some point, I realized that I would hardly be able to create a show of Talking Heads’ level and that I am a mediocre DJ. Therefore, I am fond of this electronic live format without pauses between tracks. When you have four pieces of kit that you need to control while singing at the same time, all your attention is focused on the process. And the listener, in turn, is free to choose how to react to what they hear.
When you sing during an electronic live set, you put yourself in a situation that feels a bit different from the usual singing-with-guitar-in-your-hands stuff, right?
The situation is that the vocals, the lyrics, the language you speak or sing is just an instrument, as any other is. Also, singing is another option to get in touch with the listener, so that the patterns don’t sound that obvious. Moreover, it’s just easier to talk into the microphone than to record it at home, load it into the sampler, and then play it in time.
Your Instagram bio reads "outsider musician". Do you actually feel alienated from society?
At the moment, I don’t have any problem meeting people, but it wasn’t always the case. Also, I don’t think that I’m marginalized, so by “outsider musician” I mean being unable to follow contemporary music trends or to comply with genre conventions. And that’s fine by me.
At the beginning of the conversation, you’ve mentioned the “lifeline of irony.” What do you want to escape by holding onto it?
Irony can reduce anxiety from pressing problems, global or personal. It also helps to avoid tackiness, romanticism (at its worst) or just being overly serious.