How did you arrange this live?
I thought of it as a film, I wanted it to have a narrative. You can tell the story of these tracks by their titles. It all begins with wandering. I always go to the Lychakiv Cemetery for a walk on November 1st, the All Saints’ Day. It's very beautiful there. One year, I brought a recorder and was about to capture the people talking or trees creaking. I didn't manage to record what I wanted, and I got lost there too. I took a few wrong turns and at some point, I realized that I have no idea where I am. So in the lyrics, there is a GPS navigator: “Skip the first turn, the third too, this is not your turn, go straight, then right.”
Then, there is a song about the cold. I saw this meme with Klitschko, “If you're cold, stand in the corner, it's 90 degrees.” It's a joke, but I sing in a serious, calm voice that you have to stand by the window to keep warm. And then, the track babusia (“grandma”) introduces a medical topic, and Cyclomed boy — that’s because of the eye drops I had. I play with the words inside the tracks as well as with how they interact with each other.
In your lyrics, your sense of humor is very noticeable. How important is writing to you in general?
The lyric is one of the tools I employ to look at an idea or a situation from a different angle. I even got to the point where I just don’t make tracks without voice, without singing. When I don't know what to sing, I sing about nothing. I used to draw a lot, and I had something similar there too. For me, a sense of humor is when you stand above everything you’re going through. When you can minimally, microscopically laugh at it, in a good way.
What inspires you?
Everything! The song about grandma is based on the «Health» tabloid they leave at my door. I thought, “God, they bring it so often, I have to read it.” It’s as if some kind of artificial intelligence wrote it, or if people do it, they are super knowledgeable. There is usually a very detailed description of each disease, how badly this man had been feeling, what’s his diagnosis — and then that he had only four courses of some drops and everything was fine. I laughed at it, and then in the song, I used this text and changed almost nothing. That is, it’s a newspaper clipping. I may have changed the intonation and the commas here and there, and that has changed the mood, but that’s it. So, I'm inspired by everything I can play with.
Do you write poetry?
I do, but I don’t call it poetry. Sometimes, I can't sleep and some random words come to my mind, so I put them in my phone. I have a chat with myself, so I text there, and when I wake up, I read what I wrote. Sometimes, it’s something cool.
The language is an interesting thing because about 90% of the time I write in Russian even though I don’t talk in Russian at all. It gives me a third dimension, and then I can detach myself from the fact that it’s me writing, and from what it is that I’m writing. It's someone else writing, it just so happens that it’s my fingers and my phone. Sometimes, autocorrect helps too. I can be writing one thing, it suggests a completely different word and I'm like, “Well, you're right.”
What did you study at university?
I studied interior design at the Lviv National Academy of Arts, then I worked as a 3D artist. I have been always making music at the same time, but that's a completely different attitude when you do it for two hours after work or on the weekends. Then I received a Gaude Polonia scholarship and finally got the time I could use to think about what I want.
The scholarship was in Poland, right?
Yes, from the Polish Ministry of Culture. Everyone related to the word “culture” may apply: translators, photographers, artists, musicians, actors. It's such a cool thing, just like heaven! You come for six months and you are housed or given money for rent. They provide funding for your project, and all day-to-day stuff takes the back seat: you can focus on what you are there for and what you will do. In Kraków, I worked on my project and also wrote music.
Were there any classes?
I was a guest listener at the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts at the Faculty of Intermedia. It was great to switch from working on my project to passive absorption of information. My curator taught at the music academy, though, and we used to go to the jams every week. They are really crazy there, you can scratch your fingernail on the wall and it will be your music instrument. You can do anything you want. At first, I couldn't understand it, like, “What we are making isn’t music.” I could not feel myself there, and then I just took it as a kind of rehabilitation, so as not to worry about anything and just to be in the moment.
And how was your residency in Zhytomyr?
It was at the Elektrovymiriuvach factory where electronic musical instruments during the Soviet period were produced: electric accordions, Pulsar drum machines, etc. Of course, it had its best times, and then a decline. Now out of 6000 employees, there are only 200, and they no longer make musical instruments — just some measuring devices and parts. They wanted to use this huge space for educational purposes, though, so they organized a residence. Sometimes, it felt like I was in a children's camp where we were taught how to build some strange things. I made a looper, for example.
We also went to the factory, where all these machines are, and recorded their sounds. On the weekend, all these workers came, beautiful, in dress shirts, and made noises for us. You could work with that, or there was also a very cool electric accordion, Elena Vasyk made an opera about dolphins with it. It was a great enclosed space, we went to the ATB supermarket sometimes but mostly stayed at the factory. It was just so good! Especially since there were 15 other musicians, and I knew almost none of them: it was strange to me because usually, my social circle consists of filmmakers, photographers, museum workers, and artists — everyone except the musicians. And I was worried about how it would be with everyone being a musician there, but it was great!
We also met an unreal dude there. His name is Pasha, he still works at this plant. He looks like a typical scientist, there’s nothing to indicate that he writes music. Perhaps that is why his work has become such a pleasant discovery for everyone. I really like what he writes. His music has a very specific and witty storyline, but there are incredibly broken rhythms, and the overall mood is reminiscent of anime. It was a revelation! When we had the final performance, he played at three in the morning. He was just standing there, waiting politely, and then blew everyone away. This was the first performance in his life.
Your sister is a film director, do you have anything to do with cinema?
Yes, I write music for film. My sister and I do this thing where she shows me what she does, and I show her what I do. I often drop some tracks on her so that she could listen with a fresh ear and give me feedback. And once, she texts me, like, “Oh, this one worked really well for us, we've edited it into the film.” This happened several times and I realized that composing music for films interests me.
I have a lot of tracks on SoundCloud where I sing to a guitar. Director Marina Stepanska, who was then writing the script for her film Falling, listened to them and took one as a soundtrack. I'm working on another film now too, I’m a serious composer there. I like the idea of writing music for films because I probably wouldn't want to only perform. I couldn’t. It is very difficult emotionally, I get exhausted and anxious, worried. But that’s the way it is.
For many musicians, writing music for film is a dream. Do you think there somehow is more creative freedom?
When you write music just for yourself, you write whatever you like. Nobody tells you what to do. And, for instance, when my sister was shooting last year, I had to write a track that was meant to introduce you to the story, create the mood, and be a portrait of the main character. She is so light, bright, romantic — and it was very difficult to write something like that. It just turns out that writing a sad, depressing piece is much easier. Perhaps joy is a wavelength that is harder to tune in.
Or also, she made this film called Plus One about a couple expecting a baby to be born with Down syndrome. There was a moment where they used The Knife's Pass This On, a mega-famous hit. And they said, “This is your reference, write something like that.” By the time I made something for her that worked, I've had enough tracks for three albums. It was, like, 7.1, 7.2, final, finalfinalfinal.
When you work for someone you don't know, they might say, “Thanks, we appreciate your work, we’d like to discuss a couple of things...” And my sister says, “Maryana, this is bad. It just sucks. That’s not it at all. “ We don’t waffle around, but that’s the point.
I’ve also worked on fashion shows, and I find it very interesting. When I look at them, it's the same thing as with writing in Russian: I look at someone who I definitely am not. There’s something both very distant and intriguing. It's as if you’re conducting them as they walk to the music you wrote. And they are so cold, no one smiles, I love it! I would probably enjoy writing music for fashion more than for film. I'd add this to my dream list.
Are you planning on releasing an album?
I've been going to do it for a long time, but I have this problem: I can't stop writing. I was ready for Cxema in April, and then it was postponed till October. In June, I've already had half of the different tracks written. My previous ones seemed so dumb, so bad, and I thought, “Thank you for postponing it!” I have an idea of a clean copy, which isn't how all the tracks are, a lot of them get molded as I play live. The Soundcloud version of the babusia track is also different from what I'm playing now. A label offered to release my material. It's great to capture my development, but for now, I'm a little stuck in developing. However, music is not fast food, there is nothing wrong with waiting a little longer for the chef to cook something delicious.