St. Petersburg-based shoegaze four-piece pinkshinyultrablast released their debut album, Everything Else Matters
, this January. The sound has compared to groups like Lush and their contemporaries, but their influences are wider-reaching than one might think, something upon which they elaborated in a short interview with me.
Umi Tuesday: I’ll admit, I love just about every feedback-laden shoegaze dream pop gem, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard or heard of anyone else with this sound coming from Russia. I’m sure your city of origin has been a talking point from your inception, but what led you to produce your particular sound, and how much of an influence does geography really have on a band’s composition?
pinkshinyultrablast: It’s hard to tell to be honest, it’s always a matter of one’s own perspective. Within the band we often have different takes on the question. Sometimes it seems there hasn’t been any particular link between our sound and our geographical location, other times you’d think there’s possibly something to it. Apart from St. Petersburg itself being a place where most of us (but not all of us) grew up, I think the concept of dacha is an important one for us, just as it is for so many Russians who grew up in the 90s. The routine of getting out to a cabin every summer and staying there long past the summer months and just pasturing outside all days long or reading might have shaped our perspectives more intensely than cramped apartments on the outskirts of the city. It’s hard to say how much of an influence geography actually has on our sound, it’s hard to see a direct link. Maybe there’s a link in terms of lyrics. We’ve been exploring music a lot while growing up, shaping our tastes along the way, but, after all, in the larger, more global perspective I don’t think our tastes are especially unique or anything. Maybe it’s just a combination of all those things — our tastes and influences, our moods, possibly dictated by the climate, things we’ve picked up being other places and how it all intertwines into the final outcome.
UT: Umi is a great title (ok, maybe I’m a bit biased) for an equally exceptional track (totally unbiased on this). I’m sure you’re aware it’s the Japanese word for the sea; what’s the attraction or connection to Japan, if any, or to the sea?
psu: The connection to the sea is probably somewhat evident: the Baltic sea has always been a big part of our geographical perspective and a part of our habitat in terms of climate. Coastal life is what we’re used to. In our mental maps there always has to be a point where land meets water. There is something special to coastal cities, a kind of feel inland cities don’t have. Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Helsinki, New York, Boston, they all have that sweet misery to them that’s just not there in inland cities, some edge to them and a sense of vastness, no matter how small they actually are. Berlin and Paris feel just a little too sheltered in comparison, the air always feels a bit too still there. So I guess living on the coast did shape the lyrics somehow, and eventually the name of the single became just “sea” or “うみ”. As for Japan, there are a few points of reference. Elementary through middle school I (Lyuba) went to a public school not far from my house which was “Japanoriented” (however weird it sounds today). It meant the first grade through the last (or in my case, through the 8th) Japanese would be the primary foreign language on the syllabus, while English was only the second one, and there would be additional subjects in the curriculum like calligraphy, “Japanese culture” and stuff like that. Although my Japanese is embarrassingly bad at this point, the fact that I had that constant exposure to “everything Japanese” since the age of seven (however distant it must have been from the actual reality) made Japan seem something weirdly familiar and ever nostalgic and comforting to me, since, in a strange way, it became linked to so many of my childhood memories. Otherwise, a bunch of us in the band had some heavily nerdy stages of watching lots and lots of anime and also, we’ve always been huge Miyazaki fans. In general too, Japan has just always attracted us immensely.
UT: Do you find that the sonic landscapes suggest themselves organically or is there usually an attempt to arrive at or describe something in more specific terms?
psu: The initial impulses and ideas that come to us might feel effortless at first, but at the end of the day nothing comes easy. If something feels organic and natural to the listener, its amazing, since it indicates we’ve managed to capture that initial impetus that later evolved into a song, but between that starting point and the final version there is lots and lots of work, and at times it can be pretty frustrating. I feel like if there is specificity to our creative process, or if we are in fact trying to arrive at a particular point with a song, it’s only because there’s a somewhat clear vision of the kind of sound we want to have from the start, and it definitely is a good thing. So i guess there’s something that feels organic to us about the initial overall picture of the kind of music we want to make, but we have to be pretty specific along the way when trying to embody it in the actual songs.
UT: What are your plans for 2015?
psu: Touring and making more music is what’s on the table right now. England would be our first experience going on tour actually, so really looking forward, excitedly and with just a bit of anxiety.
UT: What is your ideal Sunday afternoon?
psu: To be honest, as a band, we most often only wish for a productive practice on Sundays. Sunday’s the first day of the week.