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IN CONVERSATION: Sounds of Sputnik

Moscow shoegaze-dreampop outfit Sounds of Sputnik have attracted our attention over the past few years (you’ll see we previously premiered their track ‘Blizzard’). On the tail of their ‘New Born Remixed’ EP, released via German boutique label Emerald & Doreen Recordings, we had the chance to speak with them about everything in sound and everything Sputnik.

Never known much for crossing boundaries or being pioneers on the modern music scene and perhaps best known for then-underage pretend-lesbian duo T.A.T.U. and now Pinkshinyultrablast, Russia has now also given us Sounds of Sputnik. This collective, led by Roman Kalitkin, breathes an unmistakably fresh breath into a scene replete with unoriginal shoegaze offerings. The musical precision and melodicism in their goose bump-giving dreamgaze, complete with ethereal vocals, make for a sparkling intergalactic experience.

Here’s a chip off the Eastern Bloc you don’t want to miss.

Who is Sounds of Sputnik and where are you based?

Roman: We are an atmospheric, young, talented band. We enjoy what we do and we try to bring as much of this as possible to our listeners, either through recordings or live performances. Our band members include myself (Roman Kalitkin) on guitar, Anastasia Berezovskaya on vocals, Oleg Mezherovsky on keyboards, Dmitriy ‘Mitya’ Bobrinev on guitar, Oleg Luzhetsky on drums, Almaz Gaifutdinov on bass, and Shauna McLarnon on vocals for our existing studio recordings. She will likely interchange with Anastasia for future recordings, but for sure Anastasia will be involved as we’ve got a bunch of new material together already. Anastasia (Nastya) is our main vocalist for live performances.
Nastya: We’re from Moscow. Well, at least we all live here now even if some of us are originally from other places in Russia.

What kind of music are you playing?

Roman: Dream pop, shoegaze, post-rock, noise rock, etc., it is a dangerous mix of something very high and beautiful, slightly sad, but always sincere, where psychedelic guitar swirls merged into a beautiful melody, enveloping and penetrating the depths of your subconscious.

Who are your influences and what inspires you to write music?

Roman: We love bands like Mogwai, Airiel, My Bloody Valentine, Air Formation, Highspire, Hammock, and many others, but the inspiration comes more from a desire to create our own creations, rather than something similar to what we have heard already. It is very important for us to have our own individuality.
Mitya: Of course the main conceptual influence for me, as a musician, has been British post-punk and American grunge: bands like The Cure, Afghan Wigs, Sonic Youth, and Nirvana.
But the main musicians to form my taste and my personality are actually classic rock from the 60s –The Doors, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Can you tell us a bit about your latest releases?

Nastya: The last EP came out on Emerald & Doreen Recordings, which is based in Germany.
Roman: Eric and Markus from Emerald & Doreen suggested we release ‘New Born’ on their label and allow them to have it remixed. We were really lucky with the collection of remixes they arranged to rework our tracks (it ended up being this one ‘New Born’ and ‘Light Scheme’ remixed) – our favourite one there is by Haioka from Japan – it’s sublime. Shauna McLarnon from Ummagma is on vocals for both tracks and she co-wrote those tracks with me. Her husband Alex Kretov recorded, mixed and mastered. There’s also two new instrumental tracks on there: ‘Blizzard’ and ‘Shades of the Cosmos’, so a little something for shoegaze/indie rock/post-rock lovers as well.

Before that, we released our debut album ‘New Born’ on Moon Sounds Records, which is based in Texas and specializes in dreampop and shoegaze. We’re really happy there – it’s somewhat like the Creation Records of the 2010s, only without a big financier. Shameless Promotion PR promoted both albums – we are ecstatic to be known worldwide know and we’ve been featured on radio and in the press in over 60 countries now, signed to a US and German label, won the Jagermeister Indie Award (that’s like your Mercury Prize in the UK) and several other music video awards thanks to their efforts. I’m not complaining.

Graham Bonnar from Swervedriver and Brian Jonestown Massacre fame played on drums on your debut album ‘New Born’, did he not?

Mitya: He did.
Roman: Yes, but only on the track ‘Overdrive’, which is why so many reviews say that track has a very big Swervedriver energy to it. Shauna hooked us up with Graham, who told me he was really into Ummagma and since this track was the next thing Ummagma was recording, we kind of fluked out when he agreed to work with us on this. It was one of those ‘right time, right place’ situations, but the track sounds fantastic. Our tracks are usually more slowed tempo but he had us up the tempo significantly and we are really pleased with that one.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Roman: By the sea (I hope).
Nastya: Time always presents new opportunities, and the last year was more rich with events than the rest of my life. So I do not rule out the idea that, in less than 5 years, I will be making music in my own studio and living in some picturesque place like New Zealand with my husband and children.
Mitya: In the studio, recording a new album.

When you’re not doing music, what do you do?

Roman: When I have free time, I paint abstract paintings with acrylics.
Mitya: I collect paintings, drawings and lacquer miniature of the Soviet period, which is the art of the utopian reality. This country is no longer.
Nastya: Music takes almost all of my time, I like to do everything that gives me inspiration like travelling, going to concerts, driving my car and spending my time with my friends and fiancé.

Where is your dream venue or festival to perform in the UK and USA?

Mitya: In the US, it is the Burning Man festival in Nevada and Lollapalooza. In the UK it would certainly be at Glastonbury.
Roman: I don’t think about such things in concrete terms.

What current bands do you admire from the music scene or whose music you enjoy today?

Roman: The group that I admire most is Mogwai, I was at their concert in Moscow, and I have never heard anything more powerful than that. We actually went to that concert with Shauna and Alex from Ummagma.
Mitya: Among guitar bands, it would be Kula Shaker, The Cure and Deus, but at a conceptual level it would be Radiohead, Massive Attack and Portishead.
Nastya: Principally I admire classical music, for example Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, and Beethoven. I think that is the basis of pretty much all different genres of music.

What’s the best advice you have ever been given?

Roman: When I was young and already playing in a band, I decided to go to college to get a classical musical education, I did not even need to take the exam, and the day before I left there, I met a friend – blues musician Jacob Peterson, who said that the best education would be for me to play along with the records of my favorite bands, so I am grateful to him to this day for this advice.
Mitya: The most important and constantly useful advice in my life came from my father. In my youth, when I was very nervous about applying for a job (now I do not even remember what job it was), he did not try to persuade me to pursue this. He simply said, “Remember, life should be a little adventurous, we grow only when get involved in things that we cannot accomplish.” This was said in the right way and in the right situation. If I had heard this before, I simply would not have understood.
Nastya: Brush your teeth up and down (this is really very hard to do, like some kind of meditation).

Well that’s original. You mentioned some of your videos. What are your latest videos?

Roman: The two latest are by Dariy Karyakin from Riga, who directed and produced the video for the ‘Light Scheme’ remix done for us by renowned British psych producer Fran Ashcroft. I really like the storyline in that one, as it’s hopeful and centered around the music business. The other recent one was ‘Blizzard’, created by Jason Sheppard, a British videographer. You may even recognize some of the seaside locations he shot this video in.

OK – all of this hopefully will generate further interest. Bottom line – where can people find you and your music on the net?

Roman: We’re here and there… Here are some links:

It’s not every day I get to speak with someone from Russia. What can I say. Thank you and ‘Do svidaniya’.

Nastya: Spasibo
Mitya: Thanks man.
Roman: Thanks Mike and Hey ho God is in the TV Zine. Thanks for the chat.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.