Your Friends Polymers: Scintillating Indie Pop from Russia
I could not believe my ears when I start playong the EP v Chuzhoi Strane and heard their song “bees”. It was love at first hearing and their EP made its way to Noise Artists Favourites of 2018 even if it was released mid December. It is that good.
The band also features in the first volume of Russia Shoegaze and Dream Pop guide, with bands like Life on Venus and Blankenberge.
Their music shines among other by its bouciness and optimistic feel.
I was thrilled when they accepted to collaborate with me to present their music. Follow the guides, in their music! Read the interview, and discover who they are.
Formed in 2013 in Samara, Russia, the current lineup is:
- Vadim Bystrov - Guitar
- Andrey Portnykh - Guitar
- Alexandra Zagaynova - Vocals
- Alexandra Popova. - Bass
The list of music that is important to them is quite numerous and can change from year to year. For now let it be: Happy Mondays, The Jesus and Mary Chain, LSD and the Search for God, The Doors, My Bloody Valentine.
Not a bad background!
The Comparison Game
- Lush: it is probably the mix of Alexandra vocals and the songs arrangements, that are on the light and bright side, that makes me think of one of my favorite bands of the 90’s (I saw them in concert in Paris). Same bounciness mixed a sense of flowing melodies. And no offense to Miki, but Alexandra’s voice is even better in a live situation.
- Stone Roses: there is a prevalent Madchester/ baggy sound rhythm, married with some beautiful harmonies from the various instruments. The only band that really pulled that off in the çàs were the Stone Roses.
Why we like them
- A perfect song: “bees” is a perfect song. The flawless changes in tempo, the buzzing guitars, the happy vocals just completely fit both together but also with the name of the song, a bit the same way that "the flight of the Bumblebee" from Nikolai Rimsky- Korsakov is a classical masterpiece..... Perfection.
- Their own sound: Many bands may have similar sounds and even sometimes arrangements. Every time the band’s music is played, I recognize them, not needing to look at my device to see who it is, even when it was the first times I was listening. Not many bands can pull that off.
- The Dynamics: Unlike many bands, Your Friends Polymers know how to work the dynamics within a song, using bass, guitars, and arrangement to change the feeling and the sound.
And also a few things like singing in Russian some songs, having an optimistic outlook on music, ...
There are 2 EPs for now. They are currently working on an LP for the end of 2018.
v chuzhoi strane, EP, released December 12, 2017
1. bees 04:20
The song was created on the impression from the work by Alessandro Alessandroni (Italy, 1982) "Light and Heavy Industry", plays by Philip Giass and also by motoric style and cyclic minimalism. But in the end, it turned out to be as it is.
A perfect song, that was written with flawless melodies and dynamics. Close your eyes and feel yourself as a bee going from flower to flower, alternating flights, and pollen harvesting, surrounded by the buzz of multiple fellow bees around you doing the same. A gem of a song.
2. no dice 05:22
“No Dice” was inspired by the psychedelic rock of the 60-s, which I heard in youth. You know, at 14 I heard “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles and it really got under my skin.
2 parts in this song. The first is very "Your Friend Polymers", then it slows down to explore Alexandra airy vocals only to restart with a more Shoegazey part. It would be a great song to finish a concert. Again a great use of dynamics.
3. little box 04:12
“Little Box” is a song about the world’s fragility, whether we talk about the human’s inner world or our whole planet.
4. v chuzhoi strane 03:25
“V ChuzhoiStrane” – this is a bow to both Lewis Carroll and Jim Morrison. In this track, we tried to make our music as dreamlike as possible
This is very dreamy indeed, and the Russian lyrics enhance the dream-like feel. The guitars are more defined and talk to each other, one on the right, the other one on the left to end up in a sonic digression that comes back to the main melodic line. A nice dream, more on the Lewis Caroll psychedelic side than one of the "happy go lucky fluffy unicorn" type.
5. at the depths of the gulf stream 04:39
You can feel yourself carried in a current in heavy guitars, with sirens singing to you while you drown, or are drawn to an other world, twirling inside the stream. Close your eyes, you are there.
6. 48 03:57
“48” – here we tried to mix surf rock and shoegaze. Initially, it was meant to be a song, but our vocalist didn't manage to write the lyrics, so we made it instrumental. But maybe we will turn it into a song in the future, who knows?”
I love this little instrumental, which reminds me of some Pixies songs of the Bossanova's era.
The recording of the album lasted a year and a half. It was recorded, mixed and mastered on our own and at our studio.
CHUDESA, EP, released December 4, 2015
01 - Kevin 03:10
Kevin is a great introduction to the band. The sound is there, the melodies, the arrangements. Inspired and light, with a catchy melody.
02 - Snow 04:03
“The music in “Snow” for me is some tribute to the sound of early classic punk. The Jam, Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees – they all have awesome raw and deafening guitar energetics. Nothingcancomparetothat!
There is definitely some of this in this beautiful song, that brings a round bass allied with a Madchester beat and guitars layers. The chorus changes this with a mesmerizing chord progression that enhances the piece and shows how the band understands song dynamics.
03 - On The Cloud 04:15
“On The Cloud” is the very first song of the band. We had changed and rearranged it so many times before its final version in the album. It took almost 2 years to shape it.”
It was well worth it. It sounds divine. Maybe one of the closest in arrangements to Lush.
04 - Chudesa 03:54
The EP title song is sung in Russian, a beautiful language. Jamie Lee Curtiss and John Cleese would agree to this (a reference to a Fish Called Wanda).
Our debut album, the extended version also includes 2 cover versions of songs by Pixies and Lush.
Noise Artists (NA): Where are you from? Where are you living now?
NA: What did you study?
All members took up music in their childhood. Two of the band members have a classical background, others – a jazz one.
NA: What is your day job at present if any?
- Alexandra(vocal) – student-philologist, teaches English for kids
- Andrey(guitar) – works in IT company
- Vadim(guitar) – TV-soundman & music editor
- Alexandra(bass) – interpreter, English teacher
NA: Do you dream to live from your music or is it a passion you do not want to spend your full time on?
We don’t have such a goal to make our music an income stream. First of all, it’s art and a chance to enjoy your work of love. But we spend much time and put a lot of efforts into our music.
NA: You have a great history, starting as soon as the 90’s. Could you tell us more?
The 90’s in Russia was an astonishing age when there were so many incredible things in independent music, art and whole life in general. That period influenced us greatly.
NA: Could you tell me how the band meets and decided to do music together?
The first members of “Your friends' polymers” were Vadim and Andrey – guitarists of the band. They have met in other crews before: Vadim as a keyboard player, Andrey as a bassist. At the start drums, bass and vocal lines were made and recorded by them. Then Slava(bass) and Alexandra(vocal) joined the band. That membership has made the first EP Chudesa.
Now “Your friends' polymers” are Vadim and Andrey, Alexandra(vocal) and Alexandra(bass).
NA: Can you tell me the inspiration behind your band? You can detect the influences of shoegaze and indie rock. You took all these influences to make your own music, your own sound, which is not easy. Could you tell more?
Of course, we were influenced by much good shoegaze/indie/dream pop/Madchester 80’s-90’s, including Russian bands. Besides that, it’s music of Soviet film-composers: Rybnikov and Artemiev. And, of course, 60's Asian pop, a little bit 60's psychedelic rock and 80's cold wave. Really, they're so many!
NA: Was there a vision of sorts or did you know what you wanted to do when you started up
Andrey: Vadim came up with an idea to make something noisy in two guitars. We played other instruments before that. Talking about me, I didn’t have any marks what it should be in the end. The only main idea, “Well, there’ll be loud guitars and drum machine, guitars will be mainly overloading, but not suppressing.” I usually create something in the process, with no radical thought or strict-planned concept. Just start doing anything: playing the bass line or any rhythm, tuning something, and then it turns out what it turns out.
Vadim: The strongest impact was from MTV and European music channels of the late 80’s - early 90’s. At the time I was so young and studied at music school. I liked casual guitar’s harmonies, out-of-body-laid-back vocal mixed with hip-hop and dancing rhythms so much (Ride, The Charlatans, Happy Mondays...). That music was so exotic and different from public choices in Russia of that time. It was loved only by cutting-edge melomanes.
NA: Do you have any other musical side projects apart from this band?
At the moment we don’t have any side-projects but it’s possible. Each of us had different projects in various music genres in the past, everyone has a great experience.
NA: Could you tell me more on the band composition? Do you have plans to add new members, or is there possible departure scheduled from existing band members?
We are four of us and we're doing everything by ourselves. There’s no drummer, so we perform with a drum machine. However, we’d like to meet a good drummer and find a sound engineer and a tour manager. To tell a secret, we all could(sometimes) play the synth, cause there’s no need in another person to do that ;)
NA: Can you tell us more how you came to have the band’s name?
It's the title of an old Soviet science-popular book. We noticed some psychedelic subtext there.
The Creative process
NA: Who writes the song and the music and how do you get to the final song? Is it a community process, do you have leaders in composing or arranging music?
Andrey: The main person creating the most songs – from making separate pieces to final setting – is Vadim. He is responsible for the process of recording, mixing and mastering, too.
NA: Do you listen to the advice of your bandmates? What would you do if they said a song was shit but you liked it?
Everything is open for discussion. To be honest, I can’t remember if anybody claimed “It is shit!” while working on any song. It never happened. There might be some kind of arguments at times about some details: drawing up texts, switching to a weird bridge…”What a beat! Can’t ever play it in my life!”, “No, that’s easy as pie, boring!”, - usually, make a compromise with each other or even ourselves.
NA: There’s a degree of unconventional songwriting with you guys. Was it kind of intimidating going to record knowing people might not be engaging with the songs in terms of hooks and such and trying to deliver an engaging sound on record?
We deal with it ahead of time and don’t expect any mass popularity to our music, don’t sweat it anymore and record for the friends.
NA: Talking about the lyrics: who write them? Is there a common thread in them, a theme?
Andrey: Lyrics are written by Alexandra(vocal), anyway, the base for lyrics. To my mind, she doesn’t have any keynote, banding all the texts. Most likely lyrics get born as associations to the music and then this imagery builds its own words.
NA: Do you labor over your lyrics? Is that something that comes easy?
Firstly, it’s the vocal melody. Next, Alexandra (vocal) brings a draft copy – it’s always made over on a brainstorm. Some things - more, others - less. After that, we need to sing the lyrics to understand if it lies down, any luck with the song… If everything’s all right, then it's ok. If it’s not, we try to find other variants till everything goes well. Some songs were created easier, some – harder. It depends.
NA: Do you have a message that you want to get across in your music? If so, what are some of the messages you want to spread?
Just love beautiful harmonies, noises, and cool rhythms.
NA: Did your listening habits changed over the years and does it affect what you write?
Everyone’s got through different genres, music since childhood. We’re united by love to the independent scene in different traits.
NA: Tell me more about the following songs, how they were written, what they are about, any anecdote or story you want to share:
Allison’s cover of Pixies. That's we need to say a couple of words about. The first version was when there were only me and Vadim in a band. It should be a part of the Pixies tribute, made by our great friend Sergey Zakharov. We couldn't sing, so we bluffed our way with synth speech. That was very-very patient work and in the end, we got such an odd thing. I'm not sure if it’s saved. Of course, everything sounds in a new light with Alexandra's vocal but I love that version, too. I have very sentimental feelings about it.
NA: How is your recognition going in US and Abroad? Is it growing? Are you happy with it?
Our music has many followers in different countries. Thanks to podcasts, radio stations, musical magazines and separate blogs, supporting the independent scene, we have an opportunity to share our music with the whole world. It's cool, cause some years ago that was too hard. Big picture, we're very pleased with our deals.
The path to music
NA: Is it easy to find producers and studios where you lived for indie-rock?
Andrey: Producers - it's impossible. They are so scarce that musicians generally give up doing it. The situation is constant: no one takes up producing, and even if they do, then it's a shifty business. As a rule, it's not an effective team play, to put it lightly.
NA: Your recorded sound is very good, which is not easy. Did you engineer the sound yourself, or did you have a sound engineer with you? If yes could you tell us more about him/her?
Sound generation mostly is Vadim’s effort. His experiments, discoveries, and ideas on this theme of musical sounding are realized by all of us at the scene in the end.
NA: Was it a community work to try to have the best sounding music possible or mainly driven by the sound engineer or by the band?
It's a joint work.
NA: Can you tell us how the recording process was?
In many cases, it's fun messing with the instruments, devices, and commutation. During the recording process, many things happen on a hunch. There're no standards, such as how far should mics stand and whether use the reverb or not. We still vaguely remember what guitar, bass or pedals were used in each song of our albums:)
NA: How did the recording work differ over time?
Work from the second album was done much faster, cause we already had some experience. However, we wish it would be faster in the future.
NA: Is the recording material yours when you are out of a studio or do you borrow/rent it?
We still don’t use any side studios services. Have an own one. We create, practice and record here, so every finished work is exactly ours, whatever one may claim to it.
NA: Any interesting anecdotes on some recording session you would like to share?
At one time there was an airshow up the city when we recorded the guitar. Many different planes and helicopters were flying above our studio. Jet engines sounded clear. And we decided not to stop the record. So there’re some air noises on some tracks of the second album. There’re in the background, but still there. That’s really cool!
NA: Did getting the live experience across on record create any pressure for yourselves in the recording process?
We try to create our songs so that they aren’t big for the concert and record sound. It means that we take a shot at sharing our concert since.
NA: Instruments: are you mainly a Fender band? Could you tell me what inspire you to use fenders rather than other brands?
Andrey: I like the way it sounds but it's no main thing, at a minimum, not the only one. Talking about the sound, I don't have any principal beliefs in style, like «actual guitar sound's only Gibson» or «only Fender truly rocks!». The matter is that Fender is just more often for sale than Gretsch, Guild or, you know, Rickenbacker. Another thing, Fender is not so expensive. All of these factors affect my musical instrument choice.
I also have the bass Greco EB-0(or smth like that). It's a Gibson SG bass-copy with shorted scale and only one pickup. It's very good. It sounds good at live concerts. Love it so much.
And Vadim has an old Japanese 12-string Rick-style clone which is really far-out. Hope, you'll enjoy this sounding on our records.
NA: A question for a future paper I have in mind: if you use often a Fender Jaguar, could you tell me more about what makes it good to play (sound, neck, …). I find there are a lot of noise artists that are using this guitar and I am interested to know why.
Andrey: Love my instrument a lot, but, as for me, Jaguar is pretty handy as well.
Vadim: This one, obviously, is not the most multi-use guitar. However, that sound has its own features, which are always recognized on the record. It straddles something from an Indian sitar or Asian traditional instruments. This guitar is a kind of «musician», too. It brings to our music some personal notes, some resonance. Very interesting sound with its special character. I can't help but love it.
NA: Do you have one favorite instrument or do you change often?
Andrey: I have two favorites. All parts of both our EP’s I recorded with my Japanese Fender Stratocaster(1984-1987 edit). I’m dear to taste the way it sounds. I usually use it for the concerts or take the other one, Squier Jaguar. They’re so unlike and beautiful in their way.
Vadim: I’ve got four guitars. They differ from each other and I equally use all of them. I don't have any affections, like «this guitar's for this song». I often choose my guitar for the practice or record by my heart. It gives me an opportunity to shake up our music with some new timbre colors. One of my guitars is an old 12-string hollow body which I can easily use with the fuzz или flanger pedals :)
NA: Tell us what you are looking at when trying to achieve your sounds? Do you experiment a lot or have a clear idea of what you want?
Andrey: It differs. In general, I just turn the knobs till I find good timbre. It doesn't take so much time. I don.t care about it too much. It seems that the sound evolves to some extent. You can play the song for a half-year and then come to a decision that there’s too much rever there or it's wrong. Or like “…hey, I had a Boss DS-2, after all. How could I spared it in that song!?”
Vadim: First, I always find some interesting melodic line. Then it's formed with harmonic gradation. As a rule, there're two or three guitar patterns, but there could be more. At that step, I usually don't use any pedals, only light overdrive sound, or even clean, in some cases. This time the real tempo and its manner pin down. Next comes pre-allocation of harmony for two guitars (the reason why we can say that we have two rhythm guitars). After that, the drum patterns are commonly made with a sampler Akai MPС. And this is the time for experiments: creating a strange bass line, finding interesting effects for guitars and drums and so on.
NA: Who is the more knowledgeable with pedals? You use them a lot, to great effect.
The truth is that we don't use so many pedals at the same time. We reach the top not from using effects but from harmonic things in the setting. However, we have a kind of guitar sounds collection: MXR, Сatalinbread, Electro-Harmonix, Marshall. Besides, there're some rather good pedals from ATM which were made in Siberia. And, of course, BOSS pedals, well, how else :) Also, we have our friends who gift us with some old Soviet pedals and even make for us custom effects.
NA: How many concerts a year would you do on average and what would be the size of the venue?
Usually, it's about two concerts in the autumn, two of them in the winter and two other ones in the spring... Overall, they're in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. Sometimes we play in our city.
NA: Would you mind sharing some good anecdotes from your concerts/touring?
Funny story, when we went for a Christmas gig to Moscow with good local bands. It happened so, that we went without our bassist or drummer due to some unforeseen issues. We got to know about that just a couple of weeks before the show. So, we had to play trio. We were a bit worried that the recorded bass would sound strange, but in the end, everything was quite ok.
NA: What are some places around the world that you hope to take your band? Do you have any plans at present to tour in other countries?
We hope to play at European indie festivals and showcases. Also, it would be cool to make gigs in Asia and make a tour around America. In one word, we'd like to play in all countries where we have our fans! :)
NA: Is there any reason in particular that you want to go to these places? Is there something about dream pop/shoegaze in those places that makes you want to go there?
Sure! Our fans live in those places and there are wonderful performances and radio stations which rotate our songs and the songs of our favorite bands.
NA: Russian Shoegazing is not very well known internationally. Could you tell us more about it?
In 1990-s and beginning of 2000-s Russian shoegaze already existed but at that time Russia experienced the economic crisis. So it was hard for the bands to make their way to the western public. However, there were such amazing bands as Plastica, Samtsy Dronta, SPUTNIK-VOSTOK, Futbol and so on.
Nowadays there's a lot of brilliant shoegaze music like Pinkshinyutrablast, Blankenberge, COSme, Sounds of Sputnik, Aerofall, Neonic Sundrive, Shimmerance and more. We think all these bands are really good.
NA: Is it easy for a Russian indie band to be known internationally? Do you have any example?
Now it's become much easier than even 10 years ago.
NA: Has the scene changed since you began, and if so how?
These days lots of really interesting music show up.
NA: Could you tell us a bit more about your record label and your relationship with it?
We don't have any record labels now. It's not our principal position. So far, we've managed being self-released. But it'd be a good experience to collaborate with somebody, for sure.
NA: How do you sell your recordings (shops, online, …)?
Our songs can be found on bandcamp.com. Any fan can buy our music at the price they think is affordable (name your price).
NA: What is the next album due?
We hope to release our next album at the end of 2018.
NA: Any other project (ie movies soundtrack, …) or plans
It'd be awesome to make music for a movie or stage play. We'd be really glad to bear a hand in such a project.
NA: Do you plan to continue music for a long time or are you tired of it?
Music is our life. We'll play music and share it with people around us while we breathe.
NA: Anything else you want the reader to know?
Attend live gigs, love noise and support your local bands))
SOME MORE ABOUT THE BAND AND THEIR MUSIC
Some good videos to watch
You will hardly find many videos about us. Still, here are some luckiest ones, to our mind:
And also: Alison (Pixies) cover
Where can you buy their music
You can find their music on Bandcamp
Support the band in buying it, even if they kindly propose it for free.
Their presence on the web
The band is on social media:
For more reading on the band and their music, you can read the following features:
- EP review v Chuzhoi Strane by Sarah Cuthbert-Kerr in Primal radio blog
- v Chuzhoi Strane EP review Sounds Better with Reverb
- Chudesa EP review and band interview on The Blog That Celebrates Itself
Thanks from the band
First of all, we thank Noise Artists for the interview, its catchy and up to date content.
Also, our special thanks go to:
- DKFM Shoegaze Radio and Greg Wilson
- The Blog That Celebrates Itself and Renato Malizia
- Shoegaze, Dream Pop & Nugaze and Kev Cleary
- BAGeL Radio and Ted Arleigh Leibowitz
- Shameless Promotion PR and Shauna McLarnon
- Shoegazer Alive and Pedro Damian
- Banks Radio Australia and Isaac Banks
- Ahullidos and Emi Turano
- Primal Radio
- Sounds Better With Reverb
- Uncut and Unsigned
- Hindsight on KDHX
- Sublime Music
- That Indie Thing with Rob
- Club Underground Peru
- Echoes Of The City Radio Show
- Shoegazer Sanctuary Music, Shoegazer Sanctuary Radio (Real Shoegaze Radio) and Joe S. Giangrave
Also, our special thanks to Yutaka Sato for his cooperation and great cover designs of our both EPs.
We thank Aleksandr Ionov and IONOFF MUSIC for creating cultural phenomena and arranging curious and good-quality music events.
We thank everybody who supports the independent scene. Thanks to this, the music and cultural industry get developed, bringing noise, joy, and inspiration to our souls.