From Russia with Love: Life on Venus' Dream-Pop & Shoegaze.
2017 was a superb year for the reverb world with many quality Shoegaze, Dream Pop and indie albums released.
Life on Venus, from Moscow, released their first opus admist all the excitment. They were very rapidely supported by the community (i.e. DKFM, The Blog That Celebrates Itself, When the Sun hits, ...) for the beauty of their music.
It was also the year Slowdive released their long awaited new album. As we will see further, their music and Life on Venus' are not unlike each other. I like both equally, which says a lot.
You will now discover their music, the band through a very nice interview, and many more things.
A big thank you to Dmitry, and his band mates, for all the hard work and kindness they put in this collaboration.
Before Diving into Life on Venus' music, Dmitry tells us about the band and their music.
Noise Artists (NA): Tell us your story.
"It all started a while ago, probably the day I met Marat when I needed a bass player for an indie band I was in those days. It didn't take long to understand that we have a lot in common, our musical tastes, life goals and attitude, we were (and of course will always be) on the same wave.
We used to play lots of different stuff with different people: stoner rock, moody bluesy themes with some hints of indie and psychedelic rock, but the thing in the back of my mind was to make dreamy, atmospheric and emotional music with a surreal feel. I did not actually know what word could describe my musical ideas at first, but my interest in alternative music gave me one really quick. It was shoegaze, for sure, and it's probably my favorite genre and a great cultural phenomenon overall.
I had a time around four years ago when I tried to make the ideas I had come true with some friends of mine, but it just didn't feel right, I spent a lot of time to come up with the sound we have now. Everything went extremely well when me and Marat ended up playing with Sergei, our former guitar player, and soon we got accompanied by Gulya on drums and Aline on vocals. We used to know each other quite well because we played together before, therefore making and performing new music was a great pleasure for us all.
Music is one of our favorite things, even though it's really hard to earn for living as an independent musician in Russia. Each day spent working on it brings good memories, there was a lot of amazing moments and creative sensations. One of those was our recent trip from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, where we played a small show with our northern friends Blankenberge and a lot of different bands. The party was dedicated to the final release of Twin Peaks, a masterpiece from well-known director (artist, actor and many other) David Lynch.
We have a lot of unforgettable memories, that was our first experience of travelling and we are really looking forward to visit other cities and countries, too, even though Saint-Petersburg is not far from Moscow at all compared to other places we would like to visit!
It's hard to tell what exactly inspires me and my bandmates when it's about making music. Contemplation and dreams are probably the fuel for our songs, those are the things that make me create something new, the emotional interpretation of the feelings and thoughts me and my friends experience and share.
This approach opens wide horizons for creativity and makes the songwriting process a real pleasure. Sometimes it may seem not comfortable to share your feelings with the others, but I am really thankful to my band for being open-hearted and open-minded about the things I create.
Most of the songwriting is done by me, but Aline, Marat and Gulya are always there to help me with it, both musical and emotional way. And of course we are all in love with those great bands like Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, Lush and My Bloody Valentine, they all had a great influence on our vision of music and art."
NA: Do you have any other musical side projects apart from Life on Venus?
"We all managed to change a few bands before assembling together here. But as I mentioned before, Marat, Gulya and I had a garage-rock band with which our acquaintance has begun and which some time existed in parallel with LoV."
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?
"Thank you for appreciating our sound. It cost us many sleepless nights spent trying to make the sound that came from our instruments as close as possible to what it sounded like in our heads. In order to record our instruments, we needed a suitable space and various equipment.
That’s the part where Mikhail appeared. He is Gulya’s friend and her classmate, who already worked by then as the sound engineer in the culture house of the city of Shcherbinka, which is not so far from Moscow.
When we asked him about the possibility of using one of the wonderful halls of this house of culture, he not only willingly agreed to help, but also volunteered to organize the whole recording process. He responsibly approached the task assigned to him, performing painstaking work on arranging and setting up the equipment, arranging the microphones and, of course, directly recording our takes.
So he made sure that we will get the best records we can get and without his assistance we couldn’t achieve that wonderful sound."
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?
"Despite Mikhail's excellent work in the process of recording, we’ve decided to do the mastering ourselves. During the mastering stage our sound was shaped collectively by every member of the band.
Everyone made their own amendments and wishes, everyone introduced a piece of his vision based on a rich experience of listening to such music, everyone was shaping the sound of the album as close to their ideal as possible, and finally we managed to create such sound which was in the mind of each of us."
NA: Do you have a label? Could you tell us a bit more if so.
"Luckily, yes we have. Encounters was released at Shelflife records in august 2017. Originally we self-released it, but shortly after we were able to contact Ed Mazzucco from Shelflife. Our music has had to him on temper and we started to negotiate about a physical release. It wasn’t that easy because everything was absolutely new for us, especially we had a few problems while re-adapting a CD cover art. But we were able to pull it through, so at the present time you can purchase our album both digital & CD at Shelflife store."
NA: How did the funding worked for the LP? Did you invest a lot yourself? Was your label supportive in that respect?
"As I previously noted, the first album was set to be released by ourselves completely independently that also meant independent payment of all our expenses on recording and mastering.
By that time, we were not yet signed by Shelflife, meaning that they weren’t involved in this process and unable to provide any material support. The biggest item of expenditure was rent of equipment, which is a guitar amplifier, an external sound card and a drum set.
Everything else was already provided by Mikhail, as it was his working equipment. It didn’t cost a fortune for us, so I’m pretty sure that everyone can afford themselves a record session with a similar quality of sound, or even better! "
NA: Could you tell us how you came up with the band's name?
"I used to find a lot of inspiration in irrational things, those ones that just can't ever happen. We were talking about these with a friend of mine a long time ago, coming up with those improbable phenomenon.
I can't say sure if it was me or him first, but I can remember us telling two of these one after another: 'sunny nights', then 'life on venus'. And if the sunny nights are real, (so-called white nights in Saint-Petersburg), life on venus must be one of the most surreal and unbelievable things ever. It reminds of the childish dreams we all had, about reaching distant places and exporing the universe, fearlessly facing the unknown.
It didn't take long for this to become a name for the band I started, and even though we had some thoughts about giving it a different name at first, we decided to leave the name as it is and are quite happy about how it sounds and what it means for us."
Why we like Life On Venus!
- Sense of simple melody. Life on Venus has a beautiful sense of melodies, keeping them simple, pure. It fits perfectly with what Dmitry told us in the interview regarding what they want to sound like.
- Consistency & subtle variations. The composition, sound and arrangements are very consistent through the album which gives it a recognisable tint. Subtles arrangements change the flow of the album, giving the work a beautiful flow.
- The bass. It is not easy do get this type of music right. It can easily fall into a very depressing pattern. Marat's bass is one of the element that help overcome this, with rolling, round basslines that support and transform the vast and cold sound of the band.
- The maturity and sound for a first album. Not many bands could have pulled out this kind of sound for a first album. Impressive. Great guitars from Dmitry and his pals, great voices mix.
The Comparison Game
Slowdive. I think of Slowdive when listening to Life on Venus. They have a similar sound, using space as a whole, filling the void with beautiful reverb, letting it live without restraining it (unlike MBV for example).
It is may be due to the fact that Life on Venus is from the Russian Federation, the largest country in the world with vast deserted areas, including the cold Siberia, and that they love infinite space. Or maybe it due to their love of the UK band's sound. Or maybe they this sound connects with what they are.
In any case, while they are clearly inspired by Slowdive, Life on Venus have developped their own sound and are just at the start of their musical carreer. They also have a resolute more upbeat and optimistic feel than their elders, which I, for one, really prefer.
Josh Rouse. For the beautiful and understated melodies running through their work.
Encounters, Album, March 2017
"Encounters", our first LP release, taught us many things, for sure.
We put a lot of effort into it, and hearing the both positive and negative feedback is probably the thing we were really looking forward to.
It's all about sharing emotions, it's one of the purposes for music, and we try to express ourselves in the best way both in our studio releases and live shows.
I can't say if it has a particular mood in it, it sounds both cheerful and dramatic, showing the controversal nature of human emotions.
Each song represents a special emotional state based on our personal experience and thoughts, but it's not the lyrics in the first place. We tend to focus on the sonic side of the music, the melody lines, the overall atmosphere and images created by the music itself.
We spent a lot of time to find a way to bring those atmospheric notes to our songs, and in the end the overall tune turned out to be really close to our ideas due to the fact we made most of the work ourselves.
We are really thankful to our fellow record ingeneer Mikhail Ogonkov for tracking each of the instruments with care and professional approach, it made all the further work much easier."
1. Around the Sun 02:30
"At first it was a couple of chords brought by our former guitarist Sergei. It all sounded completely different from how it does now: I reimagined the melody and came up with a complete song. We had a lot of fun on rehearsals playing that droney part for almost forever, it all sounded loud, sparkly, and brought both dramatic and joyful feelings just as the whole song does itself."
A great introduction to the album, this Power Pop song, that can be played very very loud, takes you in space (around the sun) and tells the world: "this is our music, that what we can do. We are a Noise Pop band, with a beautiful and optimistic sound!"
2. May 03:40
"That song probably came to my mind when I was heading home from classes in spring, a short walk in the park on a sunny day. It was the graduation year, I suppose, and my relationships with people changed just like the seasons did. I though a lot about the people I'd met and places I'd seen, about what was going to change in our lives, and this melody kept whirling in my head."
3. Kingdom of the Day 01:47
"It describes that dizzy feeling when you open your eyes to the sun on a summer day, as you awaken from a daydream and everything comes back into colour."
I love the title. Could be applied to many power trip that plagged humanity, or more recently to soial media, where today's buzz will be very quickly replaced. Who does the "ice bucket challenge anymore"? Who remebers many kingdoms that have came and went.
A great love song to the inconstitency of the world.
4. Pale 02:05
"This was our first recorded song. It's main idea is the harmony with the people and things you love, it's about experiencing some special balance in the reality that surrounds you."
Every time I listen to this song my feet begins tapping on their own and a smile comes to my lips. It is such a happy song. Fits beautifully the theme of the song.
5. Her Hands Are Weak 02:40
"This song was inspired by a stranger. It's about staying strong, being yourself and being able to appreciate life the way it is. I saw a woman on the subway, her both hands were disabled. Despite having this terrible injury, she was talking on her phone and smiling, probably heading home with some presents in her small backpack. The beauty of her inner spirit must be one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen: we must never underestimate our chance to live."
A 3/3 song that makes you want to whirl around, spinning without end.
6.Clover Fields 03:14
"It's been somewhere around I came up with 'May'. This song has this light-hearted vibe that filled the air in the early days of summer. The idea came from different memories and dreams, some are from mine and my brother's wonderful childhood when we had much less worries and had some great times with our friends and parents."
7. Secrets 03:34
"It's all about sincerity."
8. Shine 04:14
"This is probably the oldest one, I had this idea back in the school graduation year. I used to play a similair melody with my first big muff pedal, the harmonics sounded pretty warm and relaxing, and the soundscape appeared extremely big, whirly and dreamy compared to the unprocessed guitar signal. In four years I came up with the whole song. I hope it comforts the others just as it comforts me, even though the lyrics are abstract and kind of personal. It's about the power of inner love we all share."
Well oldies but goodies. It is perfect mix of what makes Life on Venus so good: beautiful melody, vast sound, round bassline, breath-taking vocal harmonies of Aline and Dmitry.
9. There Will Be Blood 03:38
"We used to play this tune time to time. Its 'wavy' rhythm and dynamics brought visions of heavy waves collapsing in the midst of an ocean. Finally the song ended up sounding this way, telling a story about the controversal nature of human feelings compared to the endless beauty of the ocean depths."
This song has a 3/3 time signature. It makes want to waltz. But above all I love that bassline, superb, round, that support the all song in its stricture and melody. Perfect.
10. Rosetta 04:25
"This song was dedicated to the spacecraft named Rosetta and its crash-landing on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We interpreted its journey's end as a metaphor to all those beautiful and dramatic moments of discovery, revelation, sincerity and unity."
Slowdive did Slouvaki Space station. Life On Venus preferred the story of Rosetta. And what a story they tell. The music is outstanting, vast and so much more optimistic that Slowdive's. It really fits what the band wanted to captured.
You can imagine Rosetta's happy swansong when crashing on the comet, fulfilling its destiny and sending the world the data to better understand itself. This is the song that comes immediately in my mind when thinking of the band.
Encouters credits are:
- Written by Dmitry Kostryukov
- Performed by Life on Venus
- Recorded by Mikhail Ogonkov
- Mixed and mastered by Dmitry Kostryukov
This absolutley amazing cover of Lush's "Last Night" from TBTCI's Lovelife, hommage compilation to Lush.
"Time goes on, and we are currently working on our next release, it's going to be a whole new experience for us.
We do even have some plans on visiting other countries, even though it's not an easy thing for an independent band in Russia.
We would really like to share our music with the listeners and musicians, and it makes every one of us happy to be involved in worldwide culture and take our little place in the history of alternative music."
Life on Venus presence on the web
"Although we don’t have a dedicated website, we do have a Facebook page, where we post our latest news and communicate with our fans. Also there are our Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages, so feel free to visit, share and comment!"
"Since its release, “Encounters” managed to collect quite a lot of reviews, both positive and not so. We’re honored that Paul Simpson from Allmusic.com has written the review of our work and has given it a well-deserved mark.
One of the most important things for us is that Jeff Kandefer from The Daysleepers, one of the bands which we were heavily inspired by, has reached us out personally with some kind words about our LP. I guess it’s the best evaluation for the work we’ve done.
Other interesting reviews and an interview by The Blog That Celebrates Itself can be found on the following links:"
- Paul Simpson/Allmusic.com
- Aglet Eaters (with Jeff K. comment)
- The Blog That Celebrates Itself interview
There is only one live set on Youtube from 2015, with a 4 members line-up. Herer it is:
Note that since then the drummer has changed and Aline joined.
Some videos the band recommends
1. Tamaryn – Love Fade (music video). A perfect example of a great music video - a simple, yet magnificent visual addition to the beautiful song. (Gulya’s Pick).
2. FRPF – “Odd Days Teaser” soundtrack (Mikhail’s Pick). If I correctly understood the whole concept, then they have recorded one of their jams. Then they thought something like: “Oh boy, it would be cool to be featured in some kind of a noir movie!”, but instead of finding one, they’ve decided to make a trailer for the fictional film themselves! They totally nailed it! Very cool piece, but a bit too gloomy, however.
3. Rone – So So So (music video). Aline’s Pick.
4. Death In Vegas on Later… With Jools Holland (Marat’s Pick). Though their music is a rough mix of various music genres, tracks on this video are predominantly based in some kind of a dreamy electronica, which makes you think about something far away from here, immense and unflappable.
5. Röyksopp - What Else Is There? (Dmitry’s Pick)
Saw this music video once more last month. It’s much easier to understand the idea as an adult, unfortunately I could not get it when I was younger. It’s a brilliant work with clear symbolism and outstanding performance both musically and visually.
We hope you liked the article above which is largely due to Dmitry's and his bandmates' kind collaboration and work. And please, support the band and share their music everywhere!