Published on March 6th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron0
Interview: Fedia from Polska Radio One
I search for psychedelic rock bands and black metal bands and weirdo old-school bands, classical music composers, and anything else that looks interesting. I skim through it, trash 90 per cent of it, keep 10 per cent for a further listen, and the five per cent I like, I get really excited and buy it all on bandcamp or cassette and tell everyone I can about it.
Polska Radio One was one of those bands in the five per cent for me last year. Within a few seconds of listening I was in love. The reason I fell in love with this band is because they sound just the way I like — spacey, instrument-driven, layered, kraut-soaked psych — but without sounding like every other spacey, instrument-driven, kraut-soaked band on the planet.
Where a lot of psychedelic music these days evokes the heat-drenched Californian desert, or the gentle pastural idyl of the European countryside in summer, Polska Radio One is that vibe, but it’s winter. Sometimes bleak, and very beautiful. They have the gift of being able to capture the essence of their environment in sound, and that is pretty exciting, because very few bands can do it.
The band has issued two full-length albums and a number of singles, the first self-titled LP an acid-drenched and heavily layered feast exploring well beyond the band’s 60s-influenced psychedelic trope. A couple of singles, most notably on the EP Северная Ягода, launched the band onto truly trippy experimental waters with some of the most amazing, head-fucking production this side of Morgan Delt I’ve heard in ages.
You may be not aware even of your hometown band, not to mention some guys from different part of the world.
The second long-player, Холодное Солнце, sees the band with less dramatic production effects and keyboards lower in the mix, but still conjuring up incredible soundscapes in acoustic and electric instrumentation, and that original 60s rock vibe soaking through in an extremely laid-back manner.
Part of what led me to Polska Radio One was Egor Letov. And from him to Alien Pat Holman, Industrial Architecture, Alexander Khodchenko — bands from the 90s. That’s what I asked guitarist Fedia about first. He and the band is from Yekaterinburg — a city of a million or so in the Ural region of Russia, right in the center of a giant frozen landmass between the Siberian plains and Eastern Europe, and pretty much thousands of miles from anywhere.
“Letov is very huge for Russian psych music, as well as Sergey Kuryokhin – even if you don’t listen to them much – their vibe would still be felt,” says Polska Radio One’s Federico. “From the bands you mention, we’re into Khodchenko.”
BNU: Is it frustrating to you that, because of language and cultural barriers, it is hard for people in other countries to hear your music? Or are you happy just playing for people in your own country?
It is not that frustrating, we were ready for it. And the main barrier we think is information overload. So many bands from all over the world and more are coming! You may be not aware even of your hometown band, not to mention some guys from different part of the world. Also our music is not so lyrical, we’re working more on non-verbal levels. [Laughs] To sing in Russian was our intention. Our first records were in English, and then we decided to spread the message more locally.
They have the gift of being able to capture the essence of their environment in sound, and that is pretty exciting
How did you start a band? Did you guys play in other bands before? What was your reason for forming Polska Radio One?
As a band, I think we it started when Dima, who played in few garage rock and ’60s psych influenced bands before, met Fedya and Yura, who’s had an interest to explore the same directions in sound and invited his former bandmate Drew to play keys and synth. Then Yura left the band and Sasha, an old friend of the band, who participated in almost all of the studio recordings, joined in.
What do you love about psychedelic and spacey music? Do you think Russian psychedelic music has a unique character or personality?
Yes, we think music always has its own unique character and that depends on the cultural context. As for psych music in general, then it’s like exploring the new realms that our ears and brains can face [laughs]. Kind of a preview of our future sensual awareness.
There is a stereotype about Russia and Russian people. Like, they’re always drunk, they’re poor, lots of government corruption, gangsters, less freedom. What is everyday life really like for Russian people? What do you do for fun?
Ha ha! That’s how it really looks at first sight, and a lot of that is in some context true. But there are also people that dig beyond that. Everyday life and how it looks like depends from person to person. Different guys in the band are involved in different social activities but are connected with passion to music, and we share a kind of similar non-dogmatic, open-to-new-approaches style and sense of humor.
During the Soviet period, playing music in bands was not allowed. Music was shared by cassette secretly. Do you think that the risk of being put in prison made music from the 80s and 90s better, or more important?
Don’t know much about that. In our childhood in the 90s, cassettes were legal and you were able to buy them in almost every city.
What’s the music scene like in your town? Can you recommend say your five of your favorite underground Russian bands?
The music scene in our town is slowly growing and has a long history. It’s going on in different small sub-cultural circles, where different music genres are represented. As for psych-rock inspired bands, there are only us and The Karovas Milkshake. Fave
Okay, the The song Волга – it’s almost on every album of yours. What is it about that song that makes you keep re-recording it?
We like it, because it’s kind of a warm-up jam for us and can go in so many different ways. We recorded it twice and released it three times. There also are also live recordings from the first Moscow Psych Fest from June 2014, and endless rehearsal versions. Even 20 Years – the song from our second album, is kind of a very slowed and spaced take on the same jam.
Your latest album Холодное солнце sounds quite different to your other EPs and albums. It has a more open, spacious feeling, maybe less keyboard and production? It kind of reminds me of what the Chilean band Follakzoid are doing on some tracks. What is the concept of this album and did you record it differently?
The second album was very different experience from our previous records, because we did it all by ourselves. All the studio stuff and mixing and trying to get this raw mono sound without a lot of production. The recording of some instruments was a collective effort, especially those we don’t use regularly like Theremin Vox and Pipes.
What are your plans for Polska Radio One? Will you ever tour overseas?
Not planning a lot! More enjoying the process. Will rehearse and play some local gigs in near future, and we hope to return to the studio with some new sounds maybe in summer. As for a tour – who knows how life goes?