The Great Escape showcase festival is known for the diversity of its artists, the countries and venues presented. This year, the festival popping over Brighton, hosting over 450 performers across 35 venues. As part of the UK-Russia Year of Music 2019, Russian delegation brought Lucidvox – an all-female band from Moscow, playing psyched-out kraut punk.
Lucidvox have five music releases online, luring aesthetics, a growing fanbase and a strong voice within the Russian underground music scene. Alina is the vocalist, Galla plays guitar, Nadya drums and Anya is on the bass. Their mysterious music is laced with elements of folklore from Slavic myths. Among their works, a seven-minute video story integrating two songs – Videnie/Dym ('Vision'/'Smoke') – and inviting the audience on a trip to the woods and memory. Head to YouTube after this article to feel the magnetising energy through your screen!
With homesickness or simply a feeling of unfamiliarity with the genre, I dragged myself into Horatio’s bar – part of the Brighton Pier’s dreamlike composition. My eyes were attacked with the outside contrast of the bar's green ribbed walls and dark grey, puffed-up sky. I was not yet aware that inside the bar, my audio perception was about to come under attack. An ordinary pub was diluted with fantasy; scarlet tulle covered the instruments like a bridal veil soaked in blood with artificial lamp-twigs growing out of it.
Those following the lyrics, and those only following the performance, were equally unable to resist Lucidvox’s charm, as the band managed to establish a connection with their sophisticatedly chaotic interaction.
During the show, Alina’s vocal technique reminding of ancient chants was sometimes replaced by her drumming along with Nadya or picking up the flute. Unlike the fluid vocalist, the rest of the musicians stayed focused on their initial parts. Nadya accompanied with a saturated beat, Anya produced rough vibrations, while Galla's subtle guitar united the melodies. The band seemed like a well-oiled mechanism with the veil turning into a scarlet clock face. Seamlessly flowing from one composition to another, the sound made some spectators perform hypnotised moves, while others sat down on the floor in front of the stage. The women played some of their older work as well as the later music from the Stranstviya ('Wandering') and Dym ('Smoke') albums.
After what felt like a twilight journey to a Russian thicket, the applause was given to the 'wood women'. An ambiguous feeling from the music's tough bark seemed to teach you something new.
The next morning, I talked to Anya and Nadya from Lucidvox, whilst resting on Brighton beach. with the only the sounds of seagulls and the waves. Read about the artists' thoughts on showcase festivals, translation in music, sexism and feminism below:
Photos by Liza Mikhaleva
Liza: The first question is quite trite – is this your first time in England?
Anya: Yes, it’s our first time here. We’re on a small tour – we played in Germany, Poland, and several English cities.
Nadya: We had a concert every day this week.
A: Today is our first rest day.
L: What do you think of England?
N: We have absolutely different impressions! Liverpool was the least enjoyable (both girls giggle).
N: It felt like the people were there not for the music but just partying. Unlike at The Great Escape festival, where you can feel that everyone is present for the music.
L: You often take inspiration from nature. Is it usually Russian nature? Or does travelling bring ideas too? Does this affect the mood of your songs and the 'Russian spirit' that you often mention?
N: I would not say that our inspiration is only associated with nature. It comes from self-exploration. It’s not about something particular.
A: Nature can bring us certain emotions and mood. Nature affects our inspiration this way. But we don't sing about birch trees.
N: I think that travelling definitely has an influence. I haven’t realised yet what is happening around. A lot of things have found a place inside of me during these two weeks. I think that once we’re back to Moscow, I’ll become more fulfilled and aware of the experiences from this trip.
L: What do you think of The Great Escape and its format? Musicians have an opportunity to play several shows a day or on different days. Would such a large-scale and scattered festival with diverse genres and audience work in Russia?
N: We already have one – Moscow Music Week; I work there. It’s a showcase festival, but it’s still quite young. We bring foreign delegates there. Last year there were about a dozen British delegates, including journalists. Also, there is the Bol festival (n. bol is Russian for 'pain'), which isn’t a showcase festival, but a huge one. It grows more with each year, and both British and American musicians come there. We have so many fresh musical collectives. Yesterday's showcase demonstrated that there is something to see in Russia.
A: By the way, we forgot to mention that we got the opportunity to perform at The Great Escape because of the RUSH (Russian Music Export Agency) initiative. They choose several young Russian musicians to promote in Europe.
N: In general, showcase festivals are a perfect opportunity to demonstrate yourself. For young musicians, this is the first step to development and recognition. The Great Escape is a very cool festival; the atmosphere here is so endearing.
L: Do your listeners understand the folklore and ethnographic elements of your work?
N: We’re continually being asked about where we take these ethnic motives from. We always answer that, probably, we’re happy to be a part of the Russian culture and carry a small piece of Russia into the world. It seems to me that it’s interesting when a band has such originality. I think that we’re partly inspired by different Russian-folk lullabies and the atmosphere of care present in Russian fairy tales and legends. During performances, we sort of appear like four Russian witches doing magic on stage. It looks and sounds pretty intriguing and eye-catching.
L: Not all the followers, who do not speak a musician's language, put effort into understanding lyrics by translating and interpreting them. What do you think about such fans who solely rely on the audio perception and thus do not fully understand the message?
A: There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.
N: I’ve never translated any English lyrics of my favourite bands or listened to them too carefully. For me, the vocal is a separate instrument instead. In our band vocal also plays the role of an instrument, rather than a voice, which would be essential for understanding. Surely, what we sing about is important, but I think that it can be felt through the atmosphere, voice, and music. Language is not as relevant to people, because everything is so clear when you pay attention to the music.
L: In the times when feminism is in fashion, how do you feel as a female rock band? Are there any unjustified conclusions or misunderstandings? Would you say that you get more attention to your work?
A: People often ask if we encounter sexism when making music or performing concerts, and it's very nice that we don't. It's delightful that the Russian society has grown to an extent where it doesn't discriminate against women in music and female artists as a whole. This makes us very happy.
N: It reminds me of the situation with feminitives (n. feminitves are feminine forms of nouns for occupations, which are almost always male since Russian nouns are gendered). Maybe nobody thinks anything wrong about a female author, but for people to call her an avtorka (n. avtorka is a feminitive for avtor, meaning 'author') more time should pass before individuals change their perceptions. What I mean is that there are still sexist elements in our society. For example, when people come up to us and say something like: 'for a girl, you play so well.' (Anya nods and agrees) Like, what do you mean, 'for a girl?'. But nothing crazy happens. Yet, I think that we somewhat attract attention because we are four women. Everyone is astonished by how we play.
A: We set an example and show that girls are the same musicians as anybody else. We help the society to get used to this idea.
N: We don’t focus on feminist texts, though.
A: This way feels more natural for integration. We’re just a cool band. Yes, we’re all women, but there is nothing special about it. We aren’t protesting, it's only natural – we’re girls who are musicians.
L: I noticed that media often focuses on you as a girl band and plays on the contrast of your music, not embodying femininity. Even in The Great Escape's description, you find word combinations like 'delicate girls' juxtaposed with 'their music is anything but fragile and girly.'
N: There are two sides of the same coin. Promoters are trying to excite people so that they come. On the other hand, this is some kind of negative description like: 'Come, look at four women who can play music well.' I’m not really fond of crazy, super hardcore feminism. And I’m not a fan of this fashion for feminism either. But at the same time, I like that even in the music industry there are more and more female teams. And perhaps because of this, it will someday become the norm. Hopefully, everyone will stop only seeing 'girls' in a band. Anyway, I find feminism to be a good thing.
L: And the last, partly ambiguous question. You played your concert on the 9th of May at the Brighton Pier. Away from Russia, away from what is considered to be almost the most important event of the year (n. 9th of May is the Victory Day in Russia, a celebration of the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945). Do you have any feelings about it?
A: It didn’t really add up in my head that it was the Victory Day and we were here.
N: I never thought about it. Of course, I have a positive attitude towards the Victory Day; it’s inseparable from us. There is something to be proud of, but I have ambiguous feelings about the holiday itself. Especially as the years pass.
A: Yes, mainly how the holiday is celebrated in Russia nowadays.
N: It appears like some kind of replacement of current problems. Let's close our eyes to other things and be proud of the Victory Day! I’m really proud and have no idea what it was like to go through this war; it’s horrifying. This is an important holiday, but it’s now presented from another, wrong side.
A: Excessive aggression and brutality around. Whereas people of our age just go to barbecues to get shit-faced. This is definitely not the way to celebrate this holiday.
As we exchanged goodbyes, the girls continued their rest day and I went to look for more musical adventures at The Great Escape.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor, and Dimitrina Dyakova, Deputy