By Juliana Russell
Naadia, an emerging indie band based in Moscow, released their beautiful song “Omut”, accompanied by a mystical, artistic music video. Juliana Russell from Black on the Canvas had the opportunity to speak with the clever and easy-going Nadia, the band’s lead singer, where we talked about the various sounds of different languages, the fleeting nature of happiness, and the joys and pains of touring.
Thank you for doing this interview! So what’s your music about? Who are all the members of your band, and how did you get started?
Our band… It got started about two years ago. Right now we have five members. Our guitarist, also has a solo project… In English she spells is Dub (pronounced “doob”). So everyone expects it be like dub music. It’s funny, this year she went to Rebel Music Academy in Paris, and everyone was expecting to hear some dub music from her. And then she’s playing these… Funny guitars, with like layering, and really fancy, beautiful stuff, no dub at all. So that was funny. And so we also have our drummer, bass player, and the guy who basically is our beat-maker. His name is Vanya.
Okay, so how did your band get started? You said it was about two years ago—what was the formation like?
You know, it wasn’t like… Unusual or unexpected. We had a band before that, with Vanya. And we sang in English. And then suddenly, one day I decided that I wanted to sing in Russian, and it was only logical to make a new band, to adopt a new sound. So that’s how it all started. It wasn’t like oh, we met in a bar, and we hit it up, and the music started. No, it was a really thoughtful decision to make this band happen.
So you said you used to sing in English, and now in Russian? Describe the differences, if there are any that you can think of.
Oh, there are lots of them, cause Russian is really… I don’t know, have you ever heard Russian?
Well, not much. I did really like your music though! (laughs)
(laughs) Thank you! The thing is… We went to Brazil last summer, to an acoustic music festival, where we sang in Russian. And we talked to a guy who was kind of our guide in Brazil. I told him that Portuguese, for me, sounded like “moush-moush-moush-moush”, so like marshmallows, those round letters and sounds. Like something… I forgot the word in English.
Yeah, like something…
I guess squishy has a a more negative connotation though. (laughs)
Yeah. I meant like gentle, genuine. And so I asked him how Russian sounds to him. And he made those sounds, and it was totally Russian. It didn’t make any sense, but it was like “kkuh-kuh-PUH! ku-kuh-puh-RRUH!” (laughs) And then I asked him, “Do my sounds sound like that? Like what you just said!?” And he said, “You know, actually, they don’t.” And so, this is the struggle with Russian language, that you have to make it sound… Not so Russian, you know?
(laughs) Okay. So how about in English? Does it have a particular sound that you like or you don’t like as much?
Yeah, it does. I think everybody can agree, that internationally it is the most… Melodical? Do you have that word?
Melodious? Like a melody?
Yeah, like it sounds really round…
(laughs) All right. So what are some of your main influences and inspirations, musical or otherwise?
It’s really hard to tell right now. Five people in a band… Each one of us has really different personal and musical backgrounds. So those influences coming from all sides, you know? For Masha, I know that she really loves St. Vincent. When we started the band, it was her main inspiration, and it was actually mine.
Cool. So talk about your new song, “Omut”. What is the song about?
You know, this song is about that specific feeling that you have… I don’t know if you have it or not. But in Russia we have it a lot, cause everything is shaky all the time. Every time you feel happy, you just feel like it’s gonna end, like right now. You feel happy, and then you just tell yourself, “Oh, no no no. Don’t be happy now. Cause it’s gonna be over soon!”
Oh, sort of the fleeting emotions?
Yeah, it’s kind of about this… How do I say it… Expecting something really bad happening to you, any moment. (laughs)
Ohh. Is there a translation for the title?
Omut is translated like “whirlpool”. In Russian, it means the deepest place in a lake, which also has the whirlpool. And when you swim across the lake, you could not notice it, and then it will drag you down. The whirlpool of cold water, rolling inside, and you’re just swimming, minding your own business, and it just… Wrrrah!! So that’s what the song is about.
Yeah, wow. How about the video?
The video was shot by Yorkshire Academy. I cannot speak for the meaning… I don’t really know what actually the director meant, but it was like a really complicated set of references in Russian culture, Slavic traditions, mermaids and dead people… You know.
Yeah, I thought it was beautiful!
So what kinds of programs and equipment does your band use to make your music?
We actually do not stop at anything. Vanya uses his iPad, it’s like his main instrument. Masha uses guitar, and pedals. Are you interested in like brands?
(laughs) Anything you want to talk about!
I like synthesizers. Well everything we like, we use it in our music.
Okay. So what’s your creative, compositional process like? How do you go about starting a new song?
Every time it’s something different. Sometimes, I have a chorus, and I just bring it, and I say “Well, that’s what I have.” Let’s start from here. Sometimes Masha will bring in some chords… There’s no rules, and no set pattern of what we do. I really like it about our band, cause every time it’s a different balance of who brings the most… Do you get what I mean?
Yeah! So did you face any technical or creative challenges while writing or recording this new song?
It has to stop someday, but… Now, I think almost every band in Russia, almost every indie band, has to struggle through some things. Every time you have to look for a specific studio, sound engineer, you have to like him or her… It’s a really difficult process.
Okay yeah so in general, how do you deal with challenges and adversity?
Well, we just drink… We just drink a lot of alcohol.
(laughs) All right, I’ll take that.
Also, through great passion, friendship, love, compassion. Most struggles we have when we go on tours, cause it’s really difficult physically, and emotionally. When every night, you’re in a different town, with different people, and you’re tired, and at the same time you’re kinda happy… It all builds up inside you.
We had this Siberian tour, and in the middle of it, we had a group meltdown. It was like a nervous breakdown, but imagine like five people experiencing it. After a concert, a fan came up to us, and he said, “I have a present for you guys!” And we were like, “Oh my god, bring it on! We want some presents for what we just did!” And he brought like two gigantic jars of pickled tomatoes and cucumbers. Both of them were gigantic. And he was like “This is my present to you guys!” And it was just… I don’t know, he didn’t notice apparently that we had like really a lot of stuff with us, and we had five or six towns and cities to go. And he was so happy, and proud of himself… “My mom made it!” And we were like “Oh, dude… You just… You just don’t know.” And that was the time when we laughed, and then all of us cried, and it was terrible… It was beautiful at the same time.
(laughs) Yeah, I was about to ask about any performances. Do you perform live very often? What are some of your favorite and least favorite aspects about performing?
We do perform live really often. I pretty much love everything about it, when everything goes right, you know, when the sound engineer is right, when you get to hear everything on stage, hear the music, you see the people, their faces, responding to the music. There can’t be anything better than this.
Yeah. So what are some of your future plans?
Well right now, I just got back from the studio. We’re recording our new EP. It will consist of three songs. Also we’re going to release another music video in a week. We have a lot going on.
All right, cool! That’s all the questions I have. Do you have any final thoughts?
Oh, I don’t know. Final thoughts. Actually, it’s like this humming sound in my head. When I get back from the studio, often it is like this. You just sit, and you just enjoy the silence. (laughs) Thank you so much for calling! It was really nice talking to you.
Yeah, thank you!! Have a good night!
Check out Naadia’s song Omut on Soundcloud: