- Words Mike Vinti
Pinkshinyultrablast, Russia's unlikely and amazingly named shoegaze pioneers, are back with their second full-length album Grandfeathered, a sprawling, highly ambitious take on the expansive soundscape of shoegaze, set to cement the band's reputation
Pinkshinyultrablast are Russia’s unlikely, and amazingly named, shoegaze pioneers. Having released their debut album Everything Else Matters in January last year to critical acclaim and cult reaction, and the band are back with their second full-length Grandfeathered, a sprawling, highly ambitious take on the expansive soundscape first crafted by the likes of My Bloody Valentine. With new electronic instrumentation and an unabashed approach to experimentation, Grandfeathered is set to cement the band’s reputation as a progressive force in a genre often mired in cliché.
We caught up with vocalist Lyubov to chat about the new album and their recent move from St. Petersberg to Los Angeles.
You’re from St Petersburg originally, but now you’re based in LA, how do each city’s music scenes compare?
We’re only partially based in LA, and are based here as of very recently, so it’s hard to tell yet. Even from a first glimpse, though, it’s evident how diverse the LA scene is. This city is a home base for both titans like Universal Music Group, and pop-up garage-based labels, who print out cassette tapes sleeves with a Goodwill-bought printer. Stuff is happening at all levels; it feels really vibrant. There are a lot of venues, with more on the way. Even with major labels around, things seem kind of less commercial here than, for instance, in New York. It all seems looser, less polished, more playful, more grungy, a bit less tense. It’s the first impression, though, so who knows.
How has the move influenced your music, if at all?
Again, it’s hard to tell just yet. I think our music is naturally evolving in different directions, regardless of our territorialization, but surely where you live inevitably forms and influences your choices eventually, one way or another. I guess we’ll have to see what happens and where it goes.
What attracted you to Shoegaze as a scene/genre?
When we became attracted to Shoegaze, initially, it seemed to have a certain magical quality to it, but I think it also coincided with us discovering alternative / independent music in general, so it felt really special at that age and time. Something about discovering things in your teenage years makes the discoveries feel grand. We felt like shoegaze had a unique sound and a special atmosphere to it, but throughout the years, the excitement naturally wore off, and we’ve become weary of it. We’ve started to pay much more attention to structural and compositional elements of songs, rather than to colouring of sound since, although various effects and playing with sound palettes is still an important element to our process.
This album has a lot more electronic instrumentation on than on your previous work, what prompted that move?
We’ve always been incredibly drawn to electronic music, but somehow, with our own material, guitars and bass tended to take over during our creative process, both while making songs and performing them live. Finally, with this album, the electronic side of our music is starting to come more to the forefront. We’re really excited about that! I think this tendency will only gain force in the future, with keyboards and drum machines taking over more from live drums and guitars.
It’s also a lot grander in scale and more experimental generally, how did you approach writing this album?
We’ve had a bit more time with recording and mixing it, more room and ability to work with the sound palette during post-production. There was more space to experiment with keyboards and samples, adding multiple layers to the existing material. Most songs on the album have been around for a while, so it made it more fun in a way, to have to finally get a chance work on details and microelements since all the basic structures and layouts were all ready and in place.
Did you focus more on creating a cohesive album or on individual songs?
At the end of the day, we focused equally on both. The songs came out quite different and diverse, but we had a sense that they were coming from the same ground; sprouting from the same seed if you will
‘Initial’ is different to anything on your previous projects or even on this album, how did that song come about?
This song actually came out last, just a few days before the recording. I really enjoy those few songs on the album that were freshly formed then and by the time of us recording the album were still young, they sounded unfamiliar, even to us. They feel special and glittery, not yet rubbed off of their little sparkles by the amounts of plays and rehearsals throughout time. ‘Initial’ came together out of a few quick jottings — a few drum machine loops, a simple bass line, a vocal phrase that came naturally and with ease. The song is also straight up electronic, so it’s got a much different sound quality to it, which in part is why it stands out from the rest of the album too.
Do you think people need to have an understanding of Shoegaze to appreciate Grandfeathered?
Not at all! It seems to me that there is little shoegaze left in our music, possibly some random elements here and there. I think we’ve moved on, but maybe we didn’t become much less noisy.
From where does the name Grandfeathered come?
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact place or moment it came about. I think it’s a combination of things. I was trying to figure out a word that could capture the character of the album, which is still difficult for me to articulate. There is something grand and intense and almost operatic about this album as a whole, with its two-act songs and the intermissions. There is often a pause, like a quiet space for suspense between the acts. This goes especially for ‘Comet Marbles’.
‘Glow Vastly’, and ‘Grandfeathered’ have some operatic quality to the harmony of the vocal phrases, vaguely, but it’s lingering in there… The word also refers to Nathan Fake’s song ‘Grandfathered’ from his album Drowning in the Sea of Love.
We don’t get exposed to a lot of Russian music in the UK, are there any other Russian bands you think we should know about?
Being in a band, it’s often a little overwhelming to keep up with all the new stuff that comes out. We might not be the right people to ask, truthfully, since working on the album made us a bit inner-focused and closed off from keeping up with new releases and emerging names.
Where can we see you play?
It’s all a bit up in the air just yet, so it’s hard to tell. Hopefully the UK and Europe soon, a few festivals over the summer and more touring in the fall.