Thursday, 9 June 2011

INTERVIEW: Vagina Vangi

After being suitably wowed by their second EP, Locked Forever, I followed it up with a some questions to band leader Ilya Arhipov about their brief but striking history, his take on the witch house scene and about that name.

Not For Resale: Are you a band?
Ilya Arhipov: Not completely. I made all production and half of vocals from the very beginning of this project. But since I moved to Moscow (2 months ago) I took female vocalist and a drummer for live support and they both took some part in a new EP (though I made a major part of all work as well). So it's about to become a real band soon, I hope.

NFR: How many of you are there? What do you all play, who sings?

IA: Three persons - me, a drummer Grigory Dobrynin and a vocalist Yana Blinder. Male vocals are mine. I also did all the arrangements, mixing, beats, grooves, etc. At live shows me and Yana also will be involved in electronics beside our vocal parts. I never use guitars with Vagina Vangi and I will not use them in live shows. Meanwhile.

NFR: Is this your first band or have you had other projects?

IA: I had many bands and projects before. I tried everything from electropop to grindcore there. But none of that bands had any feedback like from this one. Recently we buried my electropop band Hint Machine. Yana sings in 3 Colours of White. Grigory's main band is On-The-Go (and to my taste, this band is probably one of the best indie bands from Russia).

NFR: Where in Russia are you from?

IA: Actually we are based in Moscow. I moved here 2 months ago. Before that I lived in Severomorsk and Murmansk - a very cold and dark place, I'd say. Not far from Norway and Finland (and I was hugely inspired by Norwegian scene). Vagina Vangi started there. Other guys also were born not in Moscow. Grigory came from Toliatti, Yana came from Rostov.

NFR: Do  you have friends making anything similar who you hang out with?

IA: It's hard to say so. Maybe only by web. I have such a kind of friendship with Unison from France, for example but we never met each other. I also keep in touch with Nattymari, The Church Of Synth, Funerals, Meszahline and many other mutual friends. But we are hardly familiar.  In Russia there are also two projects who came from drag music: Stoned Boys and ~▲l▲~. They make cool stuff and I respect these guys as well. I hope this respect is mutual. We live in one city now, but unfortunately didn't meet each other yet. With my new EP I can't say I still belong to "witch-house" scene (if you heard or read about my first EP, you know what I mean). I'm trying to make something own by blending my favourite ingredients. But tastes differ, you know.

My "real" friends used to make some other stuff.

NFR: What is it about the witch house sound that drew you to it; Or where you already making these kinds of sounds before the term witch house started appearing?

IA: I used to make some dark music for about 10 years. Things I did before could be compared only by atmosphere and melodies, but not by sound. I knew about witch-house from the very beginning of Salem and Gatekeeper, but that time I thought I'd never make such music. Reasons why I tried it are simple - just for my curiosity and for having fun. Only in progress I understood that that sound fits well to my earlier unreleased ideas. But speaking frankly, these bounds are too tight for me as well. Moreover, I'm tired of that huge amount of bands playing witch-house. Bad and inelegant.

NFR: What about the name Vagina Vangi? Where does it come from? What is one of those?

IA: It's a Russian combination of  words. It means something like "Baba Vanga's Vagina". Many meanings can be taken from it, but what is the most precious is a phonetic harmony ("gi" in both words originally pronounced like in "give"). I don't remember how I got it. But when I started, I didn't doubt about the title.

NFR: I considered Witch House a very loose term for a lot of people making darkened, graven occult influenced, electronic heavy music – Mishka Blog's term GraveWave is also very appropriate.

IA: It is. First bands were not so similar as they are now.

NFR: When it first started appearing what did you interpret Witch House as?

IA: Firstly I didn't notice any principal difference between Salem, Gatekeeper (from one side) and some tracks of Crystal Castles, Zola Jesus an WU LYF (from the other). I started my own stuff when genre became more formulaic and caricature. I liked that atmosphere, but I knew I could make some things in my own way.

What is the difference between Vagina Vangi and the music Hint Machine played?

IA: Hint Machine had more friendly, properly processed ideas in all. I had to think a thousand times before I could offer any idea there. We tried to make the best music for ourselves. Vagina Vangi is entirely produced by me and I try to release the primal idea of any track as soon as it possible - I know exactly my disadvantages, but I do not solve them immediately - music itself and ideas are more important here.
And the other criteria - VV is dark music, it's totally inspired by dark moods and emotions, at the same time - HM had light and positive context - just a friendly pop music. Too proper, though a little bit outrageous

Why do you think people have taken more notice of your new project? Just the Witch House angle, or do you feel you have developed your sound?

IA: It's still a secret for me. Maybe we tried too hard with HM and "better" became an enemy of "good". Maybe my voice didn't fit that music. I don't know. HM is still unfinished (though broken-up already) and it's not correct to compare. As for my own sound - I think I've got a feeling of having something like that. And It's very exciting to catch my "typical" features and to throw them in to something unexpected.

NFR: What is it you want to create with V.V. that couldn't happen with your previous band?

IA: I'd like to move forward and to see where all this leads. I'd like to have a band, to tour, regulary to release some albums. That's what I always wanted to have deal with, first of all.

NFR: From my own, UK perspective, there are a lot of quite chart-friendly sounds in Locked Forever – Euphoric Trance and House kind of synths and progressions. Is being Pop important

IA: Thank you! Even in my first EP I tried to add hook into every song, some brightly emphasized melodies. Then I just tried to make voice more important because, at least that could be good for live shows.
Important is not to be pop - important is that I'll like my own tracks when I listen to them after some years. I always tried to evolve all of my music to something touching, catchy and emotional, even if I played grindcore. That's a question of taste - obviously I like pop music.

NFR: What are your main inspirations for this project?

IA: I think, my own experience inspires me the most. It's hard to say more exactly - the list would be too huge.

NFR: The final track on the EP never quite peaks the same as the other tracks, there is a constant unreleased tension. Why did you choose to keep that one more restrained?
IA: Never thought about it. If you want some things to some things to sound louder, then you should make other things hush. Maybe that?

NFR: What else is coming from Vagina Vangi? Is there a full album you are working on?

IA: Soon we are going to release one more new single or EP with a couple of new tracks. And to play live as much as it possible. Something about full-length album will be clear when we'll find a label. Though we will not stop composing our new stuff.


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