In a period of particular creativity and relevance of shoegaze and dream-pop bands hailing from Russia, since 2015 the Samara-based 4-piece Your Friends Polymers, comprised of Alexandra Zagainova (vocals), Andrey Portnykh (guitar), Vadim Bystrov (guitar, programming) and Alexandra Popova (bass), have delighted the listeners with their distinctive balance between noise and melody, coldness and warmth, wistfulness and rapture, through pulsating and groovy rhythms, evocative reverb-infused shimmering guitar lines and riffs, that dizzyingly soar and descend, waving from ethereal calm to noisy distortion, over the sublime sultry coos and blissfully ecstatic choir-like vocals of Alexandra.
In anticipation of the band’s long-awaited debut album, let’s ‘Jangly. Chimey. Fuzzy. Shimmery’ with YFP!
Thanks so much for the interview. Let’s trace back to your personal roots, where did you grow up and how did you get into music? Which have been your early cultural and musical inspirations?
Alexandra (vox): I’ve grown up in Samara, Russia. Actually, I had no ideas about the city, ’cause we were living in an industrial quarter. The only cultural thing there was my school directed both on math and music. So, while coping with logical tasks, I was trying to play the piano and singing in a choir. I like singing but when I started to take solo lessons, I got stuck. I didn’t feel like a solo vocalist. I like to be in a pack. And that was the first shot for me that I needed something like YFP.
Vadim (guitar): I finished a music school, the piano, and then played punk and EBM for a long time. I’ve always listened to different kinds of underground music, but shoegaze is one of my favourite genres.
Alexandra (bass): I became a bassist quite by accident. I had been learning to play the acoustic guitar and always wanted to buy an electric one in the future and play in a band. But when I actually got invited to my first band, the only “vacancy” was of a bassist. So, I bought a used cheap bass from a local punk player and started to play, not even knowing how to properly do that. I really got enchanted with the power of the bass, so I decided to take lessons and move on. I am really happy it turned out like this!
Andrey (guitar): I started as a contrabass and bass guitar player in several bands, but then switched to the electric guitar because I had a feeling it would be cooler. And that’s really cool! But I still have a great vintage bass guitar and sometimes play it at home. By the way, I recorded several bass lines in our first album.
What were the trigger factors that lead to starting your Band? How did you meet you and where you get your name?
Andrey: Your Friends Polymers started from two guitars: Vadim and me. We have known each other since 2000 and played in another band before the Polymers.
Alexandra (vox): At first, I was surprised that Vadim called me to try myself in their band. ‘Cause before I had four meetings with different frontmen calling me to sing with them, something like alt-rock and metal. But that failed. I even didn’t have a promo. And Polymers just offered me to try it out and it turned up not so bad.
Vadim: I once played keyboards and rhythm machines, but I often lacked the feeling of the sound physiology at gigs, the synthetic timbres and samples seemed not expressive or powerful enough. That’s why I tried to play the electric guitar, and now it is the coolest synthesizer for me.
Did you already have a set idea of how you wanted the band to sound or has it been a gradual process of discovery? How you describe your sound?
Andrey: Sounds like huge beautiful cubes of clear ice fall into the planet-size whiskey-cola.
Alexandra (vox): It’s a funny story! When I pretended a professional vocalist with their trained voice covering all the room, Vadim just wrinkled his nose and said, “Relax. Try not to push on the sound. Let it flow softly.” And that was a relief – that is what I always do.
Vadim: As I said before, being a youngster, I enjoyed classic shoegaze sounds and the bands which started it all. Such chord progressions, sound tones and rhythmic patterns can be found only there. It is a really extraordinary type of music. We are just trying to follow and develop it.
Alexandra (bass): When I joined the band, I got amazed at the basslines! They do not only weave into the rhythmic patterns, but contribute a lot into harmony, creating real magic. With Polymers, I am learning to be more attentive to the sound, feeling the nuances and discovering its new shades.
Could you tell us about the music scene of your hometown Samara and if has it in some way influenced the band’s artistic development? Any new bands to highlight
YFP: There are some metal, punk and cover bands here in Samara. But it’s not something we follow. Some bands which we used to like do not exist anymore. By the way, we don’t belong to Samara scene only, as our vocalist lives in Moscow now, so we are a band from two cities.
In the last period, an increasing number of Russian dream pop/shoegaze bands are appreciated for the quality of their proposals, even over the LP format. What’s your opinion about it and about the contemporary Russian independent alternative music scene? Which new Russian bands do you recommend?
YFP: Yeah, it’s exciting. Great to be part of this moment of the independent music scene history. Anyway, we’d like to mention Kuritsa Po-pekinski, Katiny Slezki, Сияние (Siyanie), Bubble Map and The James among the recent bands.
How do you approach the creative process? Tell us about the phases of composing, recording the songs and writing the lyrics
Vadim: We do everything ourselves, except music videos (yet). By the way, when we compose a new song, we don’t record it at once, but first, we play it at gigs for many times, and it acquires new shades and completeness. After that, we start the recording process, during which we often get new insights and sometimes we have to start it all over. Anyway, the final version is usually remarkably different from the initial idea.
Alexandra (vox): Well, I’m responsible for the lyrics. But usually, I bring some ideas and the guys say if they are worthy or stock. The final text version needs to have some changing. I mean, the guys, as a rule, take out some phrases to make the text more abstract and cryptic.
You’re not a prolific band apparently, just an EP, a mini-album, and the new single always in December at intervals of two years since 2015, is that just a coincidence?
YFP: We are planning to release our new album much sooner than you think, by the way. Actually, we don’t think that the pauses between our releases are so long (do you remember My Bloody Valentine, for example?). As for December, our summer period lasts only 4 months, if we get lucky (!), and it’s hard to work inside the studio when the weather is good outside. So, the peak working hours fall in Autumn.
Tell us about your new single…
YFP: Actually, it was our first time that we released a single, not quite knowing what to expect. We wanted to try our new sound, but while we were recording this single, we discovered some new sound tricks. So, our “new sound” has become even “newer”, and that reflected in our following songs, which has made our upcoming album quite diverse.
What about the band’s live experience so far? Can you recall your 1st gig as a band? What’s your highlight or best memory so far?
Alexandra (bass): Oh, I vividly remember my first gig with YFP. I had been just a bit over a month in the band and learnt the parts at night, playing them over and over again even before going to the stage, because there were some harmonic and rhythmic tricks. That was a real test for my ability to function well without sleep, but I won! The gig went really well and was certainly worth the effort.
Alexandra (vox): As for me, it was ‘X FILM MUSIC FESTIVAL – EXISTENCE’ in Ulyanovsk, Russia. To be honest, I’m a real fan of author films. The idea was to perform our music as the soundtracks to the arthouse short-scale movies in real-time. The films were projected on a huge screen over the stage. It was a great experience for us to unite the wall of sound with the visual madness on the screen. Besides, there was a real underground atmosphere behind the curtains. Lots of cool musicians and their dudes and instruments. I felt the spirit of indie art.
Andrey: The first gig was in autumn 2014. Your Friends Polymers was a duo at that moment. Two guitars and a computer. Just instrumental. We played three songs as loud as it was possible. A very short and very important gig in Polymers’ story. Soon there were many memorable events.
Vadim: We don’t perform so often right now, but almost all our gigs were enjoyable and created positive emotions: from big fests to cosy party gigs for friends. We’d really love to play more often.
Which bands would you love to make a cover version of?
Andrey: Honestly, I don’t want to make covers at the moment. We already have several, so I’d like to take a pause in this field.
Alexandra (bass): I’d like to have a shot at something from classic, for example from Cocteau Twins. Some people say they trace their influence in YFP’s songs, so such a cover could be an interesting challenge.
Vadim: Revealing a secret, you will hear at least one our cover soon.
Were there any pivotal records or live concerts that changed indelibly your perception of music?
Andrey: I remember one of our gigs when there was no clean channel in my combo. After that gig, I understood that it’s not a very big deal. If the music is real, it will sound through all the technical defects. Well, almost all the technical defects of course.
Vadim: The gig of The Cure in Moscow in the summer of 2019. I also want to play like that at the age of 60! The show lasted for over 2 hours, it was awesome!
Alexandra (bass): I was amazed by two Japanese bands whom I saw live this summer. Akira Yamaoka (musician and videogame composer) – that’s magic and a real fairytale. Kikagaku Moyo – they literally submerge you into a trance with their manner and sound.
What was the last record/music you bought?
Alexandra (bass): Coldplay – ‘Everyday Life’ (2019), they returned to their original sound on this album.
Vadim: My last purchase on Bandcamp is the tracks of the American band The Droplets. They are cool!
What are you personally listening to at the moment?
Andrey: Usually podcasts or online radio stations.
Alexandra (vox): Listening to the radio stations we were on-air. Very cool content we like to be a part of.
Vadim: Lately I always listen to our tracks, because I’m mixing and mastering them.
Alexandra (bass): I’ve got hooked on The Verve and Pinkshinyultrablast. And radios, of course.
Could you name one of your favourite albums, movies and books and why?
Music: Let it say The Jesus and Mary Chain – ‘Honey’s Dead’ (1992), because it’s awesome.
Movie: ’24 Hour Party People’ (Michael Winterbottom, 2002) I just love this period in music history. And I think the movie is made perfectly. I love its atmosphere. It always inspires me and brings very special emotions.
Book: Now it’s ‘The Hacienda. How Not to Run a Club’ by Peter Hook. It gives the opportunity to take a look at this story from inside.
Books: I like to read music biographies, for example, I can recommend ‘A 64-BIT HISTORY OF KRAFTWERK’.
Music: I was struck by «Cambodian Rocks» – that’s a compilation of Cambodian psychedelic and garage rock songs from the end of 1960-s and beginning of the 1970-s. The beauty and extravagance of this music are in the tragic story connected with these artists.
Movies: by Wong Kar-Wai.
Music: Klaxons – “Surfing the Void”, for the sound. Akira Yamaoka – the soundtrack to Silent Hills games, for the atmosphere and melodies.
Films: I like Asian movies, especially by Zhang Yimou and Ang Lee. The favourite one is ‘Bicheonmu’ by Kim Yeong-joon, for its beauty and epics.
Books: “The Idiot” and “The Brothers Karamazov” by Dostoevsky, for the real description of Russia and Russians, which is still up-to-date.
What´s the plan for the future.…
Andrey: Songs, gigs, albums. All this exciting routine.
Vadim: We’d like to find our new audience, play in different countries, break the borders and boundaries and bring joy with music.
Many thanks for being our welcome guest, just the last question: Is there anything you’d like to add?
YFP: We want art to win over politics and all artists from all countries to share their creations with the whole world without hindrance. Thank you for the interview!
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