New underground music, Russian novels & Italian art. What? Oblomov!

Oblomov band cover art. Painting by Italian artist Adriano Fida

It’s always an interesting journey when you set out to uncover new underground music. MHU recently chatted to Oblomov, a duo who packed up their own visionary art style of St. Petersburg music and moved it to Bologna Italy. On first listen you hear what appears as an abstract collision between famous Surrealist artists and cinematic percussion, but the more you listen the more familiar beauty unfolds. You discover delicate sound grabs and musical memories that hark back UK record label 4AD. If that doesn’t ring any bells for you then google Dead Can Dance Youtube. Oblomov have been recording and performing for a number of years and have so far done so without any record label support. They have preferred to keep control, employing their own music marketing strategies to self release.

If you like music in art or music for art then this is one band you don’t want to miss hearing and seeing. Even if you don’t go in for all that art wankery the music is undeniably captivating. We predict that Oblomov will be around for sometime, but if they ever get bored of being in a band then perhaps they will open their own school of music and arts. They certainly have the smarts for it.

Oblomov the Interview

MHU:  I have been listening to your EP “Multiexit’. The first time I heard it I had to just stop what I was doing and listen … it’s incredibly beautiful, beautiful crisp production, arrangements and lyrics. It feels to me very much like standing out in a huge field and looking out at the landscape, all sorts of textures and noises. Can you tell us how it was created?

O:  Thank you for these kind words! You actually got the very essence of the entire project, we think. Multiexit, like the previous album “Sound of the soul”, simply started with a contemplation of the paintings of Adriano Fida, a young but renowned Italian painter that we have the privilege to be friends with. We’ve always been fascinated by the way that different forms of art can share the same “spark”, and see where the resulting “fire” will take you to. We think of ourselves more as songwriters and producers rather than a classic band, we’re only a duo, so we basically shut the doors of our studio and started creating, without any boundary or rule to follow. The aim was to make it possible to also listen to a painting, apart from staring at it.

MHU:  What instruments you used, where did you record it … what was your process?

O:  We have our own studios in Bologna, Italy, where we spend a lot of hours on a daily basis. Except for drums, all of the other instruments were played by one of us: synths, guitars, piano, bass, and quite a lot of computer programming and samples. We love strolling around with a recorder to get the “real life sounds” and soundscapes of any kind. Then we try to make them fit into music, trying to create atmospheres and ambients where the songs can dwell.

MHU:  It’s clear that this is not your first venture into creating music. What else have you done, what is your musical history?

O:  We both come from different musical experiences, but sharing a common ground of non-conformity. We just play whatever we like, actually. The project started as a classic band, with a drummer, a guitarist and us: Zachar with his bass and Ilja Ilic with synths and a microphone. Then, along the path, we lost the other band mates and simply decided to go on with a peculiar project. Of course we needed to transform it all in something totally different, but the process was very natural.

MHU:  And how does the band itself work?

O:  The main work is made in the studio. There’s a huge amount of layers in our tracks, so when we start a new song we always start with an image to look at, which so far has always been an Adriano Fida’s painting. We try to put down emotions, like trying to let the painting sing. Song writing and recording are simultaneous, so, when we have a new song fully written, we also have it recorded and ready for the album.

MHU: There are two of you, who are you and what do you do?

O:  Oblomov is mainly Ilja Ilic, synths and voice, and Zachar, bass and guitars. Actually, as mentioned before, when we’re in the studio we both play any instruments we can get our hands on, but it’s not rare to find guest musicians with us. When fellow musicians come and visit us, they soon find themselves on a recording session; we just feed them with good wine and let them play whatever comes to their mind. Later, when producing new music, we have a big archive of takes and ideas which we can cut, reverse, reverb, repeat… whatever!

MHU:  Do you play live gigs? How do you manage to replicate this sound in a live setting?

O:  Sure, we’re very active, and live shows is where you really can get the full picture of what Oblomov is. We like to call our performances “anti-concert”. We have nothing against the old fashioned gigs where a band head bangs and says hi to the audience, but after all we decided to name this project “Oblomov“, an incredible Russian novel which gave life to the concept of Oblomovism, a sort of apathy and laziness. This is the reason why our shows are quite atypical: we recreate a living room on the stage, with us sitting on a sofa, cooking, eating, drinking and of course playing. With us there’s also a computer, which takes care of the instruments we can’t play live (’cause it’s only the two of us) and an original ’56 television showing videos. Each song has its own concept, so we also produce videos using old movies or original footage to try and give another point of view, visually. In the very new version of our “anti-concerts”, which we will present from October 2018, we will also have an animated canvas which will display even more videos and images.

MHU:  You mentioned Adriano Fida’s paintings and also the Russian novel from which you take your name ‘Oblomov‘, who has influenced you musically? I can hear glimmers of many of the artists who released music on the UK record label 4AD back in the 80s. People like ‘Dead Can Dance’. Is that a coincidence?

O:  We’re both in our forties, so we’ve been making music for a long time. Also, we listen loads of new and old stuff, so it’s quite difficult for us to tell you who influenced us. We could say nobody, but we might as well say everybody did. 4AD productions have always been a synonym of quality, but if you take a look at our playlists in our rare dj sets you may find so many different artists: from Blonde Redhead to David Bowie, from Radiohead to Dredg, Archive, Ulver… But, honestly, we never create our music having something in mind that other people did. At least, nothing that we are aware of.

MHU:  How long has Oblomov been writing and recording music?

O:  The project started in 2015. In that year we basically shut the door of our studio and started creating the concept and the music, with no particular deadline. Then, in 2016 we started a tour that lasted about 40 gigs, and that gave us energy and confidence to go back in the studio and produce the EP Multiexit, which is totally free and available only in digital format.

MHU:  Do you currently sell music online, you have released a few albums, where can we find those?

O:  As mentioned, Multiexit can be downloaded from www.oblomov.it  During our first tour we promoted our first album, “Sound of the Soul”, and we were surprised to sell so many copies. It was totally self-produced. So we decided to just record an EP and let our fans download it for free, just to say Thank You!

MHU:  You have been doing this independently so far without any backing from a record label?

O:  We dedicate a lot of time to the project, we work on it everyday, basically. We’re constantly looking for a good record company who are really willing to help us, but so far we have decided to go on our own. We’re happy with what we’re doing, so there’s no hurry to sign a deal as we’re not convinced it’s the right choice and the right people.

MHU:  You are living it Italy but you’re are originally from Russia, is that correct? Do you think your personal upbringing and history has much influence of the themes in your music, either how it sounds or lyrically? Can you explain how?

O:  We’re actually half Russians and half-Italians. Ilja was born in Russia, while Zachar is Italian, but we met in St. Petersburg. The similarities between these countries are more than we first expected, honestly. Maybe Italy looks like it’s got more freedom of expression or speech, but it’s not really like this. Let’s say that the cover is different, but the music is quite the same in Italy and in Russia, metaphorically speaking. Then Adriano Fida made the difference in choosing Italy as our headquarters… And also food, of course! This may have influenced our music and our lyrics, in fact, looking back at what we’ve written, we can see some sort of disillusion when talking about life, the universe and everything.

MHU:  You have actually already recorded an entire new album, when and how will you release it?

O:  We are currently evaluating some proposals from record companies, so at the moment there is no hurry for us to release the album. We don’t exclude the hypothesis of self-releasing the new album once again; after all we don’t want to sign a deal just for the sake of it. We’re looking for some added value in a possible collaboration with a label, but we must admit that we are happy with the current situation. We have our own booking team, and soon we will be back on the stages for some live gigs. Let’s see what happens!

MHU:  Do you have any plans to tour outside of Italy?

O:  We have already played a few gigs in Berlin, and we definitely want to play outside of Italy again. We are always available, of course, and we are now working to organize a proper tour, just like we did about one year ago when we played about 40 dates in a few months. It’s a hard work to do everything on our own, but we can tell you it’s really great to spend hours and hours daily on a dream. We are already living our dream, so let’s see what future brings.

MHU:  Is there anything else you would like to say about Oblomov?

O:  We want to thank you, first of all, and everybody that’s been supporting us in these years. As mentioned, we’re always open to new collaborations, so we’d like to get in touch with any kind of visionary people from all around the world: musicians, actors, visual artists, promoters, venues, aliens, and, most importantly, music lovers. We are now building our new studio in Bologna, Italy, which is meant to be a “Factory”, so everybody will be welcome. Let’s stop to try and adapt our dreams to life, and let’s start, all together to try and make life look like a dream.

To hear see and read more visit the Official Oblomov website.

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