From Ukraine, With Love
On a sunny day in England, I gained the opportunity to interview The Erised, an Ukranian electronic pop group. Being the person that I am, I said ‘yes’. A wave of excitement, anticipation and anxiety washed over me. This is a big deal. I’m going to be ‘speaking’ to people who have a platform; they create music, they play shows and they’re gradually building a career. On top of that, I enjoy their music, causing an intrigue to know more, similar to a young child being hypnotised by the curiousity of something dangerous, like an iron.
Just like a young child, I don’t want to get burnt, figuratively speaking. I scratched my head and sat deep in thought, as I do most days, trying to think of smart questions. A lot of the time, you’ll read Q&A’s or watch videos and it’s a rarity that the questions are actually interesting. I kind of got lost in the process, and tried to take it back to basics and here we are. I asked The Erised about themselves, their music and their future.
Let me preface this potentially overblown journey of words (that’s my writing style!), by saying we do not live in a perfect world, and that’s a fact. The recent conflict in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe is a relevant example. It’s hard to see how the world can keep spinning. While conflict ravages the Middle-East, and rival governments fight a war of words, people are living, and dying.
Amongst the chaos known as the man-made 21st century, music is still being made. From Ukraine, a band known as The Erised have begun to spread their sound across Europe. Their name is desire spelt backwards, and it’s a fitting name for the music they create. Their music is melancholy with lush electronics. The collective features drum & bass producers, Detail and Hidden Element, alongside dancer/singer Sonya, coming together to create a tour de force.
Now, I’m not the best at Geography and I certainly don’t know what the music world is like in Ukraine, but Alex (Drums) tells me, “It’s hard to be a musician in Ukraine. I think it’s like any other country, there are certain pros and cons“. Daniel aka Detail, continues, “there are not so many places in Ukraine for live gigs, but recently the situation has improved“.
Unlike the United Kingdom, not every country is the land of artistic opportunity, and let’s be honest, we’re spoilt. Being curious, I ask what The Erised’s aim is, being a band from a somewhat barren musical landscape. Alex simply states “our goal is simple: to be known worldwide as a Ukrainian band“. That’s pretty powerful, when you think about it. The simplicity behind it evokes a sense of hope and grandiosity.
Their goal isn’t simple because of where they’re from, but it appears their talent and belief in their music is what makes it simple. To The Erised, achieving a worldwide status is possible because of who they are and what they’re capable of. I mean, listen to their music and it’s pretty evident what they can do. Moreover, it isn’t only success that drives them, “We just love to make music. Knowing that people love our music is a huge inspiration for us“.
The Erised are breaking barriers, for their country and career by signing to Med School, primarily a drum & bass record label. It’s the sister label to Hospital Records, who also specialises in drum and bass. Both Detail (Daniel) and Hidden Element (Igor, Nil) have previously released music through Med School.
I wanted to know why they chose Med School, “They asked us for new music and one day we sent them the live video of ‘Pray’ (at that time we had no name for the band & no name for the song, just one video)“. Interesting. The label loved it, and thus The Erised was born.
When you sign to a record label, it opens a lot of doors for you as an artist, it gives you a push that you lack when you’re independent. In today’s industry, many people feel labels aren’t needed and while some enjoy success without a label, they’re still crucial to how the industry functions.
Thanks to Med School, The Erised have worldwide distribution, and they’ve done an official remix for Enter Shikari. If that isn’t making moves, I don’t know what is. They’ve also done more for The Erised, and it’s a testament to Med School’s passion towards their artists, regardless of sound or genre.
Talking of sound, I did the unforgivable and asked what they’d label their sound, “Alternative Pop” is the response I get. I agree with that label. The Erised’s sound can be categorised with the help of different adjectives and descriptive language but ultimately, it’s pop.
It’s brooding, fuelled by unsettling electronics partnered with haunting, radio-friendly vocals. It’s pop music at its core. The birthing process and outcome is vastly different to what dominates the pop world currently. However, to give you an idea, I’d compare The Erised to Halsey, and I think that’s a fair comparison. Both share an electronic backbone with soaring, versatile vocals.
The intensity of The Erised’s music isn’t manafactured, it’s genuine, “Our music is a different part of each of us“, says Igor. To have success with music, certain ingredients are needed; whether that’s an artistic flair, capturing a sound or particular image.
For The Erised, Daniel thinks it’s down to the sequencing of their songs, “People often say when listening to our music for the first time they have no idea where it goes and what is gonna be next“. The intrigue keeps the listener on their toes and that’s exactly what the band wants, Daniel reaffirms with “We want our music to be intriguing“.
While I may have compared them to Halsey, their vocal influence definitely isn’t that. Sonya, the vocalist, has an empassioned voice. She portrays the vast spectrum of emotions their music captures, conveying them in her vocals. “In my childhood I was a big fan of Craig David. Maybe he influenced me more than others“, she says when I ask what her influences are.
Out of all the vocalists in the world, I wouldn’t have expected that. After I read that response, I went back and listened to her voice. Lo and behold there are definitely hints of Craig David in her tone, it’s refreshing and slightly absurd, in a good way!
Staying on topic of being surprised, drum and bass producers are part of The Erised, so why alternative pop? Daniel explains: “We can’t limit ourselves within only one genre… but we still make use of the skills we’ve learned making drum & bass in The Erised. That said, it’s definitely a new experience for us. When we wrote ‘Pray’ we realized how different it sounded to everything else we’d done before“. Good stuff.
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for, deep down inside. The talk about The Erised’s debut album Room 414 out on June 3 via Med School records, and I, for one, am excited. This is the part I was most interested in, I wanted to delve into the world of Room 414. Thankfully, they gave me a goldmine.
A debut album is important. It acts as a landmark in your career, this is your introduction to the world, the main event so-to-speak. A debut album can make or break careers, and it’s as important, if not more important than what comes next. It’s a scary process, and fear is all part of life. I decided to ask if there were any fears during the creation of Room 414 and Daniel gave me a completely unexpected answer.
I was expecting to hear a tale of trials and errors and how it manifested into the quality of the music, personal fears and so forth, the typical stuff. However, what I was told surprised me. Why did it surprise me? I’m not so sure, in fact it didn’t enter my head, bless my naiviety. So, what did they fear?
“We feared that our album was not gonna be complete because every tune is a different genre and different sound. It was also pretty tough to decide on the tracklist“. Having heard three songs, I can see why this was a fear, and a legitmate one at that. It sounds daunting, a pain-staking process yet this didn’t deter them. You’d think maybe it’d cause some doubts or a musical change of heart? “Not even once“, says Igor.
Going back to what Daniel said about their fear of the album being incomplete due to sound, part of my surprise, was because the three tracks I heard are cohesive while keeping their individuality intact. The songs do not sound messy or too alien from one another, in any shape or form. In fact, their difference brings them together, and while they may be rooted in difference, they all share The Erised’s core sound.
I even have Alex to support me on that, “We make every tune different from each other, but in every track there is something that links them. If you listen to the album from start to finish, you can tell the difference but also feel a sense of unity“. Making an album isn’t easy, and keeping it cohesive is another task entirely, so congrats to the band for ensuring that.
Out of the three tracks I’ve listened to, my favourite is “In My Car”, a smooth R&B jam, featuring spooky synths, seductive vocal melodies and an unrivaled catchiness. When speaking to the guys about this song, I made a terrible joke about them being responsible for car accidents and unplanned parenthood because of how smooth and sultry the song is. I know, let me take a bow for that.
Regardless of that, Daniel kindly told me about the inspiration for the track, “We made the demo of this tune in the summertime which is why the music is light & easy… but we didn’t want lyrics to be carefree, so we combined two different moods in one song“. Daniel’s words capture the vibe of the song perfectly. It does sound like two moods melded into one. It’s effortless. It really gives an indication as to what Room 414 is going to be like.
Any body of work is special. Art is often compared to a newborn. “It’s like my first born” or “It’s my baby” and it’s indicative of the place inside where art (as a broad term) stems from. Room 414 is a big deal for The Erised, this album will undoubtedly change their lives and hopefully catapult their career into the limelight. It has the potential to change their landscape, taking them from where they’ve begun to seeing the world in all its beauty. As you may have gathered, meaning is important to me, so I wanted the guys to share what their debut album means to them.
They all shared a similar undercurrent, a sense of achievement and importance; Igor exclaiming that the release of the album “is on another level for me!“, Sonya saying “We all got 414 tattoos“, with Alex being sentimental, “Our bonds got stronger after this album”. Finally, Daniel shared that Room 414 is his first time both “as producer & musician“.
We’ve spoken about their beginnings, their present, and to cap off the interview, I wanted to hear about the band’s future. Throughout this piece, its dawned on me. There’s been an overarching sense of intrigue, both from me the writer, and within The Erised’s music. Perhaps this is a key part of the music world, being intrigued about each others work, leading us to moments of discovery and achievement. I wonder a lot, and one thing that always strikes me with musicians, is what’s next? Every artist goes through change, whether it’s musically or in life, and one has an effect on the other.
I received a mixture of answers from the guys, both Sonya and Alex mentioned about incorporating live sounds, “We have many demos & sketches. We are implementing more live sounds to our music“, Alex expanded on that, “In the live sessions we get a more energetic sound. The more we play live, the more we understand what we want and how to go about it“. Daniel gives me a mysterious answer, “We will see as the time goes by“. I kind of like mystery. We’ll see, I guess.
The Erised clearly have a game-plan of what they want to do next, and they know where they want Room 414 to take them – Alex states, “to the big stage“. It’s only a matter of time before they get to their destination. What I’ve learned from my time speaking to The Erised is that they’re a fine example of what realistic artists should be: creatively and success driven.
The Erised ‘s music exudes an organic expression of oneself, capturing an array of human emotions and feelings. Among the lyrics and varied soundscapes lays a potential that’s simply waiting to be discovered by listeners around the world. Are The Erised completely original? No, but what they are, is something special.
They take their influences, their sounds and ideas, displaying them in an unorthodox way, with precision. Quite frankly, they’re a breathe of fresh air compared to some of the more moody alternative pop out there. So, there you have it. This is my conversation with The Erised. Their debut album Room 414 is out on June 3 via Med School Records.
Words by Jake Gould