No shine, without friction
There are some artists out there that easily fit into a specific mould. Be it hair-metal, powwow step or Muzak, everyone’s got a genre they like to call home. Which is why when an artist like Kedr Livanskiy comes along, all bets are off. Combining her love of pop, electronic and the avant-garde, Kedr swirls her influences together, creating an idiosyncratic sound that would be impossible to duplicate. Her debut EP January Sun showed a musician that is traveling on an artistic trajectory, one that allows her to explore herself and to express her personality to the world. After holding our breath on which direction the Russian musician would head next, she came and took it away with the beautiful Ariadna last September. Needless to say, we’re thrilled for her return to Amsterdam on 4 May.
When did you first start playing music?
When I was 17, me and a friend formed a sludge metal group. I played drums. Then when I was 18 or 19, I assembled a pop-punk group that played in Russian. We even released an album, our band was called Hesburger.
…it’s just me and my music, and me trying to understand myself through my music.
What made you transition from punk to more electronic-based music?
I mostly listened to punk during my teenage years and at one point I realized it was sort of the only thing I was listening to. And so I began to sort of see the limitations of the genre. Film school changed my perception of what music can be. Whilst studying, I learned that film is essentially built through editing. I started to relate this idea back to music – that music is made through editing, particularly electronic music. I began to see a completely different approach to making music.
Are there any similarities between Kedr Livanskiy and your earlier bands?
I was a completely different person back then, my aims were different. With Kedr, it’s a much more personal thing; where it’s just me and my music, and me trying to understand myself through my music.
For your most recent music videos (e.g. Otvechai Za Slova (Keep Your Word)), did you film them yourself or did you work with someone else?
I don’t want to be labeled as “Techno Kedr” or anything like that…
Me and my friend filmed the latest music videos. We didn’t really approach it with a screenplay or with a concrete plan, and sort of approached shooting it in a documentary style. Now I feel like I want to create something with a story, with continuity, something much more structured. But I enjoy both styles equally, and I want to mix them up. The locations are mostly places near where I live or ones I see when I’m travelling. If I see something that speaks to me, I make a note of it and when it comes time to shoot a video, I think back to that place and head over there with a camera.
Tell me about Johns’ Kingdom.
John’s Kingdom was a community of friends, who started their own club. Over time it started to grow and grow, turning into something much bigger. It had it’s own style of music and clubbing, as well as having an art, video and design component to it. As of now, Johns’ Kingdom is slowly dying out, and transforming into something completely different. It was like this stepping stone to bigger things. There’s a label forming called now called Gossvuk and now NII (short for the club Nauka i Iskustvo) is forming their own label. They just had their first release. I feel these things evolve over time and usually can’t stay the same.
What is your recording process like?
I like to start to just jam out and look for musical patterns or specific synth sounds. It’s sort of like you’re floating in this ocean and you slowly start to find the melody and the movement. You start to realize that this pattern speaks to you. Once I get a feel for the song, and what it’s going to be about, I start to add vocals.
It’s hard writing lyrics. It’s easy to do a text that’s just a phrase, like six words on a loop. Most of my older songs are like that. With my newer material, I’ve started to approach the vocals in a more structured format. It’s been challenging, causing a bit of a block. I don’t want my words to interfere with the rest of the song, I want it to fit phonetically.
I’m making what I like in the moment, and what works for me.
Do you find that you’re influenced by things outside of music when writing your songs?
Yeah, I find that visual art and movies tend to influence me. I find that you can find influence in a multitude of different things. But also in terms of music, I find that my influences tend to change. I’ve currently gone off ‘90s electronic music and started exploring ‘80s music. Recently, I’ve particularly been getting into a lot of Russian groups, like NII Kosmetiki.
Are you considering a switch from electronic music to something else?
I don’t really think in terms of genres. I don’t want to be labeled as “Techno Kedr” or anything like that… and like to keep people guessing. I’m making what I like in the moment, and what works for me.
Kedr Livanskiy returns to Amsterdam on 4 May at Garage Noord.