Interview: Mirrored Lips

PHOTO BY MIKE IVNITSKY

Mirrored Lips are always ready to burst. Even their stretches of relative structure – tractor-paced punk, galloping noise rock grooves – are constantly threatening to erupt in manic improvisations. Vocals babble out of the lines, syncopated drums accelerate impatiently, guitars foam at their dissonant, pitch-shifted mouths. Collapse is always imminent, and collapse is always inevitable.

In March 2017, the trio will be embarking on their first UK tour in support of new EP чичичи. Tour dates are here, while a brand new video for Дорогой Хороший (“Deary Good”) can be seen here. Based on the frenetic, semi-rhythmic spew they put forth in video documentations such as this one, they’re going to be an incredible live spectacle. Below, guitarist Sasha and vocalist Lyusya discuss brick-selling monkeys, their relationship with improvisation and the process of becoming hideous.

I understand that Mirrored Lips was originally supposed to be a free-jazz studio project. This doesn’t surprise me, given that the energy of the band seems unstable; it often feels like everything could derail into improvisation at any moment. How did the band start, and how did the sound of Mirrored Lips emerge out of your original intention? Were you all in bands previously to Mirrored Lips?

Sasha: I was a singer in the avant-jazz group illinoiz. We have been together for almost 10 years. ML at its very beginning has been a little derivative of illinoiz, which absorbed all the effortlessness. There were only two of us, me and Ksyusha, so we could afford to do anything – playing simply and raw, exchanging the instruments. We could begin the set, sitting on a stage in the lotus position and double-voicing Pixies “Sitting here wishing on the cement floor”. With Lusia’s arrival the energetics of ML has changed. We continued fooling around, but on the artistic level.

Lyusya: Sasha invited me to make a song together. I came to the rehearsal and she said, “Do what you want now.” No one specified the way I should sing and perform, so I decided I could be myself and do whatever I want.

Last month you released your new EP titled чичичи. I wasn’t able to find an English translation of the title, although a google search seems to bring up a lot of pictures of apes…could you explain what the title of the EP means, and whether the release has a particular conceptual or lyrical premise behind it?

S: Чичичи is a monkey who was selling bricks. She pulled the rope and quietly farted. It’s a Russian nursery rhyme, a hundred years old. The story about the misplaced people doing unfitting work. In Чичичи I hear a heart-rending monkey shriek – as if it is making fun of it all from the sidelines. But Lusia prefers to call it Ремедиос.

L: The title is idiotic – I don’t like it. Sasha refused to change it. But look how I make it on a stage – as an idiot most of the time. My persona probably goes along with Sasha’s one.

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PHOTO BY MIKE IVNITSKY

Dissonance and noise seem to be integral components of your music. I love those loose, growling guitar chords on Ремедиос, for example. What drives you toward stranger, more abrasive forms of sound?

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S: I wanted to create a feeling of bad, discordant circus orchestra in “Ремедиос “. “Vse ebanulis”, as we call it in Russia.

Next month you’ll be embarking on your debut UK tour. I see that you’re playing South Street Arts Centre in Reading, which is one of my favourite UK venues. I played my first ever show there actually. Are you looking forward to it, and do you have any particular expectations for these UK shows?

L: Looking forward to understanding. I want to make sure that non-Russians get my message.

S: We’ll drive through the UK from north to south. I want to look out the window of out tour minivan with all eyes and to remember everything that I see. I’m gonna leave the stage wasted and happy. And after all I want to get Brighton – my favourite band Electrelane was formed there.

How do Mirrored Lips performances compare to your recorded material? From the live videos I’ve seen, it seems that the live environment might afford you to improvise more. Is that correct?

L: Yeah, I choose live shows and rehearsals – I get high there. My voice is an unstable instrument.

S: The sound at the stage might be absolutely hideous, and we have to become as hideous, in order to get in resonance. We have to be ready to evolve in a second. But there are plenty of unexpected moments in our records – the album MOM is half-improvised, and if we talk about Чичичи, the whole ending of the song “Дорогой хороший” has been played on the go in rec mode.

Speaking of MOM: in the Bandcamp description, you link to a video collage from which the cover art seems to be derived. What can you tell us about this video and the connection to the record?

S: Both the album cover and the video were shot by Masha Tchernaya, the video is called «How surprising III. To know that we are children, paralyzed by fear of living ». It’s a match – children on the screen, moms by the microphone, everyone confused.

You’ve released six records in the two years you’ve been together. What drives you to produce so much music so quickly? Do you think this pace of working helps generate the sense of urgency that runs through your material?

S: It all pinballed at once when we become three. I saw how precise what the three of us do it. When there is such a feeling that often means that you need to hurry up.

L: We’re far from ideal picture. Unefficient, unurgent. Lack of everything.

Sasha, I’d love to know more about your guitar sound. I’ve watched a few live videos that indicate that you might be using some form of pitch-shifting or detuning….how do you shape the sound of your instrument?

S: Sometimes I use an old Japanese pitchshifter.  It’s a stompbox of fate – I bought it on ebay but did not embrace it, so I sold it to some stranger. Several years later I realised that it was what I needed, so I started looking for it again. I found only one lot for sale in Russian Federation, made an agreement with a seller – and when we met I recognized the same buyer. Currently most of all I like to experiment with the tune. Sometimes I pick up the off-tuned instrument and I hear that it sounds good enough.

Your bio says that you’re originally from Nizhny Novgorod, although your Bandcamp seems to suggest that you’re presently in St Petersburg. Where are you based, and how prolific or busy is the punk/experimental music scene where you are?

L: I live in Nizhny Novgorod, it’s an unfavorable location personally for me. I can tell you nothing about the local stage.

С: We’ve been formed in Nizhny, but now we all live in different cities. Lusia lives in Nizhny, I’m in St Petersburg, Nelly, our new drummer, lives in Moscow. All of these cities have developed their own scenes, hardly intersecting with each other, but we are not really involved in any of them. Kinda liked by loners. 

What music have you been listening to lately?

S: Russian perestroika pop, I guess I might be depressed.

N: Listening to Space Lady and alternative rnb this month.

Other than the latest EP and the upcoming tour, what’s next for you and your music?

S: Something beautiful should happen.

L: Gonna find a daily job in St Pete.