Sonic Sounds of Slavic Youth: an interview with Nürnberg
Written by David Paicu
The youth of post-Soviet countries have been making waves in modern culture, bringing their own existentialist and idiosyncratic flair to creation. One such group is Nürnberg, a post-punk band establishing their own unique style of music in an ever-evolving Eastern European and global musical landscape.
Coming from Belarus, Nürnberg delve into certain existentialist conflicts and emotions in a way that delineates themselves from other contemporaries. With the release of their new album Paharda, Nürnberg focus on these concepts, creating a dark intense sound while also utilising themes of their literary and musical idols.
"We feel like our music is not restricted by borders or by language, but is moved by the feelings behind its main ideas and emotions."
Radio Monash sit down with Nürnberg to discuss the creation of their unique style and the way in which they are able to connect with an audience as big and diverse as theirs.
How have you guys been during this recent pandemic?
"It’s a very difficult situation in our country; our government doesn’t think that Coronavirus is very dangerous. People are still going to work every day and you are only allowed to stay at the hospital for 21 days. After 21 days you need to go back to work again. One month ago, we had a parade. Near 10,000 people were at the parade, it was an awful situation."
Where did the name Nürnberg come from? Is there any specific reason for the name?
"We chose the name because Nürnberg is a city in Germany that has a very strong connection with old Belarusian history. In the fifteenth century in the old Belarusian state named The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, there was a commonwealth with Lithuania. The old king of the country, Vitaut, had his crown made in Nürnberg. It is a city that is incredibly significant in the country of Belarus. Unfortunately, the crown was stolen in Poland. It’s a very important and interesting part of Belarusian history."
Do you have any bands that were influences on you or the way that you create your music?
"We met at school in the same grade and we spoke, and we knew that each of us had a similar music taste. We listened to Кино (Kino) and Аквариум (Aquarium). They are a soviet band in post-punk and a soviet folk band from our childhood. We also enjoyed Polish cold wave with bands like 1984, Madame, and German new wave bands like Stille Hoffnung, Peter Schilling, 1. Futurologischer Congress. We tried to make music - at the start, we didn’t mean to create anything that was post-punk. We started to play music and we thought that the music that we played was like post-punk and we liked the sound, so we became more post-punk. Of course, we rely on the bands like The Smiths and The Cure and like For Against, Asylum Party."
A lot your music tends towards a dark and existentialist feeling. How do you create that atmosphere in your music?
"It is not special because we have that kind of view in our lives and our literature too. It’s nothing special. It’s essentially how we viewed our lives and we think that’s why it comes up in our music so often."
You mentioned that there was literature with a similar perspective to you, what literature helped you create your music?
"Belarusian writer like Уладзімір Караткевіч (Uladzimir Karatkievich), we also read Belarusian poet like Янка Купала (Yanka Kupala), Рыгор Барадулін (Ryhor Baradulin). Also we like Boris Pasternak, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka and Vladimir Nabokov."
Coming from a post-Soviet country, did you ever feel censored or restricted when it came to exploring your art? Or did you feel able to explore whatever you wanted?
"No, since in contrast to before, we have the internet and with the internet you can get almost anything. It is difficult to get certain things in Belarus, though, because industry music is mainly government music. Almost all the bands and groups are indie - we don’t have communication with the government or big companies."
Would you say that quite a lot of the music that is listened to by Belarusians is associated more with the government as opposed to the indie bands?
"Yes, because our bands don’t connect with the government and the government doesn’t help us. For example, in our universities our bands can’t get help such as money, it’s all in our hands, it’s difficult to get help."
When you’re creating your music, do you usually have a concept or idea that you want to explore prior, or do the concepts develop while creating the songs?
"We always write our songs more during our rehearsals. At first, we don’t have any ideas about future songs or albums, it is mainly improvisation. Afterward, we write a few songs and from these few songs, we try to create something more cohesive. For example, now we are making our new stuff in the style of indie, but we have darker and colder songs for our next album. We don’t know what will be made later and maybe as we make the album, we might dismiss songs that don’t fit but there’s nothing that we see as essential going into making the album."
Would you say that there is a different feeling of playing to an audience when you’re inside Belarus as opposed to when you play to an audience outside of Belarus?
"We don’t think so, since we believe the songs are based on emotion. Music and language are used as an instrument which allows you to create the emotions that resonate with other people. Some people from North America liked our music, for example, said that they liked our music. We feel like our music is not restricted by borders or by language, but is moved by the feelings behind its main ideas and emotions."
So, what kind of emotion were you aiming to hit with your new album?
"Our new album is called Paharda, which means contempt in English. It is an album that is more conceptual because we have songs like Fate and Hope when translated, and the third song is Love, and this resulted in us calling our album the antithesis of these things by calling it Contempt. We tried to make this album with our emotions, the album starts with bright and clean songs with a romantic atmosphere but then later we have a melancholic reflection with some far sadder feelings expressed within them."
With bands like yourself and Molchat Doma, how does it feel to be a figurehead for the musical movement that is coming out of Belarus?
"We think that in Belarus and other parts of the world this kind of music, this dark pop, has always been popular but now we have difficult political and social situations going on here. We think that people in the rest of the world have started to become interested because in the world today there is too much music in the English language and the market for it comes off as busier and more saturated. Sometimes it is good to have music that comes from eastern Europe with Slavic languages that people have not heard before, especially western audiences. They have not heard music from around here sounds and we’re glad that we can introduce people to it."