Talking yourself through a crisis: a chat with Super Besse
Written by David Paicu.
With the intensely confusing nature of the world today, it’s fairly easy to feel out of place. It would seem that no industry has been affected more than the creative industry, as uncertainty looms over the future of the arts.
Super Besse echo this sentiment completely. Uncertain about their future and caught up in the political conflicts of Belarus, Super Besse are here to make you wonder if maybe now is the perfect time to sit and reflect.
Super Besse have established a sonic space that revolves around the creation of music based solely on the enjoyment of the band. It is easy to see how important their creative process is for them. The band have constantly explored how an individual can find their place in this ever-changing world.
Looking ever more closely at their future as opposed to their past, Super Besse emanate a feeling of cynical optimism in the face of adversity. Maksim of Super Besse took a break from studio practice to have a conversation with Radio Monash about creating during chaos and the importance of autonomy in an increasingly reliant world.
"It’s about life, the feelings, everything ... you can listen to it and take anything you want from it."
How’ve you been during this global pandemic?
"We were not prepared, just like everyone else. We created an album in early spring and we were planning to go and tour. Two weeks before the concerts, everything was shutdown. Everything was good until Autumn but now it’s looking like we won’t be able to perform until next spring. We missed all the opportunities we had with the release of the album."
How did your sound come about? Did you have any inspirations when it came to developing that sound, whether that be musical or literary?
"We started just trying to have some fun, just playing music. We didn’t expect that we would play concerts anywhere, home town or abroad. The main thing was just to get a good vibe from what we were doing. We are not looking back on the past to help us create the sound. Of course, it has some influence, with the post-punk scene in the Russian underground as well as some classics like Joy Division, Bauhaus and Kraftwerk, when it comes to how we go about making our music. While making the last album we were listening to a lot of electronic music."
Where does your band name come from?
"We started the band and we didn’t think about any specific name but then we had a gig. We needed a name. Our bass player proposed that we name it after the ski resort in France, he watches the Tour de France and one point was through the mountain called Super Besse. In Russian it sounds like super devil or demon. All this came together and that’s how we chose the name."
When people listen to your music, what do you want them to retain from it or come out of listening to it feeling?
"It’s about life, the feelings, everything; there is no clear message about what they should do. We just make music for ourselves, if people like it, that’s great, if not, whatever. If someone in the band stops enjoying the process of making, then we’ll stop. You can listen to it and take anything you want from it."
So, you mainly make the music for the fun rather than the audience?
"We still don’t know why so many people listen to us in Europe or anywhere else since a lot of our songs are sung in Russian. I don’t know what’s happening to create that audience."
Seeing as how you guys come from Minsk in Belarus, what are your opinions on the events that are taking place there at the moment?
"It is really just fascism, terror and ultraviolence against the Belarusian people by the government. The previous government took the Belarusian people into prisons. It is unbelievable that this is still happening in 2020. It hard to describe considering that it is literally fascism."
Would you say that these events are going to impact the way you make your music? And if so how?
"I don’t know. It’s hard to create music in these circumstances since it is very disturbing. It is impossible to focus on anything like work, music or anything like that. It is still happening, for more than a month, it is still happening. Barricade bands, like the revolutionary bands, are something we don’t focus on being. It is hard to get inspiration to create something, it really feels hard to do anything.
Our latest album contains some lyrics about these swampy situations, with the regime occurring for twenty-six years it is hard to not be influenced. This phase, now, is very hard but before that it was like a swamp we got some songs from it that we have on the previous album. The lyrics were about the KGB and about the homeland."
In quite a number of your songs you delve into your emotions and feelings - are these based on recollections of past experiences?
"It actually depends on the album. The first album was more about teenage maximalist, with the feelings and the way you feel about yourself as well as the loss of separating from someone else. The second album is more about situations and feelings that come from the nightlife. Those experiences that come from going to a party or concert, all the songs are about those experiences. The last album is about the understanding you feel about yourself in relation to the cosmos and the planet, the country and the way you need to accept yourself in the world around you."
Were you guys were surprised with the interactions that people had with your music internationally?
"It’s because it’s pretty easy to dance to. Everyone got this kind of attraction to the style of music where you want to party but also feel sad inside. Maybe because it’s Russian, since people are tired of English songs, it comes off as something new. A bit more aggressive for your ear. It is really just unknown as to why people listen to us."
There are a number of post-soviet post-punk bands around Belarus, with bands such as Molchat Doma and Nürnberg. How would you say your band delineates itself from its contemporaries?
"The thing is that, in my opinion, they use more Soviet eighties old-school sounds. They use things that are classier, even some stuff that is a bit more lo-fi. We are trying to something new. With the first album we were able to create it very fast, in the first few rehearsals. Some old times helped us to create this sound, but it is not the thing we base our sound on. In our latest album it isn’t more post punk, it is more electronic psychedelic. If you listen to our last album it is very different to the Molchat Doma sound or Nürnberg, it’s a pretty different thing."
Considering you come from a country once suppressed by communism and with a government that is still oppressive, does it affect your music at all?
"We are affected but we don’t focus on that. We were brought up and grown in these post-soviet circumstances, but when you grow up on it, it seems normal. We are not really into exploring these Soviet things. It obviously affects us, but we don’t glorify like Molchat Doma. We don’t like the grey houses and Soviet blocs, it is on our Instagram, but we don’t get inspiration from it, we base our creative process on how we feel internally."
In your upcoming work, what are you hoping to explore or look into?
"It is still hard to work now in this situation with Belarus. We try to create things, but they end up being crap. I put it on pause because it would be strange to make something in these times. I’ve never been in this situation. It is literal war against peaceful protests and honestly, it’s hard to see what happens.
I live in Berlin and I thought it wouldn’t have an effect on my work. It still feels weird, my family is there and my friends, Alex from Super Besse is still there and it affects the behaviour and everyday routines that we have. I try to create something.
It might lead to something more aggressive and a punkier sound with an electronic beat. With most things right now, I don’t know."
With you guys living in Berlin, how are your live shows going down there?
"We have had two shows, we played at the Popkultur in Berlin, it’s a big festival for the underground scene. Unfortunately, this year it was online because of the coronavirus and we don’t like these styles of online concerts. It’s not good for the musician or for the audience. We played the show and it was a great experience, but of course, it was incomparable to our normal live shows."
For people who haven’t attended your live shows, what should they expect?
"We got some remarks about our show. They say that Alex stands like a monument and I just run around him, jumping and screaming. It’s a mix of two opposite people working together to create something. It’s electronic punk, a live mixing of the two genres."