5R6 from Kharkiv in Ukraine are preparing to launch their debut full-length album “Islands” on September 25th. In an interview for Progarchy, singer and guitarist Igor Zubko talks about the upcoming release, influences, gear and more.
You are about to release a new studio album titled “Islands.” Describe the creative process that informed the album.
By the time we recorded the “+6.5 and Brighter” EP and went on tour supporting Stoned Jesus in 2012, we already had a couple of new songs in work, I had plenty of the song drafts and ideas to select from. We were very inspired after the tour. So we wanted to make an album in a year. But then, as they say, life happened. And all of the songs that eventually made it to the album were formed only by mid-2014. Which I think was for the best, because time made the selection process more effective, many ideas were dropped even before they made it to the rehearsal room. We also significantly changed some of the song structures and arrangements during that time.
At some point there were 8 songs that sounded like a good selection for an album. However, somewhere during the recording, we decided that one of the songs that was already recorded will not be on the album. The song was good, but it just didn’t belong there. We released it as a single/outtake through our Bandcamp, it is called “Vermin”.
This time we recorded everything at our friends’ studio where our drummer is working as sound engineer and technician. It’s the same studio where we rehears usually. So it felt almost like home and we had plenty of time and equipment to play with to find the right sound for each song. Which was great at first, but than became a little frustrating because it slowed down the whole process. Nevertheless, I think we reached our goal.
The album’s concept is inspired by Aldous Huxley’s famous essay “The Doors of Perception.” Can you tell me more about it?
I recommend to read the whole thing, it is short enough. Hey, a piece of writing after which The Doors named themselves worth reading. However, there is a particular part in the essay, where Huxley refers to every human group as a society of island universes. We experience both the joy and suffering on our own, we can communicate about our feelings, evoking sympathy or compassion, but we cannot communicate the feelings themselves. It struck me when I first read it, I had the similar feeling and thoughts for a long time, of course, I could not explain them as clear and exquisitely. The complete quote is beautiful and much more elaborate.
It is the normal way of things. But a though about being all alone even among your close ones appears very sad at a certain angle.
So. long story short, the lyrics on the album are about “islands”, about us – people; our connections, detachment, confusion, alienation, hopes and delusions, ignorance, aggression, apathy, will and all the fun stuff. It also touches on the so-called “meaning of life”, the most successful franchise over the last few millennia.
What were the biggest issues you experienced during the recording sessions of “Islands”?
It is about 300 km from Kharkiv to the war zone, and only 50 km to the common border with the aggressor state. So, at times it was hard not to ask ourselves what the point of this, or is this a good time for making records, for art. And the answer is – for art, it is never a good time, that’s why it is always the right time.
Regarding the process itself, It was hard to organize everyone schedule, and was frustrating when we could not continue for weeks, because of the schedule conflicts. Waiting for weeks and not making any progress, this was driving me mad. The last delay was my fault though. I just kept starting and rewriting lyrics to the title track until the day we finally recorded it.
5R6 sound is described as a mixture of metal, progressive rock, grunge and alternative music. How do you manage to channel that variety in your writing?
We do not manage it, it is just how it goes. We are influenced by very diverse bands and scenes, even with contradicting approaches towards the music. For example, Kirill and I both love Pink Floyd and Black Flag. In my playlist Beck’s album may be changed by Napalm Death, Steve Reich might be followed by Beastie Boys, John Scofield may meet Swans, etc. We’re just do not keep ourselves within a very strict limits of a sub-genre. We try to keep our own identity and this kind of “proggy/alternative” basis though. and not to wander into dream pop or IDM territory for example.
You say that the band’s purpose is staying open minded. What does it involve?
It is rather an attitude toward art, rather than a purpose. I guess I answered this question above.
Which bands or musicians influenced your works at the most?
The list would be too long to not become boring. I’ll try to name the bands that come to my mind first in no particular order. Slint, Tool, Pink Floyd, Death, Motorpsycho, Black Sabbath, Sonic Youth, Swans, King Crimson, Deftones, Massive Attack, Fugazi, Alice in Chains and many-many others.
What kind of gear do you use in studio?
I cannot name every piece of equipment involved in the recording, but here are some of what we used: Orange Rockerverb 50 amplifier, some custom-build-no-name amplifiers, Pignose “Legendary 7-100”, Mesa Boogie 4×12 and Fender Hot Rod Deluxe 3 cabinets. Most guitar parts were recorded using my Gibson Les Paul Traditional Mahogany Satin, we also used Fender Jazzmaster, some Strat, Fender Acoustic-Electric Guitar and maybe a couple of other guitars. We also used plenty of different pedals mainly overdrives, fuzzes and delays from EHX, MXR and Boss.
And it was really cool that we were able to play around with the vintage electric organ Yamaha YC-45D, We used it here and there in the record, and we were just stoked with the result.
Can you see a clear progress in your music since the band’s early days until today?
Yes, I feel that there is more individuality and less limits in our music today. By individuality I mean that we sound like 5R6, not like 5R6 playing some other band covers, in spite of the songs being considerably diverse. And I would like to think that we improved as performers (laughing).
It’s always hard to make something different, and it’s hard to make people accept the things that are not frequent and that change. 5R6 has come long way since your debut release, so where do you see the band in the future?
Well, I feel emotional exhausted right now, because of all the pre-release activities and decision making. So, it’s a bit hard for me to think about the future. A plan for the rest of the year is too release this album present it in big cities of Ukraine, work on promotion, work on new material(?), tour Europe in 2016 in support of the “Islands”, and we’ll see where it takes us.
Is there anything you want to share with our readers about your upcoming album “Islands”?
Do not forget to check our Facebook page for updates from time to time (wink). And don’t miss the release on September 25th.