The members of Lviv-based act Somali Yacht Club released their second album "The Sea" a little more than a year ago. The album was well received abroad, more demanding — in Ukraine, and this difference in ratings, as the musicians admitted, surprised them but it never made them doubt the direction they had chosen. Shortly after the release, Artur, Ihor, and Lesyk performed in Austria, Hungary, Italy, Germany, and Spain. As soon as Somali Yacht Club got over a million views on YouTube, they began seeking new goals, for instance, to give gigs in the United Kingdom and Australia.
We interviewed Somali Yacht Club about their recent tours with Straytones and Stoned Jesus, the difference between the Ukrainian and European audiences, and their further plans.
For the first time over the last several months, I remember seeing your performance while you were opening for Stoned Jesus in Kyiv at the beginning of September. You seemed to have some issues with your vocals and sound, didn’t you?
Artur [A. futher]: As far as I remember, we didn’t have any technical problems. We wanted to perform at Stoned Jesus' show as they had just released their album, support them and then hang out together, but we were tired and kind of thrilled, so perhaps it complicated everything. Moreover, stage at the Bingo club was confusing — too high and surrounded with a fence — that resulted in poor emotional connection with the audience. I had a feeling that our performance had not been as impressive as it could. In terms of some sound problems, it was sound producer’s concern, not ours.
Ihor [I. futher]: I don’t remember. Everything seemed to be amazing.
Lesyk [L. futher]: It was long ago and I don’t remember.
Somali Yacht Club during their performance in Kyiv. Photo by Mila Immorality
Having watched some videos of your performances, I understood that the ones abroad look a bit more lively: taking into account both your performances on the stage and the involvement of the audience. Do you see the difference? How can you distinguish the Ukrainian audience from a foreign one?
A.: It's strange to distinguish. Can we perform in Ukraine twice as bad as abroad? That’s not about us. We did our best on the Burn the Scene for Fun festival. It's not about the audience but about the number of people watching. Our enthusiasm fades away when there are hardly 80 people gathering in Odesa. I know it sounds pathetic because one may think it’s our fault — either because of not being interesting to people or having bad promotion. However, the fact remains that there are much more visitors abroad, and it's a pleasure to the eyes. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve never been keeping away from the small audiences but when it comes to choosing we just opt for the best for us.
І.: It doesn’t matter where we perform. If there are people listening to us, we give them what they want. In this case, the most important issue is survival bias because only the best performances are usually filmed and posted :)
L.: Could you send me some videos of our performances abroad :) There is no such a thing [as the difference between audiences]. The only factor that influences us while performing on the stage is a sense of comfort. Sometimes it's difficult physically, sometimes there are problems with the sound. If there is feedback from our listeners, it's no longer important where we perform.
Last September you visited the European countries, where you performed along with Kyiv-based band Straytones. How was it?
A.: It was amazing! We fell in love with these cool dudes and chick and now exchanging messages with each other missing the time spent together. All three of them are really different and as a result, communicating with each of them was in some way special. Before the tour started we had been anxious about new acquaintances and potential conflicts that might have occurred. Instead, there was no point in worrying as everything turned out to be fine at the end. While smoking weed, we tried to speak Bulgarian watching TV, we were laughing at the names of our promoters Hercules and Thanos in Thessaloniki, swimming and drinking on the beach in Patras, hanging out with the locals at the festival in Plovdiv, playing table football and getting drunk in Bucharest, joking about 300 and Arabian salto! That was f***ing awesome! Straytones are the best ^_^
І.: Wonderful, we had fun. The Balkans, wonderful Greece, and the Aegean Sea.
L.: We had a great tour with nice people lacking sleep with silly jokes (that's wonderful), laughing almost non-stop and gigs with great atmosphere. What impressed me most and made my day was that when I came to the local pub, I saw the bartender and the waitress wearing our merch. It was so unexpected and satisfying.
Could you tell us whose idea it was to arrange that short tour and how it was organized?
І.: We got an invitation from the organizer from Greece, quickly set the dates and came.
L.: There is nothing special in it. We were constantly messaging and planned everything together. After everything was prepared for Greece, we came up with an idea to perform with Straytones.
Having been interviewed earlier you said that you consider yourself to be strictly a 'niche' band, do you still feel that performing on the stages of the European clubs?
A.: I see the difference with every single performance — audience grows gradually, and more and more people start singing with us. However, there is still much to do. I'm not sure whether I define the niche in a right way but I think we are a niche band so far.
І.: I have no idea. I’ve never felt something like that. Perhaps, yes.
L.: Our band seems to be a niche one and I don’t think it will change. There is no negative connotation in my words. We are used to playing often on psychedelic, stoner, whatever concerts and festivals for people, wearing bands' merch of the same genres. It's more obvious in Europe but I don’t care.
Do you think being a niche band is more positive or negative feature in general? Does it have an influence on your creativity?
A.: Those bands which work in a certain niche are more sincere and do not get distracted by the issue of growth (that means getting out of their niche). It helps to stay true to what they are doing. This is significant for me that’s why I can see only positive sides of it. I attend the performances of such bands with great pleasure. As an example, I have recently discovered Shortparis.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that the popularity growth will have a bad impact on sincerity. On that basis, it's important to reach a compromise concerning the conditions we want to work in, I mean to what extent they are convenient for us.
І.: I suppose, there is some marketing term. There is music and the audience. Some people seek to be unique, others just want to listen to music.
L.: To my mind, the significance of a niche has been overstated.
In Greece, you performed 3 days in a row in 3 different cities. Why were you so attracted by this country?
A.: It couldn’t attract us because we had never been there before. According to our plan, it was quite convenient. But we did love the country with its high mountains and endless sea! I was also impressed by the locals, they are not simple.
І.: We accepted the offer of local promoter. There was no point in going that far with a limited number of performances.
L.: We took a practical approach — there was a possibility to perform in Greece several times in good conditions. We had heard good feedback about the audience there. Now we can confirm it personally.
Then you had even a longer tour with Stoned Jesus. Did you like it? Last year, you had a similar tour in Europe.
A.: I wonder why we still haven’t gone anywhere together. Stoned Jesus helps us a lot that’s why we are grateful to this band, in particular, to Igor Sidorenko. Maybe they had better options :D Last year we were on a tour visiting several similar countries. It was determining as we organized everything on our own. We failed in logistics planning but still stayed satisfied with the quality of our performances and relatively big audience. We went to Andorra, saw Fort Boyard, and fell in love with Barcelona.
In regard to the tour with Stoned Jesus, we were absolutely glad to collaborate with them. Again, we were worried about conflict situations, but nothing happened, everything went smoothly. It was interesting to look at another level where this Kyiv-based guys are now. For example, Stoned Jesus offered to hire us a merch guy; something that we had never done before, and this guy made our lives easier. We were learning from the experiences of our colleagues, preparing for our three weeks tour (that’s quite a lot!), hanging out together even if rarely — showing our dicks to the German border guards, watching the movie "Alien" in a tour bus. Stoned Jesus also had different features of character, as Straytones do, but that's why they are interesting! They're simple and they're our guys <3.
І.: It’s cool, everything was well-organized. Personally I felt rather comfortable as I could talk to each of them about any nerd topic.
L.: Honestly, I was afraid of living together for 3 weeks because it might have harmed our friendship. Fortunately, it was the other way around. We became closer, learnt from each other, watched "Predator" in Vienna. As a result, we only wished to tour further.
How do you cope with being always on the road? According to your schedule, you do not have free time at all.
A.: When it comes to the 4-5th day, we start doing everything automatically in order to survive — you just cannot catch any disease, and learn how to fall asleep while sitting. But the longer the tour, the more you miss your relatives and friends. It's highly important to have days-off from time to time. It’s not beneficial to us in terms of money but there is a good chance to get exhausted after frequent relocations and performances, stopping of being on fire. Or there is another option — to do coke ))
Speaking of our free time… We manage to combine permanent jobs with the temporary tours but there is absolutely no time for ourselves. I can’t spend time with my girlfriend whenever I want. Hopefully, it will favor our promotion and therefore, we will spend less time working later.
І.: I associate it with hiking. While ascending, it seems to be no sense in it but eventually the rewards are worth struggling to get to the top.
L.: Sometimes I wish I were at home with my relatives and friends. I should admit that it is very difficult at the beginning of the tour (I would say that the 4th performance is the most difficult one), then you get used to not only to falling asleep in a sitting position but also learn how get enough rest and priorities are set relative to free time in the cities you visit. At least we have more time for reading, for instance :)
Photo of Somali Yacht Club — Andriy Pasternak
Do you see any opportunities for the independent tour across the Europe so far? Don’t you already have plans concerning this issue?
A.: As I mentioned earlier, in 2017 we already had such a tour. It’s a bit difficult but still possible. It is necessary to make the first step, for example, to have an invitation to a festival. The next steps include planning the route, collecting the contacts of organizers from other musicians or via Internet, arming oneself with patience and only then start calling all of them. It will never be easy at the beginning but the more we come to the same city, the more fans we have. Currently, we have several offers from the bookers. I believe we will cooperate and, hence, it will make our lives easier.
І.: 100%, the only question is its quality!
L.: The key point to consider is not how to afford a tour but how to find a way to make it convenient in terms of logistics, how to attract visitors, where to find good clubs and how to make a profit out of it. It's complicated to combine all these points without booking in some European countries.
The number of bands which are taken under the wing of foreign record labels is currently rising. It is an additional opportunity to start performing abroad. Don’t you consider this option for SYC? Perhaps, you had an offer or took some definite record labels into account.
A.: You do not have enough information. We cooperate with Robustfellow in Ukraine and Kozmik Artifactz in Europe.
I remember you saying that the dream to be a musician on a permanent basis seemed to be impossible. Moreover, you supposed that if it came true, you would be less creative. Have you changed your mind concerning this issue?
A.: Nothing has changed. There is still no stability. We thought that touring with Stoned Jesus would answer many questions but now we have even more. Basically, touring twice a year and performing during the summer festivals is quite okay for us. But it doesn’t mean that we have no desire to grow and decided to remain at the current level. We are just not in a hurry, and only time will tell.
І.: Everything is the same.
L.: It’s difficult to answer this question. It would be so romantic to deal with music only. But we are afraid of a lower quality because more efforts would be made and more time would be spent.
Speaking of the niche, your album "The Sea" resembles underground culture what I can’t say about the debut one. Have you done it consciously? Are you satisfied with the results of your studio work?
A.: I would say that nothing distracted us from creating the album "The Sea" the way we wanted it to be. We recorded a little better, then worked hard on mixing, added more lyrics and a general concept. We adore every single track and perform with a great pleasure. We can see how we have changed, laughing at the fact how primitive and sincere "Sandsongs" is and realizing that we will never repeat "The Sun". This is a passed stage, we are moving forward, playing interesting music for ourselves. We would not forget our previous albums as they are helpful in directing us in the right way by giving hints on how to succeed in getting the song or the whole album recorded.
І.: Indeed, we hadn’t evaluated the market trends before creating the album that’s why we were doing what we considered to be interesting. We are trying to stay as reasonable as possible in order not to follow some temporary trends. Consequently, our new album is supposed to have retrowave keys yeeeeah. As always, I am not satisfied with my work completely but to my mind, musicians have to work as scrupulously as they can.
L.: "The Sun" wasn’t supposed to be directed to the underground ('Distorted Unit') people. We just felt like recording something like that. After receiving feedback on "The Sun", we were afraid that the new album wouldn't be appreciated. We didn’t try to find any particular direction or to target any audience.
What do you think about feedback both from the audience and from press? Have you seen the reaction on the Internet? Do you actually pay attention to it?
A.: Yes, all the time. This is so f***ing interesting! I remember three reviews from the Ukrainian media. All of them were quite negative. We were surprised but not that much. The European media reacted in a different way publishing positive reviews with 8/10 rating. We're still waiting for the first million views of both albums on YouTube. Could you also help us because we are pretty close to it ))
І.: At first, I was checking the reviews all the time, then I stopped doing that. I cannot evaluate whether it's important to me or not. Sometimes yes but not often.
L.: The reviews are mainly positive and it's a pleasure to see them, of course. I consider them significant only when it comes to the issue of our development. Every review is worth its weight in gold nowadays.
Recently you have decided to create something out of the ordinary and released tapes with your albums. Has this idea met your expectations?
A.: I'm not aware of the details as I wasn’t involved in this. You can ask Phil and Robustfellow label. In general, everything was great and I liked it. The tape, like the CD, was not a must because it just supported the band or could be a souvenir.
What devices do you use to listen to music? Do you collect releases on physical media?
A.: I purchase the T-Shirts of the bands, sometimes СDs to listen to them while driving. But most of all, it's more convenient to use online platforms.
І.: I have about 90 vinyls. Also I like Apple Music and of course YouTube.
L.: I prefer music streamings at my work, and vinyls at home. I have a substantial collection of them already and some new songs I can listen to in digital.
Do you have any long-term plans? For example, shooting a video or releasing a new album? Do you have a possibility to spend your time working on a new material?
A.: We are trying to find some free time for the new album. We seemed to tour enough, so we'll start working on new material. We don't want to work on it for 4 years. We want to film a video clip and then go on a tour in spring and autumn. The United Kingdom and Australia are the most desired destinations for us :)
І.: Yes, we will soon focus on creating new material.
L.: Shooting a video is not that easy and the length of our songs is the main problem. Therefore, I am not sure whether we will do it. Regardless of this, we are working hard on a new material.
Somali Yacht Club's album "The Sea" is available via Robustfellow Prods. (CD&Digital) and Kozmik Artifactz (vinyl). Stay tuned: https://www.facebook.com/Somaliyachtclub/
Interviewed by Yurii Somov
Translated by I. Roven, edited by Dan Thaumitan