Formed in 2012 by members of different hardcore bands, BICYCLES FOR AFGHANISTAN are no new to the independent scene of Moscow. The newly released third studio album balances between emotive alt rock softness and grittiness of punk rock infused indie, resulting in a multi-faceted, very interesting record that beats emotional complexities into their most organic form, each containing mountains of nostalgic feeling. The ambition in their work is clear and “Прятки / Hide & Seek” impresses with a smart use of a plethora of inspirations and confidently crossing genres while remaining coherent throughout. To celebrate the recent release, we sat down with the band to learn more about their story, break down the album track by track, and discuss their local music scene.
We are an implementation of a softer part of ourselves as I call it, cause we’ve been playing much heavier stuff earlier. I was playing guitar with the band called Reka for 12 years and then left the guys to devote myself to BFA after Reka’s latest album Jupiter was finished. It was released last year by ‘Moment of Collapse Records’ (shout-out to my friend Basti!). Also I played guitar in a screamo-band called Optimus Prime.
My other bandmates also have played in some hardcore-punk bands, which I’m gonna name only a few, otherwise it’s a long list: Dehumanization, Salpetriere, Montfaucon. Our current drummer Ivan is a main singer for a heavy grindcore band MxAxMxA.
So yeah, for us Bicycles is a more gentle project and it feels more organic for me personally. I’m in love with more traditional ways of songwriting and singing, especially from 80’s and 90’s eras. It inspired me to blend different genres and styles and incorporate them into our punk-background thinking. Vlad, our bass player who is also our sound-engineer, he plays for lots of Moscow bands. In particular he’s a drummer for Cruel Tie, a very good one of his projects, which I think also influenced our sound in a way.
‘Hide & Seek’ is our 3rd LP and the 6th release to count from the start. Such a long way it was! Sometimes I can’t even believe we’re still doing it. The album mostly reflects the present tense (‘Bad example’, ‘Wolfling’), the past, self-observation, some dreams and memories.
I feel like this record is a retrospective on the band, it combines what we enjoy, vast pool of influencers from The Posies and Husker Du to The Cure and Wipers. This record is fully produced by our bass-player Vlad Chernin and myself. We’ve spent more than a month in ‘Nitrojam Records’ studio, recorded and mixed everything there. It was mastered by Maor Appelbaum from LA who’s an amazing well-known mastering engineer, he worked with Faith No More, Yes, etc. He mastered couple of our releases, we keep coming back to him for his vision, and his results always feed my mind on how valuable a good mastering for your music is. Brings color and style to it.
Besides it’s good to have a conversation with that guy.
The artwork is worth mentioning too. It has always been an essential part of our creative process. For this album we had a pleasure to work with an amazing spanish illustrator Genie Espinosa.
Her passionate and quite emotional artworks caught my eye on Instagram. She is wonderfully easy to work with, and we picked some of our lyrics for her for inspiration, so eventually she has beautifully captured a person escaping his/her own fears.
I feel proud about this record. I think it’s the most important one in our discography, if you play it, you can immediately understand what our band is all about.
We’re hoping to play the album for the first time October 8 in Moscow and October 24 in Saint Petersburg, but it’s hard to plan anything else, so let’s see how 2020 goes.
Also we’re hoping to release this record on a vinyl with a help of a friends.
Russian alternative music scene
Russian modern music is very powerful and the scene is full of young people visiting shows and supporting artists, hungry for healthy thoughts, tolerant and left-wing attitude and DIY approach. It’s amazing to watch it grow compared to 10 years ago, cause I was there and witnessed it all. I think now is the best time to be a musician in a sense that we have advanced technology and equipment, as well is nowadays the artists are much easier to reach for their audience. Also we have some cool local festivals, musicians, recording studios and cool designers.
COVID-19 and its impact on the community and music scene
Last year we planned to play our release-shows in April, but as you can tell we’ll do it in October (fingers crossed). I’ve played some acoustic online-gigs and also our friends have made a compilation of musicians who’s shows were cancelled due to the Coronavirus. This is a nice example of a collaboration between people of different genres but from the same scene at the same time.
Other bands worth a listen
I truly believe that you need to pay attention to the music from Russia / Belarus / Ukraine, as something very interesting is going on since the internet connected every soul in this world.
Cruel Tie, СОЮЗ, Увула, Maria Teriaeva, Intourist, Въеби Ему Донателло!, Тима Ищет Свет, Сияние, Спасибо (Spasibo), ГШ, Sonic Death, Katiny Slezki, Пасош, Gnoomes, Деревянные Киты, Lucidvox, Weary Eyes, Toluca, Shortparis, СБПЧ, Хадн Дадн, Human Tetris.
The album’s opening is a protest-song of some kind. I’ve been trying to find the right words to describe an indifferent thoughtful russian citizen. It’s a weird situation we’re in these days in Russia with the oppression, parliament’s occupation and punishment over people fighting with the regime. The government refuses to support people and small business during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially clubs, cafes, restaurants and venues. Last summer there were huge protests on the streets and it felt good to watch how many people disagree with the current situation. The song is dedicated to them.
This is a crucial song. It was the first single from the album, we worked a lot on this one. We’ve made some glitching sounds for the bass part for the verses and tried to re-create an early indie-rock (1990-2000) authentic raw sound for it.
This song was inspired by my little son. I tried to capture the idea of his obsession of going outside and having fun. The character from the song howls, he is alone and keeps listening to his walkman as loud as he can so it can fill up a hole in his heart.
This is the trickiest pop-song we’ve ever created. So many bells and whistles, parts that come one after another, unusual parts for acoustic guitar. Iconic sound of a Roland Jazz Chorus + Acoustic Guitar + 12 string electric guitar. And lo-fi ending with some folk influences. Ah, i just love that!
This song is quintessential for our band. It has it’s slowly-growing structure. The lyrics open a box full of memories with your school-diary old pictures, some frozen leaves, poems, memories about people you thought you loved to death, but now it’s all forgotten and those memories live somewhere in the dark corners of your mind.
This song is about a girl lost in a daydream, about freedom and youth. We want you to feel that through the magical combination of sounds and voice that is like an instrument feeling the gaps in the melody. Love that feeling.
This song was written last year and that’s when it all started. I thought it’s such an amazing idea to spend a day at home, doing nothing, trying to ignore horrifying news. We’ve put some kraut-rock references (eg Neu!) in the middle and some screamo stuff at the end of the song, that was surprising for our fans to hear. And yeah, those lyrics well matched with the current situation.
Hide & Seek.
I wrote this song entirely during one sad morning. I probably had some dark thoughts about the life or maybe some bad feelings. I tried to shape the style of writing lyrics based on the works of my favorite Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, who’s quotes I’ve already used in our song August from the previous record.I can lose myself reading his poems for hours.
Unfortunately we find ourselves to be old enough to lose our loved ones more often than before. The whole recording process was dark from the start since I’ve suddenly and unexpectedly lost my grandfather. So this one reflects the impact of loss, how fragile we are and it’s about the existence in general. Those feelings seem so powerful to me that I came to realization it translates even to the whole album, not only this particular song. And maybe the whole record is about that.