The history of Svetlanas is awash with mystery and mythology; that they’ve been going thirty years, that they were originally KGB spies (1), that Olga is barred from, and Svetlanas are banned from, Russia as of 2014 (2), true I think! That they are the ‘most dangerous band in the world’ and that Olga sounds like a ‘cornered mongoose’ (3)!!
It’s all a bit disorientating but what is certain is that this Russian/Italian band creates superb hardcore/thrashcore punk and is comprised of Olga on vocals, Diste/drums, Steve/bass and JJ/guitar with Nick Oliveri playing on their last album and on US dates.
Their first album Svetlanas came out in 2010, followed in 2013 by Tales From the Alpha
Brigade on Altercation Records and then Naked Horse Rider in 2015 and then in 2017 they released This Is Moscow Not LA.
Intrigued by such a wonderfully confusing back story and excited by both their music and their track record of opposing oppression whether governmental (‘Nazi Trumps Fuck Off’ tshirt/cover of Naked Horse Rider), sexual (the video for ‘Go Fuck You Self’) or political (they left a US tour last year due to one band not taking a clear anti-Nazi position) I contacted the band for an interview!
Q: Could you give us an overview of Svetlanas? I think you’ve been going since 2009 (1), how did you meet, were you already in bands?
Correct. We started in 2009 or better I (Olga) started the band. Diste, our drummer, originally was a bass player. His previously band – Sottopressione-did great things for the Italian hardcore in the 90s. Also Steve and JJ played in other bands before Svets. Just for me, it is the first band.
Q: Has the line up stayed pretty constant?
Now it is.
Q: You were banned from Russia in 2014 (2) for your anti Putin stance, that must be quite difficult… and now you are based in Milan. Do you hope to be able to live in Russia again one day or do you feel European now instead of having a strong national identity?
Any of us really don’t care about national identity. In this particular moment we are based anywhere and it’s pretty fun.
Q: You have moved around all over Europe, are there different musical/punk cultures in different countries? Have you managed to take things from those different punk styles and put them together? Or is that a stupid question because punk styles are the same everywhere!?
That’s not stupid at all. The political factor is probably more strong in Europe than in US for example. For us it’s obvious that if you play Punk Rock you have specific values, and we are not talking about politics we are talking about simple human rights.
Q: How would you describe your sound?
Loud, fast and of course furious.
Q: Last year you left a tour of the USA with Barbed Wire Dolls due to their not taking a clear stand against Nazism, with 57 also leaving the tour (4). In my experience punk has a definite anti-fascist position but is that not the case everywhere? Don’t these people read history?!
This is what we were talking about. No, it’s not everywhere and it’s not for every proclaimed punk band.
Q: What sources do you draw on in lyric writing? Books, films, current events, your own experiences?
Every morning we start the day with a cup of coffee and a newspaper, then we do rehearsal when we are not touring. We write lyric about daily news and also about our personal experiences and feelings.
Q: How does the creative process work in Svetlanas? Is there one main songwriter or does the whole band write the songs?
We write together. Someone starts with a riff, or a vocal part and we go ahead. We have a good feeling, everyone is important in this band and this is why I think that Svets albums are pretty insane.
Q: Could you tell us more about the Svetlanas Brigade!?
The first rule of the Svetlanas Brigade is never talk about it. Ah!
Q: As a band you have a strong political position, how did that politics take shape? Is your politics constantly evolving?
This is not politics. We are just ourselves. We are 4 people with opinions and values and we try to use our brain.
Q: Do you hope that your music would wake people up to notice what is going on around them politically and socially, for instance Putin is obvious but many countries, including Hungary, the USA, France, Austria, have strong far right parties?
Fingers crossed! We have a small voice but it’s very loud.
Q: I love the anti-sexism message of the video for ‘Go Fuck You Self’! Have you experienced much sexism in the punk scene, is it better than most other areas of society?
Punk and hardcore scenes are full of clichés, bullism and sexism. It’s really enjoyable for a small woman to break these “rules”.
Q: You have spent 9 years challenging governments and also challenging other punks to think about what is going on around them, how have you managed to stay strong and not get tired!?
When we wake up in the morning we are tired already! Ahahaha Seriously, the trick is to be objective and persevere in what you believe.
Q: What are your plans for 2018?
We are writing this interview on our way to Madrid. We started this 2018 in the best way with a kick off show in Italy and amazing shows in the Basque Country. What follows is an European tour with The Dwarves and after that we will continue to promote “This is Moscow not LA” all over Europe and with a single show at The Punk Rock Bowling in US. We will play many festivals and let’s see what will happen after!
Look forward to seeing you in London in April at New Cross Inn!