One of the more under-reported stories about Kyiv’s sudden rise to one of the cultural capitals of Europe has been just how good their music scene is. It is far more than Luna and Onuka that have been shaping the sounds, but a wide variety of diverse arts looking to push pop music to its limits. Even compared to much larger countries, Ukraine has managed to produce a rich tapestry of artists that are neither underground, nor accepting of the conventional rules of pop music. Although hardly interlinked by their sound, there appears to be a common ethos of re-imagining Ukrainian culture that is youthful, dynamic, and individualistic.
Perhaps no artist better represents this than Люси (Luci). Luci is the project lead by Kyiv-based singer Kristina Varlamova. Musically, Luci is pop that manages to escape any clear categorizations. I can easily say it is electro-pop but that is hardly doing it justice. There is a nuance to her sound, with her stark, melancholic vocals mixed with atmospheric and energetic beats. It is longing yet has a pulse to it. It is the sort of music that traps itself in your head and remains there for days. Mixed with her amazingly stylish videos, she embodies what is fascinating everyone about Kyiv.
She kindly spoke to us via Skype, while almost composing a great soundtrack for Kyiv for you to enjoy. Make sure to follow her on social media.
What would you say is the purpose of your music? In other words, what motivated you to start making music?
First of all, it is a great time to make everything, including music. Your twenties is the perfect age to capture the spirit of a generation- I was trying to find myself through music, and that culminated in the birth of Люси. Since childhood, Ukrainians have grown up with a wide range of foreign music, but mostly we have been imposed Russian pop music, to the point where our local stars started singing in Russian. Russianization is a normal process in Ukraine, and in this way the young generation has lost its Ukrainian identity. Since the revolution, we’ve had the opposite situation. We are told to shove Ukrainian music. Everywhere. It was awful, because the bands didn’t change, didn’t rethink the way they made music. Most Ukrainian artists are drawn into vulgarity, just making funny or catchy music, but never changing tastes. It always looks like a carnival with naked girls, the same musical tricks and never-changing religious faces.
As a graphic designer, I know how to make a project visually attractive. I have a voice, a feeling of rhythm and a sense of beauty and taste. Therefore, I want to be the voice and represent the young post-Soviet Ukrainians in the modern world; Люси is a search for myself and the voice of my Ukrainian generation.
What is the meaning behind Люси’s choice of aesthetics?
As I said, these times of change are very difficult for Ukraine. As a generation, we are the product of change, the product of a cultural reformation. Generations have changed, views have changed, but now is the time for us to put all the past together and move towards the future- I was looking for the right image for a new Ukraine and found it.
Люси’s aesthetics are not imposed from outside tendencies, but rather built on simple and familiar images. I believe that everything in music runs in circles, so I try to combine a modern touch with pop-techno bits of 90’s. As I’ve learned from my life experience, people want to find an escape from the complexities of life through music, return to the past when everything was easier; that is why I wanted to recreate simple aesthetics, without luxury elements but pure and carefree. Moreover, the tragic texts with religious allusions come from the fact that we are a frustrated generation, a generation that has suffered through war and revolutions, but is now ready to embrace the future with new energy and a new identity.
What is the intended audience of your music? Do you expect your songs to have different effects on different audiences?
Well, music is not like shampoo- you cannot determine who will like it or listen to it. However, initially, my target audience was people in my age group and my parents’ generation. However, when I read the comments on our YouTube videos I understand that my expectations have not been met. There are many people with worldviews far removed from mine. Now I understand that you can never know who will like your music, and that most people in Ukraine like pop music with naked girls as opposed to a more underground style. However, I believe that my videos will be liked by people from many countries, and in that way I will be able to show how Ukrainians make music.
Your video clip for Марія Магдалина seems to combine pastel colours, religious references and sexual symbolism- what is the meaning behind this juxtaposition?
The meaning is indeed in juxtaposition, in the combination is the message. Pastel colours are my favourite colours – the colours of my city, Kyiv, the colours of the Ukrainian soul. The religious references come from my childhood: my grandma had an icon of the Holy Mary with Jesus in the kitchen in pastel colours, and I remember how the light faded it- which also triggered me in the future to use such colours in my videos. The sexual symbolism comes from my belief that Jesus can be sexualized. Jesus is the ideal man for me. He is hot – may the believers forgive me!
Люси’s next step will be to release her first full album with 12 songs and 12 music videos, which she shoots with her own phone. Then, travelling around the world, having concerts and creating a real vibe of what Ukrainian music is really about. Люси shows us what the new Ukrainian generation is made of: unique talent, youthful restlessness and reckless vitality- exactly what makes Ukraine the country we love.