Urban Soundtracks: Rostov-on-Don According to Motorama

 

For reasons unknown to me, Russian music has never broken into the Western consciousness, beyond that brief t.A T.u phase in the 2000’s. Americans just never caught on to the wonder that is Philipp Kirkorov, I suppose. Nonetheless, Motorama has carved out a small niche for themselves as an underground hit. Maybe this is down to their lyrics being in English, or perhaps it’s the fact that they have a near-perfect capacity to summarize our twisted emotional landscape with their own brand of Post Punk.

Hailing from Rostov, Russia, they were formed outside the Moscow and Saint Petersburg cultural centers, which produce the bulk of the nation’s cultural exports. Known for being a far more rough city, Rostov appears to be the ideal backdrop for Motorama’s amazing capacity to engender emotions, like disappointment and anxiety. However, little writing is produced about the city and it attracts few tourists from outside Russia. As such, we spoke to Vladislav Parshin from the band, and he kindly put together a bit of a mix to understand the place a bit more.

 

For most people anything outside of Russia, the country is a complete mystery. How did being from Rostov shape your musical tastes and you guys as artists?

For me the main influence was my father who showed me tons of great music from the Soviet Union and abroad and all these songs formed my tastes. Rostov-on-Don is also an important part of shaping the taste, as I knew personally the members of the New Wave/Post-Punk 90’s bands like Elen and Matrosskaya Tishina, they influenced me in the beginning of the 2000’s.

It is interesting looking at musical scenes that are outside the centers of arts like Manchester, Seattle, and Louisville. It is as if being removed from the mainstream conversation allows you to produce something completely unique and personal. To a certain degree, do you think that your band was almost blessed to be outside the major cities of mainstream culture?

I won’t say that it was a blessing, but it was fine for us as a band. I think that living outside the big cultural spots is a good chance for creating something by yourself, you have more free time, instead of visiting never ending exhibitions, concerts and parties. But at the same time it’s harder to meet people who share the same ideas and who can help you in what you are doing. In general I feel comfortable living in Rostov-on-Don, we are flying to Moscow and St. Petersburg from time to time only because of the concerts.

The mix is fantastic. It is very Post Punk/synth-inspired. However, it is hardly the most ‘sunshine and rainbows’ mix. You’ve said in other interviews that there is nothing exciting about your home city of Rostov. Does that contribute to the sound of the mix?

I like such music and I think it suits our city.

In many articles, your work has been compared to British post-punk bands but I think it is fair to say that you’re part of a broader Soviet/post-Soviet tradition of bands like Kino. What is it about this darker style of music that continues to attract people across different generations in the former USSR?

I think that there’s a specific side in Russian character that is connected with such dark or sorrowful music. For example, lots of traditional folk songs from different parts of Russia are based on metaphysical stories connected with faith and death. All these existential problems are reflected in different art genres here, not only with music, but also literature.