Interview with Love Cult

by Kieran Toms

You are from quite a remote area of Russia, and to me the music has quite a ‘distant’ atmosphere, is this a geographical thing do you think? What influence do your surroundings have on your music?

Karelia is not that remote, actually. It takes one night in a train to get to the capitals – Moscow and Saint Petersburg. And it’s just a 4 hour ride to Finland! However, we all feel a bit distant here. To some extent, it’s just Finnish / Karelian mentality – a frozen loneliness vibe. Of course, the surroundings influence our art a lot. It’s always cold, winter begins in early October and the snow melts only in April. Summer is just rainy, with a week or two of sunshine. They say our republic is “the land of forests and lakes”. Two of the biggest lakes in Europe are located near Petrozavodsk and Sortavala. The lonely, lost, rainy moods come from the surroundings, probably. The troubled atmosphere of The North. Wet mossy woods filled with mushrooms, berry swamps… Anya comes from Kazakhstan, she moved here when she was 8. And she’s still getting used to this place. A pretty radical change!

Your music for me brought up images of Buddhist Meditation – is this something that interests you, or is making music your form of meditation?

There are millions of ways to “get somewhere”, to get high, so many levels of deepness, many ideologies and prisms of understanding. We are very far from Buddhist meditation, even through Buddhist imaginary and music may inspire us quite a lot from time to time. But it would be stupid to not notice little shadows of deep understanding / feeling when you’re approaching any personal art, honest and pure self-expression. And especially if you create it yourself. There were moments Ivan cried onstage and there were moments we both were in slumber, it felt that time doesn’t exist. Lots of times we were lost in our sounds. You may call it meditation, concentration or any other word one feels like using. You know it when you feel it. And if you feel something – that’s the best compliment or regard we can aim for.

The final part of the tape adds a sort of mysticism to the UK, which was very powerful for me, as up until then the music for me conjured up images of distant desolate empty Russian frozen landscapes, but then the juxtaposition of this with the UK place names, sort of inverted the whole thing and added a magical air to what might otherwise be mundane (to me as someone from Britain). It gave the whole tape it a sort of twist: was this what you intended by including this?

America and UK are so mystical if you’re a foreigner! You wouldn’t believe! Ivan knows a lot of people who construct their whole personal life according to some images they’ve invented or accepted – images of London or Edinburgh or Manchester! He tried studying English language and culture at university for some time. Pronunciation exercises like this were essential part of his life. And a little bit of private everyday experience always adds to the overall experience of getting to know someone. That was the initial idea of using that fragment. And yes, it gives a pretty weird twist to the whole tape. Don’t know if that’s good or bad.

Anya, I noticed a similar sort of vein (in so far as meanings being not always obvious) in some of your art, with lots of images within images. Are the two mediums for you very interlinked?

Pretty much everything is self-expression: cooking, talking, all the things I do! Music and drawing are just two things I devote much more time and effort. There’s something very important in both music and visual art for me – when I’m at it I feel protected. I feel that no one can influence me without my will. I can share my energy, I can borrow some of others’ but only if I want to. This is my own. My deep personal space.

Is music something therapeutic for you?

Of course!

Maybe a bit of a probing question, but what is it about each other that you find particularly conducive to creativity?

Our relationship works in a harmonic way; we fill each other’s weak places and support and share the strong qualities. We’ve worked our a way of synchronising feelings, aspirations… Not talking about playing music at all. Actually, Love Cult was intended as a punk / noise-rock duo. I guess the outcome is that synchronisation, harmony and common ground we talk about.

How do you create the sounds? Are you pieces carefully planned, or just an expression of a burst of inspiration?

No planning, never. If there’s a spontaneous need to make music we’re doing it. Plug in, form some minimal musical shape, make loops, then sing and play endlessly around it. Sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for many hours. We record everything straight to tape, live, one channel. Then we just listen to the tapes and decide if there are moments we’ve reached some unknown, eerie territories. In a live setting that’s exactly the same, except for a moment that we know beforehand two or three sounds that work good together.

What inspires you?

People and their vibes, smells, colours, atmosphere, air, temperature, everything around. Tiny hints of other lives / realities, different places, spaces, moods.

Love Cult is a musikal duo from Karelia performing tiny handcrafted drones, sharp noises, wordless mantras, spacey guitar loops and broken folk songs. Relaxation/concentration music for wanderers, lovers and dropouts. Many things at the same time with no clear message, just a feeling of open space and loving arms. Also described by friends as “swirling blissful dripping psyche dream”, “beautiful, revelatory, mantra-like”, “eternal soundscapes of ancient communication” and “solemn white magic”.