I first came across the band Russian.Girls on a YouTube music wander last year, when I found the video for their song Autopilot. Autopilot is a weird song to get a grip on, and a weird song to describe. Something along the lines of dead-eyed, nihilist-cowboy rock is about as close as I can get. I listened to it about 20 times in two days and then fell into the EP it was a part of, a compilation, Sisters & Brothers Vol. II, made for the Hamburg label HFN Music. That EP was a full of experimental electronic music, glitchy, unnerving and hard to pin down, amphetamine lounge music.
The band started out as the solo project of Icelandic musician Guðlaugur Halldór Einarsson (also a member of Fufanu), and has since progressed to having fluid and flexible line-up, currently centred on the trio Einarsson, Tatjana Dís and Gylfi Sigurðsson. After Sisters & Brothers Vol.II, another EP followed at the very end of 2017, the darker, heavier To The Bone, which took the band’s sound into more conventionally structured, bleak rock music, while retaining their cold, metallic sonic signature. Beyond those two EPs though, the Russian.Girls catalogue is deep, stretching back several years and several singles, covers, mixes and mini-albums, a whole world to explore. And having spent a long time wandering around in that world since discovering Autopilot, we felt it was about time to grab an interview with the band to learn more.
How did Russian.Girls start out, and how did it become what it is today? The band is a trio these days right? Why the name?
The project started probably around 2011 as a solo project. But later on it has become more of a platform for a group of friends that like to come together, have fun and make music. Many people have joined in, every release or live show is different from the last one. But now the group is mainly the three of us. The name came from pop-up ads on the internet. It’s sort of a thing that’s hard to deny when you are browsing.
You speak about the band as a trio these days, but one open to collaboration and change. Is that openness and fluidity important to the spirit of Russian.Girls?
It’s important in a way that it’s the reality of our creation. If we’re working on a track and someone happens to be there at that current moment and has an input that adds to the greater good of it, we include it, as the benefit of the song comes first rather than excluding ideas because they don’t come from a band member. Sometimes we begin to work on a track without knowing what it will turn out to be, so in that time of the process we aren’t really creating it with the thought of it becoming a russian.girls track, and that’s also a reason for often making a collaboration.
Russian.Girls kind of sit between several genres, sort of a melting pot of techno, electronica, rock, kraut, whatever. Do you have any particular stylistic identity you feel you want the band to stick to, or do you prefer to move freely between styles?
It’s good to have the freedom to be able to create whatever we want without thinking of the whole outcome of it or being stuck to a concept. Like with our latest EP, these songs were collected together because they shared some kind of similarity, so you could say that we work the other way around as we don’t see the outcome until we have a collection of similar songs.
What does unite the sound, is a kind of metallic coldness and harshness, both musically and emotionally. Is the band drawn to that creativity?
It’s probably something we aren’t really aware of. We are influenced a lot by each other and we have no certain way to work. So if someone has a thought of a song and starts to pick up on it, whether it’s lyrics or the other way around, the rest follows if they get caught up in the vibe to it. But that’s never guaranteed.
Outside of musical ones, what kind of influences feed into Russian.Girls?
Daily crisis, friendship and a lot of joking.
Your videos are self-made, and, especially for Amfetamíngangsterar and Marius, are these heavy, hallucinogenic artscapes that blur into the music’s mood. What do you try and achieve with your videos, to make them match the music’s headspace, and is it difficult to translate the art of Russian.Girls into other artistic mediums?
With Marius we had a very clear vision of how we wanted it to turn out as it purpose was to reflect the lyrics and the feel of the song. Others have been created more freely and always on the spot. We think video art is a good medium for our music and we have our hands full of Ideas that will hopefully in our nearest future be brought to daylight.
Reaching back around three years, Russian.Girls already have an eclectic back catalogue from mixes, to edits, to covers, to EPs. Is the goal with this project to create freely and at speed, and release whenever and whatever you want, rather than sticking to a more traditional album-focused outlook?
A little bit of both. We have already started collecting new songs together that we would like to release as an album but for the rest of them, it’s great to have that freedom to release them whenever as singles.