ЧАЙ / tea (2011)

The name чай translated to english is tchai. What is the relevance of this name?

{Slava} The name of our band is translated like ‘tea’, the best drink in the world. While we were recording our first tracks, we drank a lot of tea. It was winter, it was cold, tea warms.
{Ivan} The story of our name was quite funny. I dreamed meeting a charming person in a bar. She told me, that she played in a band ‘to fuck tea’. I thought that it was an unusual name, and when I woke up, I wrote it down, so it was just on a paper about a month. After that I gave an idea to Andrey about making a jeer-hip-hop project, which would be called ‘to fuck tea’. Later the conception of jeer hip-hop project disappeared and turned to noise, abstract hip-hop. We recorded the first track банты and were ashamed to upload it with the name of the band ‘to fuck tea’ so we shortened it to чай, and the spelling ‘tchai’ I saw at our friends, noise-community from Yekaterinburg (it is our native city) – Noizefishin’. They called a link to our band like this.

For those of us unfamiliar with hip-hop in Russia, what would you say is the state of it in its current incarnation? Where do чай fit in all this and how did this collective come to be?

{Slava} Everything is alright with hip-hop in Russia. All niche genres are chock-full of original performers. The problem is, that you want to listen to only few of all this variety. There is Larik Surapov (at present – Miiisha), there is сбпч, there is триагрутрика, there is копы в огне – they all are new, they all are good, and there is old-school: strong and unbeaten рабы лампы, D.O.B. Community, новый завет and the rest. The band чай is by no means integrated in the Russian hip-hop space, because minimum quantity of people listen to us, we have not once performed, we have only three songs and Russian hip-hop in collective consciousness is likened to a hoarse guy, full of ambitions and self-assured, thinking he knows life better than everyone else – it’s the worst bluff of many rappers, even bragging about weapons and drugs is not so annoying. We just create with a sensual side, but then with a lot of metaphors.
{Ivan} I don’t listen to pure Russian hip-hop. That’s why i can’t say exactly what is its state but i listen to abstract hip-hop, where no frames exist. I can mark out such performers as: 2h company, есть есть есть, Cops on Fire, hip-hop themes of the band кирпичи, птицу емъ, well, some certain songs of certain bands. To refer чай to something is a kind of problem for me. I heard something like this only in my head. If this project will be developed without orientation on something foreign, then, i think, it is something new.
{Andrey} Russian hip-hop in its present-day state is mainly imitating foreign performers of the pop-scene, and it is rather sad. Basic ways of development are: lyrical rap-themes of feelings towards girls, themes of minor crimes (gop-rap), mixed with themes of soft drugs, pop/r’n’b performers without any sense. There are few projects, which are really worthwhile. I can mark out kunteynir, луч, ночные грузчики, птицу емъ, рабы лампы, октябрьское вещание, sclwn, but, on the whole, Russian rap is quite complicated for assimilation in a foreign environment. Turns of speech and message are only possible to be passed in Russian.

There’s a density to your music that seems to be fuelled by the distortion and muddy, low-fi mixes. What is it about the heaviness that appeals to your production ethic?

{Slava} I can say that our personal streaks, which are represented in tchai’s music – it’s like teachers of decadence in the 5th grade of parish school. We force gloom, but however we are for smiling. We are cheerful, but all the seamy side of our soul is in lyrics and noisy sound.
{Andrey} A friend of mine said that our music is akin to amphetamine noises, and, you know, i was flattered. Noisy sound is the closest to me; it is possible to reflect a lot of spirits and aspects. In general, the building of tracks consists of accidental noises and sounds. We record them on dictaphones and find them on old audio-tapes – that was the beginning of чай, in principle. In january, I found a tape with rap-performers from the end of the 90’s, the beginning of 2000’s. It had been re-recorded a lot of times and became demagnetised. On hearing this effect, I immediately realised, how noise-rap should sound, that it should be mainly on natural noises and i offered Ivan to record a song together. He wrote lyrics that same week, at the weekend we recorded банты and released it. Slava joined us on the second track. He almost fully prepared ‘minus’ and lyrics. We improved it just a little bit and recorded literally that evening. The most difficult thing was to record voice and to try to single it out, which we didn’t manage on the EP, but we promise to improve the quality of voice on the next release. The main purpose was to express our state and thoughts in that moment of time, which is fully reflected by sound. We are not going to set any frames. In our minds we conceived the EP as cuts from movies, as scenes for a clip. The longest work in the tracks was dedicated to the introduction of every song. We tried to paint a landscape and fully express the atmosphere of each track, to move a person into the place where events are happening, to tear him or her away from daily world.

What are some themes of your lyrics? Do you draw any parallels with your music and Russia at the moment?

{Andrey} The whole EP is quite lyrical. In банты for examples, some minutes of a couple’s relationship are shown-mutual attraction, infatuation. In the track со льдом feelings of a person after the end of a long relationship are shown. In the track ратификация the sense is deeper. It’s more likely to express a complex state of a person at certain point, at the moment. Slava chose very clear and deep images, sharing his feelings, and Russia wants to have nothing in common with us.
{Slava} Andrey described everything right. Three songs, three persons, three stories. The stories are very euphemistic, usual human feelings, which, being at your personal disposal, turn to little devils, who should be exorcised by music.

Your EP когда дерево перекрывает фонарь, это победаis is quite a short, relatively bleak sounding demo release. Is the short, sharp running time deliberate? Does this serve as a precursor to a much longer чай release yet to come?

{Ivan} Probably, we will release an album, but it will take time. Will anybody listen to us? Will anybody like it? We will try to test the waters with the next single and then we’ll see.
{Slava} Mate, it’s such a time now – the time of short format. I think, we are not ready for recording a full-fledged album, but it may well be so.
{Andrey} We are getting ready for the gradual recording of a full-fledged release, but some tracks will be released as singles, to maintain people’s attention to the band and to show that we are working. During preparation of an album version we hope to do re-mastering and additionally re-record some tracks, to improve noisy component, to re-record voice.

The sheer intensity of the switch up in the track со льдом is quite unexpected. Do you strive for that unexpected quality in all the tracks you record? Do you think keeping music fresh and new is becoming more and more difficult?

{Ivan} Oh, it’s a question for Andrey but to keep the music fresh is becoming really difficult. In the main, it’s hard to think up something new. If it happens, time passes and it becomes dated already and it turns even more difficult to invent something new.
{Andrey} The track was being written for quite a long time. i had a plan in my head, how the song should sound. I was sitting for a long time and striving for every effect, every sound and every turn of the plot. It’s much more complicated when there is something ready in your head, and you bring it to life from your imagination. When you have no idea at all how it should sound, you have a huge field for experimentation, and a song can be made easily as it was with other tracks from the EP. In ратификация, I can say it was almost Slava’s improvisation. Music, which easily goes into your mind, is fresh. It is either viscous multi-level melodies, or sticky ones, based on light tunes.

What are the future plans for чай?

{Andrey} The nearest plan is to present our new single факир and to record joint tracks with our friends from Yekaterinburg’s bands. We were interested in making film clips for our EP когда дерево перекрывает фонарь – это победа and we hope that our friend, DJ Tech Revolution will release a remix of our track банты.
{Ivan} To record a joint track with a beat-boxing dog, to pass exams, to defend diploma in university, to pick up jays, get really stoned and perform somewhere, and to shoot a clip by cell-phone. ha-ha, we’re joking man.

Slava, Ivan & Andrey are чай
Label: Self Released
чай’s demo release когда дерево перекрывает фонарь, это победаis
is out now, available at last.fm/music/чай