Across three full-lengths and numerous EPs, Jinjer have remained a hard band to pin down. The Ukrainian outfit fronted by powerhouse frontwoman Tatiana Shmayluk have mastered a fascinating style of djenty prog-metal, and they've never been shy about bringing elements of R&B, reggae, funk and even jazz into their sonic melting pot. However, while describing the follow-up to 2019's Macro, which they just completed earlier this week, the band aren't touting the smoother, prettier side of their sound — on the contrary.
"It's definitely way heavier than Macro," bassist Eugene Abdukhanov tells Revolver during a recent Zoom call. "There's just a way more aggressive way of playing. The whole vibe is just different."
"Musically, it's very difficult to digest," Shmayluk adds.
Typically, a metal band saying that their next album is undoubtedly heavier and more dissonant than the last is exactly what hardcore fans want to hear, especially from a band like Jinjer who've risen to popularity on the strength of their peculiar blend of serene and savage stylings. After a whole pandemic's worth of time to spend writing and refining, the band entered the studio on March 16th and knocked out all of the recording within just a few week's time.
Speaking from the studio during one of their last days there, we had an enlightening conversation with Shmayluk and Abdukhanov about working under pressure, how they managed to stay creative during the pandemic and what fans should expect from the next Jinjer record.
TO START, HOW MANY SONGS DID YOU GUYS RECORD FOR THIS NEW ALBUM?
EUGENE ABDUKHANOV 11
TATIANA SHMAYLUK I really backed for eight. I told them, "Wait, guys, my writing skills aren't that great. I'm not a poetess, so please, can we stop on eight?" They said, "Yeah, we can, but we won't."
ABDUKHANOV And she worked it out. You see, another thing about Tatiana is that very often she may be complaining for three, four days while writing some lyrics. And it's very, very hard to communicate with her, it's better not to even touch her — I just try to stay away. Then, after four days, we meet in the studio and she brings another set of lyrics. I read through and think, "Damn, this is some of the best poetry I've ever read."
SHMAYLUK But man, look, there are reasons why I complain. I can sit all day long just crying over an empty sheet of paper, just writing "I" with my pen, that's it. Then, after, like, four hours of thinking and listening to a song, I watch my favorite TV shows and shit. It's like, "Damn, man, I'm procrastinating. I need to go to bed." But I have zero lines for the song that I have to record the next day. And then at night I'm just like, "All right, let's do this." And I write it in two hours.
WOW, SO YOU REALLY DO NEED THAT PRESSURE TO MOTIVATE YOU.
ABDUKHANOV I'll tell you a story. A few weeks ago, I made a mistake. While Tatiana was writing another set of lyrics, I came to her to talk about the [album's] front cover, and it was a big mistake by me that turned out to be a real nightmare. She literally fucked my brain. I was very sorry I came over. I had a very good day, I was in a wonderful mood. And then I came to see Tatiana to talk about very important stuff. But it was the wrong moment, wrong day, wrong everything.
SHMAYLUK Look, it was a nightmare to me because I was in the middle of writing words like, "I." And then he came and started fucking my brain and distracting me from writing, asking, "What cover should we do?" And so I burst into tears. I said, "Please, stop it. I'm not a fucking Alexander the Great. I cannot multi-task."
ABDUKHANOV Yeah. After 10 years of working together, I finally understood that.
I KNOW YOU WORKED WITH PRODUCER MAX MORTON ON YOUR LAST RECORD, AND YOU'RE WORKING WITH HIM AGAIN ON THIS ONE. WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WORKING WITH MAX?
ABDUKHANOV Well, I think that the first and most important thing is that Max and the band share the same opinions and the same views on sound and sound production. We think and feel each other. And Max manages to bring something new to our sound every time he works with us.
SHMAYLYUK And plus, for some people, one of the main criteria is that you feel comfortable during recording. And that's what I feel when I work with Max, because I can fuck up and not really think about that. I don't really feel ashamed or anything else, because he helps me a lot.
ABDUKHANOV And last but not least, we speak the same language. We don't have any language barrier. No matter how good at English we are, it's not our mother tongue. And then you will definitely have a barrier while speaking about really tiny aspects and details.
I KNOW EACH ARTIST HAD A DIFFERENT CREATIVE RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC. SOME WERE INSPIRED BY THE DOWNTIME WHILE OTHERS SUFFERED FROM WRITER'S BLOCK. WHAT ABOUT YOU?
ABDUKHANOV Actually, for this record, both me and Roman [Ibramkhalilov, guitarist] were a little bit out of the writing picture because most of the material came from Vlad [Ulasevich, drummer]. So Roman and I focused on managing and working with the ideas Vlad brought, which was a different approach for us. And everything went very well from that perspective. I just composed one song, and after that song, I felt like I didn't need to [write another]. I said everything I wanted. The more I tried to pull something out of me, the worse it was getting, so that is why I just stopped.
YOU DIDN'T WANT TO FORCE IT.
ABDUKHANOV Yeah, exactly. And talking about the whole pandemic, the most important thing it gave [me, Roman and Vlad] is tons of time. For the first time, we were 100 percent prepared for the recording, we had everything demoed out. And we had time to think about every single note we played, just whether it works or it doesn't.
TATIANA, LYRICALLY SPEAKING, WERE THERE ANY TOPICS OR THEMES YOU FOUND YOURSELF HITTING ON WHILE WRITING THIS RECORD?
SHMAYLUK It's definitely not something that we've done before. The whole album is about very personal stuff — it's not about politics or social problems. It's very personal. We are not like Rage Against the Machine or System of a Down. It's very [personally] lyrical.
ABDUKHANOV I was at most of the vocal sessions, and she actually spoke about a lot of things she never has before. Even some problems she's been having for years and years and years that she's finally revealed.
SHMAYLUK And what I want to say is if the listeners are looking for mental support from the music in this album, you are in the wrong direction. That's not what it can give you, because it's very dark, very depressing ... You cannot find any words of strength.
IN TERMS OF THE SOUND WITH THE INSTRUMENTS AND THE VOCALS, HOW IS THIS RECORD SOUNDING COMPARED TO PREVIOUS JINJER RECORDS?
ABDUKHANOV I can definitely say that this is the most aggressive sound we've ever had. The most powerful and aggressive sound. And actually, the most impressive album.
SHMAYLUK We were talking about genre earlier today, and I was watching a Spanish horror movie with subtitles and there were subtitles when very scary music was playing in the background. It said, "Uneasy music playing." And I like that word "uneasy." I could apply it to [this album's] sound. It's uneasy.
DO YOU GUYS HAVE ANY FUNNY OR INTERESTING TALES THAT HAVE HAPPENED IN THE STUDIO BESIDES YOU MAKING TATIANA CRY? THAT WASN'T TOO FUNNY …
SHMAYLUK Yeah, that wasn't too funny because I cried in my booth while they were in the kitchen having fun, like, drinking water or juice or cognac. I was sitting there figuring out how to sing the next line. I don't know, it was fun, but not in a funny way. Just fun.
ABDUKHANOV One of the days we were there for Tatiana's vocal session, one of Max's cats was occupying his chair. And he didn't disturb or wake up the sleeping cat. He took the chair to the side, went to a different room, brought a different chair — a smaller one that wasn't that comfy — and sat on that chair for the whole session. He wasn't even about to wake the cat up.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU GUYS WANT TO TELL YOUR FANS ABOUT THE RECORD?
ABDUKHANOV The fans must be prepared for some ...
SHMAYLUK Something that they don't like.
ABDUKHANOV Yeah, something that they may not expect. This is definitely another step for us.
SHMAYLUK It's not for everyone.
ABDUKHANOV Especially from the side that it is very heavy. It's absolutely very heavy.
SHMAYLUK And uneasy.