Jinjer's Tatiana Shmayluk: "I Will Get Revenge" | Revolver

Jinjer's Tatiana Shmayluk: "I Will Get Revenge"

Go inside the Ukrainian metal group's new album 'Wallflowers'
jinjer_featured_credit_Alina Chernohor.jpg, Alina Chernohor
Jinjer, (from left) Roman Ibramkhalilov, Eugene Abdukhanov, Tatiana Shmayluk and Vladislav Ulasevich
photograph by Alina Chernohor

Jinjer has teamed up with Revolver for a limited-edition bundle that includes the band's Summer cover story and a Wallflowers vinyl variant on 180g white wax. It's limited to only 300 copies — pick up yours now.

Tatiana Shmayluk wants revenge from beyond the grave.

As a woman fronting Ukraine's biggest metal band, she deals with endless bullshit. Comments. Snide remarks. Trolls. These dudes — and they are all dudes — might doubt her motivations. They might have something to say about her looks. Her clothes. Her uncompromising attitude. They might even attempt to throw shade on her high-flying vocal acrobatics or ferocious performances. But attempt is the key word here — in any and all cases.

Shmayluk is having none of it. If she can survive an upbringing in war-torn Ukraine, she can survive the haters. If she busted out of Eastern European obscurity to become an international star, the shit-talkers cannot touch her. If she can be held up as a role model by young women around the world, the power clowns cannot clown her.

Besides, there is post-mortem retribution to consider: "When I die, I will get their asses."

She says this with a laugh, perhaps because she understands that most of the people reading this won't believe it. But make no mistake: She means it.

Then again, undead reprisals won't be necessary. As it turns out, revenge is a dish best served with a heaping side of unmitigated success. Shmayluk fronts Jinjer, one of the premiere djent-prog bands on the planet. As of this writing, they have over 250 million cross-platform streams and views. They have nearly half a million monthly listeners on Spotify. Their 2017 live studio performance of "Pisces" — arguably their biggest song — has over 51 million views on YouTube.

Shmayluk and her bandmates — guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov, bassist Eugene Abdukhanov and drummer Vladislav "Vladi" Ulasevich — somehow manage to combine metalcore, djent, prog, nu-metal and even R&B and reggae into a musical style all their own. Not bad for a group of young musicians from a conflict-ridden corner of the world that most Americans can't even point to on a map.

On the day Shmayluk and Abdukhanov speak with Revolver, Jinjer are in France recording their set for Hellfest's "Hellfest at Home" streaming event, which will replace the beloved annual metal festival — usually held in the sleepy French village of Clisson — with pre-recorded and contact-free sets from some of metal's heaviest and most popular bands. Such is life in what we hope are the waning days of the pandemic.

"Things with the pandemic are way worse in Ukraine than in the United States," Abdukhanov tells us. "Very few people have managed to get vaccinated. We are in line and waiting our turn. And because we haven't had the vaccine, we had to stay in quarantine here in France for seven days. We had to pay for this extra task just to be able to come here. It's a deep pain in the ass."

"In Ukraine, the shops will be open today but closed tomorrow," Shmayluk adds. "It's constantly on and off. But I didn't go sit in restaurants and things like this, anyway. I want to just be at home."

Both Shmayluk and Abdukhanov spent the early days of the COVID outbreak in Los Angeles. Jinjer were in Mexico when the remainder of their Latin American tour was cancelled, so Abdukhanov went to see his pregnant wife. Shmayluk went to visit her boyfriend, Alex Lopez of deathcore troupe Suicide Silence. She stayed for the remainder of her visa. "I was addicted to Amazon," she says. "Every day I ordered something. I got my first DSLR camera and some other photography equipment. Me and Alex got a huge fish tank — the Rolls-Royce of fish tanks. And then another tank. And another tank ..."

"Our American tour was supposed to start in April 2020, and it had not been cancelled yet," Abdukhanov explains. "We didn't know the situation fully, so we thought it might still happen — or part of it, maybe. So, it seemed reasonable to just stay in America. Of course, by the beginning of April the tour was cancelled, and it was clear that this thing would last very long."

The pandemic's enforced downtime did have a creative upside: Jinjer wrote and recorded their new album, Wallflowers. "For the first time in our whole career, we finally had time to write songs, practice them and go to the studio very well prepared," Abdukhanov says. This time around, drummer Ulasevich wrote the bulk of the material. Before he got started, the band collectively decided that they had to branch out from their last album, 2019's Macro.

"We knew for sure that we had to change the sound because we couldn't allow our album to sound the same," Abdukhanov offers. "All of us wanted some-thing new, and we had a very clear picture: We wanted the bass and guitars to be very aggressively distorted. Vlad, as always, had a very clear idea of how to change his drum sound and drum parts. As for the music, we never try to expect something from our new material. We just write music and let it flow. I think this will never change for us."

The result is somehow Jinjer's most aggressive and melancholy album to date. From the anguished, woozy groove of opener "Call Me a Symbol" and the dizzying, caustic metalcore of "Copycat" to the moody seesaw of "Vortex" and the airy, ominous dreamscape of the title track, Wallflowers is next-level Jinjer. "A lot of new elements are on this album," Abdukhanov confirms. "For people who are not familiar with our music, it can be complicated listening. But I think our fans are prepared for it. They got used to expecting what they don't expect."

At first, Shmayluk wanted to call the album As I Boil Ice, after Jinjer's new song of the same name. But the title didn't fit with the floral cover art they had already selected. They added an icicle to the image, but that didn't seem to help the situation. They ultimately decided on Wallflowers, which relates to both the artwork and Shmayluk's lyrics. "When I started writing lyrics, it was January 2021 and I was back in Kiev," she says. "Alex had come to visit, but it was time for him to fly back home to L.A. We had spent a lot of time together and now I had to learn to be alone. I didn't want to do anything socially oriented. I was just walking in circles in my apartment, making a huge hole in the floor."

Shmayluk's self-imposed isolation, underscored by the pandemic, set the stage for a more personal approach to her lyrics. At first, she started writing in Russian. Then she switched to English. "Vortex" was the first song she finished. "It's about a person who overthinks a lot," she explains. "Have you ever experienced that thing where you just cannot escape your thoughts? Your head becomes so heavy, like a ball of lead. It's about to explode. It can lead to depression, basically: You cannot stop, and you fall into it. That's the vortex."

As of this writing, "Vortex" is set to be the album's first single. The band has already filmed a video for the track. Shmayluk hopes the song can provide a kind of temporary support system for those who might need it. "Sometimes songs help me to overcome my emotional issues," she says. "Even with sad songs, they can make you feel you are not the only one who feels this way. It really eases your pain if you can find compassion to heal a sad heart."

Album closer "Mediator" is the result of an online personality test that Shmayluk took at the suggestion of a friend. "I'm always ready to do some psychology and self-analysis," she enthuses. "The result I got was 'mediator,' which has to do with compassionate, sensitive people. I feel this is basically another word for 'introvert' or 'wallflower' — it's all connected."

"But the song is about when I was younger," she adds. "I was an idealist. I wanted to see things as perfect and people as kind. But the reality is harsh. You grow up and you realize you still have a lot to learn — a lot of lessons that can't be taught in school. Life lessons."

The title track directly addresses the album's over-riding theme: Shmayluk's struggles as an introvert. "I've met a lot of people who have no idea what extraversion or introversion is," she says. "I explain it in this song so that hopefully people can relate. Introversion can be a problem for people who think that there's something wrong with them. If you are a wallflower in school, for example, people will mock you and bully you. When you grow up, you will realize you were just born this way."

"Society rejects people like her," Abdukhanov adds. "Society rejects people who stay inside. They think there's something wrong with these people because they are not part of a herd."

"That's true," Shmayluk says. "It's been hard for me to fit in with most people."

Which is probably why she feels so close to her bandmates in Jinjer. "They are my best friends and almost my only friends," she says. "It's really hard for me, as an introvert, to find new friends. Most people want an open book. They want you to just blah-blah-blah all the time. That's how they get information about you. But you have to read me if you want to know me, and most people are too lazy to do that."

"They want everything fast," Abdukhanov adds. "We live in a consumer society, and people are consumers even in relationships. In a way, you could say this album is like a manual for dealing with introverts."

"If you are patient with an introvert, you will discover the treasure," Shmayluk says. "You will have a friend for life. I think it takes a year or two to get to know me, and then dude ... you cannot shut me up!"

tati_credit_Alina Chernohor.jpg, Alina Chernohor
photograph by Alina Chernohor

Abdukhanov knows Shmayluk better than most. They've been in Jinjer together for a decade. "Over the last 10 years, I think I saw her and talked to her more than anyone else," he says. "Because we're constantly on tour. We went through the nine circles of hell together. We played small clubs with only 10 people in front of us, and now we play huge stages for thousands of people around the world. This journey made us a family."

Of course, the haters are still out there. Lurking. Judging. Commenting. "I try not to read comments, but sometimes it is impossible not to see anything," Abdukhanov says. "I helped to manage some of our social media, and I cannot help but see some exchanges. But it doesn't hurt me much, fortunately."

"We are strong," Shmayluk says. "And I will get revenge."