Review Fix chats with Vnok’s Nathalie, who discusses the band’s origin, goals and new album, “Elephant Girl.”
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
Nathalie: VINOK is an American-Ukrainian indie-rock band that instigates social justice. I have been singing since she can remember. I believes that music has the power to promote change and healing in this world. “We all have a story, music has the innate ability to tell those stories that connect us to one another as human beings.”
Ilya’s diverse background is evident in Vinok. Playing in a Ukrainian punk rock band in post-Soviet schools, he later went on to play in a New York jazz band, an Illinois orchestra and played at various venues in Massachusetts.
The band’s bassist Anton is a musical virtuoso and has been playing in bands since he picked up a bass guitar at what some might consider too late at the age of 19. Anton broke all expectations and is one of Ukraine’s best bassists. One of his all-time favorites is Rage Against the Machine, the influence of which one can definitely hear in his guitar-like style of playing on the bass.
We met back in 2009 in the USA while studying. They began writing music for Vinok in 2016, then Anton joined the band in late 2017. That year, the three met in Kyiv to unite all of their musical talents as well as passion for justice and societal change so that their music has social impact. The three spent 2018 mainly writing music and started to conquer the music scene in 2019 onward.
We aspire, as much as possible, to be a live authentic band; meaning that we make an emphasis on using real instruments and keeping the electronics to a minimum. We want that live energy to be presented in our tracks. We’ve been also looking for less popular rhythms and song structures. Also, this album is with heavier tunes as rock seems to be dying these days. We want to have the full freedom to breathe and experiment with sounds and song structures.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Nathalie: It really depends on the circumstance and the song. Some songs are thought-through and take ample time to create, whereas others can be structurally created during one rehearsal. No matter what the process is, we also spend a ton of hours on polishing each song to get the message that we are looking for. We want to make sure that we have real instruments and that we are treating the sound with proper care.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
Nathalie: Most of the messages we convey within our music and lyrics are more symbolic; they relate to each individual in a variety of ways. One of our underlying goals is to provoke those who have been finding it too easy, inspire those who have been finding it too hard and help everyone to dig for the truth and run away from the artificial.
Review Fix: What does music mean to you? How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Nathalie: VINOK is not just another indie-rock band, it’s a statement of authenticity and social change to create a new culture of justice in a land of unknown. Giving a voice for the marginalized and bluntly bringing to attention crucial problems of a global society is what the band is all about. Their topics range from disability rights to feminism, politics and religion. Yes, the Ukraine based band’s indie-ness is a sound you haven’t heard before – it’s an unusual mix of experimental rock and indie art-pop spiced with notes of garage rock, pulp grunge and even hip-hop.
The hints of a Wild West atmosphere are to symbolize everything the band stands for – an attempt to build freedom and hope in a harsh opportunistic world by challenging the establishment. Vinok provides fresh, powerful and insightful music with deep syncopated rhythms, haunting lyrics, soaring powerful vocals and a molotov cocktail in the face of evil.
I have practiced as a mental health professional and expressive arts therapist working extensively with people who witnessed a wide array of abuse and neglect. As a journalist, VINOK’s co-founder and drummer Ilya has witnessed the atrocities executed by authoritarian and corrupt regimes in Eastern Europe and the sheer poverty that resulted from them. The band’s virtuoso bassist Anton comes from war-torn eastern Ukraine and says, “Music is my salvation”.
Though the band started back only in February 2019, they already graced some of the biggest festivals in eastern Europe such as Ukraine’s Respublica Festival and Poland’s Slot Festival. The band’s music was mixed by sound producer and engineer PDub Walton who worked with legends such as Bjork, U2, Madonna, Massive Attack, and The Cure, and mastere Jon Astley who worked with The Who, U2, ABBA, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
Nathalie: We try to keep the live sound as much as possible during our recording process. That said, nothing can replace a live show that is filled with the energy, movement and power of the crowd!
Review Fix: What inspired your latest single?
Nathalie: The idea of “elephant girl” came from being surrounded by a world that tends to be harsh and careless to the most vulnerable. With all of the positives that it might have, in a globalized world people tend to be concerned about their individual problems and exponentially less caring about those who are being cut off from society the most. They become competitive and find excuses of why they shouldn’t care about others. In the song we wanted to give a voice specifically to persons with disabilities who are as much of an important part of our society as the rest yet who are some of the most unfairly treated and overlooked people. People with disabilities tend to be more vulnerable and are often disregarded and even put down so that they don’t get in “people’s way”. Another important factor to acknowledge is that not all disabilities are visible to the seeing eye.
We want this to be an empowerment song for people with disabilities, an inspiration, a sort of a symbol of hope. That said, “elephant girl” has elements that relate to each of us as human beings; it addresses those feelings of wanting to be heard and putting up a fight in order to do so. If someone is feeling down, we definitely want them to listen to “elephant girl” and we hope that it can give them a sense of: “Hey, you are not alone and you will get through this.”
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2021?
Nathalie: In 2021 we will finally be releasing our first full-length album! The album has been in the works during a period of over 2 years. Some of the songs we started writing years back but they finally reached their full form now. It has been a long journey and we are extremely excited to finally be releasing our music for the world to hear.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Nathalie: The band is quite serious about its music and getting it to the “next level.” We have been successfully working at full-time jobs but we realize that it’s time to give the band a full shot. Music is our passion and we are sacrificing a lot to make it happen.