10 things you need to know about …. iamthemorning
Formed in 2010 in Saint Petersburg, Russian duo iamthemorning has just released its second album as part of the ever-growing Kscope records roster. Featuring Conservatory-trained pianist Gleb Kolyadin and vocalist Marjana Semkina, Belighted was recorded and mixed by Marcel van Limbeek (Tori Amos) and also features Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) on drums.
Taking influences from an equal measure of classical and progressive rock greats, Belighted is a rare gem of chamber Prog which lyrically and musically offers sadness, loneliness and pain, amidst beauty, happiness and hope. Andy Read puts the questions. Marjana provides some answers.
Interview with iamthemorning
1. Who is iamthemorning?
Gleb Kolyadin is a classically-trained pianist who’s been studying music all his life. He currently studies in the Saint Petersberg Conservatory and still has two years to go.
Marjana Semkina (that means, me) is a self-taught vocalist and an introverted bookworm. Nothing more to add here 🙂
We met in 2010 when we were both willing to see what the outcome would be of a musical collaboration. It ended up in a shaped musical project and the release of our first album “~”.
2. So is it a duo or a full band?
It’s a duo for one simple reason: we are very passionate about our music and very self-sufficient. We love experimenting and using different instruments. However, there are other people that helped us a great deal and who influenced our sound, especially on Belighted. I am now mostly talking about the guitar player, Vlad Avy from Canada. His input into the album has been invaluable.
The first time we met someone equally in love with our music, was when we came to London to record Belighted last summer. Marcel van Limbeek who invited us, was so extremely devoted that we’ll never forget him and his team. It has been such a huge inspiration to work with these people.
4. Where did the name iamthemorning come from?
iamthemorning is the title of the first track from the amazing debut album by Oceansize. Neither of us were very ambitious about iamthemorning at the very beginning; we never expected that it would take us very far. So I just proposed a beautiful name, it seemed very suitable to the spirit … or at least we thought so. We actually hate giving names to anything connected to music.
5. How would you describe your music. What influences make the iamthemorning sound?
Well, in the first place I’d say it is classical music, which is obvious. This is where Gleb’s contribution comes in. He has been brought up in Saint Petersburg. Its atmosphere and cultural heritage is in his blood, you can hear it from his playing. He is also very fond of ethnic music and world music of different types which I suppose you can tell from our arrangements in certain places.
The second part of what our music is carrying, is my passion towards contemporary progressive bands. I guess that my songwriting is partly influenced by Jonas Renkse, because I was obsessed with Katatonia for a pretty long time whilst my personality was taking its shape in my teenage years. I am still in love with his incredibly gentle and thoughtful songwriting style.
And of course, well, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Akerfeldt bring pure inspiration to the world and they have both brought so much to my life.
6. Your first album was simply titled (~)?
The first album was a huge experiment. I guess that is common for debutees. We had no-one to guide us, not a single experienced mentor to direct us to the proper path. So we did everything wrong. I won’t reveal the backstage stories too much, but I guess that a lot of people would be terrified if they knew how we recorded certain things, in what conditions, and even in what sequence. At the time, we guessed that had done everything wrong and now we know it for sure. However we did it all to the best of our abilities that we had at that time. Looking back at one’s work, you always say: “Well, now I would have done that better.” However at least I know that we did our best.
Its success is not only our achievement. I think that we need to thank the word-of-mouth, because before we got to Kscope, it was the biggest promotion we could get. Here, I can say that ProgArchives did a lot for us and certainly Progstreaming brought some attention to the album.
As for the title, well, tilde (Ed: the squiggle ~) is a powerful symbol. It brings us certain associations but all of them are more or less neutral. It’s difficult to keep things clear of additional emotional coloring. We didn’t want people to have any feelings about our album before they got to listen to it. We wanted them to be objective. We wanted them to judge us by our music.
7. You come from Saint Petersburg in Russia. What’s your favourite place in the city and why?
For Gleb is has to be the Conservatory, because that is the place where you constantly learn and develop.
I love the old centre of our city. It is a very special place if you are in the right mood and in the right company (or with the right music in your ears). I love its embankments, amazing old buildings and palaces, and its streets. Most of the time this city is very depressing because of constant rain, but when the sun comes out, it becomes so beautiful and inspiring. Just glorious.
8. What’s the best and the hardest thing about being a musician in Russia?
Ah, that is a good question.
The best thing is certainly the cultural heritage that has influenced us a great deal. For me, this is mostly the spirit of Saint Petersburg, where the history of all of Russia’s highs and lows is in the air. You can actually feel it. If you read Dostoevsky “Crime and Punishment“, you’ll know what I mean: that city of suffering hasn’t changed a bit since the described events. But it is absolutely glorious indeed. Nothing will ever change that.
Another nice thing (more down to earth, though) is the eternal compassion that the majority of people show us. This was especially noticeable when we did the Kickstarter campaign last year and went to London for the first time. The attitude of people was like: “Ohh poor kids, we gotta help them”.
The worst thing is the fact that it is incredibly difficult to get out of here and that the majority of my favorite bands don’t come here often (or at all!) and you can’t simply visit nearby country to see them. I dream of touring. I can’t live without visiting new places and experiencing new things, but so far we haven’t been able to go anywhere. Also, sometimes it is very difficult to fight this: “Ah they are from Russia. What good can come from this country.” Although we’ve only faced this attitude within Russia itself. Funny, huh?
9. Your new album is released on Kscope. How did you get a deal with them?
I won’t deny the obvious fact – we’d never have been signed without the help from the right people. I spent last year getting on the Kscope guys’ nerves. I even feel a bit ashamed of it now, as it is actually not in my habit to annoy someone. But I suppose those who made them decide in our favor are Gavin Harrison (obviously), Danny Cavanagh – who was very sympathetic and nice to us from the very first time we met – and Rob Palmen, our current manager. He works with several Kscope bands and he helped us so much with the talking to the label.
12. What is your personal favourite track from Belighted and why?
I think it is OsLunatum, because of the way this track develops. Although it starts as a simple piano/vocals composition, I love the way it turns into something really atmospheric,and full in terms of the arrangements towards the very end, I love the spirit of the song, the theme, I like the heroine of the song (which is based on a novel) and I like the fact that when I sing, I can become her for several moments. I see with her eyes and I feel what she feels. It is, well, mesmerising, to be a dead girl.
I also love Crowded Corridors, because Gleb has done such an amazing job with his piano part on that track. It is a pure blessing to play with him.
13. Will we get to see iamthemorning play live and if so what can an audience expect from your show?
I suspect that our first performances in Europe will be rather chamber and classically-driven. Because of the cost of traveling we can only take a couple of musicians with us, and strings will always be in favor. So people will have to be ready to listen attentively; to give us an hour of their life. I love playing live. I feel connected to all the beautiful people who come to listen. This is such a pure and beautiful type of communication.
14. (Bonus question!) I noticed your new look. So which hair colour do you prefer – ginger or blond?
Ginger is a state of mind. I’ll always remain ginger no matter what, although blonde makes me feel a bit ethereal, very close to what I am, a bit loony. It gGives people the right impression, I guess.