Kosmetika’s Veeka Nazarova: “Every day is a challenge, trying to keep sane and at the same time trying to stay creative”

Original photo: Chelsea King. Handmade collage by B.

There’s a little mystery surrounding Melbourne-based pop band Kosmetika and Gimmie love them so much we wanted to learn more so we interviewed co-founder, Veeka Nazarova.

Veeka, you were born in born in Khabarovsk in south-eastern Russia; what was it like growing up there?

VEEKA NAZAROVA: I love my hometown! It’s was definitely a very interesting and quirky place to grow up in.  No doubt, it shaped me the way I am now and I have no regrets growing up in Khabarovsk! The ‘Far-East’ of Russia has a much tougher climate than the European side of our country and I reckon it definitely makes the Far-Eastern people stronger in some ways. When I was younger and growing up in Khabarovsk, we didn’t have much exposure to the Western world and the internet, so all the kids mainly listened to Russian or Russian-speaking bands/artists, watched Russian speaking TV-shows/films and sort of made up our own little sub-cultures! I mean… we definitely had pop punk and emo at the time [laughs]. It was a little bit of a blend, I suppose, but still predominantly Russian/Post-Soviet culture.  It’s a completely different place right now in terms of the music and arts scene, unfortunately a lot of the ‘new’ generation in Khabarovsk are too absorbed in the social media and don’t want to put much effort into creativity. A lot of cool creatives I knew at the time have left to study in big cities such as Moscow and Saint-Petersburg and now permanently live there, and I think there haven’t been many others who would follow their creative pathways in Khabarovsk. On the other hand, I’m still friends with some musicians and artists who stayed in my hometown, but there is a handful of them and they definitely don’t make living as artists.  I know it sounds grim but unfortunately in Russian culture, most of the time, you have to sacrifice your life to have a family and /or a ‘good job’ so a lot of people have given up their art/music dreams to 100% dedicate themselves to a family life or career. I really hope it can change one day.

When did you first discover music? How did you start playing music yourself?

VN: I first discovered music when I was seven. My parents brought a piano home and it was decided that I’ll be going to a special music school to learn piano, music theory and singing. It is very common in Russia for kids to go to music school, it’s a separate institution where you go after your ‘normal’ school hours. I guess I was always a musical kid singing here and there. My parents had a big music collection on CD and cassettes and that’s how I started getting into heaps of Soviet bands and weirdly enough they also had tapes of artists like Nirvana, Red Hot Chilli Peppers , Blur and Madonna and a lot of 80’s and 90’s disco music, so I was absorbing all these completely different influences [laughs].

How did Kosmetika come into being?

VN: Kosmetika is my first ever band and I always knew I will start or join one [laughs]. One day I decided to post on Facebook asking if anyone in Auckland wanted to start a group, half serious half joking, and suddenly Mikey [Ellis] responded asking me what I wanted to play. We started jamming every week and I got really into it and slowly we formed some solid ideas and Mikey recorded everything properly and mixed it all in his bedroom and vu a la the songs were ready! Then we both moved to Melbourne and asked Jake [Suriano], James [Lynch] and Dom [Moore] to join Kosmetika and have been playing together ever since!

Photo: Chelsea King.

Where did the name Kosmetika come from?

VN: The name ‘Kosmetika’ comes from one my favourite Soviet bands ’The Institution of Kosmetika-Nee Kosmetiki’, I am very inspired by this band. Also Kosmetika sounds like a cool word, sort of a mash up between ‘cosmetics’ and ‘cosmos’ …I don’t know, it is just my interpretation.

I understand your LP Pop Soap is lyrically about/themed on your experience of moving to New Zealand from Russia when you were younger; what was the catalyst for your move? Is there anything you vividly remember about your move?

VN: To be honest, I don’t think Pop Soap is about anything specifically or has a strong concept. It’s a collection of ideas. There is just one song that sort of talks about me moving to NZ but overall it highlights mine and Mikey’s experiences living in NZ and Australia and how we dealt with it. And yeah, back to your question about my moving to NZ. It was pretty hard and I couldn’t relate to a lot of things in their culture to start with, but now finally I consider it my home and miss it a lot, it’s a very precious place to me.

Another theme is of nostalgia and memories; is there anything particular that you get really nostalgic for?

VN: I can’t speak for Mikey, but as many people everywhere in the world, I get nostalgic about being a teenager or young adult and not having a lot of responsibilities. I think it’s the best time for creativity. I also get very nostalgic about 70’s and 80’s pop culture and style, it definitely has a special place in my heart, even though I can’t really explain why [laughs]. I guess it’s my ‘fake’ nostalgia.

Was there a song on Pop Soap that was particularly challenging for you to write?

VN: All the songs on our first album were written by Mikey and I, so whenever i would come up with an idea Mikey helped me to develop it further and vice versa. I guess it’s our process of writing music. I mainly have an initial melody or lyrics and Mikey just turns it into something much more solid and cooler. At the same time, heaps of the songs from Pop Soap were Mikey’s demos from ages ago, so it’s a bit of a mix. I can’t really emphasise any particular song that was hard for me to write because it’s a mutual process. I suppose the hardest part was to mix the songs that were recorded in a bedroom and Mikey did it all of it so, it was definitely hard for him in terms of a production.

I know that you had planned to release an EP of unreleased songs from your current live set; will we see it anytime soon? What inspired this idea?

VN: We have thought about releasing a small EP of the other songs but now we have a lot of ideas enough for another album or two, so we are currently deciding on what we are going to do with it [laughs]. We have recorded a bunch of songs with the band and without so just need to figure out how we would put it together, but something is definitely coming out soon so keep your eyes wide open!

Can you tell us about your favourite Kosmetika show you’ve played?

VN: My favourite Kosmetika show was probably when we played in Rebecca Allan’s kitchen at her house party. It was extremely loud and super hot but, I loved how packed the kitchen was and people going crazy trying to dance [laughs] great party!

How is not being able to play live because of the pandemic affecting both the band and yourself personally?

VN: Pandemic is very strange times for everyone for sure… At first I felt very productive and was coming up with many ideas almost every day and now since it has been dragging for so long, I have been feeling very jaded and quite frankly depressed. Every day is a challenge, trying to keep sane and at the same time trying to stay creative. It is very hard, but a lot of people are going through the same thing, so I know I’m not alone. It has definitely been super difficult to get together with the band. We had a few practices but unfortunately had to stop due to stage 4 restrictions. On the good side, Mikey and I live together and have a little studio set up in our room which is great for recording, so we are currently trying to finish off some ideas while we are in isolation.

Have you been working on anything new? Has anything been inspiring your creativity of late?

VN: As I said previously, we have been writing a lot of new music recently. I think a lot of inspo came from our imaginary worlds that we live in at the moment [laughs]. I personally have been getting inspired by a lot of 80’s Soviet music too. Being away from the Motherland makes me re-discover more things about my culture and turn it into the source for my inspiration I guess. But this is just my inspo things.

What bands/albums/songs have you been listening to lately?

VN: I have been listening to a lot of electronic 80’s music, more weird synth-y stuff [laughs]; a lot of European and Soviet music!

Outside of music what do you do?

VN: Outside of music I love to go for nature hikes, ride my bike around the city, take photos, read some old books and paint.

Please check out KOSMETIKA; on Instagram; on Facebook.

Melbourne Post-Punk Band Moth’s Darcy Berry: “The whole point of the band was to do something completely different, new and weird”

Original photo: Guy Tyzack. Handmade collage by B.

We’re big fans of Darcy Berry’s creative work, post-punk band Moth and rockers Gonzo, as well as his graphic design work from various bands. Moth have recently put out EP Machine Nation a slice of “discordant robot rock”. We spoke with Darcy to hear more about the EP, his art and a new Gonzo record in the works.

Hi Darcy! What have you been up to today?

DARCY BERRY: Not much, it’s my day off. I was working on a little demo this morning but now I’m just sitting in the sun.

Nice! I wanted to start by asking you; what do you personally get from making stuff?

DB: It’s just not being bored and having something to do really. I get really happy from being productive and not just sitting on my arse doing nothing.

Same! I know that you’ve grown up with a real passion for rock n roll; where did this start?

DB: When I was younger, my brother that was eight years older than me, showed me a lot of music. I was into Rage Against the Machine when I was ten years old, which I think is pretty funny. My parents love Aussie rock n roll as well. My dad’s a big AC/DC fan and loves Rolling Stones and the Beatles. I just got introduced to it, I guess.

When you fourteen I understand that’s when you really started getting into music?

DB: Yeah. I’d met Jack Kong, who I play in the band Gonzo with. We realised we lived a few doors down from each other and he played guitar and I played drums. I’d never really played music with anyone before, it just went from there. Playing with him, we’d show each other different things; he showed me a lot of ‘60s music and I showed him a lot of punk, we met in the middle. I became really obsessed with music from there.

All photos courtesy of Darcy Berry.

Was drums the first instrument you played?

DB: Yeah, it’s the only instrument that I’ve actually learnt to play and taken lessons for, everything else I’ve taught myself. I started playing drums when I was ten years old.

You moved to the city, the Melbourne/Geelong area; where were you before that?

DB: Ocean Grove, its right down the coast near Geelong and Torquay. I was a surf rat growing up.

How did you find new music?

DB: There was a cool little scene going on in Geelong with The Frowning Clouds and Living Eyes. I started getting into Melbourne bands, I didn’t even know there was a Melbourne scene! I got into Total Control and thought they were an American band [laughs]. I was at a party and some dude told me “they’re from Melbourne”. I thought, I’ve gotta get to Melbourne and check more of these bands out!

Did you also move to Melbourne for school too? I know you’ve studied art.

DB: Yeah, yeah. Uni was up in Melbourne but I was still living down the coast at that point. I stayed at my friend’s house and then I moved up myself and realised you could go to a good gig any night of the week. It was an overload of music, which was great!

Why did you choose to study graphic design?

DB: It was one of the only things that I was good at, at school. I dabbled in that and art and at uni I could do a sub-major as well, my sub-major was art. I wanted to blend art with graphic design. I became more passionate about it.

Do you have any art influences you could share with us?

DB: I really like the whole Dada movement. I really, really respect lots of different painters but, I’m not very good at painting or drawing. I really just appreciate good art.

A lot of your art and design work is digital?

DB: Yeah. It’s mainly digital. I always try to do other stuff like drawing and collage, photography but it always ends up coming back to the computer and just messing things up digitally.

Is there something that you find challenging in regards to making your art?

DB: Trying to just do it more and more. Sometimes I can get real lazy with it and not be in the mood, that’s why it’s good when I get hit up to do a poster or an album cover for someone—it makes me do it and makes me not be lazy!

It’s funny how with things that we love we can sometimes get lazy with it and procrastinate.

DB: Yeah, definitely. Even with writing songs, if I’m not in the mood, I don’t want to be anywhere near a guitar or anything. I have to really be in the mood, I have to really want to do it to make something.

Is there a piece of art you’ve made that has a real significance to you or that’s special to you?

DB: The album cover I did for Vintage Crop’s album New Age. Everyone really seemed to like it, I got praised for it, which was really weird. I thought it was a bit of a fluke! Since doing that it gave me more confidence.

Do you remember making it?

DB: Yeah. I remember I did an initial idea and it really sucked so I just started all again. I feel like when I do something good, that it just happens really quickly. I’m like, ah, cool, it’s done! I try not to spend too much time on one thing because then I start getting in my own ear like, oh, that’s shit, you shouldn’t have done that! I like to just do it and get it out of the way.

Yeah, I get that. I do that with the interview art for Gimmie. I come from a punk background and I love punk art, flyers etc. and if you look into the history of that, a lot of stuff is photocopied and taken from elsewhere and reused and they’re typically done quickly using the resources you have on hand. I like the spontaneity, get it done, resourcefulness.

DB: Yeah. That’s it. I like using my computer because I don’t have to buy another one and it doesn’t really cost me anything to use it.

Are you working on any art pieces at the moment?

DB: Not really. I’ve set up a little screen printing studio in my shed. I’m going to get some t-shirts done. That’s been good because it’s more hands on, trial and error, and messy, which is fun!

You have your band Moth, and play in Gonzo and U-Bahn, as well as make art for bands, you do a zine…

DB: I was working on a new zine but I’ve just kicked it to the curve, I will do another one eventually though.

I feel like you’re really immersed in the creative community but, it wasn’t always the case for you and a few years back you were really struggling with things and felt isolated and didn’t want to be part of a scene; what was happening?

DB: Yeah, just some personal things happened. I was in a place where I didn’t really want to talk to anyone and I didn’t really have any friends around, they were all travelling and I broke up with my girlfriend at the time… I was like, OK, I’m just going to lock myself in my house. A lot of art works and songs came from that period though, it’s classic, cliché… I think Kurt Cobain said it: thanks for the tragedy I need it for my art. It does make sense I guess. Your influences don’t have to be sad though or bad things that have happened to you, these days I try to be influenced by different things.

Do you find it harder to write from a happier place?

DB: Yeah, definitely [laughs]. I’ve always wanted to write a really nice, beautiful, happy song. I guess it’s really hard for me though.

What was it that brought you back from that darker period and got you back into doing stuff again?

DB: When I joined U-Bahn. I knew one of the dudes in the band but didn’t even really know him that well. I met Zoe and Lachlan in it and they were great. We started playing a lot of gigs and people really started liking the band. That really threw me back into everything. I think playing in a new band is exciting and fresh. That was the same thing with starting Moth, it was good not to be a drummer for a change.

I heard that U-Bahn had a new record recorded?

DB: Yeah, I’m not in the band anymore. I know they were recording with the same guy that Gonzo recorded our new album with. I don’t know what they’ve done with it or if it’s coming out or not.

You started doing Moth as a solo thing and now you’ve expanded into a full band… I noticed on your bandcamp you had the Russian word “мотылек” which means motility…

DB: Yeah. Veeka [Nazarova] who plays synths in the band, she also sings one of the songs on the 7” [Machine Nation] in Russian.

The song “Jealousy”?

DB: Yeah. That all came from a lot of the lyrics I was writing was just gibberish and didn’t make sense, I was like; what if Veeka sang in Russian? Then it’s going to sound like gibberish to people but there will actually be meaning behind it. She’s writing some more Russian lyrics for new songs too. The whole point of the band was to do something completely different, new and weird. I feel like no one really sings in Russian in Melbourne, so we just rolled with that.

Did you get the title of your new EP Machine Nation from the Richard Evans book of the same name?

DB: No, I haven’t even heard of him.

He writes sci-fi and his book Machine Nation is about developing biological robots, it’s got a real modernised society/sci-fi theme and I thought because your release has a modernised society kinda theme through it, it may have been influenced by it.

DB: I’m going to check it out, it sounds cool! The title actually came from the word “machination”. I’ve forgotten what it means, but I think it’s doing things or making things with an evil push behind it [laughs]. I read it in a book once and thought it sounded like “machine nation”. A lot of the songs I was writing revolve around the modern world, the digital aspect of everything and of humans becoming machines.

I understand you’re inspired by writers’ like Henry Miller and JG Ballard?

DB: Yeah. I really like Henry Miller, I like how the way that he speaks about himself is quite honest. You read his books and it’s just him telling you the story. JG Ballard’s books has a lot of weird subjects. Reading stuff like that makes me want to write stuff that’s honest but weird as well—it’s about embracing your inner weirdo! [laughs].

Vid: VOGELS VIDEO (for more vids go here).

Recording-wise I know you like learning different techniques and that changes the style of the way you write, with your new EP; what techniques did you use?

DB: With this one I recorded it with my friend Matt Blach who plays in The Murlocs and Beans. He’s trying to get into the whole recording world and I was talking to him about it. He wanted a guinea pig, someone to play music so he could fiddle with the controls and work all that out. I’m comfortable with him and thought it would be much easier to do it with someone other than myself. It turned out way better than I thought it could. I bought him a slab of beer for it [laughs].

Is there a song on the EP you’re especially loving right now?

DB: Maybe the last one “Indulgent Indeed” because it was the newest out of all of them; some of the songs I wrote two years ago. I wasn’t getting sick of them but, I guess it was more exciting for me to have a newer one. It was also maybe going in more of a refined direction from the other songs.  

What’s it about?

DB: [Laughs] Ahhh… it’s about people. Maybe specific people that have wronged me. It’s about back stabbing and wanting to be successful and doing anything to be successful and just leaving your friends behind.

What does success mean to you?

DB: Being content and happy with what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re praised for it or not. The whole Moth thing wasn’t meant to be enjoyed by others, my indulgence was just playing it, not putting it out or being praised for it. I just wanted to enjoy it. I feel like success is just enjoying what you do and doing it for yourself.

Just making art for art’s sake!

DB: Yeah, that’s it!

I feel like you seem to be in a really happy place with all the stuff you’re doing now.

DB: I’m pretty satisfied, I couldn’t really ask for much more.

What’s happening with Gonzo right now?

DB: We’ve finished recording the new album, it’s been done for ages, we just haven’t mixed it yet. We have plans for doing a little instrumental thing, we’re also going back to garage roots and just doing a real classic garage rock album. We’ve been starting to write new songs for it.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell me or that you’re working on?

DB: I’ve just really been trying to keep my sanity during this crazy time.

What’s helping with that?

DB: Getting drunk and doing karaoke with house mates is good! [laughs]. Dancing. I’ve gone back to work this week which has been nice, ‘cause I was getting really cooped up. I’m a graphic designer for a fashion brand, I make t-shirts and it pays the bills.

The fashion world is just a whole other world unto itself!

DB: Yeah, I never had any interest in that world but then I got offered this job and thought, I should take it, even just for an experience thing. It’s been great to learn how that whole world woks. It’s pretty crazy!

Please check out: MOTH on bandcamp; on Instagram. Get Moth’s Machine Nation on MARTHOUSE Records; GONZO bandcamp.