A History of How the Ensemble Gruppa Lits Was Created
In February of 2002, the song Tatuirovka iz Bangkoka (‘Tattoo from Bangkok’) was written. The song was intended for an amateur film which was shot by Lev Moguchy on his travels. Those who took part in the creation of the song were:
Lev Moguchy – ‘ideologist’ (catalyst for ideas) and co-writer with Savely Glyba;
Savely Glyba – lyricist and co-writer with Lev Moguchy;
Robert Poluektovich – music and musical arrangements.
What resulted pleased not only the writers, but also their friends. After this, two more songs were written: Ishchu sebya (‘I still don’t know what I want from life,’ literally ‘I’m looking for myself’) and Seredovich which, in our view, determined the style that we have found hard to define. We have probably settled on the term shanson (‘ballad’).
The idea occurred to us of setting up a group for this project and recording an album. Since none of the writers involved in the project had worked in the ‘chanson’ genre before, ideas about it were very vague. One thing we were certain about, however, was that a balalaika and an accordion were definitely needed.
Lev Moguchy didn’t play any instruments, but he had been listening to jazz and rock music for 25 years, thus telling everybody that creating a ‘chanson’ project was a trifling matter – it wasn’t jazz or rock, after all. (He later came to repent his words.)
Robert Poluektovich expressed himself through psychedelic electronic music, and ‘chanson’ presupposed roughly the same approach as in psychedelic electronic music. (Music is music.)
Juan Marina de Erba played flamenco (owing to his background), which is in essence Spanish ‘chanson’. It was evidently because of the similarities in the two styles that he subsequently became leader of Gruppa Lits (‘Set of Faces’).
Heavy metallists Savely Glyba and Aleksandr Zheleznyak had taken an oath as soon as they had started to devote themselves to music that they would become shanson’ye (‘balladeers’ or ‘singer-songwriters’), no matter what.
Aleksandr Mudryak could play anything on the bayan (a kind of accordion), from jazz to chastushki (two-line or four-line rhymed ditties on some topical or humorous theme). (He is, moreover, a person of some versatility: he even has his own little puppet-theatre.)
Andrey Mesyatsev couldn’t play the bayan and didn’t listen to jazz or rock, but did on the other hand have an ‘inoffensive’ singing voice. In addition to this, he was sure that he knew what a chanson was.
The music was originally recorded by Robert Poluektovich in a home studio, while the songs were sung by Lev Moguchy in a ‘nasty voice’. The lyrics for the album were written both jointly and individually by Lev Moguchy and Savely Glyba. It didn’t take long to find some musicians. The keyboard player and guitarist Robert Poluektovich was playing with Juan Marina de Erba and working with him on other projects. Juan Marina de Erba had graduated from the Institute of Arts in guitar studies with the domra (a Russian stringed instrument similar to a mandolin, but which is not a balalaika) as his second instrument. Despite his fanciful-sounding name, he never tried to hide the fact that he was playing in an ensemble in which Russian folk instruments were being used. In due course Aleksandr Mudryak sat next to him in the ensemble, playing the bayan (which is not an accordion). Juan, besides approaching Gruppa Lits in order to play in the ensemble, also brought a fellow musician along with him who played Russian folk instruments.
Everyone decided that the drummer should certainly be a heavy metallist, for the sake of expression. Savely Glyba was in essence a heavy metallist, playing heavy metal on his bass guitar in his spare time. (What else can you play on a bass guitar?) He extracted Aleksandr Zheleznyak from the underworld of heavy metal, who then started to brag to everyone about how he played ‘the classics’. (What else can you play on drums?)
The band was surprisingly harmonious, as it turned out. Usually after dragging their friends off to a rehearsal and simultaneously keeping them close at hand, they would ask ingratiatingly, ‘Are we going to play chanson, then? Chanson?’ ‘Yes, indeed,’ their friends would reply. Almost all the members of the band had a go at singing, but for some reason no ‘chanson’ came out of it, damn it. At this point Andrey Mesyatsev appeared out of the blue like a paratrooper dropped from an aircraft. Andrey had never sung ‘chanson’ either, but did have potential as a vocalist, was artistic and hardworking … and women liked him.
In January of 2003, the ensemble Gruppa Lits got down to recording 11 tracks in a studio for their first album Tatuirovka iz Bangkoka. After two months of studio work, the material was sent off to Germany to be remastered. While these studio recordings were being made, the promotional video for the song Tatuirovka iz Bangkoka was filmed by the director Vadim Koshkin in Yury Kuklachov’s Cat Theatre. The video was made with the assistance of the Balaganchik Theatre. The album Tatuirovka iz Bangkoka was released in September of 2003.
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