In the spotlight

In the spotlight: Tsau

todayMarch 12, 2021 153 1

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Tsau are a three-piece band from Russia. Band members Sergey, Andrey and Umid were all born in different parts of the USSR, which later became different countries – Russia and Uzbekistan. Eventually, they all moved to Moscow to start working for the same company and they met at the office. During one of the coffee breaks and small talks, Sergey and Andrey discovered that they had a similar taste in music and that they both played guitar. Andrey was looking to purchase a new guitar at that time, so they went to a guitar shop together and jammed a little while choosing a guitar. That’s when they decided to play some cover songs just for fun and started looking for a drummer.

“Andrey and Umid were at the same corporate dinner and realised that Umid was a drummer back in his hometown and we decided to play something after work. The three of us booked a rehearsal studio to play the first song that came to mind – Lithium by Nirvana. We played it awfully, but it was fun. For a year or so we only played different cover songs, but then it appeared that Sergey and Andrey had some ideas for own tunes recorded on their phones and some guitar pro tabs, so we decided to start doing our own music.”

You are currently living in Moscow. What can you tell us about the music scene in Moscow?

“The biggest now is Russian hip-hop that gets most plays and biggest gigs. The rock scene is much smaller but still there are several festivals with mainly rock focus like Motherland, Боль (Bol), Park Live and Пикник Афиши (Piknik Afishi) and it feels like it’s getting bigger every year. And most of mainstream rock bands like Metallica and Muse include Moscow on their tours too.”

“Moscow is a very big city, so any genre you can imagine you’ll probably will be able to go and find a gig, at least it was that way before pandemic. There are also few Moscow venues constantly supporting mostly independent bands like Успех (Uspekh), Powerhouse and others.”

I can imagine you weren’t always able to listen to foreign music.

“As we grew up in the late 90s and 00s when the country opened for all foreign music, all the music flooded the Russian market in a short time and it was all fresh and new for us. And also what was different from other countries, I guess, we didn’t know the meaning of the most of the lyrics, vocals were more like another instrument for us. So music itself was more important than any cultural background or the meaning behind it.”

Have you always been interested in music? Was there a particular song or performance that made you say “I want to do that!”?

Sergey: “My dad is a big fan of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. I basically grew up on these bands along with other hard rock of 60s and 70s. When I was 5 years old my dad taught me to play guitar. I started with some kids songs but then lost interest. I returned to guitar when I was in high school. When I became older I was influenced much by nu metal wave (Korn, Limp Bizkit, P.O.D etc.) and Radiohead.”

“When I studied at the University I learned to play bass and drums, and played in some crappy local bands. Then I quit playing in bands and just recorded some stuff of my own but never finished any of those songs. What made me say “I want to do that!” is probably Radiohead’s album ‘In Rainbows‘.”

Andrey: “I have an older brother and was listening to Depeche Mode, Chris Isaak and some Russian rock bands like Kino, so it probably influenced me somewhat. Later it was also nu metal stuff which opened the way to all other hard music and to more complicated music like Radiohead. So music was always big part of my life and I wanted to listen and play it, but I guess it seemed too hard to make it myself so I didn’t think about it seriously until I met Sergey and we started sending short demos to each other.”

Umid: “The most impressive to me was ‘Chaos AD‘ by Sepultura and the way metal drums are mixed with tribal rhythm, which was further extended in their ‘Roots‘ album. That was the moment I told myself, I want to play drums.”

How did you get your band name?

“Sergey and Andrey rent an apartment in the city centre. In Moscow there is a so called Central Administrative District for which there is an acronym in Russian – TSAO. For many Russians who don’t live in Moscow, the whole Moscow central district is like New York’s Manhattan – they think the rent is over expensive, there’s always crowds of people, traffic, lack of grocery stores etc. (which is in fact far from truth), so living here is sort of a show off. “Only hipsters live in TSAO”, they say. So we ironically started calling our apartment TSAO. Since this apartment is our “basement” where our music is made we decided name our band after it. The name TSAO was already taken by some Italian band, so we called our band TSAU just for fun.”

What bands have inspired your sound?

Sergey: “I would name such bands as Small Leaks Sink Ships, Colour Revolt, Psychea, that’s what inspired me most recently. Andrey and I are audiophiles, we always search for new music of absolutely different genres, so sometimes it is metal, sometimes hip hop, whatsoever.”

Andrey: “We have a few playlists on Spotify that are mostly made out of the songs that inspired us, so you can listen to all of them. We update them from time to time when we’ve found something interesting to us.”

What is your creative process like?

Sergey: “About the creative process in general for me, I just feel the urge that I need to create something. How we write songs – we have some pieces, ideas that are recorded on an iPhone recorder mostly on unplugged guitars. We choose one, record the main theme and then improvise on different instruments until it fits. This improvisation usually leads to creating new parts of the song, sometimes the mood of the song can change dramatically during these sessions.” 

“Listening to our songs is a constant battle between love and hate. Sometimes you are proud, sometimes it feels like it’s totally mediocre.”

Andrey: “The process of creating the first demo from scratch is the most pleasant part of the process and after that there is a lot of work to make it listenable to others which takes a lot more time.”

What topics inspire you to write songs?

Sergey: “It is not really topics, but emotional states. I would say that we do not write “songs” where melody and lyrics come first. We write music primarily, but it results in a form that require lyrics for the piece to feel completed. Lyrics are always the last part of the song for us. It’s a real struggle for us to write lyrics.”

“For the song ‘What is Wrong (WIW)’ the phrase “What is wrong with me” from Nirvana’s ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter‘ came to mind when we tried to write something. Then we gave this phrase to our friend who is a writer and asked him to write something based on this.”

Your song ‘Believe’ is currently in our chart. What can you tell us about the song?

“The verses of Believe were improvised while recording. It was some emotion of opposing everyday vanity to the possibility of enjoying the moment that Sergey tried to catch while singing. The chorus was written by Andrey which is about some forces of the society and universe in general that people do not realise due to their complexity, and we like to think that we have the will and we control our lives which is only partially true.”

Your music video to ‘Believe’ features footage filmed Ilia Bondarev. For the people that haven’t heard of him, can you tell us who he is?

“He has started to travel around the world without money and any non-Russian language knowledge about 5 years ago. At some point he filmed his travels across the USA on freight trains on go-pro camera and the resulting video with 3.5 millions of views made his YouTube channel very popular. After that he crossed South America on bike, Mexico on train and made videos about several other places. We felt that this vibe of ultimate and unlimited freedom of Ilia’s stories matches perfectly with Believe song, so we’ve sent him the song and he allowed us to use his footage to make a video for it. It’s made of more than 10 different trips, but we tried to make it separate story that compiles all these pieces together.”

What’s next? What are your ambitions as a band?

Sergey: “We have almost recorded our next 3 songs EP. We stuck with lyrics for one of the songs and vocals recording on another. For me personally these next 3 songs are our best so far, hopefully we will release them this year. We are not aimed to a lot of live performances, but it is necessary to keep the band alive, so we want to play some gigs this year as well.” 

How do you feel about the internet in the music industry?

Andrey: “It’s probably the best time to make your music available for listeners. You don’t have to deal with any business people to release your music anymore, so that’s the bright side of it. But it means that you have to do a lot more non-musical stuff yourself to reach people who’d like your music.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20?

Sergey: “I liked the bluesy ‘Hangman‘ by Van Tastik, ‘Exhale, Sigher‘ by SENECA – very nice guitars, sort of reminded of At the Drive In. ‘Overman‘ by Wett also nice – kind of mixture of Marilyn Manson and Muse.”

Andrey: “I’d add ‘Closure‘ by Lyon Tyde.” 

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“‘Broken Church Bells‘ by Small Leaks Sink Ships. It’s one of those songs that slowly builds up, but after few listens you’re loving it and this lasts for years. And it’s also very interesting and unusual from production an sound design perspective.”

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