jinjer wallflowers interview
[Photo by: Alina Chernohor]

It takes a lot more than a pandemic to bring down Ukrainian upstarts Jinjer, who refused to take a break from their dreams and subsequently conjured what the band believe to be their heaviest output so far. Their fourth effort, Wallflowers, is the expression of their inclinations turning inward. By abandoning their often objective environmental lyrics, they shine a spotlight on personal struggles, highlighting mental conflicts that the pandemic has amplified. 

“For me, it’s therapy,” vocalist Tatiana Shmayluk explains. “You need to spit it out and into someone’s ears. Everyone experiences some form of sadness or depression, and hearing these songs may help someone mentally. If you share what you have inside and people can relate to it, knowing you’re not alone is very necessary for people to hear in their moment of need.”

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Contrary to its intentionally mysterious album title, the shift in subject matter has brought about a more intense instrumental approach. The album turns to the talents of bassist Eugene Abdukhanov and guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov for a far heavier sound than ever before—think “Pisces” but on an epic scale. The metal world’s first insight into Jinjer’s new generation took the form of their single “Vortex,” blending lulling instrumentals with Shmayluk’s meandering melodic cleans before a sudden breakdown ushers in their trademark brutality.

Instead of a complete evacuation from their sound, Jinjer have made significant improvements that develop their signature approaches rather than replace them altogether. In doing so, Jinjer continue their legacy of playing the music they love, casting aside financial concerns in an unforgiving music scene that often expects bands to leave their comfort zones with every album while simultaneously punishing them for doing just that.

“We’ve never cared about how well our music will sell,” Shmayluk admits. “The good thing about Jinjer is that we only care about the art and creating it using only what we have in our heads and not thinking about the financial aspects. I know that good music will sell itself no matter what if it’s really important. I have hopes about this album, but I really want people to understand it first.”

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Ahead of their headlining U.S. tour with Suicide Silence and All Hail The Yeti, we spoke to screamer-in-chief Shmayluk on how the band’s experiences brought their new effort together in the shadow of global chaos, the challenges of putting personal emotions on track and the advantages of living in the moment.

How has the last year been for you and Jinjer? How did you all find the process of songwriting and recording an album in the middle of a pandemic?

The proof that our songwriting was OK is that our new album is coming out [in August]. The whole of last year was fine even though we didn’t have many shows, and we had to end our last American tour in the spring, but all in all, the year was great. I spent six months in California, and I enjoyed it a lot. Then we managed to have a mini tour around Germany and Switzerland in September last year with socially distanced shows.

When we came back from the tour, we continued working on the new album, and it lasted until the beginning of May this year. It was tough without shows, but we also had a lot of work to do. What else could we do, sit on our asses and do nothing? We used that time properly, and the COVID pandemic gave us the gift of time. We’re all in the same city in Kyiv together, so we could meet up, and we had a great chance to rehearse and record together.

Where did the name Wallflowers come from? What does that title tell us about the music we can expect to hear?

From the beginning of the recording, I thought we were going to call this album “As I Boil Ice” after the song with the same title, but we already had the materials for our booklets and the cover artwork, and those two things didn’t match at all. When we recorded “Wallflower,” it had a very different name of “Introvert,” which I didn’t really like because it was very plain and straightforward. There was nothing mysterious about that title. At the last minute, there was a suggestion from a different person to call it Wallflowers instead because that’s a term for shy people, the outsiders, and it matched the cover art perfectly. 

What’s changed musically in the two years since Macro?

The sound is pretty brutal. It’s the heaviest we’ve ever recorded and mastered, but there are some vocal parts and lyrics that replace that heaviness. There’s a balance between the grinding bass sound and nice romantic melodies—it’s cool. We always like to mix the unmixable things because that’s who we are. Although we love all our songs and albums equally, this one is much braver because [our bassist] Eugene made it so heavy, and we’ve never done that before. Lyrically, it’s also a very sincere album. It doesn’t deal with any social or global topics. It doesn’t reflect environmental problems and war as we’ve done before. We’ve had a few songs about those topics before, but this is completely mentally oriented.

You’ve mentioned that there’s a fair amount of personal subject matter held within the lyrics of this album. Was it a challenge to take things inward and write about something close to home?

It was hard for me to write those personal lyrics because I have a tiny problem where it’s really hard for me to express my feelings, my thoughts and [my] emotions. I was a little bit concerned about whether I should even do this. There’s a line in the song “Pearls And Swine” [that goes], “Don’t open up to everyone, don’t bloom for every stranger.” That’s why I always hide my feelings because I know sometimes people can use it against you. I try to filter what I should and should not say. Sometimes I fail, but this time I say, “Hey, come on. I’m a musician. I’m an artist. I’m free and expressing myself, so I can do whatever I want unless it harms someone.”

“Vortex” was our first insight into your new incarnation. Does that have any bearing on the rest of the record?

Vortex” was the first song I started to write lyrics for, and it gave the album the whole general direction of where to go next. It’s a song about overthinking, diving deep into your thoughts and how hard it is to dive out again, to escape your own thoughts, and that’s what made me write other songs almost in the same direction. For example, there’s a song that’s a monologue to a god or a creator, and it’s a complaint addressed to them. Any person can use this song to complain. A lot of people seem so well skilled socially and physically, and everything just works so well in their lives, but I don’t know how to deal with the tiny little obstacles in my life. I don’t have tools, so I ask the creator, “What kind of mood were you in when you put me together?” 

What do you say to the section of your fans who wish your music would stay the same forever?

We grew, so you have to grow with us. Everything changes. We always say the day the band stops evolving and developing is the day the band dies, so this is our evolution. You can like it or dislike it. That’s your decision, but this is what we have, and this is what we bring to the table. You’re welcome to eat with us, or you can go home and cook your own dinner.

With the album release almost upon you, what’s next for Jinjer? How’s your next year shaping up?

We’ve already cooked up one music video for the song “Mediator,” and we’re shooting another music video at the beginning of August. Then it’s just concerts, our U.S. tour with Suicide Silence and then I have no idea. I don’t plan for tomorrow. I live just for today, and that’s what pisses many people off [because] they know I don’t plan. That’s the beauty of the moment and the future because you never know what’s going to happen, especially after this pandemic. I spit in the face of someone who knows what’s going to come next.