Musical groups from more than 50 countries played at the 2015 South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas last month, including two groups from Russia, Mumiy Troll and Pompeya, that represented two different approaches to attracting an American pop music fan base. Both are looking beyond Russia for commercial success.
The group Mumiy Troll hails from the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok, and its musical influences come from rock, electronic dance music, and Japanese punk.
Growing up in the port city, lead singer Ilya Lagutenko said he spent a lot of time tuning in music from nearby Japan and even U.S. military stations.
“Whatever you heard influenced you immediately because it was not what you heard on the local radio,” he said.
He writes the songs he sings, but he said that whether singing in English or Russian, what really matters is how the music connects with people.
“Show me one person who would understand lyrics from day one when you hear it on stage. Sometimes you feel the energy, that is why you like it, so we are trying to combine both,” said Lagutenko.
The group Pompeya has a completely different sound, influenced heavily by western pop music from 30 years ago, according to lead singer Daniil Brod.
“It is new wave with a little bit of funk and disco,” said Brod.
Pompeya is from Moscow, but, in the past few years, they have spent a lot of time traveling outside of Russia, especially in the United States.
They rented an apartment for their stay in Austin so that they could feel more at home.
“We really enjoy the traveling; we travel and we introduce our music to the people,” said Brod.
Keyboard player Sasha Lipskiy said Russians sometimes show up for their shows in cities like New York, but the audience is still 90 percent Americans or people from other ethnic groups.
“That is really good because we intend to be an international band, not a band for Russian immigrants,” he said.
Through concerts and online videos, Pompeya has attracted fans in this country as well as other parts of the world. Daniil Brod says the group has many teenage fans in Russia, but in the U.S. it tends to be people in their forties who listened to this style of music when they were young.
“Those people are older than we and they say, ‘Wow, you are playing the music from my teenage years,’” said Brod.
Pompeya’s latest album, called Real, will be released next month.