Messed Up attracted my attention in winter 2018 for the first time. It was on the internet and after a concert of Moscow Death Brigade in Hamburg with their support band Mr. X. The latter released a statement by Messed Up screamer Nastya around that time. This statement was about and against annoying attempts of other people with too many gender clichés in their brains, trying to define others. The text impressed me.
Two years ago, band members of Messed Up from Grodno, Belarus, most weren’t twenty years old, and their sound was massive. Second plus point. Reasons for an interview were obvious, and so it came. I could hardly have wished for any other interview partners than Nastya (vocals), Masha (bass/vocals) and Liza (guitar/vocals) to be the first in this zine.
About the current situation in Belarus, we also added a more few questions and answers. Recently a band member and many other activists were arrested there. Support the band, support their concerns, if you like. At the end you will find some ideas how this could look like!
Hi Messed Up! I came across you through Nastyas statement on women’s self-determination. Nastya, what caused you to write it? Was it a longer time of experiences with paternalism, a certain situation or something else?
NASTYA: The issues of womanhood, the image of a woman and her role in the society, people’s relationship have all been my top concern for a long time. There was a time when I had to deal with a lot of problems with parents, college teachers and just friends with all dictating me what to do. I read a lot about feminism and women fighting with the stereotypical thinking and wanted to be independent from other’s opinion, do and behave myself the way I really liked, not the easy way, which was convenient for those people who are close to me. I could not remain silent and wrote a post about it.
What kind of reactions did you get for the statement, rather agreement or rejection and how did you feel after it?
NASTYA: Well, my parents were shocked and said it was a shame I was promoting those things, that with such an attitude I will not be able to find a good husband and get married, that I was insane and needed to see a doctor. The comments field under the post started to seem more and more like a warzone, some people were writing that it’s all temporarily and I was just an upstart with no relevant thoughts, that with my childish outburst I was making too much noise about nothing. At the same time, many people supported me and were inspired by my post. They were encouraging me and thanking for it. I started to feel much better after I could speak out.
LIZZIE: The reaction to Nastya’s post was surely controversial. It clearly defined the generation gap, where parents and teachers got angry, while friends, peers and the crew supported her!
Your statement has been shared by street punk band Mister X who I saw at a concert with Moscow Death Brigade. I really love how they spoke up against misogynist assholes who e.g. grumble about their (then) drummer Katya. At the concert I joined, the singer said something on stage such as: “Some idiots tell shit about our female drummer, that she is weak and stuff like that. The drummer before her only stayed for three months and then he just quit because it was too hard for him, he couldn’t keep up with us. Katya is much stronger and better than him… that’s our answer to that”.) Mister X also live in Grodno and you seem to support each other, right? Is there an active punk scene in Grodno or aren’t there many more then you both?
LIZZIE: Once, there used to be perhaps the most active punk-scene within the whole country out there in Grodno. However, eventually, some people left, some got married and got “too old” to stay in punk-rock scene. There are currently many bands in Grodno, however less than a dozen of them are touring. Mister X and Messed Up are one of the most active bands playing often abroad, both in Russia and EU. If we skip the music topic, then there are many left activists that are trying to promote the good themes. It would be fair to say, that Grodno still remains a kind of a role model for the rest of the country.
Is there a feminist (punk) scene in Grodno and if so, what are their main issues at the moment?
MASHA: There is no such a scene here at the moment!
LIZZIE: I wouldn’t go that far. There is a feminist scene in Grodno and we all are its founders.
You describe your sound as 100% grlzzz punk – who are your music icons in that genre and beyond?
NASTYA: Maid of Ace was the first female band that inspired me, but I can’t call them my idols.
MASHA: We don’t have any idols as such, but there are many cool female bands like L7, Made of Ace and many others.
LIZZIE: For me it all started with Anti-Flag. They first inspired me both musically and lyrically. However, right now I tend to listen and get to know more about european underground, especially German and Polish scene. It was really great experience to play gigs with Kenny Kenny Oh Oh from Germany, because they are very cool. Also, such projects as SIKSA or ZDRADA PALKI from Poland are superb! Even though they are not completely punk-rock as we all used to, however they have the right message about the rights and role of woman in a modern world.
What are your main topics and could you select one or two songs you find important and translate some lines for us as an example?
NASTYA: Our songs are about the freedom of choice, the fight for your believes, they are about the right to be/remain yourself in a modern world. All our songs are equally important for me.
MASHA: I like most of all the song called “Who gave you right to!” with a very relevant chorus for all of us and me in particular. It goes like this: “Who gave you the right to judge me ‘cause I don’t want to be like you? Why do you think I will be acting like you and need such a life?”
My favorite song is “I won’t” with lines like this:
I am sick of all this stuff:
Sidelong glances, mockeries – I can`t escape them
Who needs your false truth?
I am sure that I don`t want to know.
You think that I am sick
And you try to change me
I notice your deceit
Because I am stronger – you can`t buy me
You seem quite young to me, if I may say so as a person who has “passed the 30”. I guess I read about one of you celebrating her 18th birthday not a long time ago. If you like to tell us, how old are you actually and when and how did you start to make music each one of you and then together as a band? (following info on ages is from 2018, so do the math, since we’re two years later, readers)
NASTYA: Since childhood my mom taught me to sing along to accordion, later I attended musical school (class of piano) and college of arts, where studied singing at the variety-jazz department. Now I am 18 y.o. and I am singing in Messed Up since 15 y.o. There was a time when I was refused to enter the club we were playing in, because I was underage.
MASHA: I’m 19 y.o. I have been playing music since I was 6, when my parents sent me to a music school to learn how to play the violin, which doesn’t seem to be a very punk-rock instrument))). So I change it to a classical guitar, after finishing music school I went to college of art where I played the bass-guitar. I joined Messed Up three years ago. Lizzie found me via our common friends and I brought Nastya since we were college classmates. And somehow it all went on…
LIZZIE: I am 20 y.o. We did not meet by accident since every one of us showed some interest in music. I played the guitar and Katya (our first drummer) was learning her drumming at Mister X’s rehearsal room. It was the time, when we made friends and started making music together. Our aim was to make up exactly an all-girl band. We found bass and guitar players and that was the beginning of our band. Right now, there is full mutual understanding between us (also about the fact that Katya moved on to Minsk then – our capital city) and I do hope that it will be always like that. It is really cool to feel this support and to know that you are not alone, together with people of the same mindset!
You already came around a lot and played gigs in Tallinn, Riga, Lodz, Dresden… What was/were your most special gig(s) so far and why?
NASTYA: I believe the most important gig for us happened at the Feminist festival in Berlin last summer. The crowd was awesome there and one could feel that these people care about what we are doing.We met a lot of interesting people and even though we couldn’t talk with all of them properly, discovered many new things and made conclusions.
MASHA: All of the gigs were surely important, but perhaps Feminist festival in Berlin was one of the brightest memories. It a shame one can hardly imagine anything similar here…
LIZZIE: It is Feminist festival in Berlin after which our ideas were finally formed as well as the means by which we wanted to promote them. Also, every single gig with a clear message (e.g. against fascism, homophobia or a feminist one) is important for us.
What was the worst? You do not need to drop a name here (of course you can), I am rather interested in what disturbed you.
NASTYA: There were no bad gigs there. Anyway, at the European gigs I did not see any lowlife people shouting out homophobic slogans and humiliating women unlike Belarus… There is a different number of people coming to see us in different cities and we are equally playing everywhere, giving all our energy.
MASHA: As far as I am concerned, there were two gigs I feel ashamed of. Alcohol makes people do bad things)))
LIZZIE: I personally felt sad to see only five (5!!!) people at one of our gigs…
What would be your dream gig/festival to play and with which band(s)?
MASHA: It would be cool to share the stage with Anti-Flag or Maid of Ace!
LIZZIE: I totally agree with Masha! It would be really great to play with Anti-Flag, since I was dying to, but couldn’t see them live in Europe.
You have recorded a full album („Everything You Believe In“) after your first EP with three songs. How did you develop your content and music since your first release “100% grlzzz punk” four years ago?
NASTYA: Slowly, but gradually we are trying to get more heavier sound and the music gets more diverse, harder, more hardcore. The lyrics are getting more emotional and we uncover brand-new issues in them.
LIZZIE: Yep, we got faster, angrier or maybe just older as I should better put it? Musically, as a band, we got definitely better!
You recently deal with repression by the Lukashenko regime in Belarus. This not only affected your bassist, who was arrested. How do you look back on the last weeks and months, but perhaps also years in some respects?
Life in a totalitarian regime has never been easy. There were often raids of activists ‚ apartments, disruptions of workshops, and illegal detentions of people. At least looking back on a year ago, this time seems relatively calm now. Nowadays photos of special services in gang clothing walking around the city with batons and real weapons are often the norm. It is also usual news about kidnapping people by riot police and put them in prison for 15 days or more. Every day we wake up with the news that someone has been detained, convicted, or even killed. Among the prisoners often included the names of our comrades. To look at it and not feel anything is simply a criminal thing. These extended months, indeed, were and continue to be very difficult.
What is happening in Belarus now is unique. The protest against Lukashenko has never been so strong. Although it should be added that this protest is not against a particular person, but rather against violence and the regime as a whole. People were associate themselves even before the protests. Rather, it started with the coronavirus pandemic, when Lukashenko refused to impose a quarantine, and then Belarusians realized that the fate of our lives is in our hands. Nobody would have thought six months ago that there would be such a huge empathy and mutual assistance among us.
What do you stand for in the current struggles in Belarus against the regime of Lukashenko, what is to be achieved?
Throughout the protest, there are three main demands:
1. the retirement of Lukashenko
2.new fair and transparent elections
3. the release of all political prisoners.
Sometimes you can meet additional demands from various other organizations, factories such as stopping violence, the trial of special services and disbanding them, and others. Unfortunately, all our requirements are completely ignored. Moreover, every week Lukashenko tightens measures, makes threats from TV, promises to close striking enterprises, or to identify and punish every protester. We find this as cheap intimidation of people, which means that the regime has really weakened.
Alarmsignal have supported Anarchist Black Cross Belarus and I hope this interview also brings solidarity and attention. How you can be supported as a band and activists?
We are grateful Alarmsignal. It helps a lot to see their support, as well as the support of our friends and all concerned people. Common solidarity helps us not to give up and feel that we are not alone. This is especially important for such a small country as Belarus. You can support our band by listening to our songs and buying an album. It is also always very nice to receive support letters from strangers and read that they feel themselves with us.
Also, you can help us as activists with your solidarity, the distribution of information, as well as donations that will go to the repressed and political prisoners of Belarus. Pickets and any statements about Belarus in your city will help attract the attention of big politicians and maybe this will help in introducing additional sanctions against those faces responsible for the terror of the Belarusian people.
Thank you for the interview. We also hope that this will help to highlight events in our country more.
Did I forget to ask for something that is currently or still a huge topic or project for you?
LIZZIE: As far as the Messed Up band is concerned, we are trying to promote the right themes both at our gigs and in everyday life, showing everybody by our example, that the role of modern women in the society should not only come down to the standard set of “kitchen-bed-shut your mouth”. Unfortunately, the problems of gender equality are still relevant in our post-Soviet society and we even often see people with xenophobic mindset at punk-gigs. That all means we have a big job to be done here and since we are all young (yeah, for some people our young ages is also big problem!), this is good groundwork for the future. We are not going to give up or dissuade from our believes only because we are all females! Hell NO! We’ll see who gets the last laugh! GRLZZZ POWER!
Kadda, Oktober 2020