Roadrunner Records - Slipknot's hard-hitting, aggressive metal anthems are getting…
- Posted on Oct 3rd 2008 12:00PM by David Chiu
"It wasn't like the old folk or bard music my parents would listen to," Simone, who is also Russian, tells Spinner. "These guys were playing something that was rock or pop with acoustic guitars. I had no idea New York had this vibrant Russian rock scene."
One of those musicians later gave Simone a cassette tape containing the music of Yanka Dyagileva, an underground female punk singer from Siberia. Dyagileva's career lasted briefly before she drowned in 1991 at the age 24 -- she is now regarded as influential Russian rock artist. Simone then became hooked on Dyagileva's music.
"That was the first time I've heard of her," she recalls. "I went back to Brighton Beach, bought her CDs, and I just started listening to them." She went on to record an interpretative album of Dyagileva's songs called 'Everyone Is Crying Out to Me, Beware,' which was released last August.
On her album, Simone sung the songs entirely in Russian. "This is really poetry," she says, "and so when you translate it into English it sounds like word salad. It just doesn't have the same feeling [and] doesn't convey the same images as it does in Russian."
There's a forlorn quality to this music complemented by Simone's expressive vocals -- the album's bleak tone mirrored Dyagileva's own life. "She was born into a poor family," explains Simone. "They lived in very, very modest conditions, to say the least, in Siberia. She died literally months before the Soviet Union collapsed. It was just a time where things were very unstable and uncertain."
The singer visited Novosibirsk, Dyagileva's Siberian hometown. "I went to her grave," she says. "I went to the house where she was born and the dorm where she performed. I really tried to learn more about her life and where she lived."
Simone was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, and left Russia for the United States with her parents when she was one. Growing up in Lexington and Cambridge, Massachusetts, she was into Western pop and later alternative music -- one of her influences was Sinead O'Connor. "I would say she taught me to sing," she says, "because I was so determined to sing her songs note for note."
Although she wanted to become a singer since she was five, Simone never sung in public because of her stage fright. She later overcame that fear while living in Texas after graduation from college. "It was an awning of a bar [on Austin's Sixth Street]," she remembers, "and it was boarded up. So I tucked myself in the doorway and I would just sing the songs. To me, that was the only way that I could get started."
Simone, who is now based in New York, released her debut EP 'Prettier in the Dark' in 2005, followed by the full-length album 'Placelessness' (2007). She has also recorded her next album, of which she describes as somewhat happier-sounding. Having already toured Europe, the States and her native Russia, Simone is scheduled to perform at a Barack Obama campaign benefit along with Andrew Bird, Guster and Fiery Furnaces on Oct. 7 at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg.
As for 'Everyone Is Crying Out to Me, Beware,' Simone's wish is that it will give greater exposure for Dyagileva's music and Russian rock music. "I hope that a lot of people go listen to her original music," she says, "and fall in love with it because I think it's really amazing."