While Brainstorm only really started getting any sort of attention in 2000 when they took home third place at Eurovision with My Star, the pop-rock group has been on the Latvian music scene since 1989, when four former classmates decided to put a band together. Working predominantly in the Baltics until almost a decade later, when they recorded their first international single Under My Wing in Germany, the group slowly started receiving the fame they craved, winning grand prize at the Karlshamn Music Festival in Sweden not long after.
Since then, it’s been a bittersweet existence: opening for the Rolling Stones in Prague in 2003 and losing one of their founding members a year later in a car crash. Despite this, the band has continued to work, collaborating with Russian groups and American producers, creating works in English and evolving into a noteworthy band on the brink of Eastern and Western Europe. On the eve of their concert here in Kyiv, we get them in for a shot of Riga Black Balsam and talk music.
You formed in 1992, what was the impetus behind putting together a pop/rock band in Jelgava at this time?
Renars Kaupers (lead singer): Brainstorm began when I met Magic (Janis Jubalts – guitarist) on a corner in Jelgava when we were just 13/14-years-old. He was playing in a band called Eraser then, and I told him I would be interested in doing something together. The inspiration to seriously pursue music came when Magic gave me his walkman to listen to this cool, new band, Depeche Mode.
Your English-language music started with the remake of Under My Wing, originally produced in Latvian – was it a collective decision to start singing in English?
Renars Kaupers: Latvia is a small country, and you may well play only five concerts a year. But what’s next? We made the decision to sing in English to try to work in other countries. Then, when we had offers to work in Russia, we decided to sing in Russian.
You opened for the Rolling Stones in Prague in 2003 – what was that like?
Janis Jubalts (guitarist): This was the largest audience – about 80,000 people – we have ever played for. It was an incredible experience, working with such a large audience, and I think it helped us to work at the stadium level at home. After the concert, we congratulated Mick Jagger on his birthday with a saxophone. This summer, we crossed paths again at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK. After our performance, we went over to the main stage where we saw how little the guys had changed. It was an incredible reUNI0N.
As you continued to produce more music, your popularity grew organically – what’s your opinion on reality talent shows?
Kaspars Roga (drummer): Musicians can become stars overnight these days with use of TV, Internet and Youtube. The path may be shorter but it is no simpler, and it still takes a lot of hard work. We were born in another time. And frankly, our way suits us – to go slowly, but surely. Going through things together before you are recognised makes for a sturdier foundation.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Kaspars Roga: Well of course the first key moment for us was taking third place at Eurovision. We did not go to bed that evening, and when we left the hotel the next day we couldn’t help thinking we’d “woke up famous”. Just walking along the streets, almost everyone wanted to take pictures with us.
You received Best Baltic Act at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards, what award have you set your sights on next?
Maris Mihelsons: Each prize is pleasant and nice to see on the shelves in our office. But the days of chasing wins are long gone. You begin to see meaning in other things, and you have other motivations for growth and development...
Is music where you see yourselves 10 years from now?
Kaspars Roga: We live for today. We watch the new and unusual trends in music and we like what’s going on. It’s become fun and easy to record music. Of course, there are many artists and bands today and only time will tell what will become of our group 10 years from now. Though, for us, a good example is The Rolling Stones...
Why the name Brainstorm?
Renars Kaupers: We actually had two names before Brainstorm. Then, Kaspars’ aunt came to one of our first gigs and said it was such great music, exactly like a kind of “brainstorm”, and we thought that this is exactly what we need. Over time, because of several international groups with such a name we switched to the Latvian version – Prata Vetra, but in Russia and Ukraine, we are still Brainstorm!
Brainstorm (LV, pop-rock)
New Stereo Plaza (Krasnozvezdniy Pr 119)
15 November at 20.00
Tickets: 380 –1,000hrv
by Lana Nicole