Twenty years

OKEAN ELZY

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In 1994 physics student Svyatosav Vakarchuk joined drummer Denis Glinin, guitarist Pavel Gudimov and bass-guitarist Yury Hustochka as a member of the band.

12th of October 1994 is considered to be the band’s founding date. It also happens to be Pasha Gudimov’s birthday.

Guys came up with the name “Okean Elzy” in one of the Lviv’s cafes. Slava Vakarchuk suggested the word - “ocean”. At that time he was hooked on The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteaus TV-show and was astonished by how ocean was depicted in the show - beautiful and full of mystique. And most importantly he was in awe with the complicated obscurity of the “great blue”: on the one hand, everything is in strict order, on the other - full of irrationality. This was what music was for Svyatoslav.

The first part of the name was quickly approved. The band needed another word in addition to “ocean” so it would sound harmoniously along with it. They chose the name “Elza”, for rather simple reasons: the name sounded good, and it would do so in any language.

On January 14th 1995 the band performed at a variety concert in front of opera theatre in Lviv, where 7 thousand people attended. A year later “OE” had their first overseas show in a German city Gernsbach. The next landmark performance was a big solo show in Lviv – “Dva z polovynoyu” (the name was indicating band’s age). More than a thousand viewers enjoyed the show.

In December 1994 at “Galvoks” studio the band recorded it’s first demo-cassette, which contained four songs. In 1996 a maxi-single “Budynok zi Skla” came out, which spread amongst the fans. A song called “Ty ne pytai” was later released again under another name – “Africa” in the “Yanannebibuv” album (2000).

1998 was a turning point for “OE”. In April the band moved to Kyiv and signed a contract with “Nova Records” label. Under the new contract the band released their new album “Tam de nas nema” in September. On the following year the album was reissued in Russia.

“Yananebibuv”, band’s second album came out in fall, 2000 on two labels at the same time – Ukrainian Nova Records and Russian Real Records.

Heavy rotation on “Nashe Radio” skyrocketed band’s popularity in Russia. “Kavachai” became part of the soundtrack for “Brat 2”, a film by iconic director Alexei Balabanov.

In March keyboardist Dmitry Shurov joined rehearsals as a session musician, and on April 1st he came up on stage in Odessa. A year later he officially became a band member – thus, “OE” quartet became a quintet.

Three music videos promoting the new material went on to become big hits on Russian and Ukrainian music channels: “Sosny” (director Semen Gorov), “Vidpusty” (Andrey Nekrasov) and “Toy Den”.

In 2000 “OE” were actively touring. One of the corner stones of the tour was the band’s gig in UK. Their show in London’s “Astoria” was filmed live and later on became the material for the “Toy Den” video.

The other big gig that year was the band’s performance at “Maxidrom” festival in Moscow. That show became the first time Zemfira joined Svyatoslav Vakarchuk on stage, where they performed “Toy Den” together.

In February – March the band was recording their third album at a Kiev studio with an appropriate name: “City capital. Sound Recording” (“Stolytsya. Zvukozapys”). This record was the final tryout stage for Dima Shurov. He was officially accepted into the band on the day of the “Model” album release.

“Model” came out in spring 2001 and received enthusiastic reaction from both fans and music critics.

In March – April a video for one of the main tracks on the album – “911” was shot at a legendary stage of Aleksandr Dovzhenko film studio in Kyiv. Directors Igor and Aleksandr Stekolenko “tortured” the group members soaking them to the bone in the autumn weather. The video, in which a car explodes and water flowing inside the vehicle, was filmed at 5 degrees temperature, and according to the story the band had to be shot in a cold non-heated car, wearing nothing but shirts.

After the release of the video a new great project was announced - concert tour “Vymagai bilshogo”. It took place with support of a world famous brand “Pepsi” with “OE” becoming the face of the brand.

Tour started on 30th of May and continued with sold out concerts on big stages in largest Ukrainian cities. Final show took place at capital’s Sports Palace. Stekolenko brother’s used recorded material from the tour with live sound to make a video for “Ya do tebe”.

In August “OE” played an acoustic show within frameworks of “Tviy Format” TV project on M1 channel. Recording of this performance came out as a separate release, which became the first record in band’s discography in “unplugged” format.

In the beginning of October, again in cooperation with Stekolenko Brothers, another video was shot. The shoot for the song “Kvitka” took place in a hallway of a usual house in a historical centre of Kyiv, on Honchara Street.

In January - February 2002 the band produced another video
from “Model “ album - a lyrical song “Drug” directed by Louis Franck. The video was shot in Barcelona, and up to it’s presentation on the Kyiv’s Independence Square, Louis was the only one who has seen the edit. The band saw the result
together with the public on the big screen of the main city square.

On 7th of April at a National Palace of Arts “OE” played a show in an unusual company – musicians from “Renaissance” symphonic orchestra joined the rock band on stage.

For this project the band’s music was adapted to the capabilities of a full-fledged academic ensemble, and the parties of traditional rock instruments were rewritten in accordance with the strict requirements of orchestral scores.

Work on this studio album began in 2001.

In June Slava Vakarchuk wrote “Kholondo”. The song turned out to be a real juggernaut, with the whole band working hard to make it work. It started as a fast-paced track, and went on to be rewritten numerous times. At a certain point there were four versions of the song. “There are songs that need to be played a certain way, and it takes a long time to find it. This was the case with “Kholodno”. It is a very peculiar and unusual track.”, said Yury Hustochka.

In 2002 “Kholodno” came out as an individual single, quickly becoming one of the highlights in the history in Ukrainian rock music. Director Victor Priduvalov was the one to shoot the legendary music video for the track in Lviv, on a rooftop of one of the houses next to a central square Rynok.

The work on the fourth studio album “Supersymetriya” ended in early 2003. It came out in March and in half a year it became the first Ukrainian record that officially became platinum twice – more than 200 thousand CD copies were sold.

The name for the album came from physics. Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s diploma work included research on the supersymmetry law, according to which two types of elementary particles are interrelated with one another. Moreover, in English this law is denoted with abbreviation SuSy (from “Supersymmetry”) – which is also a name of one of the key songs on the album.

On 3rd of April at capital city’s biggest venues - Sports Palace the band started their tour in support of the album, which span across 38 cities and became the biggest rock-band tour in Ukraine at that time. Later on, based on video records of shows, a video for “Maizhe vesna” track was edited, again using live performance sound.

Videos for two other songs from “Supersymetriya” were shot by Victor Priduvalov (Kishka) and Aleksandr Kirienko (“Dlya tebe”). Second track became a part of the official soundtrack for Ukrainian TV series ‘”Zavtra budet zavtra”, with scenes from the show incorporated in the music video.

In October, “OE” performed as headliner at “Prosto rock” festival and on 16th of December another solo tour started - this time the band played acoustic concerts. The tour was appropriately named “Tikhyi okean” (“Silent Ocean”).

On June 2004 two members left the band – Yury Hustochka and Dmitry Shurov decided to start a new music project with Louis Franck. During this period “Dyakuyu” (“Thank you”) song was born, which came out as an individual single. It was the last “OE” record with Yury and Dmitry. On 16th of July “OE” performed at Donetsk, it was a farewell show of the first lineup of the band.

Pretty soon an ex-member of jazz-band Shid-Side, bass player Denis Dudko and talented Serbian keyboardist, Milos Jelic joined the band.

In November large-scale protests started in Ukraine. The protests became known as the “Orange revolution”. Understanding the importance of historical moment, members of the band rescheduled planned tour around Russian cities and stayed in Kyiv.

In the beginning of 2005 another member of the original lineup left the band – guitarist Pavel Gudimov.

On 12th of April a new band member was introduced - guitarist Petr Chernyavsky, his stage debut in a new role took place at “Tavriyski Igry” festival on 3-rd of May.

On 22nd of May Victor Priduvalov shot a new music video for the song “Bez Boyu”, which became the first single of a new album “Gloriya”. Victor also directed “Vyshe neba” in the summer of the same year.

Presentation of the new studio album took place on 22nd of September in Kyiv National Museum of Arts of Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko.

According to the record label Lavina Music , on which “Gloria” came out , the album became platinum in record time - during first 6 hours 106 thousand copies were sold, and by the end of year the number of copies reached 200 thousand.

Nationwide Ukrainian tour supporting the album took place in October - November, and in December the band went to present their new record in CIS countries. On 25th of February 2006 “OE” ended the tour with a final show in “Luzhniki” sport complex in Moscow. Video materials from final show in Kyiv were used to make a video for the song called “Ne pytai”.

On 16th of April music video “Vidchuvayu” shot by famous Ukrainian artist Ilia Chichkan was presented to the public.

On 15th of October “OE” released another video – “Veseli, brate, chasy nastily…”. For the first time in Ukrainian history a music video was presented during in a popular analytical-news TV program “TSN. Pidsumky Tizhnya” on “1+1” channel. Proving once again the exceptional status of the band in Ukraine.

In the end of October a collection of “OE” best hits named “1221” hit the shelves. The release was specially prepared for the band’s 12th anniversary.

On 12th of December 2006 “OE” presented the first song from the album. “Koly tobi vazhko” (When it’s hard) was performed for the first time at Bondsteel Miltary Base in Kosovo (Serbia), where musicians arrived as members of Ukrainian delegation in order to perform in front of soldiers of international peacekeeping contingent.

“Mira” album came out on 25th of April 2007. The band dedicated it to the memory of their sound producer Sergey Tovstolujsky, who died in March that year.

“Mira” quickly broke the record of its predecessor “Gloria”, 170 thousand copies of album were sold in first few hours. In the end of June album was released in Russia, videos for “Vse bude dobre” and “Zeleni Ochi” were added as a bonus to the CD. At the show on 22 of May another record was broken: 15 thousand people, who came to listen to new songs of their favorite band became the largest audience ever accommodated by Sports Palace in Kyiv.

The tour supporting “Mira” began with a record and it ended the same way: with all 26 concerts being located at stadiums and stages alike - 120 thousand fans enjoyed the tour.

On 4th of September at Athens (Greece) on stage of “Lyccabetus” Theatre “OE” started their international tour. It was called “I’m going home” and it included Europe, USA and Canada.

In the end of 2007 a video for “Lyst do mamy” appeared on the air. The presentation was prepared for national Armed Forces Day on December, 6th.

In 2008 members of “OE” took a sabbatical leave from “OE”. Along with cohort of academic, jazz, folk and pop-musicians they worked on Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s solo album.

Presentation of the project “Vnochi” and album under the same name happened on 4th of November in a chamber hall of Ivan Franko National Academic Theatre of Ukrainian Drama. In March –April 2009 “Vnochi” toured Ukrainian cities.

In May of 2010 “OE” started working on a new album, which was recorded at the “211” studio in Kyiv.

Release date of the first single of forthcoming record “Dolce Vita” was release through Twitter. Svyatoslav Vakarchuk announced, that he will present the single as soon as he gets a certain amount of subscribers. Which he did in a lightning speed. The song became available for free download on 17th of November.

Later a second single from the record came out - a lyrical thing “Ya tak hochu…”.

In January 2010 the name of the record was announced - “Dolce Vita”. The band also announced a big tour around Ukraine, CIS, Europe and North America.

Album was released on 10th of March and it included 13 new songs, and a folk song “Oi, chyi to kin’ stoyit’” as a bonus.

By the end of the year “OE” played nearly 100 shows ending “Dolce Vita” tour with a show in Kyiv on December 3rd.

For the first time between the shows on September 12th a band performed at Independence Square in Kyiv. According to official data - 100 thousand people gathered at a show dedicated to 15th anniversary of “1+1” TV-channel.

In the beginning of 2011 Svyatoslav Vakarchuk announced the commencement of the work on his second solo project “Brussels”. Famous Ukrainian musicians, including “OE” guitarist Petr Chernyavsky and ex-keyboardist Dima Shurov participated in recording of the album.

On 8th of February “OE” received YUNA (Yearly Ukrainian National Awards) award as the best band in Ukraine’s 20-ty year history.

In the end of January band’s new music producer was announced. Ken Nelson, a holder of three Grammies took the spot.

Recording of the new album was taking place at famous ICP Studious in Brussels from January till May 2011.

On 28th of February a video for a new song “Obiymy” was presented on the band’s official youtube channel. In less than two days the video was viewed more that 50 thousand times.

In April Petr Chernyavsky left the band. Along with his leaving announcement the name of a new band member was revealed – it was Vladimir Obsenitsa, who participated in album recording as a session guitarist.

On the same day second single “Strilyai” was presented to the public. On 12th of April Svyatoslav posted the name of the new album on Twitter - “Zemlya”.

On May 16th on a press-conference Svyaoslav Vakarchuk explained the name of the record and album cover: “Let me explain. It’s not about soil or ground. The cover art is many types of seeds. Mainly of Ukrainian descent, there’s even cannabis there. There are 12 seeds, mixed together and each of them represents a certain song. Because we believe that the soil is precious because of something that is born from it”

On 24th of December “OE” performed in Moscow: “Dozhd’” TV-channel arranged “a show on suitaces” in Terminal D at International “Sheremetyevo” airport.

On 28th of September Ukrainian part of “Zemlya tour ended with grand concert in Kyiv. On 14th December a unique show took place at Independence Square - “OE” played in support of Euromaydan in their historical lineup: Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, Pavel Gudimov, Yury Hustochka, Dmitry Shurov and Denis Glinnin. Musicians ended their performance with the following words: “Remember - Important things unite…Thank you, it’s just a beginning.”

In 2014 great tour dedicated to band’s 20th anniversary took place. Country’s largest arenas welcomed OE. The show on 21st of June at NSC “Olimpiyskiy”, which gathered 75 thousand viewers, became the biggest solo-concert in Ukraine.

The music history goes on. To be continued…