Russian celestial blackgaze trio TRNA are gearing up for the release of their fourth album Istok, out digitally on September 3 via the fabled Candlelight Records with a physical release following October 1st.
Formed in Saint Petersburg after the breakup of post-black band Princ Persii, the trio of Andrey Novozhilov (guitar), Anton Gataullin (bass) and Timur Yusupov (drums) and create an expansive blackened soundscape that is both haunting and beautiful, especially impressive for a three piece.
We caught up with guitarist Novozhilov to talk about their new record, filling out the band’s sound with a stereo setup, and intensifying G.A.S!
Istok is the band’s fourth record (and first for Candlelight records) – what did the band set out to achieve with this record that you haven’t done on your previous releases?
Well we didn’t set any specific goals in terms of music itself or the sound, but we really wanted to give this record some proper attention and run a decent PR campaign along with taking the effort to shoot the first in our history music video, doing a band photoshoot and other things we’ve never done before. Guys from Candlelight really helped us a lot with this.
How did the deal with Candlelight come to be? How has it been working with them?
We just got the email from them and after doing some research and chatting with the guys we thought that it is a very lucky coincidence.
Working with them was great all around – they give us all the creative freedom and also very good opportunities to be noticed by new fans. It’s a bit more of a “let’s take our time to achieve best results possible” approach rather than “let’s drop the music right after it’s written” which is how we kind of worked before and we think it works good with us and is a mutually pleasing relationship.
How did the band deal with the lockdowns in 2020? Did you guys end up spending more time on the record than you might otherwise have?
To be completely honest, the lockdown was a really tough time for us here. Usually such long stress prevents one from being creative, so we spent more time on just learning to live with it and to do things how they were before all this happened.
However, we got the album in our hands which means we were at least partially successful.
So guitars! What did you guys use on the new record in terms of guitars/amps/pedals?
Alright so for heavy distorted sounds and some cleans we used a custom Edwards Les Paul-ish guitar. Main guitar for clean sound was my old trusty G&L s-500 all stock. Love the high output single coils they put in there.
Amps-wise we used Peavey 5150, Roland Jazz Chorus 120, Yamaha T-50.
The pedals are the most interesting part here though. The usual rehearsal/gig board looks like this: EHX Freeze – custom Providence Stampede DT clone, Line 6 HX effects. Lately we’ve been experimenting with putting additional custom digital reverb in the front of the chain. During the actual recording though we also used Crunch Box clone as well as EQD Acapulco Gold clone. Most of the custom pedals we use were made by either our drummer Tim or our sound guy Mikhail.
How do you approach being the single guitarist in a band with such an expansive sound? Is it a challenge at all to get something atmospheric yet distinct from just your own setup? Any tricks to achieve this sound that others might find useful?
Of course I got some tricks to sound bigger than just one guitar in the mix. They are like second nature to me but may not be obvious to someone else.
I always use stereo setup with one channel being always washed out to sound like a pad basically. I also do quite a lot of live looping which allows me to play solos, harmonies to my own parts and build beautiful crescendos.
My sound is basically a shoegaze sound – loads of delay and reverb, but not too much 😉
Did you have any reference records going into the studio in terms of how you wanted the finished product to sound?
This time after we got so much good feedback on Earthcult sound we just wanted to do the same but even better in every way possible.
We found a nice studio room for cymbals to sound gorgeous, we tried more amps, cabs, microphones and all the different setups imaginable though keeping the core elements intact.
We knew we had “our sound” going on this time so there was no need for many reference albums.
Are you a gear head at all? Any pieces of gear you’ve played recently that were a pleasant surprise? Anything you got to play that was disappointing?
Even though my gear tends to stay stable over long periods of time I have my G.A.S intensify at times haha.
I always look for what’s new on the market but it’s not critical for me to buy new stuff to do something. I try to be a smart buyer.
The Edwards guitar that we recorded most of the album with is a pleasant surprise. I bought it as a backup for shows but it now took the place of a main guitar actually.
Speaking of disappointments… I bought a Fender AVRI Jaguar a few years ago and though it looked gorgeous it’s pickups just didn’t work with our sound. I bought a Gibson RD instead of it and then it felt right eventually.
Another funny thing is Carbon Copy. I had been playing it in the very beginning of my career with different screamo bands and stuff and turning it on felt like magic. But when I got it again after many years and tried it in Trna I just didn’t understand how it could sound so different from how I remembered it to sound. Now we call it “the carbon copy effect”.
Is there any one piece of gear that you couldn’t do without? Anything that’s integral to your sound?
It’s a reverb of course. I really don’t like super dry guitars in my sound. I’ve never been a technically skilled guy. Never played sweeps and tricky stuff so i like to sound big and when my little imperfections in playing are smoothed out.
A lot of guitarists are embracing modelling and profiling amps these days, especially due to making fly in gigs much easier. What’s your take on digital amps and effects?
Our good friends from Show Me A Dinosaur are actively changing their setups now and migrating to Helix LT. This makes us think about it too. It sounds decent and most of my FX are in HX FX anyway so… we might embrace it soon too. I would still use pedals for the studio setup though. Tweaking knobs is a part of our creative process too.
For someone who’s just discovering your band and wants to hear more music that sounds like you, what bands would you suggest they start with?
Otherwise bands like Year Of No Light, Wolves In The Throne Room, This Will Destroy You (Tunnel Blanket LP), Holy Fawn, Sylvaine, even Slowdive, Whirr and Jesu were and still are big inspirations for all of us.
If someone maybe wasn’t familiar with you guys but wanted to learn to play one of your songs, where would you suggest they start? Any riffs/licks/passages in particular that are fun to play, or maybe challenging but rewarding for more advanced players?
Wow it’s a tricky question because at times even I struggle to remember our older tracks and have to learn them from scratch.
To start with, our tuning is just C standard. Just try to play with minor and major thirds, open strings, use big 4-5 note chords and that should give you the feeling of how we do things. Aside from that I’m afraid that showing you some riffs would require a video because we don’t know music theory and suck at transcribing music to words.
What’s up next for the band? Any new material in the works? Any post-rona plans? And should we expect to see you in the US any time soon?
Well yeah, we have a couple new tracks kind of written, some new riffs to work with and a bunch of work yet to do with the release of Istok so we try not to relax and keep ourselves busy.
Speaking of tours is difficult now. Even though there are many big announcements no one knows what to really expect. We don’t want to give you any promises until we know 100% that we can do it.
Of course we’d love to tour Europe again once the borders are open and we really hope our new friends from Candlelight could help us with UK and US since we got a lot of fans over there and they are really looking forward to our live shows (some even came to Paris from London to see us back in 2019). We really miss touring and are open to anything!
The only thing in the way is the lockdown. So once it’s all over – do expect us to have live shows in your city 😉