2019 is shaping up as the year of Jinjer. After coming to North America for the first time in 2018 for tours with Cradle of Filth and DevilDriver, the Ukrainian quartet released the EP “Micro” (review) in January and already has completed a European tour with Soilwork and Amorphis. More shows in Europe, plus dates in Latin America, Japan and South Africa are on the schedule for later this year, and the band is eyeing a return to the United States in the fall, when it’s also planning to release its fourth full-length album. Armed with a sound that has evolved from metalcore to progressive metal, Jinjer seems poised to become the genre’s next international sensation. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently spoke to frontwoman Tatiana Shmailyuk about “Micro,” the next album, touring the United States, her home country’s music scene and more.
LIVE METAL: Jinjer is the first Ukrainian band we’ve featured here at Live Metal, so what is the music scene like in your country? Is metal a part of it?
TATIANA SHMAILYUK: Well, not actually. Metal is not OK here in Ukraine, because it’s not very valuable, not very appreciated. Metal music, in fact, is not very popular here. But basically, we have a lot of good bands—metal and stoner and indie rock—but they prefer to stay here in Ukraine. It’s really hard for them to take a chance and cross the borders. I don’t know—maybe they are afraid, or maybe they don’t think they are that powerful. They are not very confident. So there are a lot of great bands. Unfortunately, the world is not familiar with them right now.
What was it that made you guys in Jinjer decide to make that leap and expand?
We didn’t think about proving to the whole word that Ukraine is a great country music-wise or whatever. We’re not that patriotic. We’re not patriotic at all. So we just worked for ourselves, and I don’t think that being Ukrainians is what helped us achieve what we achieved. It doesn’t depend on your nationality—actually, yeah, it depends, because for Ukrainians, it’s not that easy to spread their music, for example, as for Germans or English or Americans. So we did a bit more work for crossing the border in general, as a metaphor.
I’m curious about how you go about writing lyrics, since I’m assuming English isn’t your first language. Do you write in English or do you have to translate?
I actually work in different ways. Sometimes I write in English right from the start if I feel inspired or if it comes easy for me. But sometimes I have to write my thoughts and sentences and phrases in Russian, in my native language, and then I translate and transform them somehow. Sometimes I just write down everything that’s in my mind. This is called stream of conscious, if I’m not mistaken, like in poetry. So whatever is in your head. That’s how I wrote “No Hoard of Value.” (laughs) That was a complete mess—absolutely zero logic—then I tried to shape it into something I like.
The band has been around for a long time now, but a lot of fans, especially here in America, are kind of just getting to know Jinjer. So do you think the new EP, “Micro,” is a good place for new fans to jump in and get to know your band?
I hope so. I hope so, because—maybe you know, maybe you don’t—if you’re familiar with our previous albums, like for example, the first EP was something like—I don’t know—metalcore. Then it sounds a little bit like old-school groove metal. Now we are on the stage of progressive metal, and I think we will keep it like this for some time. (laughs) So basically, yeah, I would like to have more fans who appreciate prog metal.
It seems like they’re out there, because it seems like the band is really growing right now.
Yeah, hope so, hope so. (laughs)
Why did you decide to release an EP at this time instead of moving on to the next full-length album?
Basically, we needed something—new material. We had a proposition from DevilDriver to tour around the U.S. again—not again with DevilDriver, but to make another tour around the U.S. but this time with DevilDriver; the first one was with Cradle of Filth. This second tour was the same year as first one, and we needed something new, because it was not very OK just to have another tour with the same old program. So yeah, we decided to record, very quickly (laughs), five songs, just because we didn’t have the time to record the full LP. But the plan was that we were to compose and record a full-length album. But yeah, after the proposition from DevilDriver, we just couldn’t reject. So we composed “Micro,” just because we are waiting for this spring, which is here (laughs), and we’re going to work on a new album, a full-length album, right now.
Is there a target for when you want to release that album?
Probably this fall.
Was the song “Teacher, Teacher!” from “Micro” inspired by specific experiences in your life?
I like when people find their own meaning in our songs. For someone, that can be their schooling. For someone, that can be religious oppression of someone. For me, that was people who are prejudiced and they try to teach you from the top of their experience, and they don’t consider that we have different lives. “Teacher, Teacher!” is just a symbol, just a metaphor. It’s not about a teacher actually (laughs). It’s about people who try to teach you their own lessons, and they didn’t actually realize that you have your own path to walk.
As you mentioned, last year Jinjer came to North America for the first time with Cradle of Filth and then back with DevilDriver. What were those experiences like?
Oh, we absolutely loved both times. The first one, of course, absolutely gorgeous and exciting, as it was our first time. So we are very grateful for Cradle of Filth, of course, for having us with them and for showing us how it can be when we will have our chance to have our own headlining shows. Hopefully, they will be as great as they were. And with DevilDriver, it was a very friendly atmosphere every show, and that was great. I’m really looking forward to return to North America and have another great time there.
You’ve got a busy year, a lot of shows already booked all over the world. Do you know when you might be coming back over here?
Well (laughs) I would like to be intriguing (laughs). Probably that would be the date when we have our album released. So it probably will be this fall.
A lot of your fans want to know when you might do a headline tour, not just here but anywhere. I know a lot of fans are looking forward to that. So is there a plan for that?
I hope that with the new album, that will be possible.
I noticed in some recent photos of you, you have a new tattoo in a pretty prominent place, right there on your throat. Is there any kind of story or special meaning behind that tattoo?
Well. not really. I don’t have any special meanings to all of my tattoos. Some of them—or maybe most of them—I did impulsively. I just adore Mexico and Mexican culture and mythology, so I made it as a Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, on my throat. So nothing special, just I really wanted it. I was very mesmerized by the idea of this serpent and of this mythological creature, so that’s it.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you very much for all the American fans and all the listeners who are not fans—not yet (laughs). Hopefully they will be. I hope to see you guys this fall somewhere around the U.S. Yeah, hope to see you there, and we’ll have fun for sure. Come see us and say hi.