Sun Q combines a dirty guitar sound with vivid, mysterious female vocals and ornate melodies. Elena Tiron, who sings vocals and backing vocals, and Ivan Shalimov, who plays guitars, keyboards, and bass, make up Sun Q. Their debut album “Charms” (2017) was very warmly received and praised by music critics, with many local and foreign music media noting their original approach and mesmerizing emotionality. Sun Q draws from the pool of myths and dark tales, intertwining them with the powerful music heritage of the 60s-80s.

The band released a few months ago their sophomore album called ‘Myth,’ and we’ve chatted with both Elena and Ivan to dive into the insights of this record and so many more.

Hi! For the start, can you briefly introduce your project and when or where it was founded?

Elena: Hi! Quite briefly: garage-psychedelic band Sun Q was founded by Ivan Shalimov and Elena Tiron about 10 years ago in Moscow. We draw inspiration from the pool of myths and dark tales, intertwining them with the powerful musical heritage of the 60s-80s.

Was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first musical experience?

Elena: My parents put me in music school when I was 6. I remember that I loved playing jazz and rock’n’roll on the piano, the classical stuff was much harder for me. I remember my first music book, it weighed about a ton and was the size of half of me. Since there was no photocopier back then, I had to carry that book around with me. I also remember my grandmother teaching me to play Soviet pop songs. I liked those tunes, but I didn’t really get into the words. I also remember how I liked to play only on black keys, I called it “oriental compositions”. And later on, I discovered rock music. I was blown away by the power and emotion of it.

Ivan: From early childhood, I went to music school. I loved piano lessons, but absolutely hated solfeggio (I realized the possibilities and power of music theory only when I started writing music). At the same time, I was learning how different music could be. There were a lot of cassettes and CDs with completely different music at home, from classical and jazz to Russian avant-garde and soundtracks to Tarantino movies. And my cousin used to bring me CDs with extreme musical genres.

What would you say about your music to someone who has never heard it before?

Ivan: I would ask everyone to pay attention to it. I know that it’s a lot to ask for – too much music, and too little time, and the modern world doesn’t allow you to keep your attention on one thing for long. But sometimes, to see something beautiful, you have to stop and gaze. Try that with the “Myth” and you won’t regret it.

Elena: Just listen. The music will say more anyway!

How is your album ‘Myth’ any different than your first album? What is it new that it brings to the table?

Elena: The second album, in my opinion, is more mature in every sense. Well, it’s not surprising, it’s been a long time! I started to control my voice better, to learn to reveal its advantages. Our writing became more expressive. The overall concept crystallized. The sound became more convincing and inventive. We explored different aspects of myth, such as creation, destruction, transformation, and redemption. We experimented with different genres and styles, such as folk, blues, and synth wave, and we incorporated some traditional instruments, such as nyckelharpa.

Ivan: This is our first release that sounds the way we intended. When you are materializing any idea, you face a lot of limitations. You don’t have enough money, the specialists you hire don’t always do a good job, you don’t have enough experience to do everything yourself, it’s technically very difficult to achieve the sound you want. With all that said, for the first time, the compromises we made during the creation of the release are very minor.

If you were, to sum up the whole album in a single word, which would that word be and why?

Elena: I’d say that word is already reflected in the album title. Myth. Anything understandable in any country and any language. Something beyond the material, something so multifaceted, but with one base, one root. And of course, it reflects our dreamy, mystical side. We desire to create other worlds and immerse the listener in our soulfully created atmosphere.

What do you want people to feel primarily when listening to ‘Myth’? How would the album be best served?

Ivan: When I listen to new music before I like it, there’s a moment of – oh, this is something interesting. I think I’ll listen to it more closely. You never know what it was that made you pay special attention to it – the harmony, the melody, the sound, or the singer’s voice. But the feeling is always the same. It feels good. If this happens to you with our songs, it’s the biggest honor for me.

Elena: Remember the state when you bought a new book by your favorite author, and out of curiosity you start reading it right on the bus or subway. And then you continue at home without even changing your clothes. That’s the feeling. And you can listen alone and in the dark. If you feel sad, the music will distract you. If you feel joy, you can dance. Feel free to give yourself to its charms (in any state).

Was there any song on the album that was really challenging to write or create?

Elena: In the creation stage, songs are created easily – it’s a lightning flash, a pleasant tingling inside. I guess that’s what’s called inspiration. Difficulties begin later when this raw and tender substance has to be turned into a song – arranging it, recording it all in a studio, choosing the right sound, finding people, finding money, and then promoting it.

Ivan: When I did the arrangement for “Crystal Doors”, I had to “mate” the brass section (with a deliberately noir mood), the vintage space solo, the powerful guitar stoner riff, and the chorus, as well as Lena’s voice, which has to stay in the lead. And to keep it from turning to mush. I remember spending many days on this.

What were some of the motivations for writing ‘Myth’, how did you develop the record and what were some of the responses?

Ivan: The thing that always inspires me the most is other people’s music. I can still, as a child, admire and wonder at music, discoveries in it, and enjoy it. Music carries a lot of power.

Еlena: We just wanted to create something very beautiful that would inspire and delight us. We’re getting warm feedback, and people mention the timelessness of the release and the magic of the atmosphere. There’s no clear genre, no agenda, it’s all — a space of myth.

Does the conception come first or does the song evolve naturally – do you have a clear idea of what it will be before you start to make it?

Еlena: It’s different with every song, but I can say that the most interesting and exciting thing is to see how lyrics or music sometimes take on a life of their own. This is especially evident in the lyrics. Sometimes it seems to me that the song itself dictates how it should be, and I just have to trust this magical process.

Ivan: We came closer than ever to the realization of what was conceived, in sound, mood, and emotions. But the factor of accidental findings in the process of creation is also important, and can greatly change the pre-existing concept.

Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise, or reading play?

Ivan: I would say that we had to abandon all rituals. After this release, I feel like we can keep making music even in the most unpleasant conditions. And maybe it even helps.

Elena: When I read, I always write down some words, expressions, metaphors, and images that touch me most vividly. It can be a phrase or a whole monologue. I can be inspired by the work of some artist, or by a poem I have met by chance. When there are a lot of images and ideas, the impulse to compose something appears at once. At that moment, the main thing is not to ignore this impulse.

Thinking about your evolution, what are some developments in you – whether it’s in your music, your performance, your energy, or the way you work – that you’ve seen really change since your release?

Ivan: I realized that I can handle a huge amount of tasks in songwriting. Lots of technical work, a better understanding of arrangement issues, and the interconnectedness of all the stages of song creation from melody writing to release. All the bumps we hit will help us to better optimize the future releases.

Elena: There have been changes in terms of project management. We have become more serious about it. Promotion is also constantly changing – the old schemes don’t work anymore, we have to learn new things and take new media into account. The music and the approach to writing it are also changing, because we have to adapt to the changing world, and to difficult circumstances. All this makes you more confident in yourself, trust your voice, find your people, and find support in simple but eternal things. This is partly what our bonus track is about, by the way.

When you perform live, how do you want your audience to feel as they leave the show? What do you hope to do with your art in the future? I mean, do you have any special goals?

Elena: I want people to come out of our concerts spiritualized, free, happy, and united by the idea of beauty and magic. So that all the misfortunes would recede into the background, and the music would capture them completely and immerse them in this trance.

Ivan: The best concerts are the ones where you come out feeling like you’ve been to another world. You feel unique emotions, the memory of which will stay with you forever.

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All photos belong to (c) Sun Q.

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Still can't tell exactly my origins because of my suspiciously ‘Chinese eyes’.