It goes without saying that nowadays in our western world, punk does no longer represents a threat nor a danger. Smoothed, democratized and caught in spite of itself into the great grinder of entertainment, punk is nothing more than another undead protesting counterculture.
Messed Up, did not experienced punk like us, formed into the last Europe’s dictatorships AKA Belarus. It is due to the excessive repression from their government towards all political and counter-cultural opposition that Messed Up were forced to flee their country, at the cost of freedom and passion. Now refugees in Poland, and pro-active into the antifacist punk scene, interview with the four musicians about their country of origin, their political situation and their global vision of the DIY scene.
Interview by Ninofutur.
Messed Up has been originally formed in Grodno, Belarus in 2015. How did it feel to grow up as punk teenager in a conservative culture such as Belarus, how were the beginnings for the band ?
Belarus is a small country with a little more than 9 million inhabitants, but nevertheless with a supportive scene that has a long history. We came into the punk scene when we were 14-15 years old and found it completely by accident because on the streets of our country you don’t usually see punks and crusties as you see it in Berlin for example.
This is a completely closed and underground scene and the reasons for this are continuous repressions of its participants. If you’re in the scene that means you’re in politics, so the scene always experienced difficulties with that.
As for the band we also arose rather by chance – our passion for music brought us together. Four musicians, two of us were to that moment studying at a music college.
In the beginning we were a typical student band. We had nothing to do with punk. We started with funny covers of ZZ-Top, Lita Ford, trying to find our style, but as soon as we got in the punk scene we finally decided where we should move. At first it was not about politics, but more about resistance the surrounding society, that is filled with conservative and patriarchal views, that is characteristic for post-Soviet countries.
All of your lyrics are in Russian, is Messed Up deeply inspired by Russian or Belarus punk scene or do you have other more global influences?
We sing in Russian because it is easier for us to write a lyric and this is a language, we think in. Initially, as we have already said, we started with covers of famous artists we were inspired by, such as Anti-Flag and Made of Ace. But after we discovered the underground punk world, of course it became more interesting for us to communicate and learn from experiences of other bands we shared the stage with, the bands who sing about issues familiar to us, but not about problems of western world.
Since the 2020-2021 revolution, Is there still a punk scene with activists and bands doing things in Belarus despite of the actual political climate?
No. the whole scene is destroyed for two reasons. The first one is mass repressions: it is absolutely impossible to engage in any kind of activity. Even an ordinary “apolitical” punk concert immediately attracts the attention of the police with known consequences.
The second reason: all participants of the scene who were active either were put behind bars, for example the well known punk-antifa activist Kita, who was sentenced to two and a half years in colony for posts in social media. Many others left the country. The most of those who managed to escape are located now in Poland and continue their activity in terms of Polish scene.
Most of the lyrics on your 2019 album « Всё то во что ты веришь » (Everything you believe in) are deeply marked by an anti-authoritarian discourse at all costs, which sounds more relevant as ever within your actual situation.
What are your main motivations for writing such social songs?
We were born, brought up and lived almost all our life in a dictatorship. When we started to meet more foreign bands that came with a concert to our hometown or when we started to travel abroad, we noticed that these people think and act freer and more fearlessly. Even to stick a sticker caused fears and thoughts: “Oh no, now the cops will come and definitely take us away”.
At some point this fact hit us: why do we have to live in constant fear and feel this weary hand of dictatorship over us? We don’t want to be limited by a society of intimidated people who have been imposed by the regime with the fear of self-determination. Basically, this is what the album is about.
You now are all living as political refugees outside of your country, was it a hard choice for you all to make ? Did you conceive it as the price for « freedom » for yourselves and the band ?
It was both: simple and at the same time one of the most difficult decisions in our lives. Simple because the choice was quite primitive: either a few years in prison or freedom.
And difficult because our families left there. We delayed with taken such decision for a long time until we were given the last serious sign that it was a high time to go.
At the beginning of immigrant life you might feel a short-term euphoria from the fact that now you go to bed without the fear that THEY might come for you in the morning. You feel great relief. But then this period ends, and you understand that most likely you will not return home for a very long time yet. The new country has not become your home and will not. It’s a fact that most of the political migrants can’t cope with this hopelessness and therefore many people seek psychological help.
You are now living in different cities (even countries) isn’t it so hard to keep a good organisation for the band’s activities ? How’s Messed Up working for now ?
We live in two different countries. Most of us are in Warsaw. We try to see us each other at least once a month. For a while we are working on old material that was recorded in Belarus and preparing it to release.
As for new music, we always try to take a whole week, to get stuck in a rehearsal room, to share our ideas and be creative together. At the moment this works well and smoothly.
You describe yourself as « 100% GRLZZZ PUNK ROCK », were they lot of a bands like this in Belarus, have you felt a change in the scene in Europe toward girl bands ? Have you created links with other « riot grrrl » bands ?
We were not the only one feminist band in Belarus but rather the first one of the female bands that got known abroad. When we got know the feminist punk scene in Germany, we were a little bit surprised.
In Belarus we have never had emancipation of this level and maybe never will. For sure each scene has more or less big problems with sexism but in our country this topic wasn’t even a subject of discussion. Even if we can’t say we felt discriminated or something like that but still the difference was felt.
Sometimes we experienced envy or mock from some bands because they thought it was easier for us to achieve some kind of recognition in the european scene because we are a female band, and this is always more interesting than 4 guys playing crust punk all their lives. Paradoxically, we had more connections with feminist bands from Europe than in Belarus. But after the adopted experience, we began to develop these ideas in Belarus by ourselves. For instance, we managed to arrange a feminist festival in our city.
Besides that, we created the initiative “Inter” the main point of what was a self-education. We had a lot of potential to develop this movement until summer 2020 came.
Could you explain what’s the “Inter” initiative?
It’s a popular education initiative aimed at educating local youth. We organized readings on subjects such as feminism, LGBTQ+ people, body positivism, sexism, equality, empowerment, domestic violence…
We organized screenings, queer evenings as well as a mini DIY fest: “Not her fault”. The audience was mainly made up of young people between 15 and 30 years old who were completely outside the punk scene, and who, like us, did not have access to these subjects on social networks. Our initiative was rather applauded, because it was able to help young people from a remote city to educate themselves on certain subjects. In a political context that does not allow it.
You released your album though Audiolith Records which is a German label that put out lot of records from various styles, how did you get in contact ? Did the release of the album on it changed something for the band notoriety ?
We were at a concert of the russian band Moscow Death Brigade in Hamburg the city what the label actually come from. We were introduced to each other by MDB. After a couple of hours of talking they offered us their support. We thought it might be a great chance to break into the European scene and tell more about the Belarusian scene. For sure the release of our first album on a European label was an big step in band history.
But for us this is not the most important thing. We are not looking for a career as a band.
It turned out so that with the label we got more opportunities to express ourselves and help Belarusian activists and the scene. For example the label has organized several times collections and donations for Belarusian political prisoners and other affected NGOs.
Messed Up seemed infused by D.I.Y ethic, how do you perceive your band though the DIY spectrum ? What this philosophy means for you all ?
Like most bands, we came out of a DIY scene and we still follow many of the principles of this culture. Given that it is not so easy for the Belarusian band in the European environment, we are glad that some people turned up on our way, who helped us to express ourselves and make some of the paths shorter.
Nevertheless, supporting the grassroots initiative is a priority for us. Big festivals are cool, but a gig in some small club organized by our friends will be more comfortable for us. We often recall our mini tour in the small towns of Belarus where we literally performed in garages and gathered a lot of local people.
Solidarity equality unity is what DIY means to us.
How do you perceive the future for Messed Up ?
We were lucky. We’ve been friends for 8 years now. And this friendship has been tested over the years, so we are confident in each other. For us, the future is defined by new songs, new countries where we want to play, new interesting acquaintances. Learning something new about other scenes and talking about our own, carrying the Belarusian agenda further – this is what drives us. We hope it stays that way despite all the difficulties in life.
Des sorties musicales à recommander ?
Karramba – du hardcore Biélorusse.
Contra la contra – groupe anarcho-punk légendaire en Biélorussie.
Pestpocken – le plus cool des groupes punk allemands.