INTERVIEW: Vivian Tylinska of Victory Over the Sun


Coming off the buzzed about ‘Nowherer’, it was interesting to speculate where Portland’s Victory Over the Sun would go next. Vivian Tylinska may have just “a girl who makes noise” on her Bandcamp bio, but that deeply undersells the scope of her enthralling work as a composer, thinker, and multi-instrumentalist.

The latest album ‘Dance You Monster To My Soft Song!’ ought to cement Tylinska as one of today’s most intriguing talents, a further fusion of literary informed jazzy, proggy, doomy moments that combine to serve as nothing short of an epistemology of the possibilities of self-expression. “Black Heralds” evokes Sunn O))) levels of deep reflection paired with huge sounds, while “Madeline Becoming Judy” is as fearless as anything on the recent Ashenspire or in the varied works of Davide Tiso. VOtS shatters the idea that rigid form matters more than the function of exploration.


Hi and thanks for doing this today. I was so thrilled to get into your very original music lately. Your music to me is very hard to pinpoint but is very jazz, indie and doom informed as well as these sort of glorious out there proggy and black metal informed passages, but nothing is so indebted to one thing that it overshadows the whole of the statement of each song you are trying to make. Some BM bands, for example, are so adhering to “style” that it stops being songwriting, IMO. I guess, how did you become the way you are… as a writer or musical weirdo or whatever. Fucking hell, this shit rips. I love the almost loungey jazz section in “Thorn Woos The Wound” with harsh crypt crone vocals.


Vivian Tylinska- Thanks for interviewing me! I’ve never really thought of myself as a metal musician. I’ve always been into classical music, and throughout my adolescence, I sequentially got into prog rock, prog metal, post-metal, math rock, and experimental music. Though I haven’t really been into it since high school, I think the prog has taken up permanent residence in my brain and always comes out when I write. “Thorn Woos the Wound” is probably the proggiest track I’ve written. In many ways, it would be hard to argue that my music is not metal, though I feel like…disconnected from the metal scene?

I’ve never really felt like I was in dialogue with almost any metal bands or part of the metal community. The first album (‘Światło w chmurze’) I had the idea to make a really straightforward and gloomy black metal record – despite not really having any exposure to black metal outside of Liturgy – which already had been decried by many as “not real black metal,” and Ravenna herself talked about it being as much noise rock, math rock, screamo, and contemporary classical as it was black metal. And sure enough, that first record came out a far cry from the original intentions I had from it. So once I changed the name to Victory Over the Sun for the second record I admitted that what I was trying to do was only “black metal” insofar as it had screamed vocals (because I cannot sing), tremolo-picked guitars, and blast beats.


Since the start of VOTS, and especially in the last few years, I’ve been listening to less and less metal and becoming more interested in pop, folk, and avant-garde classical music. That said, I feel like whenever I start to write, it almost always ends up being something adjacent to metal – the distorted guitars, fast drums, etc. There’s a level of energy that I think I’m fundamentally always trying to tap into that can really best be conveyed through the language or instrumentation of metal. As for that jazz section in “Thorn…” – it’s probably the most direct rip-off on the album. That’s just me trying to do Mamaleek, which is the metal-adjacent band I’ve been listening to the most the last few years. I think a lot of why my music sounds the way it does is because I’m so interested in all this other music but am really only versed in/comfortable with writing distorted-guitar and fast drums based music.


Interesting! How did you decide on the band name? It reminds me of like the Flight Of Icarus or something. It could be interpreted a lot of ways. Like yearning for something bigger but also accepting futility but having a fighting spirit or vision worth executing even if not everyone is ready for it.


VT- “Victory Over the Sun” is the name of a Russian Futurist opera from 1913. Russian art/literature/film/etc. has always been a huge inspiration for me, and when I first watched that opera and read about it I was enthralled. Part of it is written in this trans-sense language, it’s costumed with these blocky cubist outfits designed by Kazimir Malevich (one of my favorite artists) and it’s sort of about rebuilding art from the ground up and abandoning all past art in pursuit of these utopian ideals. It’s very much a product of its time and it caused an enormous uproar when it premiered. I don’t necessarily agree with all of its ideas but I appreciate its radical energy and the spirit of believing a new world and a new art is possible, and that we can overcome the constraints of the past. Plus, “Victory Over the Sun” just sounds absolutely cool as hell.


That’s cool. My ribs have a tat of the demonic black cat Behemoth created by Mikhail Bulgakov, haha. What can you tell us about your relationships with the players on this record? And how was it working with the brilliant Aki on mixing and mastering at Nu House?


VT – The instrumentalists I got I knew from social media! They are all phenomenal. I’ve always been torn between wanting to do every part myself and writing things for other musicians since giving up some creative control (at least when you’re used to having control over every single aspect of the music) can be daunting! But they all played the parts marvelously, and it was a joy getting to hear those parts I wrote come to life. I’d love to be integrating wind instruments into my music even more, but at the end of the day, I mostly just write for what I can play. It takes a lot more of a kind of confidence … or imagination … or a trained ear… to write for things you can’t immediately hear. At least it’s not a skill I really have built up very much yet. I’d really like to be composing mostly but it’s hard for me not to be able to have the sound directly in my hands, if that makes sense? Working with Aki was also amazing, she did the mastering for ‘Nowherer’ and getting to have her mix this record professionally really made it sound much more amazing than I would have expected. Would absolutely recommend hitting her up for any mixing or mastering or recording.


You told me in correspondence that the vision for “The Gold Of Having Nothing” was akin to “What if Philip Glass had blast beats”, haha. I am always telling people how I feel like Painkiller’s records were so ahead of their time. Now we also have stuff like the new Liturgy or your work really just ripping things into new frontiers. How did you even compose or score this stuff? I also love the album title ‘Dance You Monster To My Soft Song.” It makes me feel like how there is so much ugliness in the world but ultimately beauty and love are so much more powerful, even if they seem weak to bullies.


VT – “Dance You Monster To My Soft Song!” Is the name of a painting by Paul Klee. I had named a different song (which didn’t end up on the album) that, but when I was trying to decide on a title I kept coming back to it because it feels like such a perfect encapsulation of how I want the music to feel. Many of my titles are taken from other works of art. “Thorn Woos the Wound” is a quote from a poem by Paul Celan, “The Gold of Having Nothing” is a quote from a poem by Cesar Vallejo, “Black Heralds” is a poem by Vallejo. “Philip Glass with blast beats” was what I was aiming for when I was writing “Century of Hands”, and I had been wanting to do something similar since.

I really like the idea of those large, bright, shifting rhythmic cascades, and I think it pairs well with the energy that metal instrumentation can provide. I think the original title of the project file where I was putting together the ideas for “The Gold of Having Nothing” was called “yelloweyesripoff.rpp” if that sheds any light on how I was imagining the sound at the onset of writing as compared to where it ended up. As it evolved I wanted to examine that original rhythmic cell in several ways – as a full rhythm set against a backbeat, as a linear sequence of tuplets, and then as an evolving sequence, from which the original pattern emerged again. The Glass-y section was added in as one of the later creative choices, and deciding to play the beginning in a clean/post-punk-y way was something I did when recording. I have only a fairly rudimentary understanding of “music theory,” so most everything I write (at least, the tonal-ish) sections are written by ear rather than with some prior knowledge of what notes “should” be there. I wrote those wind parts in MuseScore and it took me a really long time to get the exact harmonic color I was looking for. In the past I’ve tried taking an analytical approach to something I wrote intuitively and I’m rarely able to get a very satisfying answer for what exactly makes that particular pattern of notes “work.”


Is it weird to ask if the drums are programmed? If so you did a really good job, cuz I can’t tell and they sound awesome. Also, I love the attention to detail. I know people love the dirgy stuff – which is dope – but I think my favorite aspect is the sort of dissonant, eschew off kilter shit that you mix with sections of very mercurial melodic beauty. Again, my mind is blown. How is your music even real?


VT – Not weird at all! The drums are all played live by me (save for a few added kick samples), and they are mixed very nicely by Aki. Only the one Cichy Duch record had programmed drums. I haven’t been drumming for as long as I’ve been playing guitar, so I’ve put a ton of work into trying to become halfway-decent. I’m still ages away from where I’d like to be, but I’m finally becoming content with where my skills are at. I’m often torn between wanting to lean into something more poppy and upbeat and something really dissonant and hard to grasp. But I think what works best for me is doing some of both.


Wow, yeah I think the drumming slays. You are fast! It feels like, while there is some coherence, that you are an artist who allows each record to be what it wants to be. You sort of, similar to other forward-thinking acts I love such as Cult Of Luna or Jucifer or Syberia, allow each release to stand unto its’ own story. Agree or disagree?


VT – I agree! For this record especially, I didn’t have a plan from the start. I just wrote and wrote and let each song become what it wanted to be. I always feel like more of a conduit for these songs. In the past I’ve gone in with an ~idea~ but oftentimes what I try to do becomes something different. For ‘Nowherer’ I was planning on doing something more straightforward and more firmly rooted in metal. On a more individual song basis, “Thorn Woos the Wound” was the one I let grow many times over into what it wanted to be, then cut it up to make it make sense on a bigger formal level, a few times over. As far as a unifying theme, I think the only concept I had as I was starting to write and assemble the songs was that they all dealt with desire in one way or another.


What are your plans for this moving forward? Do you spend a lot of time with pre-planning a direction for each release or does it sort of reflect whatever you are processing inside? Also, do you relate to the music scene where you live?


I rarely know what I will do next! And every time I have had some sort of idea or plan it’s turned out very different from what I imagined at the onset. That being said, I’ve been dreaming of writing a Requiem for a while. Since I feel like I am always working off oppositions, at the moment I feel like writing something almost unlistenably evil sounding. I had been intending to set a text to music for ages now, and I finally did that on “Black Heralds”, so I’m interested in trying that again. Setting a text which has been interpreted so many times over the past 600 years feels like a nice way to add my own little drop to the musical well. Is that the phrase? As for the musical scene in Portland – there’s some good bands around, but I’m not very in touch with the scene, especially not the metal scene. Fingers crossed once I start playing live I’ll get to know it a bit better!


Thanks so much!


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