5R6: Island Universes


On a first look, progressive rock, grunge, alternative rock, metal and post-hardcore do not have so much in common, but that doesn’t stop a Kharkiv-based quartet 5R6 to explore within these genres. Their debut full-length album “Islands” is scheduled for the September 25th release, and singer and guitarist Igor Zubko talked with Prog Sphere about it, and more.

Your new album, “Islands” is to be launched on September 25th. It’s a very diverse release. Can you describe the thread that holds it together?

I guess I always liked albums that are diverse, that let you distinguish clearly between the songs and don’t let you fall asleep. Of course there are certain bands and sub-genres which are great partially owing to their ability to keep more or less the same mood throughout an entire album or even career. You don’t expect a sudden outburst of high tempo drumming from Sunn O))), or catchy blues rock hits from Popol Vuh. Both bands are very experimental within their frames though. And I like them, but we play a different kind of music.

The compositions are indeed pretty diverse. What holds it all together is similar emotional overtones, lyrical themes, and – what’s more important – human beings responsible for making music and drawing sound out of instruments on this record. We do not change our playing style really from song to song, and we have a certain vision of what 5R6’s music is, which is rather hard to describe, it is more of a feeling. Everything that doesn’t fit gets piled up on our hard drives or goes to other bands or projects.

5R6 - Islands

How did the creative process of the album go?

It was sometimes joyful and easy-going, but it was also long and sometimes involved torture-like waiting and the resulting frustration. Writing music is always fun, inspiring and gives me the feeling of fulfillment. What follows then might be not always that enjoyable, and includes creative conflicts, wasted time, expenses and ruthless killings of nerve cells. However, the result is always worth it. It is good when we have enough time to play new songs, contemplate on them, and find what sounds better, what is better from the perspective of arrangements, structure, etc. So, the time we spent rehearsing the songs that formed the album and even just waiting, played out as a good factor. It also allowed us to be more selective in terms of what will be on the album and what’s not.

We had a lot of fun recording this album. We recorded everything at our friends’ studio where we also rehearse usually. So it felt almost like home and we had plenty of time and equipment to experiment with sounds, and even change some arrangements and vocal melodies.

Where does this new material stand comparing to your older works?

I am biased in this matter, I love this record. I think that musically we got where we headed since our “+6.5 and Brighter” EP. For now it is our best recorded effort, musically, lyrically, and sound-wise. Though I don’t see it as our personal unsurpassable Everest, it is sure a landmark for us and we’ll see where it all goes from here.

How does the title of the album reflect on the material you present with this release?

Each song is an “island” – a separate story – which is a piece of something bigger yet still fractured like an archipelago. So, this islands are different entities, each has its own individual traits, but they are still somehow connected. And if you look at the bigger picture they might appear reminiscent of a jigsaw puzzle.


Tell me about the concept you try to depict on “Islands.” You mentioned that the story is inspired by Aldous Huxley’s work “The Doors of Perception.”

This is not exactly a story. It is rather a collection of short stories told by the same personage and having common overtones. And each story is related in one way or the other to the concept described by Huxley, where he refers to every human group as a society of “island universes”. We experience both the joy and suffering on our own, we can communicate about our feelings, sometimes evoking sympathy or compassion, or no response at all, but we cannot communicate the feelings themselves.

However, it may also be seen as a single story. I’d like to leave some freedom of interpretation for the listener.

The song you previously released titled “Vermin” is an outtake off “Islands.” Why this song didn’t find its place on the album?

We like this song pretty much. But it just seemed not fitting the album. Musically it seemed to belong somewhere between the first and second EPs. Lyrically it was not connected to the “Islands” concept.

What are the biggest challenges you faced when working on “Islands”?

It was hard to organize everyone schedule, plan the release, and basically, do all the managerial stuff. That’s the part of making music about which I’m not all that excited. But, you know, “it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it”. Working on lyrics wasn’t easy as well. I think that I’m better at expressing myself through music than through words. So, I kept on tossing the ideas one after another in a waste bin, rewriting lyrics for some of the songs for a few times. Until I felt inspired and got carried away by the flow. Then I read it again and again to see if there are some phrases or words that sound to cliché, dull or plainly stupid. My personal favorites are the lyrics to the opening track (The Ledge) and the final (Islands).

Assess the distance traveled since your 2010 debut release “Knots & Spirals.”

It’s been 5 years between the completions of this 2 works. It was a long distance enough for many changes to take place in our lives, in our music, and even in our country. The travel so far was stressful, sometimes frustrating, but very interesting, inspiring and at times full of joy. Hopefully, the biggest part of it lies ahead.

Do you have any plans to promote “Islands” live?

Yes, we definitely have. But they are still unclear, unfortunately. There are some gigs planned this autumn in Ukraine to present the album. And we are working on booking our second European tour this spring. No clear dates for this tour yet. Bookers and promoters are welcome.

For those who haven’t seen you perform, what can they expect at the 5R6 show?

Expect vigorous and passionate performance. It doesn’t matter if we play in front of hundreds of people or just ten. We do it for the love of music. What else to say? Well, it will probably be loud.

5R6 live

Describe how you and Kirill Brener work together and share guitar duties in the band.

There are no strict rules about who plays what. If Kirill comes up with some part, then most likely he will play it. If both guitar parts are already written by one of us before we start rehearsing, then whoever wrote them decides who plays which part. But where I sing I usually just play what’s easier for me. If we’re jamming we just try to support the leading part decorating it and give each other space to improvise. We already have some quasi telepathic connection through music, things usually go very natural. But when I feel bored I start to press some unexpected harmony changes or rhythms on the guys. [laughs]

You name Alice in Chains, Fugazi, King Crimson, Pearl Jam, Tool, Porcupine Tree as some of the bands that influence your work. Why do these groups mean so much to you?

In fact the list of influences would be much longer, but there is no sense in listing up to hundred bands. No one would read it, it would be confusing. And today it would look a bit differently. For example, Motorpsycho became a great influence on me personally, Swans for Dmitry and me (though it hardly could be heard in our music), you got the idea.

There are some bands that released their debut albums only the last year, and they are already kind of slightly influenced our music, like Seven Impale or Post War Glamour Girls.

We choose these bands at a certain point because people need references to the staff they know. There are really a few people who would care to listen to a record by an unknown band who states that “our music is something original, and we don’t care about listing our influences or fall within a sub-genre”. So we gathered that little list which seemed to remotely describe what we played at the time, and included bands that we all love (or at least most of us).

So about the bands on the list. Alice in Chains – you can hear clear influence of Layne Staley/Jerry Cantrell duo on the vocal style and the vocal harmonies on our earlier records, especially in songs like Cold Shine or Inevitable Enemy. There was a time before our first record when we decided to play only Alice in Chains, Mad Season, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Temple of The Dog covers for a couple of months just for fun.

Fugazi – it’s pure art in its essence, innovative, rebellious, introspective, sometimes vague and improvisational in nature, sometimes catchy. And all came from pretty aggressive and straight forward sort of music – D.C. hardcore scene, which made it sound so unique. We also like their DIY-and-not-selling-out attitude and how they approached business aspects, it’s a pity that we cannot afford to completely follow these principles ourselves.

King Crimson – simply my favorite progressive rock band after Pink Floyd. Robert Fripp influenced me very much as a composer and as guitarist.

Pearl Jam – they are great song writers, and they somehow always sound perfect, even playing wrong notes, just a perfect combination, one of the best live acts I saw.

Tool5R6 started out of love for Tool long before the first record. We used to be called local Tool by some people, though we never tried to copy them. Still everyone in the band loves Tool, and you can her some clear influences on our early records as well. If you don’t like Tool you cannot be a part of 5R6. [laughs]

Porcupine Tree – someone said that we sound somewhat similar to them; I guess it was Igor Sydorenko of Stoned Jesus (the band which by the way is also a kind of influence for us). And we like them, Steven Wilson is a great songwriter, he manages to write songs that are as catchy as 4-chords hits (“4 chords that made a million”, yeah), which are very progressive and trippy at the same time, and create great 15-minutes-length epics.

Where do you see 5R6 in the future?

Headlining big festivals and huge arenas of course. [laughs] Seriously, I don’t know. At least I see 5R6 in future as a touring band in whose list of priorities music and artistic freedom comes way before commercial success or critical acclaim.

You can pre-order “Islands” from Bandcamp. Make sure to follow the band on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: