Chinawoman, also known as Michelle Gurevich, grew up speaking Russian with her parents, her father an engineer in Soviet Leningrad and her mother, a Kirov ballerina. She remembers going to Russian Sunday school and driving down the broad strip of Bathurst Street, home to a huge Russian community in downtown Toronto.
Famous for her Party Girl album of 2007, nowadays Chinawoman is playing shows in St. Petersburg and is living in Berlin. Completely famous in Eastern Europe (Slovakia, squeal please) her third album Let’s Part In Style was released on February 24. A self-proclaimed confessional, she keeps on with evident influences of Soviet pop and retro Euromance. Her latest track is "Woman Is Still A Woman", featuring the Berlin-based Canadian up-and-comer signs her melodramatic life away to jungle lust.
Better known as the younger, female version of Leonard Cohen, Chinawoman is a film pro who makes all her music videos herself. Instead of going the route of creating high-end polished products, she keeps things homemade and lo-fi (kind of like her music). She spoke to us in Berlin about living life in black-and-white, Tuesdays and the infamous gorilla.
NOISEY: Your new music video for "Woman Is Still A Woman" has a gorilla, spanking and signatures? What is the story here?Chinawoman: Carl Jung would say that I am both the gorilla doing the spanking and the woman being spanked. Most days, it's a choice between the two, both very good options. In the video I'm signing myself over for a good time in the jungle. I spent a week looking for that gorilla costume; it's not easy to find one with the right facial expression.
At the end you are caught up in flames. Is that a part of being a woman?
Yes for me at the moment anyway, self-orchestrated self-immolation by cardboard fire, but only on Tuesdays.
At what point did you decide you needed to start your latest album, Let’s Part In Style?
As soon as I finish one album, I start making notes for the next one. I don't really decide, it just keeps happening. The album was made up of a steady collection of themes and melodies from the last 3 years.
What is the new album about? I feel as though this is a breakup album.
The imperfections of love and friendships have been themes in all of my albums. In the words of Barzin “It’s always leaving time.” On this album are the themes of time and inevitability, the turning of the seasons, simultaneously mourning and celebrating the endings of things.
As some of your lyrics suggest, are you still on a ‘vacation from love?’
I'm currently on vacation from vacation. That's what humans do, they find a harmonious balance and then they shake it all up again.
You are Canadian but have Russian heritage. What are your feelings about Russia today?
I haven't yet been to the Odessa steps. I hope to go there soon, on a sunny day, have a coffee on the steps and see the people enjoying their lives.
Do you live your entire life in black and white, just like all your music videos?
Friday nights I prefer in black and white, but Sundays are better in colour.
What is next for you?
Hippie adventures in summer, touring in fall, then work on writing better and better songs.
Visit www.chinawoman.ca for more information
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