APOLINARA is a Ukrainian singer/songwriter and symphonic/gothic metal musician who lives in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” (United States Of America) now. Her debut album “Shadows And Signs” will be out on February 22nd and like chickens on a June bug, we snared APOLINARA for an interview. We first asked her about the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the worrying developments between the USA and Russia that is causing much debate in Europe at the moment.
INTERVIEW BY: Henk van Nieuwenhoven
About Ukraine, where you were born and raised… there is a serious tension between the USA, which is your current homeland, and Russia over Eastern Ukraine. Do you follow the latest developments there?
Yes, I’m Ukrainian. I was born in a small town called Bila Tserkva, which is less than 100 km far from the capital Kyiv. No matter where I live, my heart and thoughts are always with Ukrainian people. My parents, relatives and friends are there. What is big news for the USA and European folks – unfortunately is ‘old news’ for Ukrainians, as we are fighting a hybrid war with Russia since 2014. Thousands of people died protecting the Eastern part of Ukraine from occupation. The peninsula of Crimea is occupied by Russia. They say there’s local ‘rebels’ protesting, but it’s only obvious who sends ammunition and trained forces to attack the Eastern border. The world shouldn’t turn away from this situation, because it empowers the tyranny. Today it’s Ukrainian blood they shed. Who knows whom they want tomorrow?
Musically, the Ukraine seem to accommodate a lot of excellent symphonic and other female fronted metal bands. What do you know about this scene?
I must confess – not enough. I know Inferno because I collaborated with them a little during my university time. From the modern scene I know Jinjer and Ignea because I was specifically targeting their sound producer – Max Morton. It was my dream to work with him on my album. After hard work this dream came true. You’ll hear this magic soon – the album “Shadows And Signs” is out on February 22, 2022.
Please tell us something about your own musical background.
I always wanted to be a musician. I entered music school when I was six, where I’ve studied for eight years – piano, music theory and history, sol-fa studies, choir. After that I focused on solo singing. I need to say I was never one of the ‘talented’ kids. I had to overcome a thousand of obstacles to become a musician. But I’m grateful now for all the hard lessons. Long story short, I finished University with a Master’s Degree in music (solo singing specialization).
Why did you move from the Ukraine to the United States?
After I finished University, I decided to travel as a singer on a contract base. It was a great experience. I saw many countries, worked with different musicians, even with circus artists! But I played the music that I didn’t like, so I knew it wouldn’t last. Later on, I met my future husband. We dated for some time and eventually I moved to him in the US. Due to his job, we are moving quite often. That’s why for the last 10 years I lived in about 10 different places (inside the States mostly, but also overseas).
Your real name is Polina Lymar. Is APOLINARA a derivative from your name?
Yes, you’re right! I’d like you and my listeners to address me as APOLINARA though.
Before your debut album “Shadows And Signs” will be out, you first released a couple of singles, of which “Slowly”, “Wonderful” and the title track are included on the album. But you also did a cover of Evanescence’s “Hello”. Is Amy Lee the most important influence for you as it comes to songwriting?
I truly admire Amy Lee indeed. I think she is a great role model for all females in music industry. I can’t say if she is the most important. I think I’m blending quite different genres into my music. But when it comes to songwriting precisely, sometimes I even don’t know what force works through me – it’s a real flow of magic! About the “Hello” cover, it’s so nice of you to bring it up. I hadn’t planned to cover it. I was looking for a cello player for my original songs I had for the album. I met Tatyana and decided to test if the ‘chemistry’ is right. I remembered “Hello” – piano, cello and voice. Such an intimate music – so easy to screw it because the listener will notice every faked emotion or harsh editing and autotune. So we did it! I loved every moment of collaboration with Tatyana. You’ll hear her magical playing on most of the songs on the forthcoming APOLINARA album.
When did you start to write more songs for the album? Are you the only songwriter for APOLINARA?
Most of the songs on “Shadows And Signs” were written as drafts a couple of years ago. I started to shape and polish arrangements and lyrics in the Spring of 2020. At first I planned to release an EP with 5 songs. But the creative process took me over. I finished more songs and wrote new ones. For example, the lyrics and main melody for “Tears Of Love” were composed in one day. It’s a special dedication to the most important people in my life – my husband and our daughter. In 2018, while visiting Madrid, I heard a street musician playing on a glass harp. I became obsessed to record an acoustic version of “Slowly” with a real glass harpist. After a long search I found Brien Engel. That’s how my wish came true. To finish demo arrangements, I contacted Vyacheslav Khabarov and Alexander Kasiarum. They are top skilled and talented musicians. With their fantastic guitars and drums 11 demo tracks were ready by the end of 2020. I sent the whole material to Max Morton. I mentioned before it was my dream to work with him… and he agreed! I added violin and cello players to our team and we eagerly started recording. The rest is history…
It’s a scary and amazing fact about humans – we are the only
species who consciously make self-destructive choices.
We even learned to enjoy them and get addicted…
– APOLINARA –
Your line-up is more comprehensive than a standard symphonic metal band’s composition, with a cello and violin, a male growler and even a glass harp on one track. A deliberate choice?
Yes, all musicians and instruments are purposeful and play their irreplaceable part on the album. I planned it religiously! I’ve already told you about the glass harp. I was worried about mixing this instrument with rich layered voice parts, violin and cello. But Max Morton was super supportive. I have no idea how he managed all those high harmonics into a mix, but the acoustic version of “Slowly” has an absolutely different sound in comparison with the band version. It’s weightless, sparkling, magical… About violin player Julia, we met during the “Somewhere” cover recording in January 2020. After I heard her solos and watched her high professional ethics in the studio, I had no doubts to invite Julia on board for the album. Fabian Morales – harsh vocalist on two tracks on “Shadows And Signs” – is my dear friend. We met online on the web page for musicians to collaborate. We made a few songs together there and our friendship naturally expanded to my own songs. He is a very diverse vocalist – from clean and operatic voice to harsh growls and screams. He is the front singer of two Guatemalan bands – Paralyzed Sun and Silent Poetry.
“Shadows And Signs” opens with an instrumental intro (simply titled “Intro”) and then two heavier songs, “Wonderful” and “You Can’t Get Away With This”, before bursting into the most epic song on the album, “Dragon Dance”. The song is inspired by the Dawn Of Dragons saga by Daniel Arenson. Besides reading fantasy books and music, how else do you spend your time in private?
Everything my 5-year-old wants me to! Nothing extraordinary here – I spend time with family, on nature, watching series, reading books as you mentioned. For the last two years, I haven’t listened much to music as I was deeply involved into composing and recording my own material, so in free time I needed silence, sounds of nature and my daughter’s laughter.
“The Smile Of The Demon” is probably the loudest track on the album with fast guitar riffs and pounding drums. What is it about?
The whole album is my personal manifest of Warrior Of Light. I guess “The Smile Of The Demon” is highlighting this intention – the endless fight with inner demons. It’s a scary and amazing fact about humans – we are the only species who consciously make self-destructive choices. We even learned to enjoy them and get addicted… I love the tale about the two wolves living and fighting inside of every person. One is representing everything good – the life itself – while the other is an evil one – who destroys. “Who will win?” – an apprentice asks – “The one you are feeding” – the master answers. The Warrior Of Light needs to meet both powers to ‘feed’ the right one. But we can’t destroy the ‘demon’ as we can’t go against our nature. What we can do is to learn how to recognize his false ‘smiles’, don’t follow the tricks and “Fire Up” our inner light. That’s why the line “Fire Up” is the moto of the album.
“Tears Of Love” is dedicated to your daughter. She seems old enough to me to understand the lyrics. When did you tell her it’s her song and what was her reaction?
She is 5 now, and she is my biggest fan – she puts my videos on YouTube, sings along, imitating playing piano as well. In her world all my music is only for her! When she was a baby, she wasn’t crying only while she was sleeping or me singing. It was my longest performance ever.😊 Yes, she understands most of the words in “Tears Of Love”, but the real meaning will come to her later. I’m planning to put a lyric video out for this song with our home clips on the background.
I saw Brien Engel playing the glass harp on your full album preview and I must admit, it looks ingenious. But personally, I see “Slowly (acoustic version)” more as an album filler. Please proof me wrong!
As I said before, I had this idea in my mind long before an album was on the horizon, even before I officially started the APOLINARA journey. I don’t expect everyone to embrace it, but I’m not trying to fit in someone’s expectations. I’m opening my heart, my story, my pure artistic vision. I aim to stay consistent as a story teller and genuine person in this album… and always.
You saved the best for last, the beautiful ballad “We Had It All”. My only point of critic is, why is it so short (just over 2 minutes)?
I’m not a fan of long good-bye’s…
His name has past us by a number of times already. “Shadows And Signs” was produced by Max Morton (Jinjer, Ignea, Bare Infinity, etc.). How did you poach him to do the job?
Max Morton is the genius! I approached him after releasing the first single “Slowly” in 2019. I got a very long dose of constructive criticism. I was amazed by his open, informative and polite feedback. It was clear to me: in order to work with him in the future I need to make a major change in my line-up. It was my goal and after listening to the demos he agreed. Max is very respectful to original materials. There are no words to express how comfortable and secure I felt during recording and sending materials to him.
The last question refers to the first one: in your opinion, how should presidents Biden and Putin solve the question of Eastern Ukraine?
I guess I expressed my position open enough. All nations need to gather their forces and diplomatic powers to help restore peace and make the dialogue possible. The people of Ukraine and President Zelensky must preserve the right to make future choices for the nation. Everyone who objects this right is not only rejecting the fact of an independent Ukraine with established borders as a sovereign country, but as a democracy itself!!