Big fish: how musician Oleg Lyogky found fame in 15 minutes

Big fish: how musician Oleg Lyogky found fame in 15 minutes

Oleg Lyogky's first album about the fish of the River Amur went viral. Now he's back with a second album. But will it do as well?

4 June 2013
Text Masha Egupova

Producing a second album is notoriously difficult especially when, like musician Oleg Lyogky, your opening shot catapults you to instant fame. After quitting his day job on a whim in late 2012, the 30-year-old went home to record his first album. Five days later and Lyogky, whose real name is Sergei Podlednev, had produced a ten-minute concept album about fish in the Amur River, a stretch of water that runs between the Russian Far East and Northeastern China.

Fish of the River Amur was an instant hit; according to media reports, it garnered between 20,000 and 50,000 likes on Russian social networking site VK.com, Russia’s answer to Facebook, within just one week. Soon Lyogky was touring in Ukraine and performing at some of Moscow’s foremost music venues. “It was fun,” he says with characteristic pithiness.

Each of the seven songs on the Fish of the River Amur lasts between 30 seconds and three minutes. Depending on how fast you read, you can probably listen to the entire album before you reach the end of this article. The album draws on nu-folk and British indie music. Think Radiohead and The Smiths with a sprinkling of Devendra Banhart and you’re almost there. It even includes a cover of The Smiths’ There is A Light That Never Goes Out with the lyrics rewritten to reflect the album’s fishy theme. Each song is dedicated to a different fish that lives in the river: carp, perch and bream, to name just a few.

“I love fish because they’re quiet,” says Lyogky, who spent his childhood fishing in the river with his grandfather. “The Amur is a great river. I get my inspiration from it and Thom Yorke.” The brevity of the album speaks to audiences in the Twitter age, where attention spans are limited and messages competing in a world of data need to be short, snappy and, usually, entertaining; hence the popularity of lolcats, gifs and internet memes.

“The Amur is a great river. I get my inspiration from it and Thom Yorke.”

Now Lyogky is back with a new album, Guys Don’t Pay, a musical departure from the nu-folk harmonies of Fish of the River Amur. Made in collaboration with musician Alexander Raiushkin, the electronic album comprises a total of four songs. But, unlike the first, it does not revolve around a single theme. Although the critical response to Guys Don’t Pay has been positive, the album has not experienced the whirlwind success that accompanied Fish of the River Amur.

Although he recorded that album in Vladivostok, Lyogky grew up in Khabarovsk, a city with leafy avenues and squares with fountains, 30km from the Chinese border. He has since returned to his hometown where he has turned his attention to carpentry. “Khabarovsk is a place where my mum, sister, grandpa and grandma live. The Amur is a special river for me. It taught me to see beauty,” he explains. Despite his musical success, Lyogky is not the type to churn out music and is reluctant to plan too far ahead. “I never plan to write any songs,” he says. “They happen spontaneously.”

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