Next up in our Last Set series, where we’re talking to a wide range of artists about their final gig before government-ordered lockdowns and travel bans went into effect in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is Julia Bondar.
We spoke with the Ukrainian born, Barcelona-based electronic music artist, singer, and songwriter about her last set before lockdown and what she’s been up to since the clubs shut down due to the pandemic.
When and where was your last live gig?
Julia Bondar: In January my friend, Hector (Frau Diamanda), who is well known in the Barcelonan queer scene, called me and asked if I would like to perform in Meteoro. It is a well-known club for an underground and dark scene. I said yes, just because I know how much fun I always have with Hector and Xaby. I instantly agreed.
How did it go?
Metoeoro is quite a tiny vampire place with an amazing mood. Many people attended the event, and I felt they were ready for a crazy dance so I played hard. The beauty of modular synthesizers is that they reflect your mood. The audience and environment of the club gave me a nice feeling and I got inspired.
What was your mindset going into it? Where had you played previously?
Usually, on the day of the performance, I dedicate a couple of hours in the morning time to rehearsal on my modular and check all connections. Then I like to have a rest/yoga and meditation throughout the day at home or in a hotel room. Then a couple of hours before the concert I like to stay alone listening to my private playlist of favorite music. Meanwhile, I do stage makeup searching for the right outfit. The right clothing always helps me to achieve that sense of presence I want to transmit from the stage. It is very important to have a certain ritual, which helps me to feel unconditional confidence.
I probably played in almost every underground club in Barcelona and the audience is very cheerful and supportive. I believe that Barcelona is a very nice place to feel that proper energy from the people.
Did any tracks, in particular, go over especially well during that gig?
In my live program, I perform live all the tracks which I have already released and always add some more from my fresh unreleased stuff so I can keep my program evolving and not that boring. I know of some particular tracks that have a great effect on an audience. “Talk Dirty To Me” and “Black T-Shirt” are my peak-time bangers. Even before releasing my latest, the I Want Forbidden EP, I have already made shows with the tracks from the EP included with some tracks from the album, In My Neighborhood, and singles. The live version of “Fleurs Du Mal” also works perfectly with the drops.
What is your best memory from that gig?
The best part of the gig in Meteoro was in the end then I was performing one of my most popular songs “Fleurs Du Mal,” I cranked up the FM modulation index to the maximum and Hector and Xaby come to a stage and started to dance. It was a real atmosphere of celebration. It is documented, and I’ve posted some footage:
Even though I play modular, I want to make people dance and have a real party but not staying in the dark corner analyzing how the music is made.
Everyone can’t wait for clubs and festivals to begin again. What do you miss most about playing live? How are you keeping your skills sharp?
The past few months were quite a proactive time, and I have rearranged properly my studio and updated my modular cases with some new modules, which you will hear, soon in my next releases.
Usually, it is hard to find a time when many gigs are planned to take a risk and reconfigure modular case and sharpening my skills with the new modules in the rack. The quarantine was a perfect time to do it. Also, I’ve been working on new tracks which I fully compose using new modules but I still have to invest some time to compile new scores into a new live show.
A lot of DJs and live acts have been doing live streams and working on tracks. What have you been working on during the lockdown? How can fans support you right now?
At the beginning of spring, I went to Ukraine to visit my family to support them. Shortly after my arrival, the lockdown was announced and I stayed trapped in the country for almost two months, almost with zero of my belongings. The borders of the countries were closed and all flights were canceled. I patiently waited for the borders to be opened again but I did not imagine that it could last for so long. I saw many artists starting to stream from studios or making new music, but I could not even get my hands on my instruments.
During that time, however, part of my tracks from the upcoming 12” LP were already in the mixing process by Gaël Loison, who has mixed all my best tracks including In My Neighbourhood album (Detroit Underground™) and “Fleurs Du Mal” (Endorphin.es Production).
Once the situation with my family stabilized, I realized I have to figure out my way home. While no trains and public transport were working, I found a driver who took me to the border with Belorussia – the neighboring country where quarantine wasn’t implemented and they allowed me transit pass thru. Then I crossed the border off Belorussia walking and another driver took me to the Minsk. From Minsk, I took a plane to Barcelona where my home is and returned successfully.
After arriving with a fresh mind, I got an offer from Fragrance, the French musician, to remix one of his songs. That was the first time I did a remix but that relatively easy for me as I like the song a lot. I’ve chosen “So Typical,” which was released recently on all digital platforms on the Synth Religion label:
During the lockdown, I have made a couple of live streams: one from the rooftop of the building I live in Barcelona for BE-AT.TV, and one from my studio for Modular Gang Berlin:
I was also getting many invites from different platforms to do more live streams, however, I have decided to slow down and focus on my new music. I had to put priorities in this case. Once the festival industry is restored there will be no time to spend in the studio. I tried my best to prepare a new live setup and to make my new record (vinyl and digital!) to see the world in September 2020.