Twenty years after the release of their first album, former t.A.T.u. members Lena Katina and Julia Volkova are not in contact. Speaking in separate interviews with Ksenia Sobchak, Lena and Julia have shed light on the founding of the group and their solo careers since breaking up.
Back in 2003, t.A.T.u. finished third for Russia at Eurovision, with only a few points to spare between them and winner Sertab Erener from Turkey.
For the two Muscovites, the song contest was pretty much a negligible event in their career. The duo were already recognised as the most successful Russian act outside of Eastern Europe in the history of pop music. Their 2001 English-language single “All the Things She Said” climbed charts around the world and also reached the top 20 of the Billboard charts in the US.
The duo received a lot of media attention around the globe. This came down partly to the fact they included same-sex kisses in their music videos and performances at a time when the acceptation of the LGBT+ community was more muted.
Their anything-goes attitude unnerved Eurovision organisers. In 2003, producers reportedly threatened to broadcast the duo’s rehearsal footage of “Ne ver’, ne boysia i ne prosi” rather than their actual performance if it became “too racy” — i.e., included a same-sex kiss.
t.A.T.u. discuss their stage image
However, in the Ksenia Sobchak interview, Lena and Julia both said they didn’t understand the sexual connotations of their performances at the start of their career, including those surrounding their first hit single.
In 1999 their producer asked them to watch the Swedish film Show Me Love, which featured two schoolgirls falling in love. Both girls were around the age of fifteen at the time.
“[Our producer Ivan Shapolavov] never said that we would be lesbians. Such conversations, I don’t remember. I only remember that we first were searching for musical material for a long time. There were a few songs before “Ya Soshla S Uma” [the Russian version of “All The Things She Said”] appeared. There were several songs and Ivan just went on a search. He had this habit, there were no mobile phones back then, that he would call and say: “I will come by just now, you have to listen to this music”. I remember that he came and in the car, he put on the song “Ya Soshla S Uma”. A demo. I don’t remember who sang it, perhaps Elena Kiper, or someone else. And he said: ‘Don’t you hear how amazing!’, highly emotional. He was an emotional person.”
“Before the shooting, Ivan said that we had to kiss. With laughter. We also laughed. Julia and I thought that he was just joking.”
Julia explained in her part that she found the role a bit hard to play and that the two both found it rather funny to do. Later, she added that it was more of a provocation, which worked to get attention in the music industry.
Subsequently, Ksenia Sobchak asked Lena whether their producer had explained the meaning behind the song and whether they understood that the song had sexual undertones. Lena answered:
“Then no. I think that kind of conversation came later, when we couldn’t do it on stage. We were laughing terribly, and Ivan got terribly angry. Then Ivan started to explain that such love exists, and that not everybody accepts it.”
“You cannot imagine how many messages we received from different people, who told us, ‘You saved our life. Thank you.'”
t.A.T.u. are not on speaking terms
The interviews were filmed separately for good reason. For several years, the duo have acknowledged that they aren’t on speaking terms. The last time they appeared together publicly was during the Neposedy jubileum concert in 2016. Nevertheless, Julia stated that she wouldn’t mind reuniting with Lena.
Since their disbandment as a duo, each of them has launched a solo career. Lena told Sobchak that she fully lives off of performing and making music.
Julia, meanwhile, has had a bit of a rougher road since leaving t.A.T.u.. Volkova, who had already suffered vocal issues while part of the duo, revealed in 2016 that she had received treatment for thyroid cancer, which caused her to lose her speaking voice. She told Sobchak that she is planning to continue singing and touring. She earns most her money through real estate investments, design and advertising.
Did you watch t.A.T.u.’s Ksenia Sobchak interview? Are you surprised by these revelations? Let us know in the comments down below!