Monday, June 17, 2024

Go Your Way – A Documentary About Ukrainian All-girl Band Death Pill’s Escape After Russian Invasion

Imagine you’re a young woman, you loved punk rock, riot grrl and The Runaways in your teens. Now you’re in a punk band with your best mates. You’ve done a load of gigs and carved a small name for yourselves in your local scene. You’ve spent years honing your songs and have nearly finished recording your debut album. Life’s looking up, yes?

Then Russia invades your country and everything goes up in smoke. That’s what happened on the 24th February 2022, when Mariana Navrotska, Anastasiia Khomenko and Natalya Syeryakova, collectively known as Death Pill an all-female punk band from Ukraine. No future? Not necessarily.

Despite the war forcing the girls apart to different countries, their album did actually come out (released a year to the day Russia invaded by a small London record label). Separated for over a year and a half, the girls then had the opportunity to reunite for a three week European tour (their first ever gigs outside Ukraine) in June 2023. This is the backdrop to Dan Baskerville’s film Go Your Way that picks up the Death Pill story as they embark on the UK leg of said tour.

The first thing to point out about Go Your Way is that it’s not a film about the war, nevertheless it is very much part of Death Pill, and, clearly, it’s not something they can or want to shy away from, as they say in the film, “This is not just a tour for us”.

Baskerville is a director and producer with a background in cultural and social documentaries, primarily for the BBC and other British broadcasters. He is keenly interested in telling stories through the lens of alternative culture, in particular alternative music. Howe

However, in Go Your Way Baskerville does not to force things, letting the girls’ story slowly unfold whilst allowing them to be themselves. They talk about each other and the war of course, their beginnings, they muck about in the studio. There is some furious punk rock as they kick it out on stage, surprised and touched by the welcome they receive from the Brits.

Throughout the film, there is a warmth and candour that is as surprising as it is charming, it’s been said that it’s hard not to fall for them. For the three of them it must have been a very Oz-like (as in Wizard Of) journey, but of course reality is never far away, the fun and the excitement will have to end, and they have to come to terms with the fact that when this tour is over, they will head their separate ways again.

What Go Your Way is ultimately about is friendship. An intimate, sometimes bittersweet portrait of three mates, whose once happy lives have irrevocably changed. It’s funny, moving, heartfelt, at times sad, but also uplifting. Allowing us the audience to experience with the band members a vignette or moment in time, that may never be repeated in quite the same way.

Go Your Way will receive a very special press/preview at a curated screening event at The Frontline Club* in London, on the 21st of June. Death Pill themselves will be coming to the UK to attend the event and will be doing a Q & A session after the screening along with director Dan Baskerville. It’s the first time the girls have been together since the tour last year.

Although this is a preview, tickets for the event are available to everyone from here.

The following week on June 29th, Go Your Way will receive its full film festival premiere as an official selection at the Brighton Rocks international Film Festival. A festival that aims to give maximum support to emerging filmmakers and to become the UK’s main forum for indie and underground cinema.  The screening is scheduled for 1-3 pm at the Manchester Street Arts Club and tickets are available here. Once again, all three members of Death Pill plus the director will be in attendance for a Q & A post-screening.

*Set up in 2003, the Frontline Club quickly became a centre for a diverse group of people united by their passion for quality journalism and dedication to ensuring that stories that fade from headlines are kept in sharp focus.

Russa’s invasion of Ukraine united communities across the globe in support for Ukraine and Ukrainian musicians. Fundraising compilations were put together featuring Ukrainian bands, so that people to donate and support them. One such compilation came to the ears a small rock/metal label based in London.  It featured a track by Death Pill, one of the completed tracks for their album. The label asked if the band had any more material, the band had in fact pretty much recorded an album and were in the process of finishing it when the war started and things were put on hold.

The label offered to release the album out if they could finish it.  Sadly, by this time, two of them, drummer Anastasiia and bassist Natalya had left Ukraine. Anastasiia to Spain with her eight year old son and Natalya went to Australia to work. Vocalist/guitarist Mariana remained in Kyiv, though all three stayed in touch.

The girls couldn’t give up the opportunity of releasing their album. So, by working remotely and with the help of friends, they managed to complete the album by mid-2022, despite the invasion being in full swing. New Heavy Sounds released their self-titled debut Death Pill in February 2023, one year to the day that Russia invaded.

Pretty much straight away there was a lot of attention from the mainstream press, The Guardian, The Sunday Times and Sky News all ran pieces on them, naturally enough focusing on their situation, but notably, the UK rock press Kerrang, Metal Hammer and the like started championing them, and for the music. The dream was that there would be a way to get the band over to tour Europe and the UK. In June 2023 that dream became a reality. Thanks to new found fans and support in Germany, Holland and the UK, the band had the opportunity to do a three-week tour. Not mega funded, by big agents or record labels, but a true DIY operation made real by the spirit and support of grassroots punk communities. 

They finally hit the UK for four dates. Promoters and bands offered the band places to crash, food transport and good will every step of the way. And not least the many punters who came out to see and support them. After five days, it was over and the band once again went their separate ways. It was during those five days they spent in the UK that Dan Baskerville captured them for his film, that you can check out a trailer for here at RAMzine.

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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