Musicians Defend Ukraine: How Love’n’Joy are raising money for the frontline

They might not have military expertise, but Ukrainian psych-rockers Love’n’Joy are doing all they can to directly help the frontline through fundraising, gigging and the power of music.

Musicians Defend Ukraine: How Love’n’Joy are raising money for the frontline
Ren Aldridge

Anton Pushkar and Lesik Omodada look utterly exhausted. Lesik hasn't heard from his sisters since Russian airstrikes hit their hometown shortly before our interview, and speaks with the measured calm of someone still processing the kind of unspeakable horror that is becoming everyday life for Ukrainians since Russia’s invasion on February 24.

“It’s so strange because it happens almost every day and somehow your brain is getting used to this,” he begins. “I hope it’s going to be fine with them. Everyday that we are living now – I was talking with some Ukrainians yesterday, and everybody has got tons of problems – I think one day is like one month of your health going away.”

Alongside Andrii Sukhariev and Sergii Zlobin, Anton is a member of Ukrainian psychedelic rock band Love’n’Joy, who have just completed a tour of Europe with Lesik enlisted to join the live band. Their dreamy yet driven performances were punctuated by their reason for touring: Musicians Defend Ukraine, a fund they set up to raise money to “buy some helmets and aid kits for our friends who are musicians… they are defending their cities right now.”

Musicians Defend Ukraine grew from existing connections within the Ukrainian music scene, and managed to raise over £42,000 in its first two months to buy equipment for those on the frontline – providing everything they can from bandages to drones. Lesik has already received photos of people using the equipment they’ve provided, accompanied by powerful, “really crazy” comments like ‘your aid kit helped me to survive’ and ‘your helmet stopped the bullet’.

While bassist Andrii and drummer Sergii are based in Berlin, vocalist/guitarist Anton and touring keyboardist Lesik live in Ukraine, and had to get express permission from the Ukrainian ministry of culture to exit the country, where men are forbidden to leave in case they are needed to fight. Currently the frontlines are largely made up of people with military experience, which they do not have, so decided to help the only way they knew how: through music.

“If anyone wants to join it’s really easy,” Lesik encourages. “Anyone can record a song and say you’re going to donate the money from digital sales and streaming… or you can play a concert and donate from your concert. And many people through the whole world [have] helped us, from Singapore to Sri Lanka, from Canada to the U.S.”

“Different parts of the world [are] trying to support somehow,” adds Anton. “[You] can sell your records, collect money, organise a show – there’s lots of options available. And for [promoters] you can also just have a Ukrainian band play, because I guess all of the bands who are outside the Ukraine right now are raising money. We have a really big volunteer movement in Ukraine, and in a really horrible time it’s really nice to know and a really warm feeling that everybody cares for each other. And to see how people from Europe and U.S. help us, that’s really important.”

Love’n’Joy received a great deal of support on tour. Friends in Germany provided the band with a car and full backline for as long as they needed it, and many people presented them with money they’ve raised outside of the band’s own fundraising efforts. But the frustration of Ukraine slipping from global headlines, even as the situation worsens, remains.

“Civilians are suffering a lot," begins Anton, pointing to a recent missile strike on a shopping mall. "We have to spread this news... People [need] to understand that Russia is trying to get back their empire and they’re not going to stop peacefully and easily... Ukraine is just the neighbour, the first one protecting the whole of Europe.”

Like many Ukrainians, Love’n’Joy have extended family living in Russia who have severed contact since the war began. “I have a cousin,” says Lesik, words hanging heavy in the air. “We were best friends all our lives, then she sent me [false articles] that Ukraine has bio-laboratories and Russia comes to destroy them and all this bullshit propaganda stuff. She ended up telling me I need to die.”

With the war now raging into its seventh month, Love’n’Joy are determined to tour for as long as possible, as this is how they feel they can raise the most money for Musicians Defend Ukraine, and best help people back home.

Last week they released their new album Half Home, which was completed in Kyiv just three days before war broke out. Even though the title was chosen before the invasion, it represents so much of the grief for what is happening to their country right now, as well as its history, with the title-track exploring Russia’s 2014 invasion and the loss of Anton’s childhood home of Crimea.

Asked if they have any parting words, the band’s message is clear: “Arm Ukraine. That’s what we need right now. We are peaceful guys but at this moment the only thing that can help our people survive is some weapons that could hold back the Russian forces. They just have so [many] weapons and they won’t stop peacefully.”

Love’n’Joy’s new album Half Home is out now. Book them to play a show.

Support Musicians Defend Ukraine.

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