Scofferlane's 2014 album, Rebellion, is a triumph - intense and unnervingly catchy. But you probably haven't heard it. Based in Moscow, the band rarely plays outside of Russia.

It was a result of one such rare occasion that I chanced upon them, visiting an event headed by Pussy Riot, the Russian protest band that reached levels of world fame when members of the group were imprisoned by the Russian government.

Since that performance in January of this year, I've listened to Rebellion at least once a week. It's infectious, multi-layered and invigorating; and bandleader Matt Kulakov's voice, which was so strong that it literally rumbled the floors of the venue when I saw them, makes Scofferlane's music fill space in the way an orchestra does, more than a rock band.

During February and March, I spoke to Matt by email about Scofferlane's work. While answering questions about his musical influences, other countries' perceptions of Russia, and about his relationship with punk, the band went to Berlin, and - not for a tour, it has to be said--Matt visited Cambodia, via Vietnam.

In my limited view, Matt probably deserves a break. But I don't think he'll take one.

I heard your music as part of Rotterdam International Film Festival, sitting down in an old Dutch theatre. Was it odd for you to perform like that? Your music isn't traditional theatre music...

Oh, yes, it was kind of weird. But it was also my dream to perform in a place like that. Long ago I happened to be at a rock show in Stanislavsky's theatre in Moscow. It wasn't actually a usual rock gig but I was deeply impressed by the fact that you can only sit in your own chair, in your separate capsule, and you are on your own with this wild energy growing inside of your chest.

I found it pretty interesting that night, and wanted immediately to have my own gig in a theatre. But it's not that easy. It's not easy even to book a gig in Moscow clubs. So I got my kicks singing in Rotterdam. Besides, I think our music has something in common with theatrical performance, doesn't it?

Absolutely - there's theatricality to your performance. In fact, that element of your performance marks Scofferlane out as a very different band live, compared with your recordings. Do you see a difference?

There's always a difference between records and live performances to me. But on Rebellion, we tried to minimize the difference. We made the album in two months, I mean the whole composing and recording process. I decided to produce it myself after our unsuccessful experience in studios. It's really hard to get the sound you want in our country.

I guess the main reason for the difference, though, at least at that performance in Rotterdam, was the absence of saxophone. Jenya, our saxophone player, just couldn't join us in Rotterdam - she had another performance in Moscow - and we had to make the sound different from what we did on the record. Anyway we never tried to make the live sound like on our records. And it's true, the act of performance means a lot to us. You can never put this feeling of connection with your audience on a record. Unless it's a live record, of course.

Much of the strength of your performance comes from your voice, I think. Is it a style you've developed consciously, and is it influenced by anybody in particular?

I can't say much about my voice, that's the way it sounds. It was certainly influenced by singers I've listened to, but you'll be interested in knowing that my favourite male singers are Fred Neil, Tim Buckley, Stuart Staples, Dean Martin, Otis Redding, Scott Walker, Roy Orbison...

I can see that: Scott Walker, Tim Buckley, Roy Orbison... they have a theatrical element as well.

I'm really glad that you can hear all these great guys in our music. There's no doubt they influenced me musically in the first place. Actually I was influenced by hundreds of musicians. To me every artist should be like a sponge, soaking lots of sounds and images up.

Speaking of your voice, I'm interested in why you choose to sing in English.

You see, people from the US or the EU are used to thinking that Russian musicians have to surprise the world with their exotic national culture. But I don't know any exotic Russian culture. Even Russians want to believe in the existence of their unique culture. But I don't see it clearly.

I don't believe that you'd like to watch us performing dressed in felt boots, kokoshniks, and quilted jackets, playing on balalaika shaped guitars, singing Russian folk songs. All great Russian world achievements, both in science and in culture, are international. Besides, the Russian language is a local language and it's impossible to make foreign audiences listen to songs in Russian. In the 1980s, Russian rock bands tried to conquer the Western audience, but they failed.

Most modern Russian bands sing in English now. I love my language but to me it belongs to literature and poetry more than to modern music. I was raised on American and English music - there was no cool Russian music to drive me crazy. Of course I tried to sing in Russian, but it didn't work for me.

Do you feel that people will always try to connect your music with your nationality, and maybe therefore politics? Does it bother you?

Of course I realize that people will think of us in that context. It bothers me, but not that much. Anyway, it's all about music and music has no limits or borders. When I collaborated with Pussy Riot, making records in New York with great musicians like Richard Hell or Nick Zinner, I had no problems with my nationality. I have simply forgotten about it.

Would you describe yourselves as punk?

Well, I think yes. But not as a musical style. Our music is more complicated and includes many styles and Influences.

In what way is Scofferlane punk? Politically?

Well... It's just one part of our music. I agree with Kurt Cobain: "Punk is musical freedom. It is saying, doing and playing what you want."

As for politics, we've consciously placed Rebellion between social degradation, despair, and sex. That's how we feel now and there's nothing left to say about politics in my country. Everything's clear to us now - it's only getting worse.

But we got a couple of so called political tracks: 'Veto', dedicated to elections, and 'Mr. Dwarf Man', dedicated to our beloved president, whose name cannot be spoken...

Do you play outside of Russia much?

Not much. It depends on many factors, such as the visa regime, the ruble... it's twice as expensive for Russians to travel outside our country now. Common people pay for their government's policy as usual.

Of course the audience is different outside the country; it's not easy to understand our music in Russia, and we've never played in the US, but in Europe people are more open to new experiences and they don't use clichés in every case when they meet something they find strange. And, I know I said that myriad Russian bands sing in English, but unfortunately no one needs your lyrics here. For example it was pretty unexpected to me when people came to me after our performance in Rotterdam and we chatted about lyrics.

What are your plans over the coming year?

Well, I don't know about the whole year, but we're already working on Scofferlane's new album, We're planning a European tour despite everything, and in October I hope we'll be performing in the UK. I also hope to release Stuart Stumpman's new record, which is the project I worked on before Scofferlane. We'll see...

Scofferlane is a pretty interesting name, come to think of it.

"Scoffer" is one of my favourite words in English. It's better than "mocker", and it sounds like a whizzing sword.


Scofferlane's latest single, 'Bug Out', is out now: more details are on the band's website. Matt helped compose Pussy Riot's first song in English, 'I Can't Breathe'; named after the final words of Eric Garner. That's here.