Welcome to part two of my unforgettable artists! This week I give you BrainStorm!
An incredible number of artists have participated in the Eurovision Song Contest over the years. Some of them we never hear from again after the contest, and very often that’s just as well. Others have this special something which makes them unforgettable. At least that’s the way it works for me. In this weekend series I will share with you some of the artists I’ve “found” through the contest and that have become part of “my music”.
There are many different reasons why an artist catches and keeps my attention, anything from a cool performance to a song that just fits perfectly in with my taste in music. Very often, though, the voice plays a big part. Certain voices just manage to touch my heart. In this series I will take a closer look at some of the artists who, for me, have gone on to have a “life after Eurovision”. Most of these have found their way into my absolute top league, and their albums are on heavy rotation on my cd player.
BrainStorm represented Latvia in the country’s debut year, 2000, with the song “My Star”. They finished in a more than respectable 3rd place, receiving 136 points. Belgium, Estonia, Finland and Norway had them in 1st place, and so did I. To me, this is one of the great mysteries in the Euroverse; how on earth did BrainStorm not win?!?!?
BrainStorm started out, as so many other great bands, being just a bunch of friends playing together and sharing the same dream. Not all these “friend bands” end up making it, but BrainStorm sure has! The band members are part of the generation in Latvia who were born during the Soviet regime, lived through the fight for independence, and are among the first to enjoy the freedom that was won.
Having lived through all these different realities has of course left it’s marks on their music. Lead singer and front man Renars Kaupers says that what initially inspired them to make music was Russian and Soviet-Latvian pop music from the 80s. This music had, according to Renars, it’s own mix of happiness and sorrow, something he feels the majority of BrainStorm’s songs also have.
So, BrainStorm was started in 1989, by four 15 year old classmates; Renars Kaupers, Janis Jubalts, Gundars Mausevics and Kaspars Roga. Not long after they were joined by a fifth classmate, Maris Mihelsons. Three years later they released their first single, and their debut album was released in Latvia as early as 1993, when they were only 19. The song Ziema (Winter) was the most successful track from this album.
Their Eurovision entry, My Star, is without a doubt what marked their international breakthrough. The song had huge success, especially in Belgium, Scandinavia and the Baltics. In the years after their participation My Star has turned into a massive fan classic, with great siccess on various votes and polls in the Euroverse.
Both REM’s Michael Stipe and Bob Dylan gave BrainStorm thumbs up after listening to their music, something that inspired the band to keep working towards an international career. In 2001 they released their album Online, which among other songs contained the wonderfully beautiful Maybe. This song became a huge hit in several countries, perhaps most surprisingly in Poland, where it was 2001’s by far most played song on radio. This was a great year for BrainStorm, as they opened for both Depeche Mode and The Cranberries. Two years later, on Mick Jagger’s 60th birthday, they also opened for The Rolling Stones in Prague.
At the end of May 2004 BrainStorm was struck by disaster, when one of their founding members, bass player, Gundars Mausevics, also known as Mumins, was killed in a car accident traveling from Riga to their hometown Jelgava. For a while there was some doubt as to whether the remaining band members would continue playing as BrainStorm, but in the end they decided to keep the band alive, as they believed this was what Mumins would have wanted.
Their following album was called Četri Krasti (Four Shores), to symbolize how painful the loss of Mumins still was for the band. The album still had part of his soul, as he had taken part in writing the music before he died. The recording of this album took a bit longer than planned, as they opened for REM in ten cities around Europe during their Around the Sun tour.
In 2006, when the first ever award for Best Baltic Act was handed out at the MTV Europe Music Awards, BrainStorm was the winner. This year also saw the release of the English version of Četri Krasti, Four Shores, in several European countries. The first single from this album, Thunder without Rain, was very successful in many countries, and both MTV Europe and VH1 Europe listed it.
BrainStorm has released 13 albums in Latvian, three in Russian and seven in English (some of these are different language versions of the same albums). They have also released a few Best of compilations. Their latest album, 7 soļi svaiga gaisa/7 Steps of Fresh Air was released simultaneously in Latvian, Russian and English in 2015. So far this year they have released the song “Little Raindrops”, which gives us hope of another album before too long.
BrainStorm also has a huge and well deserved reputation as a fantastic live band. They have toured “everywhere”, for instance in England, USA, China, Russia, Hungary, Moldova, Finland, Netherlands, Russia, Belarus and the Baltic states. Every summer they do the “festival circut” and last year they even performed at Glastonbury (watch the full, amazing set below)!
An earlier version of this article has been published on escNorge.net.