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  • Writer's pictureKyriakos Tsinivits

Eurovision Fan of the Week - Svai from Lithuania

For this week’s Eurovision of the Week we spoke to Svai, aka @soniapepperonia on Twitter who comes to us from Lithuania. Svai has waited a very very very long time to speak to us! She shares her love for Páll Óskar's 'Minn hinsti dans', and what makes the Lithuania’s National Final ‘Pabandom iš Naujo!’ special to her, which concludes this weekend with the final.

Thank you for being our Aussieivision fan of the week! Tell us a little about yourself:

So people on Twitter know me as Sonia, but nowadays my preferred self-nickname is Svai - it's half of my real name, and also it's how AWS from Hungary addressed me one time. I'm 21 years old and I live in a decently small sized village somewhere in the Kaunas region. I study English language for public relations in college, and it's my last year studying that. My interesting fact about me for today is that I sing and write songs whenever I feel like it. Recently (since 2019) I've started tapping into the Eurovision waters, trying to submit my work into a variety of NFs - from my own country Lithuania, to Norway, Georgia, and even Australia! One day I hope to make it to Eurovision at least as a songwriter, if not a singer... but both would be even better, I'd say.

WOW that is awesome! We really hope you make it to Eurovision! ~ Kyriakos

When did you first get into Eurovision?

The very first national final I ever saw on TV was ours in 2006 - I was staying over at some guest's house, and the TV kept me entertained. I sorta remember seeing like 2 or 3 songs on there but not ever letting it cross my mind that these songs contended for a European competition called Eurovision... nor do I remember hearing We Are the Winners on it. All I knew of it was that it just was a "flashy Lithuanian music concert" and that I had to go home before they announced the results... But I only really started following Eurovision from seeing the adverts for 2009 Eurovision on our national broadcaster, and I really wanted to see what's the deal with THAT Eurovision "concert". It was a late night for a 9 year old like me to watch TV so I told mom I'm not watching who qualified, just to get into bed real quick afterwards. But I did watch the voting, and remember doing loud obnoxious commentary on top of it while watching... needless to say I think the family people around me were embarrassed, haha.

Afterwards, the first national final I thoroughly followed was Lithuania 2010, the first foreign NF I watched was Malta 2010 (Junior Eurovision), the first Melodifestivalen final I saw was the year after (the first full edition in 2013), and now it's safe to say I'm fully immersed into Eurovision!

P.S.: I've done embarrassing headcanons for the 2009 contest, shipping Bosnia & Herzegovina band's lead singer with Elena Gheorge from Romania, and Alexander Rybak with Nelly Ciobanu from Moldova. To think I was NINE and I have created shippings in my head?!

What is your favourite Eurovision performance and why?

I don't know??? I've seen so many performances over the years that I could compliment and write thousands of paragraphs towards, but if I had to restrict myself to one... for this day's interview, I would like to shout out "Minn hinsti dans" by Páll Óskar. The thing that the Icelandic team did had all the things in mind they wanted to do - where camera angles should be located, for example - is just glorious, and their decisions resulted in one eyecatching performance, all the way from closeups on Páll's face to his promiscuous dancers in leather bodysuits laying all over a couch. It sucks that it came out in time when the televote only started to roll out, and only in a few countries, because with more countries televoting in that year, it could've done so much better, and wouldn't have had to be relegated from 1998. Justice for Minn hinsti dans, forever.

Yes justice for 'Minn hinsti dans', I would say it definitely has a cult Eurofan following now! ~ Kyriakos

Which is your favourite Eurovision year and why?

Maybe I do have a bias for 2009 considering it's my first edition, but I also think it's the best one, if considering the overall package. There are several songs that are liked by barely anyone are that I enjoy either ironically or not, and I absolutely adore the postcards - I think they were very creative in design, and I love when they have to go the extra mile to create a different song a postcard rather than reuse 1 or 3-4 songs for all of them.

My other big favourite is 2018 because a lot of my favourites from their NFs won, which made me happy for the most of the NF season, then the Lithuanian one happened and... the less I talk about it the better! The other great thing about 2018 is that there are so many contestants that I wish that could adopt me, because they're so friendly and awesome. And third, my number 1 favourite - Albania - burned all its doubts away it had post revamp that it could flop by Eugent being just THAT powerhouse of a vocalist - Albania qualifying from semi 1 just simply made my night!

Song wise I also hold 2013 and 2015 dearly to my heart.

Which artist/s from your country would you love to see on the Eurovision stage? Which song/s best showcases that artist?

Honestly, when it comes to Lithuania, I am not an avid follower of their music scene... sorry! I'm more of a "I want this artist for this other country than mine" person (no but seriously Germany, please send Milky Chance one day, thank you??). Besides, my number one big wish for Lithuania (The Roop) was already granted, and I actually saw that in action live in the arena for the 2020 NF final... and naturally that means I would hope they slay a second time.

But whenever I do have to occasionally peek at our greatest and never having been to ESC, I do think that Sisters on Wire would be my top priority - we have never sent an act quite like this before with this specific sound I believe, and I offer everyone to check out their songs "Taip jau gavosi" and "Mėlyna mėlyna" to see what I mean.

From those that already have been to our NF before, I would choose Gabrielius Vagelis to be sent - his pop songs are damn fine and I think that he could bring back Lithuanian language for a full lenght song to Eurovision! I saw him live and he's entertaining.

Yes, Gabrielius Vagelis is a favourite of ours at Aussievision, we also hope he gets to go to Eurovision one day! ~ Kyriakos

Which national final do you look forward to the most? What makes it special?

Besides the Lithuanian one, the one I've always loved to tune into the most as of lately is Festivali i Këngës. Naturally because there's nothing else to occupy my time with that isn't sleep, also, you always gotta love seeing the excitement about what is gonna be the first song of the Eurovision year for yourself!

What makes Pabandom iš naujo special to me is seeing new talent I might've never seen before emerge on our selection, giving me the songs to root for that we could send. Some I even end up listening to a lot for the rest of the NF year as well! That helps me to keep up with local music scene more, because like I said, I don't check it out very often.

Festivali i Këngës is just the first national final of the Eurovision year, which is, as they're often used to, full of long adbreaks and unexplained interval acts. But I forgive them, as their adverts and interval acts can be very entertaining. Besides, that allows me to take a look into the Albanian music scene and occasionally follow the more promising artists. Something that most internal selections don't allow (sorry Azerbaijan).

If you could change one thing about any national final or Eurovision what would it be?

Eurovision-wise: I would like to slightly increase the number of people allowed on stage to 8. Why yell at the Eurovision movie for allowing more than 6 people on stage why we ourselves can have just as much? I think it's obvious that sometimes the performances greatly benefit from more people on stage too - not just for the amount of dancers, but for the backing singers as well. E.g.: Hungary 2018 would've sounded so much better if they allowed those several female backing vocalists, that were more than just 1, to create a better momentum for the last chorus. In Lisbon it kinda sounded unceremonious.

NF wise: Nothing much, just have the Lithuanian selection value the televote greater when it comes to tiebreaks. Jury is known to make some questionable decisions over the past few years, they say they know what's good for Eurovision when in reality sometimes their decisions are hit or miss (looking at you Fusedmarc and Jurijus). Why not rely on televotes a bit more sometimes? At least when it comes to tiebreaks in pre-final rounds.

What is your opinion on returning artists? Is there one you would like to see again?

Let's get this one gripe out of the way: people, please, do NOT overhype greatly-placed returning artists out of the gate. What happens then if your desired artist is bringing something disappointing to the table? Wouldn't that make you look foolish in comparison? I'm sorry, it's just something that I hate seeing about returning artists when it comes to social media. My overall opinion is that I'm fine with them if they send in a song that I like...

Having said all that, if I *had* to pick an artist I would like to see again, it's undoubtedly The Roop, I miss them so much. But I already said it, so besides that, and still sticking with 2020 choices, then maybe I have come to warm up to Aksel? I do like both his UMK efforts - the one that won and the one in contention - and my heart is already crushed seeing him compete in the 2 years with an early-spotted pretty strong contender to win it all in the lineup as well (Erika Vikman and Blind Channel, respectively). And I like those songs from the winner contenders, and I would be down for 2021 to have a rock song since Eurovision has been quite starved off of the genre as of lately, but my dear God I'd be lying to myself if I didn't say that I don't want Aksel to get his full Eurovision experience.

I've warmed up to wanting to see Diodato get his full Eurovision experience as well, not just to have Arena di Verona all to himself. As well as Ben Dolić, whenever Slovenia's ready. And what are you waiting for to give James Newman another go, BBC? Even if I said all that on the first paragraph, a part of me wants justice for 2020 artists, really. And that is all.

If you could pick only three performances to encourage new people to watch Eurovision what would they be:

"Euphoria", because obviously. You gotta know what's most popular with the current "it" crowd. "Viszlát nyár" or "Hatrið mun sigra", to showcase at least one entry of the "and now for something completely different" calibre. "Heroes", because I gotta throw in a visually engaging performance in the mix (and the robot's cute).

Which Eurovision song:

Is your favourite?

I am too lazy to rerank the entire contest, so as a placeholder answer, I always say Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009 ("Bistra voda"). Somehow 9 year old Svai was super into it, and so does the 21 year old her, haha. I love the part where they all pose like the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue, and the wind machine dramatically makes the cape soar in greatness. And then the lead singer has a sad look in his eyes. And at the end he raises his fist in the air - my favourite performance closer, for some reason. Hope the appreciation for this song continues ever so through the future decades.

Is the best winner?

You cannot always ask someone what is the "best" thing ever because there's no decided objective "best" thing ever (unless you talk Eurovision songs, which can often prompt talks about Euphoria lol). So my favourite winner so far is Arcade, I think? Does that make me a basic bitch? Decide for yourself. It just happens to be my fave winner because I'm a sucker for soft male emotional ballads.

Has the best live vocal?

Off the top of my head it's always Mall for me. To quote an American Idol auditionee: Eugent "don't sing, [he] SANG".

The best from the last 10 years?

I'm gutted that 2009 was already more than a 10 years ago, because at this point I am just forced to scramble for words. May I mention how great "Adio" (Montenegro 2015) was? Might as well contain the best song moment in Eurovision for me - the second chorus building up to the iconic spin moment has still got me floored on the inside to this day.

Was robbed?

"Zjarr e ftohtë" by Luiz Ejlli, Albania 2006. It wasn't even that bad? The performance looked bland and all over the place at the same time, sure, but y'all gotta appreciate a lowkey bop in Albanian language and native instruments, and even with people dressed in traditional Albanian costumes during the performance! Kinda deserved a lot more than 14th in the semi, don't you think.

Is your guilty pleasure?

"Illusion" by Krassimir Avramov... I just happen to be somewhat appreciative towards entries that embody pure chaos energy off themselves (e.g.: "Cleopatra", "Probka"...), this is one of these songs, hah. But did you actually know that the original ("American") version of this song was actually pretty tame? I've listened to it a lot and I can safely say that if you don't like the chaotic Eurovision version, maybe you'll appreciate all of that stripped away?

Recently my top GP though has become "Angel si ti" by Miro. Bulgaria is just creeping into my system, it seems.

Is your favourite National Final song (that didn't make it to Eurovision)?

I'm the worst person to be asked that question, because I always know I will end up naming way too many of them! So I'll try to be as brief as I possibly let myself:

• "Dance" by Max Barskih (Ukraine 2012): just a good tune to lose yourself into. And I don't think it would've damaged his already decently good career in Slavic Cyrillic alphabet countries if he did Eurovision in the end?

• "Hugarró" by Magni Ásgeirsson (Iceland 2012): emotional rock ballad in Icelandic with a kickass vocalist who already had shown that he's a kickass vocalist in that one American rock singers' TV reality series. I like "Never Forget" but I would've LOVED "Hugarró" in Baku instead, personally.

• "Bed on Fire" by Ralf Gyllenhammar (Sweden 2013): invented burning pianos

• "Yes, I Do" by The Roop (Lithuania 2018): the lead singer's personal little tune about his depression and how he beat it. It's significant to me because Lithuania is the number one country in Europe at suicides, and sending a song with a positive message about coming out of depression would've just sounded fantastic. But Ieva was the favourite one then, not them...

• "Madár, repülj!" by Gergő Szekér (Hungary 2019): it's one of the few songs that a little bit of random rapping doesn't ruin for me, because the song in on itself is something completely unique in my opinion, which would've fit in with Hungary's usual repertoire, honestly. Emotional, very personal, sung in Hungarian, with a steady structure, panflutes(?) - out of these 5 I think this was the hardest NF loss for me to get over (ironically as the song is about letting go of the past), and I thought getting over Leander Kills not making into semifinals will be difficult!

We did ask for one haha, these are great choices! I have to say some of these are robberies!! ~ Kyriakos

And finally, which Australian entry is your favourite…

Definitely "Tonight Again". It's funky, gets me in a good mood, and at the time it reminded me of a British singer and songwriter Bryn Christopher for some reason (but more because of his only soul album more than anything), and I love me some Bryn Christopher, lol. The extended version is even better - hearing Guy sing "come on, come on, come on, come on, OWWWW!" in particular makes me go "YES HONEY YOU SLAY". Do what you what you what you want! Deserved top 5, absolutely.

The extended version is amazing!! ~ Kyriakos

Any other Eurovision song you'd like to mention?

• "Þú og þeir (Sókrates)" by Beathoven (Iceland 1988): captivating campy fun that I think is severely underrated in the Eurofandom. If #EurovisionAgain made people pay attention to "Sufi", what will it take for "Þú og þeir (Sókrates)" to get some?

• "Video, Video" by Brixx (Denmark 1982): equally underrated song, maybe a bit more digestible than the one I mentioned above due to its straightforwardness rather than campyness. Give it a fair listen, y'all.

• "This Is the Night" by Kurt Calleja (Malta 2012): a bit of a controversial winner of mine, in the year of Loreen nonetheless, but I just couldn't enjoy it more that Malta actually voted their trademark random winner of their national final that matched mine? And everybody at the time kinda hated it but I didn't? It's a cheap club bop but an entertaining one, and I think I was the happiest person on May 24 2012 when I heard Malta announced as qualifier, despite all the negative reception pre-show!

• "San aggelos s'agapisa" by Christos Mylordos (Cyprus 2011): I've always adored the pre-Fuego Cyprus, honestly. They've got some dated but nice stuff from the 00s, and absolutely banging stuff from the 2010s. This one song is one of the most underrated songs in the Cypriot Eurovision chapter. Who knows who Christos is? Your guess is as good as mine. Does the random switch from an ethnic ballad to something a little rocky excite me? You bet your ass it does. Do I find the ball swinging performance lady and the tilting shoes epic? Maybe. It almost always plays just before ESC250 programme on ESCRadio, and a wish I have is for it to make into the real thing one day.

Are there any other tidbits or comments you’d like to make?

Of course. "Rose viola" by Ghemon is an underappreciated Sanremo 2019 gem (crossing fingers for him in Sanremo 2021!). "Ég á líf" by Eythor Ingi deserves to be in ESC250 sometime in the future. Looking forward to be heard in Eurovision 2021 as part of Daði's choir.

Thank you Svai for your fascinating in depth responses, it is an absolute pleasure to have interviewed you!!


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