Vesna 'are not your dolls': Eurovision Q&A
Every day this week, we're speaking to one of the leading contenders for the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest.
For our penultimate chat, we caught up with girl group Vesna, whose feminist anthem My Sister's Crown sailed through Tuesday's qualifiers, thanks to its defiant refrain: "We are not your dolls".
Although they're representing Czechia (formerly the Czech Republic), the six-piece are actually a multi-national act.
Rapper Tanita is Bulgarian, bass player Tereza is Slovak, pianist Olesya is Russian, while songwriter Patricie Kaňok, drummer Marketa and violinist Bára are all from Czechia.
They even collaborated with Ukraine's Kateryna Vatchenko on their Eurovision entry - whose chorus is sung in Ukrainian as a message of solidarity with their war-torn European neighbour.
Dressed in blush-pink suits, with floor-length ponytails, the band are mobbed by fans when they arrive in the Eurovision press centre. After posing for an endless succession of Instagram photos, TikTok video and BeReal snaps, they sit down to discuss their Eurovision experience.
You've just been mobbed! Is that happening everywhere now?
Patricie: Yes! It still feels a bit crazy. But we're just so happy that our message is being understood. That's what Eurovision is about. So, when the fans come and they love the song, we couldn't be more grateful.
How has the whole rehearsal and semi-final process been?
Patricie: It's really fine. We feel rooted on the stage and we feel calm. I think we're ready for the final.
How strange is it to be dancing instead of playing your instruments on stage?
Olesya: It's very strange - because until recently we pretended to play the instruments on stage and it was like, where's the sound? [The technical complexity of Eurovision means that all songs are sung to a backing track]. But now, as we are all dancing, we can express our emotions through our movements.
I'm a drummer and if anybody asked me to get up and dance, I'd be like, "I'm good, thanks. I'll stay hidden behind the kit."
Tanita: Fortunately, our drummer has great moves, so we have no problem.
Marketa: Lucky me!
Patricie: We always say how funny that our first public dance performance will be watched by 60 million people and our second, in the final, will be watched by 200 million. For beginners, that's pretty good!
You're rocking these incredible floor-length braids, which are part of your dance routine.
Tanita; We call it hair-ography! We've been practicing for three months.
Has anyone tripped up yet?
Patricie: No, we have carefully planned the plaits not to be longer than our ankles. Of course, tripping over has happened in our nightmares, but it hasn't happened in real life. And It won't happen.
My Sister's Crown is a really powerful song. Can you tell us a bit about the lyrics?
Patricie: Our message is to stand up for those people who are being put down or being stepped on. If you see somebody being pushed into the corner, or having their crown taken away, we feel it's wrong.
So it has a message of empowerment - which you can see in our sisterhood. But can also apply to a community or a country that is going through a hard time.
When you sing the chorus in Ukrainian, it's a really powerful statement.
Patricie: That's correct. When we sing, "we stand for you" in Ukrainian, we are supporting that Slavic country with a message from all the other Slavic counties.
There's a feminine principle of solidarity and empathy with other, and when you see that basic human rights are being neglected, it's just so painful.
You've been playing together since 2016. How has the band developed?
Tanita: We all met in music school in Prague in the Czech Republic, but we all come from different countries.
Patricie: We've already released two albums at home, and the music usually depicts what we are going through as a band, as women. The more mature we get, we see world in a different way, so every record reflects that growth and I think with time it's getting more and more polished.
So for example, right now, with the opportunity of having our music exposed to the whole world, we decided to create an EP which is combining other Slavic languages.
I heard a rumour it will be released on Sunday...
Patricie: Yeah, it comes out one day after Eurovision.
Olesya: Maybe! [Laughter]
Czechia's best result in Eurovision is sixth place but there's speculation that you might improve on that. Does that get into your head?
Patricie: Every time when we go on a stage, a few moments before we begin, we just make a circle and we remind each other, "This is not about us being perfect. It's not about worrying about making mistakes or not making mistakes." We're really here to spread a message and that has already happened.
So if people love it and if they understand it - if it touches their heart - then that's our victory.
Patricie, I know you're a huge Taylor Swift fan... What would you do if she called up to ask for a collaboration?
Patricie: Oh my God. You don't want me into your microphone but, 'Aaaaaaaaaaah'! For sure she could come along. She's a genius songwriter. I don't understand how she manages to write two albums in one year!
To be fair, that was in lockdown. We all had a lot of time on our hands.
Patricie: That's true. But again, I think we also did a good job of staying creative during Eurovision. We recorded three new songs in the last two months and you can hear them on the EP. So we are in Taylor's shadow but it's a good shadow to be in.