Sandra Vungi is one half of the low-end heavy duo Neoandertals, a unique grindcore/brutal death metal band, thumbing their noses at most metal conventions – for one, there’s no guitar! Although Sandra is a published vegan cookbook author, the subject matter of the songs on a recent record includes prehistoric cannibalistic gore fests among other truly horrific scenarios. From her log-cabin-in-progress in the Estonian woods, she was able to email with Tom Tom about saunas, video game soundtracks, and the angle of her snare hand.
Full name: Sandra Vungi
Hometown: Veelikse, a tiny village in the south of Estonia.
Current Projects/Bands: NEOANDERTALS, an avant-garde brutal-death-metal band
Gear: Mapex kit Black Panther (11×13) snare. I’m endorsed by Soultone Cymbals and my current cymbal set is: 18″ Ride Extreme, 18″ China Extreme, 14″ China Custom Brilliant, 14″ Crash Extreme, 14″ Hi Hat Extreme, 8″ Splash Custom Brilliant. I mostly use Tama 5a drum sticks. I really don’t like thicker ones, because it is harder to blast with them. For pedals I use Axis longboards A.
Tom Tom Magazine: How did you get into music?
Sandra Vungi: I went to music school for piano and started playing keyboards in my school’s band when I was 11. When I was 14 years old, I got into metal music and joined my friends doom-metal band. Again I played keyboards but also sang backing vocals. When I met my love, Rain Pohlak, at the age of 15, he already had a band called NEOANDERTALS. He taught me to play the drums and I was a pretty fast learner. We started learning the band’s songs right away, so I actually didn’t have any time to focus on solo practice. Right now I am finally enjoying practicing alone. I’ve been playing drums since 2006.
Where do you live now?
My boyfriend/bandmate Rain and I are building our very own little log cabin by hand in the woods of Estonia. It will be a cozy cabin with a sauna, which is almost mandatory in Estonian households. There we can rehearse and play lots of video games. Rain and I both had day jobs for some time and we didn’t really like it. We wanted to be free and to create, not just to consume and work for someone else. We didn’t want to look back and realize that we had wasted our lives. For me it is very important to really take actions and steps to create the life that makes you happy and satisfied. Not just talking and thinking, but taking real actions.
Do you have any tips for increasing hand speed? Foot speed?
The most important thing for me for developing hand speed has been finding the right angle for my left wrist. So when I’m blasting, only my wrist and nothing else is moving. And, of course, just practicing the rudiments helps. I’m still learning to make my feet faster but to get to the point of over 200 bpm, it is really important again to find the right angles and just keep practicing.
Do you use triggers?
I used to trigger my Axis double bass pedals with EKIT triggers with the Alesis DM Pro module, but right now I’m playing without any triggers. I’ve gotten into some lo-fi sound, since bands with lots of triggering are pretty exhausting for the ears.
What is your current playlist like?
I’ve been in love with Mayhem’s album “Ordo Ad Chao” for over 2 years now. It is an absolute masterpiece. Also, Wolves In The Throne Room, Angel Corpse and new Cryptopsy. I saw my big favourites Disgorge, (US), and Gorguts last summer so I’m still inspired by them also. I dig oldies music too: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, The Ink Spots and Frank Sinatra. I’m a huge gamer, and the oldies have been featured in many games. All the epic ones almost always have great soundtracks; we listen to them pretty often when we are driving.
How do you practice? What about a conditioning regimen?
When I’m practicing, I like to start with simple rudiments. Lately I’ve been really practicing my breaks to make them fuller and louder, because I want to take a step forward with the new album. After rudiments and breaks, I like to go on with simple beats and mix some breaks and blast beats into them. I recommend to really put your thought and full power into practicing and try to have fun in the meantime. Also, I’ve been doing Pilates for about 3 years now and still love it. It is great for improving stamina and just overall physical and mental health. I would also like to try yoga and I love swimming – I should really do it more often.
Tell us about your vegan recipe site and your love of food!
I love simple fried potatoes with onions, breaded crispy tofu burgers, homemade pasta, spicy asian food, cabbage stew with minced soy, sauerkraut with barley. The list is endless. There are so many tasty vegan foods! I run my own recipe site: www.vegansandra.com. In 2012, my first cookbook got published by a major publisher in Estonia, and it contains 100 original vegan recipes.
Congratulations! Do you have a concept for the forthcoming album? Are there any terrifying lyrics that you can share?
The new album is called “Neanderthal Parallax” and it will hopefully be out this year or early next year. The concept is about a Neanderthal from its birth to its death. The lyrics are still in the making so stay tuned, but they will be dark poems dedicated to the Neanderthals.
By Caryn Havlik for Tom Tom Magazine
Photos by Rain Pohlak