Fierce brunette Julia Volkova and sprightly redhead Lena Katina are Eastern Europe's most popular musical exports. In the age of 24/7 televised entertainment, you've likely caught a glimpse (or quite more) of these Russian pop-sensations and full-time mess-with-your-expectations media mavens. During t.A.T.u.'s years together, the two diminutive, talented beauties caused one hell of a worldwide ruckus, routinely playing to audiences of 50,000 fans and selling more than 5 million copies of their debut album, 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane. Infamously, they refused to perform at the World Music Awards unless provided with real guns. Explains Lena, "We wanted real machine-guns, but they didn't give us, so we wouldn't perform, that simple."
Brazenly, after promising not to kiss on the Tonight Show, they engaged in a long, passionate wet one - much to the alarm of anxious network censors, (and well before Britney and Madonna's little stunt, ahem). And yet, when expected to do the same on Jimmy Kimmel, they deliberately offered not so much as a sweet peck on the cheek. Why? Explains Julia, "Basically, because we like to do what we want. A lot of people are, like, 'you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that, you shouldn't behave in this way.' But you know what? Actually for us, we are the way that we are, and we don't really live in fear of anybody. So, if we behave in a certain way, then that's just actually the way we are."
Indeed, in a world of prefabricated and stridently scripted entertainers, these girls know who they are and do exactly what they want. Through their music and live performances, t.A.T.u. present themselves as they genuinely are - artistically, intellectually, and sexually progressive young women in control of their careers and open to all that life has to offer. When speaking with Julia and Lena, their personal and artistic truths are commendably clear (if not a bit intimidating) - t.A.T.u. are afraid of no one, they share an enormous passion for singing and performance, and perhaps most admirable of all- the only people they feel responsible to are their fans. Beyond that, they don't care about expectations or inhibitions.
"Sometimes we have been asked to do things that have been uncomfortable," Lena recounts, "but for us, ultimately, t.A.T.u. is our project. I think that we have to do it in a way that is conducive to us, that we are comfortable with. If we're going to do things just because other people are telling us to, then we're just going to get lost. We have an instinct about what to do, and how to sing, and I think that usually when people are told what to do, it doesn't happen necessarily in a good way."
Adds Julia, "So we stay natural, just how we are."