Finland has always been famous for its Metal, sure, everybody knows that. Some of the most interesting Heavy bands of our time hail from the Thousand Lakes. Then again, some styles of music never got as much attention in the cold north as the heavy tunes. Sophisticated, atmospheric Rock far beyond distorted guitars for instance, has been embodied by one Finnish band for years - Shamrain. And even those guys always had a certain Goth vibe in their music, and never really managed to escape from the "Finnish Goth" stigma. But bands in the vein of Swedish melancholic masters Katatonia, British gloom rockers Anathema or the semi-legendary Porcupine Tree - sophisticated, atmospheric music without any apparent cliché - which band comes to my mind in Finland. Honestly, besides Shamrain I could not think of any - and this is about to change in March 2010! Patiently, a new, Helsinki-based force of atmospheric, sophisticated Alternative Rock has been rising during the last couple of years - The Chant. Sounding significantly lighter than other comparable Finnish bands, they capture a balanced, melodic sound that is neither too poppy nor too progressive - drawing influences from bands such as A Perfect Circle and Anathema, they stand for something different. I even dare to say - for something the Finnish scene has been lacking so far. Time to ask the bands main songwriters, Mari Jämbäck (keys, piano) and Jussi Hämäläinen (guitars) a couple of essential questions...
Let us first go back in time a little. Two years ago, your carefully built debut album "Ghostlines" was released. How satisfied are you with it nowadays and what can you tell us about its success/recognition?
Mari: My thoughts about Ghostlines have changed in two years. I definitely don't resent anything on our debut and I think it is the best possible album that could be constructed of our music at that point. After it was finished I too felt it was very carefully built and that we considered everything very carefully. Now I feel that on some level the choices we made on the second album were even more thoroughly planned, but the music still breathes more and is more organic than the music on "Ghostlines". "Ghostlines" sold fairly well for a debut album, in the Finnish scene anyway. It got very good reviews and was recognized by many music media around the world. I for one am perfectly content with the response it received.
To me, "Ghostlines" was mainly a Metal album that mixed progressiveness, Folk vibes and melody. At that point, I did not hear that much Anathema in your album as some other journalists apparently did. I rather felt reminded of acts like Amorphis, Sentenced and Charon. In the new clips, I hear a lot of Anathema, actually. Was it a conscious decision to get rid of Metal parts and aggression in general?
Mari: I have never consciously thought about how our music has changed genre-wise over the years. I can't even describe what the exact style or genre of it is. It's not really important for me to categorize any music that way. I find all the genres and sub-genres, sub-sub-genres very fascinating, but when it comes to music that I'm personally interested in, including our music, I don't give these kinds of categories much thought. For me there's basically intriguing and appealing music and the kind of music that is totally indifferent to me. I don't really even bother to detest any bands or music. Some just don't mean anything at all to me. As for the aggression I sometimes feel like I'd like to play something more aggressive. Then again I'm sure that we can say what we want to say through our music more clearly as the music is the way it is at this point.
Jussi: We used a lot of aggressive vocals on "Ghostlines", but this time we had the feeling that we've been down that road before. So that was a conscious decision.
How has your reputation developed during the last years in Helsinki? You have not been playing live that often – did you get your name more known after releasing "Ghostlines"?
Mari: I'm sure we are more known than we were before. I think that we might be even more known outside of Helsinki because our debut single was played a lot in the radio in other areas of Finland apart from Helsinki.
A couple of months ago you said the songs on "This Is The World We Know" differ significantly from each other. To be honest, I rather hear pretty much the same atmosphere and overall sound in them, especially Ilpo's vocals sound much more relaxed and personal than on "Ghostlines". How would describe mood and music on the album by yourselves?
Mari: I'm happy to hear that you felt that the songs don't differ so much from each other. Who knows why they each feel so different to me. I'm very pleased with the vocals on this album. We went very carefully through almost every phrase on the album together before we started recording the vocals. We all wanted to be very precise on what we want to say and what kind of moods and atmospheres should be transmitted through the vocals. During the many processes in the making of this album there was born this character or "alter ego", whose voice can be heard in many of the vocals. This character grew up to be so important that we even placed him on the cover of the album. Pretty early we decided that the core theme for the music and lyrics would be different aspects and forms of isolation, a sense of feeling alone in the crowd. The "light-bearer" is a sort of a flagship of this loneliness and the rebellion that can merge within these feelings. Most of all he wants to be listened to and be understood.
Jussi: I think the mood on the new album is darker than on "Ghostlines", in a way, but there's always a glimpse of hope on the horizon. Although the music is very melodic it's also very rhythmic and when the music or the riffs are rhythmic there's a lot of space for the vocals. When recording the vocals with Ilpo we also tried to get rid of all the overly masculine/macho singing… as you've noticed.
To me, Anathema and possibly A Perfect Circle seem to be the main musical influences on your songwriting for this album – do you agree? What were the bands you were most listening to when writing this album?
Mari: I probably listened to A Perfect Circle more during "Ghostlines", but we did actually choose the band to be one of the references sound-wise. I've never really cared much about Anathema or Katatonia personally but I know that the guys have been listening to them for years. I spent almost all of last summer listening to Bat for Lashes and can only hope that some of that atmosphere rubbed on the album. "November 1987" is my tribute to 80's Goth Rock, which is very dear to my heart. In "Relativity" I pushed through my long-term plan of two parallel vocal lines which have different but sort of entwining lyrics. This is an idea that is influenced very much by Tori Amos' vocals.
Jussi: Katatonia and Anathema used to be my main influences maybe four to five years ago, but not anymore. As Mari mentioned, A Perfect Circle had an influence on the sounds, but I don't recall listening any particular artist when writing the songs.
Was there a certain masterplan or concept of what to achieve sound-wise on "This Is The World We Know" or did everything come little by little, naturally and not on purpose?
Mari: We gave a lot of thought on the soundscape we wanted to build. One of the most concrete guidelines was that we wanted to keep the elements simple enough to be played live, the same way as they sound like on the album. Hopefully this kept the sound a bit more fresh and airy as before.
Jussi: Mikko Herranen (Rust, ex-Velcra-hb), who mixed the album suggested that we should record the drums in a studio with lots of space to get the sound we wanted: big, but natural. And I think we achieved it. We also planned very carefully what kind of effects or sounds we wanted to use and where we wanted to use them. The album was very carefully planned, but the end result always surprises you somehow.
The album title sounds quite epic and meaningful and could also refer to your personal way of seeing the world we live in nowadays or could even be political? What is the deeper meaning behind that title and which direction do the lyrics head to?
Mari: I absolutely love epic titles on albums, books, movies etc. and announced for the guys that I'd like to have an epic title for this album. I think it was Ilpo who picked the line "this is the world I know" from the song "November 1987" and asked if it was epic enough for me. The lyrics of the song are basically about the very peculiar feeling I got while sitting in a bus or walking home from work in sunny and crowded Helsinki while listening to old 80's Goth Rock bands from my iPod. I felt like I was in two places at the same time, in my everyday world and in the world which the music represents in general or in the world of what that music represented to me in my youth. Both worlds feel familiar to me. The title answers to the lyrical themes of the album. It tries to tell something like: "Yeah, we know how it is or how things can be!" I believe everyone has feelings of isolation every now and then. On the album the theme is approached from different points of view. The songs deal with withdrawing or drifting away from other people or from the way of the world in general. There are points about succumbing into your own sadness so much it becomes very much a selfish act. For example "November 1987" or "New Reality" are about drifting to another world or isolating yourself from this real world. Then again, "Relativity" is more about isolation through time. By the way, I'm very interested in the relativity of the time passing. Virginia Woolf is a writer who has explored this subject more skillfully than me (laughs). Some of the songs deal with the hate and violence that can emerge from these states that people can find themselves in. Although the themes are very serious even, I'm glad you didn’t think the songs were too "depressive". I think these feelings and thoughts are part of life and we all just have to find our own way of dealing with them. There's always a spark of hope if you can find the courage and strength to search for it.
Did you already plan gigs for the spring? What can you tell us about promotion plans outside of Finland? Will there be a European tour this time?
Mari: For now we have just a few gigs booked here in Helsinki. We wish and hope we could come on tour this time, but nothing is settled.
Jussi: We don't have a booking agent at the moment, but hopefully that will change… soon!
Last words are yours!
Mari: I hope that the album reaches the people it is meant to reach and finds the audience that can enjoy it with an open mind, regardless of genres.
Jussi: We've worked hard for this album so I wish people would take time to really listen to it. I think this is an album that will last, it's not just a product of its time.
Hendrik Behnisch - 30.01.2010Photos: Jarmo Katila, Anssi Teittinen
Last Updated (Saturday, 07 January 2012 23:08)
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