Modernists At Heart: An Interview with Vuoret
Vuoret are one of those bands I was destined to learn of. Guitarist/Keyboardist Sami Nissinen and I talked about our interests and he began sending me songs from their now-released album Portti. I’ve played them on my show and have been thrilled by every song on the album. Vuoret (Mountains) go beyond genre tags yet combine all their interests into a cohesive, emotional and well-produced whole.
Your music sounds confident and thoughtful yet also playful. Do you aspire to reach a large audience, tour the world?
We haven’t thought about it that way. Every one of us have been playing for many years and in many bands. So we understand that if you make sort of indie music and you sing in Finnish, the possibilities may be limited. But definitely, we have nothing against it. I mean to get a large audience. Our music is universal with it’s lyrical themes (requires the understanding of the Finnish language) and our musical influences are mostly from foreign indie/shoegaze/postpunk bands, usually from Britain and the States.
How much time did you take to make the album? Did you practice together regularly?
It took three whole years. But that was because we have other things going on (mostly work) at the same time. There was a time when we were only focusing on the recordings and we didn’t practice much. There were a handful of gigs during the recording process, and obviously we practiced for those shows. Now that the album is ready we are practicing more to tighten our playing.
Who produced the album and what did he contribute to your sound? Where was the album recorded and what was the experience like?
The producer of our album is Jarno Alho. Actually I’ve been in some bands with him and so I knew him well. Because we have a close relationship, it was easy to co-work with him and talk about the things that would otherwise be hard to talk about, for example, when we have different views where to go with a song.
As said earlier, the whole process took three years. At first we booked an old house in the Finnish countryside and did all the drums and bass guitars as live recordings. Since then, we’ve been building the overall sound, recording guitars, synths, percussion and all that stuff, making post-production and different mixes of the songs.
What bands were you in before and how do you think you’ve grown since then? What new things have you been able to bring into Vuoret that you didn’t before?
I must admit that recently I counted all the bands I’ve been in and it surprised me that I’ve been in twenty bands in my life. About my bands, at least Puumaja, Suvi Koivu, The Rollstons and Jukka Ässä, have made some official records and releases. You can find those from Spotify if you’re interested. The other members have also been playing from their teenage years. It’s been mostly indiepop/rock, punk, electronic and garage stuff.
I think that with this wide experience we can bring different kinds of influences to our music without sounding strictly “something”. You cannot say that we are making “genre music”, if you know what I mean. We can bring into one song different and sometimes even controversial ideas to make it interesting. And that is also something “new”, since the time and place is now and here. I also think that Ville, who writes all the lyrics, has been growing as a lyricist. He’s writing more mature and also more interesting lyrics than ever before.
Say something nice/funny about your other band members.
We have a secret code between all of us that when wearing a shirt you must close your top button. Ok, it’s a basic Mod thing but our drummer is really serious in this. Once he said that if someone is wearing a t-shirt or bow on a gig he should be stabbed with a knife. We had one show last summer, from where someone posted a picture to Instagram. We were cited as the “most sharp dressed band of the festival”. We were proud of that obviously.
What has your country and people brought to the sound of Vuoret? Does the country support artists, authors, movies and bands?
It’s the Finnish lyrics that connects us deeply to our country and the language. I think you cannot translate them into English without losing some really important meanings. Maybe the darkness and long wintertime has some impact on us. It makes you always a bit depressed and anxious. But there really are not many Finnish bands that we all love.
I think our country could support more artists. Nowadays it’s too much this X-Factor -shit all around. Only some smaller independent radio stations play interesting music. But then, everything is on the Internet. The same problem is everywhere.
What bands from your area of the world should we know about?
Risto, Joensuu 1685, Oranssi Pazuzu and Teksti-TV 666, to name a few. The Finnish indie record company Soliti has put out a quite massive catalog of indie and shoegaze music. Some of these bands are really good, some less, but it’s the kind of music that resonates in me. Some of those bands reminds me of the beloved Sarah and Creation records stuff from 90’s. So it’s some kind of retro-thing in a way. Vuoret doesn’t want to fall into that retro category. We’re all modernists by heart.
What are some of your favorite venues to perform at? What is a favorite show you’ve played?
I think the best arenas are to come yet. We’ve been playing these smaller bars (where most of the indie stuff happens) for so long that we don’t see a point driving 500 km to do a gig where fifteen people show up. We are selling now gigs for the record release tour that’s gonna happen in January and it seems that finally we are getting to bigger venues. In Tampere, the best place to play is Klubi. Sound is good, lights are good, and we can get a lot of smoke from the machines. Klubi is also the place where I have seen many of my personal “top ten” gigs: Dinosaur Jr., Lemonheads, Swans, Helmet, A Place To Bury Strangers and Tortoise, for example.
Why sing in Finnish? I’d love to sing along, but I think the vocals are incredible and I can always hum or whistle along. Do you think this limits your appeal to the English speaking world?
It’s the only choice for us, really. I think of the lyrics like poems and one can write good poems only in your mother language. It may limit our appeal to the English speaking world, but at the same time it makes us more interesting here. We’ve been getting comments like “nobody does this kind of music in Finnish”. On the other hand, Finnish lyrics can even make us more interesting also for some English speaking fans. Finnish is quite an exotic language, I’ve been told. Oranssi Pazuzu, for example, has been playing a lot abroad and it doesn’t bother their English speaking fans.
Who is the speaker at the end of Rahaa? What is he saying?
The speaker is Yrjö Kallonen. He was a politician who also had some really esoteric ideas. This quote is simple though, “We must wake up on this eleventh moment, if we want to save the world. It requires that we must recognize that we are all living in a dream-like state of mind”
Who plays the fuzzy guitar on Kaivokset? What is the pedal/tuning setup and what guitar are you using?
Ville plays that main riff, if you mean that. I think that he uses “open g”-tuning here. The setup is Fender Jaguar guitar, Vox AC30 and custom made “Rat” distortion. The effect-like fuzz noise is me, and there’s the dropped D-tuning. Obviously there is a fuzz pedal but I cannot remember the rest of the effects. I’m playing my riff using the open D string and different “pinch harmonics”. Nowadays I use quite a lot of multi effects live because then I can make special patches for every song without toggling the knobs all the time.
Who is the techno fan that suggested or created the electronic sounds on Sukopolvet? I love the Orb, Orbital, Underworld and more ambient stuff, not dance floor stuff. I think it adds to the song in an interesting way.
Heh, it is me! I just had this idea of adding “acid house” bass on that song. Sukupolvet is in the middle of the album. We didn’t make it as a band arrangement and we’ve never played it live. There’s no drums and Ville (guitarist, songwriter) sings it. It was finally Teemu the singer who made it on the record for my suggestion. I like contrasts and combine controversial elements.
Vildes Kirkko gets dark and has a strange minor chord guitar part and rapped vocals. I love the mood with the repetitive riff and guitar/bass at the end. How did this song get made? Who brought what to the song? This isn’t your usual uplifting song.
Ville came up with the bass riff and the “strange minor chord guitar part” which turned out to be the chorus. We were jamming those parts in our rehearsal place and then our bass player Olli played that ending riff. I asked immediately “what was that?” and it became the ending. This song originated from Ville’s idea but the outcome is really a joint contribution.
It was also my idea to add rapping to the song. The rapper is my Gambian friend Ablie and he’s rapping in the Mandinka language. The scenery of the lyrics is about walking in our hometown and it borrows the old occult myth about the churches in our town. In the beginning of the 20th century they wanted to build a fifth church in our town. Then somebody noticed that, on a map, all those five churches would make a pentagram figure if you combine them. For me, the rapping simply draws a picture of the city streets where you can hear many languages, but actually only some African people will recognize the language since it’s Mandinka.
Viikonlopun jäljet sounds like it was made for the radio. The female vocals and weird guitar part are a nice addition. Are there radio stations in Finland or surrounding countries that play more adventurous music and are fans willing to seek out new bands?
There are some. Radio Helsinki must be the best radio if you want to find new Finnish music. There are some special shows for certain music styles. You should listen to it online! Actually they just asked us for the interview and we are happy to go there soon.
What do you do besides making music with Vuoret?
I’m a researcher in museum centre Vapriikki. Our drummer Konsta is a cook. He can make really delicious stuff! Singer Teemu works in graphic design and is a master at playing pinball. Ville’s last job was in advertising agency. Olli is a social psychologist and works in different projects in the social work.
Who did you listen to growing up?
The band that I’ve been listening to most in my life is R.E.M. I became a fan when I was eleven years old, and they had just released Out Of Time. I still listen to R.E.M. every week and we used to have a R.E.M. tribute band. After some kind of grunge and heavy metal phase, britpop of the 90’s – especially Stone Roses & Blur were my favorites. It was the britpop years when I found shoegaze as well. Verve was a band that was first shoegaze and it became more traditional britpop. From the “original” shoegaze genre Ride has always been closest for me. In high school I got into jazz, and I still listen to jazz a lot. Miles, Coltrane and Wayne Shorter are my all-time favorites but nowadays I listen to more of so called “post jazz”, modern music, where different kinds of influences meets the jazz improvisation. Lately I’ve been getting deeper into classical guitar. Classical piano was my first instrument as a kid and now the circle kind of closes. For me, Claude Debussy is the best composer and artist of any time.
What made you want to be a musician?
I was four or five years old when I was listening to my mother playing the piano and organ. After listening to her I started playing those songs. I played it like I heard but you could call it music. My mother took me into a conservatory and I got in. I remember the shivers when I was listening to my piano teacher playing. It felt like magic. It felt like nothing else, total euphoria. Listening to and playing music was the best thing I could imagine and it still is.
What is in the future for Vuoret?
Everything looks really good at the moment considering that we have just released our debut album as an indie band. We are planning next year’s shows already and I think we are going to do some festivals next summer. That’s gonna be great! We’re also going to record an EP soon, but I cannot reveal more yet.
Thanks for your time!
Thank you! Really good questions! I enjoyed this Bret. Thank you so much for your support.
Ville Aalto – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Teemu Into – vocals
Sami Nissinen – lead guitar, keyboards
Konsta Pokkinen – drums
Olli-Ilmari Sillanpää – bass guitar
Portti is out now on vinyl from Soit Se Silti Records and can be purchased at Record Shop X and digitally from Amazon.
(by Bret Miller)