BOYS OF SCANDINAVIA: "We Wear Black And Smile Little"
Interview by Erkki pHinn Rautio / pHinnWeb
12 January, 2006 -- Alongside Adult.'s Gimmie Trouble, Kill The Party, the debut by Boys of Scandinavia was my favourite album of 2005, released as a collaboration between Manchester's Mate Recordings and Helsinki's If Society. Bleak and lovely: dark new-wavish guitar noir disco about and for no-hopers, underachievers, pessimists, hopeless romantics, losers and people who will never score. Some names to possibly draw comparisons from: Joy Division/New Order, The Smiths, Interpol, DFA, LCD Soundsystem...
The Boys of Scandinavia track 'Worse Than A Girl' was hailed by the critics as the best thing on the 2004 compilation Music is Better Volume One (Manchester vs Helsinki) (Mate Recordings). The new BoS single 'Why Do You Love Me?' is a story about a modern "Man Without Qualities", à la Robert Musil.
pHinnWeb talked via e-mail to the Boys of Scandinavia members, Teemu Metsälä (familiar also from Roger, which pHinnWeb interviewed in July 2003), Juhana Lahtinen and the vocalist Tuomo Kuusi.
- What's happening now in the lives of Boys of Scandinavia -- any news?
Teemu: Right now we are concentrating on playing our first ever tour in Finland and visiting Russia, hopefully sooner than later... only after this we can see if Boys are worth for more...
Sat 25/02/06 Soundscape Festival, St Peterburg, Russia
Sat 21/01/06 Kuningasklubi, Tavastia, Helsinki, Finland
Fri 20/01/06 Club Continental, Dynamo, Turku, Finland
Thu 19/01/06 Lutakko, Jyvaskyla, Finland
Wed 18/01/06 Poppikerho, Klubi, Tampere, Finland
Juhana: And after that there will be some more gigs later spring.
Teemu: OK, there's been some interest already for more Boys activity... but I'd like to think that with Boys it's always like for the last time...
- Tell me something about your own backgrounds, and how did you start making music?
Teemu: We all have various projects, past and current, which have had an effect to the way Boys have shaped up... but we don't want to talk about other stuff whilst in the BoS mode; right now we wear black and smile little... for the live band I took the approach to re-invent myself as a bass player, it's the first instrument I ever played and I've never quite been able to let it go... after a couple of years only programming synths and drums it hurts a bit but that's the nature of slapping, isn't it...?
Juhana: I started with guitar, and have been part of all kinds of musical projects and lately got more into producing. Boys is for me an opportunity to put two of my favourite elements, electronic beats and guitars in the same package.
Tuomo: I've been singing basically all my life. First some classical stuff at the age of four and after that everything else...
- How did Boys of Scandinavia get their origins?
Teemu: There are a couple of stories currently being told, the favourite one being a boy calendar made out of twelve songs and boys... We thought about it, and started testing... 12 months later we are still with the boy number one, that is Tuomo, so things must have clicked straight away. It's always a matter of chemistry and personality issues how things work out. We simply did not want to try with others once Tuomo opened his mouth, he just fit right in and was vocally what we were after.
- What's the story behind the band's name?
Juhana: Boys of Scandinavia was the right name straight away when I heard it.
Tuomo: I hated it in the beginning, as it sounded like Scandinavian Hunks. Now I both love and hate it.
Teemu: One day the name came out of my mouth and sounded utterly clumsy... Yet it had a serious undertone, especially when Finland isn't really part of Scandinavia, and Finnish are known for their underdog attitude towards our dear Western neighbours.... So it's both lovely and tragic to be in a band that especially Finnish people think should be Swedish...
- How would you describe your style of music?
Juhana: It's basically electronic music to me. I put guitars on it after a long programming period and therefore it sounds naturally more like a guitar band... but I think Boys is really a crossover band because it's fundamentally made as electronic music. At first it sounds like a guitar rock band but if you listen carefully you will hear that is different to a traditional band sound.
Tuomo: I see that our presentation is based on contradiction. On the one hand, my vocals are extremely cold, almost repulsive. I tried to give them a feeling of Nico in valium trying to sing something from The Cure's Pornography. On the other hand, the instrumentation is very catchy and rich. And this is exactly the thing which is luring: The music says go away and come here at the same time!
Teemu: At the moment I'd like to think our music simply as rocky electro rave grooves with a very slight touch of indie tenderness, topped the minimalistic lyrics creating an ambience where self-loathing and ecstasy are the bread and butter of everyday life, and most of it is true... As myself and Juhana produce everything ourselves, we have a peculiar approach to the whole Boys ideology... First songs were a testfield to try things we've never done before... People have often described Boys as post-punk, which in my opinion is slightly misleading, but in Finnish such a word only feels refreshing... Next time somebody please come up with a new word for press release. For the live shows we have no other desire than rock, and Finnish rock hard.
- I've understood your album Kill The Party has been in the works for quite a long time. Can you tell something about the birth process of the album?
Teemu: Is a year quite a long time...? Not only we composed music but we also created a sonic world of our own without a real band, so practically we had to go forward step by step... sometimes writing, sometimes recording and some time remixing the existing material, sometimes wondering where the lost audiofiles are in the Internet... I'm still too close to the whole process to judge it, but as a learning curve it has been an amazing experience, and I also feel that as a song writing team myself and Juhana can make wonders together, like nobody else.
Juhana: It was quite a mess from time to time because of that all kind of things mixed together. We wrote songs the same time we produced them. I had demo vocals in one song and studio vocals in another. It went easier when we knew the deadline for the Finnish release. After this it was only hurry. We've created a method to write songs together as Teemu mentioned. It is a very interesting way to make music and I believe that we haven't written all the songs at all yet...
Tuomo: After the decision that I was going to sing the lead vocals I started to adjust my voice for the project. There are a couple of tracks which crystallised the approach. One is the track 'Why do You Love Me?' and the other is Bauhaus' 'Bela Lugosi Is Dead', which we have reserved for the gigs only. With them I found a style which I would describe passionately sad.
- You have released the album as a collaboration between Mate Recordings and If Society. How did your cooperation with If Society started? Also, what's currently happening with Mate Recordings?
Juhana: If Society was a very good choice to put out the Boys album in Finland. By the time we were starting to mix the material, If Society had heard some raw versions and told they'd like to release the stuff in Finland...
Teemu: This was brilliant news and shifted the focus back to the real world for a while, and we soon decided to build a live band to support the release, and face the ugly fact that Boys Of Scandinavia come from Finland.... in UK Mate Recordings is a safe haven for such projects as Boys Of Scandinavia, Roger and A.N.I.M.A.L. After the quite "little Britainish" beginnings in Manchester's indie disco ghettos Mate has grown into small but profilic underground dance label with connections to Europe, Japan and USA... in the future Mate will do small vinyl releases and maybe another compilation CD. Right now Boys and Roger have got new stuff coming out in UK, so those who prefer to read music but not to listen, check your Mixmags and visit www.materecordings.com.
- Tell me something about how the album has been received.
Juhana: I'm quite surprised that our music works well for all kind of listeners, not only for a small group of some genre. I'm very pleased of that because the idea was to mix all kind of influences freely together.
Teemu: Keeping in mind that Boys literally come from nowhere, and most importantly Boys have no links to any scenes or cliques musically in Finland, our songshave got surprisingly good reviews. I'd like to think this is down to the fact that we've somehow managed to draw out new kinds of aspects from Finnish melancholy, which is neither supermasculine hard rock nor ultrafeminine geek pop... but as usual I'm probably wrong, and maybe the reaction has been good because people simply like a nice melody with half-decent lyrics and don't want to know for any better...
- Are there any other role models or influential artists for you?
Teemu: My biggest hero, or should I say heroine, is Laurie Anderson: out of all the art-pop acts she's managed to transform her art into beautiful and exciting pop music without losing her origins...
- Any current acts which would particularly impress you, or you feel are on the same wavelength with you?
Teemu: Wavelength is a dangerous word, but I'd like to think ourselves as Depeche Mode on acid with a blonde singer, I do this everytime when I'm drunk... When I'm not drunk I think boys is simply the best band on Earth right now, and I'm more than happy to drink for that. You see, like this it's an endless cycle for me.
Juhana: My musical taste is quite kinky so I don't want to put whole list here. It's very important for inspiration what happens around you. I think that now it's quite good musical vibe all around because there are lot of good releases coming out.
Tuomo: Kissogram from Berlin. Their track 'Forsaken People Come to Me' is amazing.
- What about your live performances, and any interesting anecdotes about them? What have been the best and worst places to play, for example?
Juhana: We have worked a lot for BoS live techical setup with our sound engineer Mikko Ojanen (Nu Science). I'm very proud of that and believe that it's worth to come see and hear us. So far we played so far one gig in Kallio, Helsinki.
Tuomo: I was terrified and almost died during that gig. Luckily we have the sound wizard Mikko who is a diamond.
Teemu: Had Tuomo died he would have surely resurrected by the last track 'Bela'; the attitude we have with that song is something unique. It gave a hint of the sound for the future gigs which will be immersing and devastating. Yet most of the people who came to see us turned out to be young and fit, with an odd old grumpy face in the corner, maybe writing a crushing review... And people singing the choruses was quite amazing. If it goes like this I won't be needing autocue on stage at all for my backing vocals when I get old, I just mime after the people and get away with it...!
- How's the music scene in Helsinki where you live? For example, any good clubs?
Teemu: Music is Better and the rest will follow, that's what I've heard...
Juhana: Music is Better is naturally the most important club for me. It seems that there is coming a huge amount of new interesting alternative clubs in the year 2006. A little bit with the same kind of idea that MiB has. But I believe that we'll see very nice MiB evenings too later this spring.
- And tell something about your activities as the DJs with Music Is Better club (a club run by Teemu, Juhana and DJ Makelove both in Helsinki and Manchester), and something in general about how your events with MIB have been going on?
Juhana: DJing is an important part for creating BoS music. It gives an important different view for music to me. Check MiB Website.
Teemu: Music is Better has more than nine lives, like an alley cat... In the past it has existed in various places with various people, with only one principle: bring out the best and most exciting new music for the best and most exciting people (even if we had to play only to ourselves). The recipe is that simple. Right now MiB is on a break, due to venue-related reasons, but eventually something will happen sooner or later, in Helsinki or somewhere else...
- What is your own take on the (depending on whom you ask, much-maligned or hyped) "electroclash" craze of the recent years?
Teemu: I'm not a 'proper' DJ or a clever journalist so by default I cannot possibly explain what it's all about. Soon it'll be time for revival, so the usual suspects should be on the ball again; hopefully this time with more interesting cover tunes to exploit...
-Your own Top Ten for the moment/all-time?
Teemu: Too tough one to say right now!
Juhana: I hate to put all the music in Top Ten. I can't do that. It has to be at least Top 100. I liked last year Out Hud's album: Let Us Never Speak Of It Again among the others.
- How would you comment on the current music scene in Finland?
Juhana: I think that thing is going better all the time. More interesting bands and releases...
Teemu: Same as it ever was; full of attitude, excitement and great expectations...
- Your favourite question they never ask in interviews?
Teemu: Are you gay?
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