An odd, Finnish and non-Finnish, country/blues/psych/rock’n’roll combo born in the heart of a singer who never knew how to sing, yet turned into the beautiful swan voice-wise so to speak. A 10+ year process of a band that just released their brand new 5th release called “Stephen Crow must die”….and yes it really is as dramatic as the title suggests.
Dark tones and downbeats, lighten up with raw psychedelic rock’n’roll and an astonishing velvet voice that just seems to be riding on the smokey waves of cigarettes and cigars that obscures the entire room inside that gloomy lookin’ whiskey bar in downtown Helsinki…
Little remains to be said coz Them Bird Things just delivered their best album till date and sseennsseess is adding this album to the list of contenders for best album 2017! Do yourself the favour and pick up a copy of this beautiful release. Foot-stompin’ is guaranteed!
Salla, congratulations on your newly released album! What was your first immediate reaction when you heard the final product?
A relief! I’d been listening to rough mixes for a long time (maybe a year) and then critiquing final mixes and mastering for three or four months after that. It was nice to hear the songs take the shape and form I’d heard in my inner ear for so long.
Your latest album called ‘Stephen Crow Must Die’ is the 5th release you guys have made and it very much sounds like the culmination of a long process within Them Bird Things, what are your thoughts on that?
This line-up is a much more organic entity than the previous incarnations. We are all interested in the same type of music and pull in the same direction. Working with these guys is very comfortable and I trust their judgement and taste.
Which song is your personal favourite on the new album and why?
Hard to say but those first three songs are such an explosive start to the record. ‘I Think She Likes Me’ is a song I wanted to do for a long time. It’s by a Boston band called Treat Her Right (their guitarist devised the riff that kickstarts ‘I Know Who Killed Robert Johnson’).
And the song is spooky and seductive. I sang it well. The production is droney, with a violin bowed guitar in one channel and a guitar tuned Ostrich style panned opposite. And that 12-string lead guitar is just wonky.
Then it goes into House of Stone, which is relentless. Two basses on that. A regular bass and a six string that Tapani pummels. I love my backing vocal. It’s deranged.
Then ‘I, Julius’ shows what players the three boys are. Just a tremendous performance. A magic take.
Did you face any particular challenges during the making of the new record?
No. This was the most relaxed, stress free record I have ever been involved in. The band was united in its goal. We wanted to make a loud and dirty rock’n’roll record. And for the first time in my career, it was a shared vision. I loved working with these guys. You don’t have to talk and plan. It’s almost telepathic.
Many and plenty surely but the most joyful or ‘magic’ moment of making the record?
‘Last of the Silent Screen Stars’ was magic from writing it, to arranging it, to recording it. Came together so seamlessly you just knew it was meant to be.
You guys have been existing for 10+ years but I still don’t know the answer to this one, so why the name ‘Them Bird Things’?
It’s a composition of three famous English R&B bands from the British blues boom. Them (Van Morrison’s first band), the YardBIRDs and the Pretty THINGS.
I will give you five Them Bird Things words and you will tell us what they mean to you:
White Lipstick: a true story about Steve Blodgett’s first love, who died under tragic circumstances. The companion piece to this is a song on the first album called Black Petals.
Lucy Bogan: Some interesting wordplay and a blast to sing.
Hornswoggled: a very odd bass line and more tongue-twisters disguised as lyrics. Was a sensational live piece, which the studio version doesn’t really capture the power of.
Caril Ann: Charlie Starkweather’s companion in crime gets a chance to tell her side of the story 50 years after the facts.
Choke Chain: Another one that is a blast to sing. To my mind, has a subtle S&M undercurrent. Definitely a song about control and power struggles.
Oh and who is the bride that came to yellow sky?
The lyrics were inspired by the Pogues’ “Thousands Are Sailing,” which has a real melodramatic feel to it. Probably Shane’s vision of immigration to North America filtered through his Irish genes mixed with alcohol. As a Finn, I wanted something that was more gritty, down to earth and tragic. It was also at the time that refugees were fleeing North Africa for Europe and often drowning en-route so I had that in the back of my mind as well.
When you are dreaming the dream, what dream are you dreaming?
Steve wrote this many years ago and I’m not sure I can answer that.
Who had the inspiration to compose the song “Pocket of Rain”?
‘I know who killed Robert Johnson’ and ‘Stephen Crow must die’ …is there something we should know about you?
No! These ideas spring from Will. He is a dark muthafucka.
Back to reality, you guys made the new album entirely analogue. What importance does a more ‘organic’ sound have to your music and why so ever more today as opposed to the first albums?
Basically, a matter of time, circumstances and convenience. We didn’t have our own studio at first so we went to a studio called Kick Out the Jams here in Helsinki. It was a Pro Tools studio that had a lot of analogue equipment. The tracks were recorded to digital but were mixed to tape. Over time, we were able to get our own equipment and started recording ourselves. Our producer, Will Shade, prefers analogue so that’s how we do it from recording to mixing etc.
How has the band developed during these many years and how have you developed personally?
There has been many line-ups so of course it has changed over time. As people come and go, they bring different influences and abilities with them. That has an impact on both the sound and songwriting. We all have our likes and dislikes and it has often been a struggle to find a middle ground. This most recent line-up doesn’t have that problem. We’re all on the same page.
Personally, I hope that I have developed over the past ten years both as a singer and songwriter. I don’t take this so seriously anymore. I used to get uptight about it. Now, I’m more relaxed about it. More confident in my own abilities but also aware that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t nail a take. I either come back to it later or abandon it altogether. Then again, I might leave it. Mistakes can be a flavour as well.
Main influences music wise for you personally and for the band itself?
My biggest influence is probably folk music. That has really had an impact on me. Both as a singer and as a songwriter. I’m also, according to Will, a natural country singer so I really explored a lot of the classic Country and Western stuff and much to my surprise fell in love with it. The last few years has seen me investigating mid-20th Century blues too.
The band has a real wide background. It is a bit hard to sum them all up. Tapani has been playing Finnish folk music for over 30 years but he was also a big punk fan as a teen back in the early ‘80s. Julius is capable of almost anything such as rock’n’roll, blues, country etc but I think when push comes to shove that he has a love for 60’s rock & pop. Affe, is one of Finland’s most legendary drummers and has been playing for over 50 years. He’s the hardest to sum up as he has played with Eddie Boyd after all, as well as Pen Lee with David Lindholm and Sielun Veljet. Google him!
What has music given you and what have you given music?
A real hard time! My life would be much easier if I wasn’t addicted to it. I have no idea what I’ve given music. That’s not for me to say.
You started out as a keyboard player in Branded Women without knowing how to play a keyboard, then you started singing in Them Bird Things without having sung before. Is Salla:
A) Wonder Woman
B) A supersonic natural talent
C) The next-door neighbour who just happened to have a craving and went for it
C of course.
Tell us about the transition from keyboard player to front singer and going from Branded Women into a new long-lasting project with Them Bird Things?
In Branded Women I was able to hide behind my Farfisa. As the frontman in Them Bird Things, there is no place to hide. You are the instrument. Of course, at first it was scary but once you get over the fright, being onstage becomes pretty addictive. The adrenaline gives you a rush, the high is bigger than being a sideman and there is more responsibility too. Everybody is relying on you.
You became a mother too! How did that change you as a person and as a musician?
I’ve never been an “all about me” type of person so it wasn’t a huge transition in that regard but it was a bit daunting to realize you were totally responsible for someone else every moment of the day. As far as being a musician, I think that’s apparent on the Bride album. A lot of the songs addresses being a parent or are about a child.
Tell us about Salla Day’s childhood?
Very much of a garden town. A fairly sheltered childhood. It was the 70’s and 80’s after all.
What were your dreams as a child and did any of those come true today?
I used to stand in front of a mirror with a hairbrush and dream of singing so yes, that part came true. But I also wanted to make a difference, to matter, as does everybody. So, the jury’s still out to rule on that.
Tell us about your time in England?
As a teen I loved horses. I rode competitions in Finland until I realized I was not competitive. I ended up in England working on a polo pony farm when I was 16. Stayed there for a few months during the summer in between school.
Did your parents have any influence on you music wise?
No, they had no influence on me musically. They were surprised when I joined Branded Women.
They had no indication prior to it that I was interested in music. I listened to T. Rex and Hanoi Rocks as a teen but who didn’t? Besides my mother was taking me to a Siljun Veljet show when I was 10, I don’t think they were aware of my interest.
Are you a hopeful person?
Were you a role model in school?
What does America mean to you?
Music, pop culture & violence.
Are you interested in history, if yes what intrigues you the most?
Yes. If I’m pinned down, I’d say Second World War.
What kind of character is Salla?
I have a strong sense of justice. Even as a child, I would defend other kids at the playground if I felt they were being picked on.
You seem like a very calm kinda gal but do you have a temper?
Once in a blue moon but I don’t hold a grudge.
What is ultimate happiness in your opinion and have you found it?
It’s human nature to always want more but comparatively my life is pretty good.
What do you do in life besides playing music?
Spending time with my 4-year old and my husband when I don’t have to be at my day job.
Good cup of coffee.
Palak Paneer. Unfortunately, I was just diagnosed with a milk allergy so life has become a little bit more dull.
Top 5 fave Finnish bands?
Sielun Veljet, 22-Pistepirkko, Jolly Jumpers, Carola, Tuomari Nurmio. This is by no means a list set in stone, though.
Top 5 fave foreign bands?
A: Judy Henske, XTC, Love, Emmylou Harris, Carolina Chocolate Drops. Ask me again in ten minutes, and it’ll be totally different.
Who’s your fave movie director and why?
Clint Eastwood. I had a huge poster of him as a kid. I have loved him ever since.
What does Aki Kaurismaki and his movies mean to you?
Everybody who is thinking of moving to Finland should watch his movies.
What does Finland mean to you?
Bad weather, architecture and salmiakki.
What does Helsinki mean to you?
A bubble. Wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in this country.
Kitchen Q time, what is your average rating in a kitchen and what is your strongest dish?
Adequate. Chicken curry is my best.
What is your dark side?
I am nauseatingly stable.
Would you consider yourself spiritual?
Yes, when it suits me.
If you were given the privilege to change the world in 5 strokes, what would they be?
Much too overwhelming of a concept to really sum it up in an interview but like anybody else I’d want to make the world a better place for everybody.
Lets pretend you took the famous ferry from Helsinki to Estonia and you found yourself alone on the Captain’s deck, grabbin’ the ship microphone. What would you shout out into the mist of the Seven Seas?
“Now hear this, now hear this. The bar is open. Drinks on the house.”
Any last words?
I hope people do find this latest album an enjoyable experience. Thousands of hours went into it and I think it holds its own.
Have one last task, please write a short poem, story or song on your life up until today?
Roses are red/violets are blue/you thought this was gonna rhyme/but it ain’t
Check out Them Bird Things on:
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