Lau Nau: A trip down magicville

In today’s world we are surrounded by a lot negative influences and constantly under attack by media and large corporations telling us what to do, what to fear and what to take. Life is a beautiful thing if you allow it to be and the world isn’t such a bad place after all. Want my advise?…no? what do you mean no?…tough luck, gonna give it to you anyway!

To those of you struggling, don’t go to your doctor who already has a pre-filled prescription on happy pills ready for you, instead try a Lau Nau record!

For those of you not struggling?….easy! Try a Lau Nau record!

It is difficult to imagine a magic world as in a fantasy where you can free your mind and all can be forgotten and where happiness more often meets beauty, where drama challenges your imagination and where the listener is bound to widen horizons they never thought really existed, through profoundly deep, melancholic yet extremely playful and even cheerful events of a thing called music…

Lau Nau is out with her new album Poseidon and I say try it!

Laura Naukkarinen turned into the artist ‘Lau Nau’, you Finnish artists always seem to get away with the most simple and obvious things too, when creativeness is not always about the complex but very much can be found in simplicity?

– Haha, yes, it’s a combination of the both. First adventuring in the complex and then returning to the simpleness to find what makes music magical at it’s core.

Laura, you are coming out with your new album “Poseidon”, the 5th album under Lau Nau. Please tell us how this new record came together and with which inspiration?

– I got my grandmother’s piano to my home and I suddenly started composing a lot of music with it – first the soundtrack album “Hem. Någonstans” and then I continued with other film projects with the piano after that album. I was composing songs that I realised weren’t for the next film but that seemed more like Lau Nau songs. They had the melancholic raconteur spirit that Lau Nau has and some lyrics started to accumulate for the songs too. I wrote the compositions down and asked my friend Matti Bye, who is an amazing artist, if he would like to record the first tracks for the album with me in his studio. We did it and these first recording sessions gave the pulse and the magic to the album. Helena Espvall’s cello playing and Samuli Kosminen’s co-production work became very essential as well.

 What can we expect from this album and what are your own expectations to it now that it is ready?

  – You can maybe expect luminous songs that are arranged as chapters in a book. I’m just hoping people will find the album, listen to it and get a good moment with this music. If they feel like hating it, I don’t mind either. I never want to force these things.

I have just been pre-listening to your new album “Poseidon” and I find the album intriguing and majestic but it also sounds to me as a Lau Nau with a strengthen identity?

– Thanks! What is that identity like? I don’t know how it feels for others than me, and for me it’s ever changing, but maybe the changes are so small that they are almost not visible. Just now I am wondering can I release an instrumental synth album under the moniker Lau Nau or is it too far away from what I usually release under that name. I have also a project called Subatlantti for some harsher sounds I record with a violin and analog synths. Sometimes it’s good to separate different artist characters and it’s hard decide where to draw the line.

Your debut album “Kuutarha” was released 13 years ago, please tell us how you have developed as an artist and as a person during those 13 years up until today?

– Haha, oh my god, so much! I hope. Back in those days I made a lot of music with my friends and by myself and everything we thought sounded cool got also released pretty easily. So my growth as an artist has been very public, I haven’t rehearsed in secret, just straight in the stages and releases. Of course there’s something really intriguing and naked in those first recordings too, a spirit that I will maybe never find again. I remember that with my third album “Valohiukkanen” I tried to reach for something more normal and resembling to band music, and in Finland the album got praising critique and many nominations for different prizes, but it didn’t feel like that it was where I wished to reach for. So basically with “Hem. Någonstans” I finally reached something I have always wanted to do, a consistent, very concentrated album that leans on simple but powerful artistic expression and I think I have been on the same path ever since. You ask how I have developed as a person during these 13 years? Well that would fill this interview pretty nicely if I would even start to tell the story… So let’s say I have matured quite a bit but maybe not too much.

“Kuutarha” was released on the American label Locust Music, it’s pretty unusual with all song titles being in Finnish. How did you end up on an American label instead of a local label?

– Well I just sent the demos to a few of my favourite labels and most of them were Americans. Every one said “yes” so I could just decide which one I’d like to release the album.

What does “Kuutarha” mean by the way?

– It’s a word game, “Puutarha in Finnish means “garden” and “kuu” is moon so it means “Moongarden”

You have always had a sort play with the sound in your music, at times a fairy tale feel to it?

– Let’s put it like this: sometimes you need to be serious and work seriously. But I would die inside if I would stop playing.

When I put on your records I seem to be transported through various scenarios, sometimes I feel like I’m listening to Mother Nature or walking alone in a magic forest, other times that I am in the dream of a dream and other times again I feel like I’m watching a movie. It is all very picturesque and imaginary, at times even dramatic. What do you really want to represent in your music?

– I can see where all these images come from that you are describing. Nevertheless, my aims aren’t that mystical or exotic, I try to express some basic human emotions and connect the listener to them –  comforting a friend or yourself, the fear of loss, the preoccupation for the state of the environment and the ones that are suffering, but also emotions of love and joy. But my music is not only about these human emotions, I also try to be very conscious about the methods and artistic aim of my music, trying to avoid the obvious, doing things wrong, doing it yourself, concentrating on sound as equally as in melody. Trying to be a musical anarchist too and shaking the authoritarian ways of making music.

Your second album “Nukkuu” which I did find a translation for ;-)…means sleeps. Again released on Locust. Why the title and what do you remember this record the most for, being the follow-up to your debut?

– Yes, Nukkuu means Sleeps. I made the album after I got my first child and my possibilities for concentrating in doing music were very limited. Making the record was an extreme accomplishment, working half an hour at a time while the baby was taking naps, very hard to concentrate. It was a time when my friends didn’t yet have kids of their own, so the period of my life was a big rupture to what my life was before. We also moved to the countryside where we didn’t know anyone. That album carries a lot of weight from what was happening in my life. It’s hard for me to listen to it nowadays.

 – Your third album “Valohiukkanen”, which I think may be my personal favourite album so far, took you back to a Finnish label. Why?

 – I was playing a lot of concerts abroad instead of Finland, so I wanted to make a base in my home country too. Plus of course Fonal Records that released the album is a label of my dear friend Sami Sänpäkkilä, and I really love to work with him. 

Again, you will need to translate the album title for us?

– “Particle of light” or “photon.

This third album is so dramatic and really beautiful and then there is the upbeat electronic song ‘Kuoleman Tappajan Kuolema’. What the heck happened?

– I have no idea!

I have been playing a lot with the google translator for this interview which can be quite the challenge for instance it is translating ‘Kuoleman Tappajan Kuolema’ into ‘The Death of The Death’s Death’. You got to enlighten us?

– It’s a gore / splatter song, kind of silly. It’s a drama where somebody sends a contract killer to kill the death itself but the contract killer gets killed instead. But you know it has other layers than that. It questions who was the winner after all and it’s also a semi-erotic play…

Also please tell us more about the making of this record, it seemed to have a different character to it than the previous and those following it or is it just a personal presumption?

– Even if I had guest players on my previous records I felt tired of doing the thing alone, I missed doing music with friends. So I wanted to do a band album and gathered a lovely band around me: Antti Tolvi on bass and wind instruments, Pekko Käppi on jouhikko (bowed lyre), Jaakko Tolvi on drums and guest musicians Kristian Holmgren doing this and that and Matti Bye guesting on one song. It was Kristian Holmgren who also recorded and mixed the album, so he did a magnificent work on working on the sound and making it a coherent band album. For the first time I had some ready compositions when we started to record – before this album I had always just improvised while recording. I also did concerts with this band (Pauliina Mäkelä did live visuals and sometimes Ramo Teder played the jouhikko) and it was great to have friends to play with.

We are now reaching your 4th album “Hem, Någonstans” which is described as a soundtrack to Lotta Petronella’s documentary “Home, Somewhere”. Please tell us a bit about the idea and creation of the album?

– It’s a soundtrack album so it’s the music I made to Lotta’s wonderful film. I owe quite a lot of the vision for this album to Lotta and her insights on what it could be. It has a simple instrumentation: piano, glockenspiel, jouhikko played by the amazing Pekko Käppi and lots of processing.

..and which butt do we need to kick for deciding not to release it on vinyl?

– Well, Fonal Records who released it doesn’t release vinyl anymore… And when another label wanted to do a vinyl, the film production company bankrupted and it’s not so easy to get the rights for the album now as it was a commissioned composition. Sadly that can happen in the biz.

You have been involved in various bands and side projects over the years. This year a band named Dire Wolves released a record called “Excursions to Cloudland” featuring you as well. Tell us more about your involvement in this recording?

– Haha, this is simple! I was on a West Coast tour on USA and my old friend Jeffrey Alexander organised a show for me at the Lab in San Francisco. I had a day off and he asked if I could join his band Dire Wolves for som jamming and recording, and during that one evening we improvised and recorded material for two (!) albums, “Excursions to Cloudland” and “Oceans of Green”. Last year I visited San Francisco again when I played at the Silent Film Fetsival with Matti Bye Ensemble, and recorded some more songs with Dire Wolves. Well it was quite a miracle that we did two albums in the first evening we met! I had never met his band members before either! It was some SF magic in the air for sure.

We have talked a lot about Lau Nau so lets talk about Laura Naukkarinen now. If you should define Laura in 3 words?

– Curious, introvert, a mix between serious and total goofball. Sorry that was many words.

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

– I was born and grew up in a small town near Helsinki.

What were your parents doing and did they have any impact on you music wise?

– My mother worked as a eye doctor and my father worked with economics, but they always encouraged me to have the music as a hobby. Then what happened…

Based on the music you compose I can’t help but to ask two questions:

Did you have a magic childhood?

 – Yes at least in my imagination and for sure it was real. Summers in the countryside were very special. 

 In school, were you a constant dreamer with a teacher constantly snapping his/her fingers to wake you out of a parallel world?

– Actually no, I was quite attentive student. But I remember when I got older my teachers asked why I look so angry, even though I didn’t yet feel angry a bit. Maybe it was the awakening pain about the world because later I did feel angry. I became a punk rocker on my 14’s.

Are you a dreamer today?

 – Yes.

Did you day dream today for instance?

– Yes many times. I have a lot of dreams.

You stated that you spent days playing on your grandmother’s piano which ended up becoming compositions. Did or do you spend a lot of time at your grandmother’s house and did she have an influence on who you are today and the music you play?

– When I was a child we were sometimes at her and my grandfather’s house with my sister for a while, also we have quite a tight big family so we spent much of the family holidays together with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. My grandmother form father’s side was quite a special person. Very unique. She had a very strong spiritual life and she was a also a feminist. She has influenced me a lot as well as my other grandparents.

Are you a romantic?

 – Absolutely! I love beauty, the old eras and I’m too sentimental. I’m an aesthetic person, I want to surround myself with beautiful things and thoughts even if I’m well aware that world has other sides too.

Do you have a temper?

– Quite mild.

What is Finnishness to you?

– No idea.

Had you been born with the same creative skills but in another country than Finland, would you have been playing the same type of music?

– No, I think all the people around me have influenced me so much! 

What does melancholy mean to you?

– A way of cherishing and accepting sadness as a part of me. I don’t want to think positive all the time.

Do you only do music for a living or do you support yourself with other work as well?

– Just now I support myself with music only. I have also been working as a librarian quite long, but not now.

 Are you a spontaneous girl?

– Getting more spontaneous and wild year after year.

Passions besides music?

– Haha, I keep them secret!

Are you a giving person?

– I really hope so.

Are you a believer?

– I’m quite a blue-eyed believer in people’s kindness.

Are you hopeful?

– Very.

If you have to mention something negative about yourself what would that be?

– Sometimes I’m SO dull.

To wrap it all up, please write a short poem, in Finnish, that shares what Laura hopes for the future?

– Antaa tulla,

kahvi ja pulla.

Sorry I just made the worst poem ever. I need coffee.

**
Find Lau Nau here and here
Fonal Records here
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Them Bird Things

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”?

Ditto.

‘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.

Together with my sister

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.

Photo taken during the Branded Women days

Are you a hopeful person?

Absolutely.

Were you a role model in school?

Absolutely not.

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.

Fave color?

Really?

Fave drink?

Good cup of coffee.

Fave meal?

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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Buy their record at recordshopx.com today!