Very often we are misled by prejudice, by the so-called "genre" of music with which we are used to categorize a band, the type of work they do and the goal that they set out to achieve with the album, but there are cases where you need to reset the brain, let alone the music itself to speak or, as in this case, those who are behind it.
Today we have the opportunity to chat with a Finnish emerging band, STEVE'N'SEAGULLS, which has become a real viral phenomenon after recording a famous cover of AC/DC, specifically "Thunderstruck", touching million views in a very short time.
And since we are here to talk about the music, well... let it speak!
Les Fleurs du Mal: Finland is a land full of more disparate music. Being born in a country so rich in musical history must be challenging, are there any expectations when one person or, as in your case, a group decides to make music?
Puikkonen: In our case there was no big expectations in the beginning. we just wanted to make some kind of country/hillbilly versions out of popular hits and have fun with music.
LFdM: Let's start from the beginning: What prompted you to take this path?
Puikkonen: I guess we wanted to do something different in music. There is a lot of cover bands in Finland and we wanted to bring our versions to those gigs.
LFdM: Remaining on the subject, what triggered the spark in you that made you decide to try to get in the game? One moment in particular, a need, or maybe just the desire to change a routine...
Puikkonen: I think that the desire to change the routine is very well said. Most of us have been working as professional musicians for many years and this band was an opportunity for us to do something different and challenging.
LFdM: From the information that I found on internet it seems that you have started as a joke, in a barn with only the desire to make music, but how much of this perception corresponds to reality?
Puikkonen: Well, actually it wasn't a barn where we started. It was a small cottage in Hiltunen's farm. It was a sunny summer day in Hankasalmi, Finland where we settled down to this small cottage with our instruments to arrange and record a demo version of Lady Gaga's song Pokerface. So pretty much that's how it all started.
LFdM: With your debut album, "Farm Machine" (Spinefarm Records/Universal), you have created a new way to approach the cover of international artists known by practically all just hearsay. How did it the project born?
Puikkonen: When we first got some attention with "The Trooper" video, there started to be lots of hardrock and heavymetal fans on our gigs. So after a huge amount of positive feedback and of course the recording deal that we got, we decided to do a banjo heavymetal album. I guess you could say that the content of "Farm Machine" is based on our own youth favorites and the favorites of our audience, I hope so.
LFdM: The cool thing about each of the thirteen tracks that make up the album is that we would have never said that those are rock and metal songs, you have managed to reinvent their own starting from the base, how much work did it take to succeed in this endeavour?
Puikkonen: The schedule of the recordings was quite busy so we really did a hard work to get those tracks ready in time. Most of the arrangements was born quite easily though. The way we work together is not that serious. We usually try to make nice hook to the song that we arrange or take some ethnic influence that doesn't make sense but sounds nice. If that doesn't work and the process starts to take time we usually abandon the arrangement.
LFdM: To shake up so famous songs you need a deep understanding of the music, not only of what you play but also of what you are going to overturn. How have you managed to make different parts so unique and original?
Puikkonen: I don't know if we are overturning anything but the way we have worked together as five different individuals seems to work for some people. There's no deeper philosophy behind the tracks but maybe some kind of shared vision.
LFdM: What emerges from the listening of the album is the feeling of extreme fun, that sort of lightness that is also given by the sounds and the musical instruments used to reinterpret the songs. Was this what you were looking for at the beginning of the recording?
Puikkonen: Yes. We try to have fun with the music as much as possible but not make fun of it. We take all the playing and singing seriously and we try to take our skills to the next level by accepting new challenges in the upcoming arrangements.
LFdM: How did you choose the songs that they made up the final track list of the album then? Was it a contemplated choice or an instinct?
Puikkonen: We didn't have much time to try different kind of tracklists. The decision was made based on how good arrangements we had and what would be in line with the hardrock/heavymetal theme.
LFdM: Do you know if any of the bands that you have honored with your arrangements had the opportunity to listen to you? What would you like them to think of your approach?
Puikkonen: We haven't received any comments from the original artists but I hope that some of them will hear the album in the near future. Of course we want them to like our versions and understand our approach.
LFdM: Singing and playing covers is certainly a good starting point to get you to know, but what do Steve'n'Seagulls see in their future? Will you be connected to this world or you are already projected towards new horizons, new musical frontiers?
Puikkonen: We'll see about that. Sure thing is that we love to make and play music. At the moment we just want to concentrate on upcoming "Farm Machine"- tour and promoting the album.
LFdM: As you are playing a bit unusual instruments such as banjo and accordion, which linked to a specific musical tradition that seems to have little to do with your land. Do you think that an album which isn't of cover songs, but which is still maintaining the sound and spirit we have heard in "Farm Machine" may have difficulty in entering the hungry world of music, even counting what are the kinds which are all the rage lately?
Puikkonen: I'm not sure if I understood the question right but if you mean that would we make it with our own songs but still with our sound? I think that not this big. Maybe some day we could record our own material and get attention to it. That would be awesome.
LFdM: Your success exploded with internet. Your AC/DC cover has become a viral phenomenon, how have you been effected in learning that so many people appreciated your kind of music? Was this your goal or has success overcome your expectations?
Puikkonen: We had no idea that it would get this big. It is hard to understand the amount of people who like our doings. Hope that they all get our album too.
LFdM: A cd is just a part of the job of a musician. Then the tour comes and many gigs around the world, the live shows and the festivals: what do you expect from the relationship with the public?
Puikkonen: I think it's going to be awesome to finally meet face to face with the people in different countries who likes our music.
LFdM: Finally I would like to leave you with the last lines of this interview. At the beginning I said I wanted to talk about music, so this is your turn to greet all the Italian fans...
Puikkonen: We want to thank you all for your love and support and we hope to come to Italy soon.
Thanks again for the wonderful opportunity, for creating so new, crisp and fresh album and for being able to renew a repertoire that few people would have had the courage to deal with the grit and skill that you have performed.
Dora and all the staff of Les Fleurs du Mal WebZine
Photo: Jaakko Manninen
Here the review for the album in italian!