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"We don’t think about trends at all, we just write music we like." Interview with Smackbound

07-06-2020 Vlada Salt

Finland is known as a country with the largest number of great metal bands per capita. However, you can never have too many good metal bands, especially if they are bands with such a strong line-up as Smackbound. A couple of years ago Netta Laurenne, Teemu Mäntysaari (Wintersun, Imperanon), Rolf Pilve (Stratovarius, Status Minor), Vili Itäpelto (Seraphiel, Tracedawn) and Tuomas Yli-Jaskari (Tracedawn) got together and started a cover band Run For Cover, as they were eager to find out whether they can work together to  write their own music in the future. We will will be able to hear the result of it next week – on June 12, Smackbound (such a concise, but capacious name the band chose to represent their original musical material) release their debut album "20/20". In the run-up to the release of the record, we were able to talk to the band about the upcoming album, their professional views, as well as to learn about their rules of survival during a concert tour and their experience of performing in Russia.

- Hello, guys! First of all I’d like to congratulate you on your deal with Frontier Music srl – may this collaboration be successful for you! Ahead of the release of your debut album “20/20”, it would be cool to learn more about you, your music career and your professional views.

Due to signing a deal with Frontier Music srl the release of your debut album has been postponed from March to June. But time flies, so we don’t have to wait long now. 🙂 Could you, please, tell us a bit more about the album? Does it have any concept? How much time did it take to write it? Why is it called “20/20”? 

Netta: The album is energetic and melodic. We don’t have any specific concept for the album, we simply tried to make good songs and make a good record as a whole. We wrote the album slowly during several years. The songs usually take a day or two to be composed and another few days to write the lyrics.

First and foremost the name 20/20 means 20/20 vision which basically means honesty and truthfulness.

- Talking more about the album: all the singles you’ve already released are accompanied by a music video. Can we expect some more videos after the album release?

Netta: At least there will be one more video coming up.

- What music videos in general are your favourite and why? Is there any music video director you’d like to work with?

Netta: Can name just one but strong ones that speak through the visual art. Something that makes you feel the song even more.

Tuomas: When good music talks with nice visuals I probably like it.

Teemu: I enjoy movie-like well produced darker and mystical videos like what for example Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth have done. With Smackbound we've been really fortunate to get to work with one of the best directors Owe Lingwall and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with him! At some point it would be cool to get to work with the Polish video production company Grupa 13 too!

Vili: In my opinion a good music video should always support the story of the song. Otherwise there’s no idea to make a video at all. There has to be a lot of energy and something that makes you think. Something that makes you stop. Kind of like a really good movie.

Rolf: I mostly like really artsy videos in general. Can’t think of a director at moment though.

- Is there any chance that some day you’ll write a song in Finnish? Or maybe play a metal-cover of any pop/rap/jazz song?

Netta: Everything is possible. 🙂

- Could we expect gigs from Run For Cover?

Netta: Not right now as we wanna concentrate on Smackbound but Run for Cover is still alive.

- What does music mean to you?

Netta: Oh, life.

- Which musician/musicians would each of you and the band as a whole like to work with?

Netta: Too many to even name...

- Nowadays many musicians try to work in different music styles and follow “trends” to gain audience. What’s more important for you: to write and play music that you like or to follow modern music trends? Or maybe it’s better to mix both?

Netta: We don’t think about trends at all, we just write music we like.

- What’s the most difficult thing for you when it comes to writing music?

Netta: Always the beginning of it all. But you just have to start building a structure without knowing where it takes you. Might even end up in the bin later.

- Netta, here’s a question to you: when you write lyrics to the songs, is it more about self-expression and sharing your current thoughts and feelings or is it about the intention to somehow influence your listener and make them think about some particular topic?

Netta: It is about wanting to point out things I feel important. It is about stating the things that I feel are important for every person to acknowledge in their own lives.

- What do you usually do when you don’t write music and play gigs? What are your other hobbies/areas of interest?

Netta: I paint, read books and walk in the forest. I also like to cook and love wines.

- Any profession has its pros and cons. What do you like about being a musician most of all? And what’s the most difficult thing about it for you?

Netta: Well music is the life for us so that is the happy part. Financial insecurity the down part of the profession. And very late working hours.

- What are the most important qualities and traits of character for a professional musician in your opinion?

Netta: Great work morals, flexibility, patience.

- Do you think it’s possible to become a professional musician at any age, if one has the perseverance?

Netta: Music is not about age. So yes. Of course it is very wearing and takes a good physical condition to be able to withstand the work. Things you have to fight for more the older you get.

- Unfortunately, nowadays, with the prosperity of digital technology and unlimited Internet access and use, music isn’t only about music - it’s more about business, and musicians have to act not only as creators but mostly as sellers...How do you feel about it? Is it possible to change the situation, in your opinion?

Netta: The internet and digital technology has changed the profession greatly and taken away most of the traditional income from music. Now it’s mainly getting people to live gigs.

- The question to those of you who have already toured a lot. It’s known that touring life is hard. Do you try to follow “healthy” daily routine on tours and how do you cope with stress?

Netta: Rest, sleep, hydration and sports. Vocal warm up to keep the voice flexible.

Tuomas: I haven’t toured that much in ten years.

Teemu: On the road the conditions can be sometimes less than optimal in terms of nutrition, sleep and even hygiene but I think the most important thing to cope with all that is one's own attitude and making most out of the options available at any given time.

I personally love touring and usually actually enjoy sleeping in the bus so that's never been a problem for me. When traveling sometimes due to schedules you might only get a few hours of sleep during the night but then being able to take even a short nap at backstage before the show can help.

I try to avoid junk food and if there's options then usually trying to choose the healthier option.

I usually like to drink alcohol only on very special occasions, maybe once a tour, and in general I try to stay hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day.

If the schedule allows I like to take little walks and do sightseeing, and do some bodyweight workouts outside or at the venues not to get stuck just between the backstage/stage and the bus/hotel from day to day.

Vili:  Well, I’ve been playing about 100-200 gigs a year over ten years in a row now. Usually the shows themselves aren’t too stressful if you know what you’re doing. The most difficult thing in my opinion is all the travelling. I mean, sitting in a bus or an airplane for several hours a day and sleeping in different places and hours can easily mess up your routines. Then you just have to remember to eat well, get enough sleep and not go too rock ’n’ roll every night. Also you really have to love your band members. Otherwise things can go south very quick. Like a friend of mine once said ”touring with a band is kind of like travelling for several weeks with your companion. Or actually a bunch of them. And they’re all men. Without sex.” I think that sums it up pretty well.

Rolf: I think it’s crucial to maintain healthy habits on the road to be able to perform at highest levels. Personally I try to keep my diet reasonable and I enjoy walking and maintaining workout routine while touring. I avoid drinking on tours. I don’t really stress that much when touring, as the actual show is so well rehearsed that there’s really nothing to stress about performance. Also the daily routines stay the same for me, so it’s kind of a easier version of my home life.

- Has anyone of you been to Russia? If yes, what was the most memorable thing/episode?

Netta: I’ve been to Russia twice but would love to visit Moscow because I’ve never visited the great city.

Tuomas: I have never been in Russia. Hopefully we get there with Smackbound soon!

Teemu: We played two shows in Russia with Wintersun in 2018 and had a good time there! We felt very welcome, were treated nicely, the food was good and it was great to meet also some of the Russian fans before/after the shows. The most memorable thing was the train rides, though, as we rarely travel to shows with the train. We had only two crew members with us but still brought most of our own gear with us (everything except drums and stage risers, which were local) which meant everyone in the band and crew had to carry three heavy pieces of gear/luggage. This proved to be quite challenging, walking long distances at the railway stations, and especially in the stairs haha. Right in the beginning we had a bit of bad luck when we took a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg and there was some train malfunction after like 5 minutes and the train stopped for more than an hour before we got to continue the journey. After the St. Petersburg show we took the overnight sleeper train to Moscow which was also a memorable experience.

Vili:  I’ve played a couple of shows there. I remember that people were very hospitable and the crowds were awesome. Once in the backstage there was no water but only an endless amount of vodka. Luckily it was good though!

Rolf: I have been to Russia five times and it has been a blast. I think the most memorable occasion was Russian tour with Stratovarius back in 2013.

- What listener is your music aimed at? How would you describe a “perfect Smackbound fan”?

Netta: Who ever feels the music their own. We have written the album ”outside the box” so we hope it also finds its way to listeners in whatever music genre.

- If Smackbound’s music was a soundtrack to some movie, what movie would it be?

Netta: Hmm...maybe ”Gladiator”.

- Anything you’d like to say to your fans and those who’ll read this interview?

Thanks for your support and hope to see you on future gigs!

- Thank your for your answers and your time! Wishing you a successful debut with “20/20”!

Links:www.smackbound.comInstagram: @smackbound_officialYouTube: youtube.com/c/NettaLaurenneFacebook: fb.me/smackbound

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