Although Finland is associated with the metal overlords (Lordi, Children of Bodom, Nightwish), the alternative and quirky band Varvara take their praises from the Northern European country. Their fourth release ‘Death Defying Tricks’ pushes the band out of their comfort zone. Coming a long way from their once nonchalant swagger in ‘Intentions’ the Hamina band have now looked towards a more deliberate and blunt sound.
GIGsoup contributor John Gittins had the chance to sit down with Mikko Kiri (vocals/guitar) to talk about Varvara’s ‘surprising’ popularity and how their third studio album transverses lofi, grunge, garage rock and psych all in one sitting.
An endearing quality about your music is how much of a variety it holds, crisscrossing from grunge number ‘Caught’, to a jazzier and calmer ‘Headlights’, the albums narrative is far from linear. Given the varying sounds on ‘Death Defying Tricks’, were the songs all written at different points in time by different people?
Nope, all songs were written by me in about a year. I wrote ‘Shadow of Mistrust’ and ‘Crossed My Mind’ while we were touring our second album “Decades” in 2014. Personally I think ”Death Defying Tricks” is more balanced than the previous albums. I dig albums with a lot of variety between songs, and I don’t really think ahead about the linearity that the album might have. What sounds good sounds good and a good song is a good song. We can figure out the rest later. There’s a lot of great albums with a bunch of different kind of songs, take Smashing Pumpkins “Melloncollie and the Infinite Sadness” for example; thirty songs all different from each other, still totally works as a whole.
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Your single ‘Human Being’, has a characteristic sense of melody and arrangement, and probably one of the more characteristically American resembling tracks. Was this more down to input from the bands side or Pelle Gunderfelt’s?
We produced the album by ourselves, so I guess the input comes from the bands side. Pelle really did a great job there and made it sound just the way it was supposed to. It does have that American high-school feel-good vibe in the chorus, doesn’t it? I built the whole song around the chorus, so I guess it plays a big part in it.
With mixing completed by both the band, Gunnerfelt and mastering completed by Brad Boatright, can you talk on the experiences felt by collaborating with such reputable figures in music?
Well it’s a bit of unreal feeling when you don’t ever meet face to face. All the info is exchanged via email. Tommi our guitarist was the one who mostly kept in touch with both Brad and Pelle. The rest of us just heard the news.
Somehow Brad has been very popular amongst bands here in southeast Finland. He has been mastering our fellow bands from the neighborhood, and actually he mastered the latest album for my other band ssSHEENSss earlier so I’ve already had some experience with his work. Excellent job. Pelle though was a dream come true. He’s been the mastermind of so many albums and projects that I’ve been listening to from the nineties. He was our number one choice for the job and luckily we got him (we were desperate enough to contact him via Facebook), so I guess it says it all. Magnificent.
Your band name pays homage from the South East Finnish merchant Varvara Schantin creating a caring image of pacifism. Does a reciprocal message run throughout your music as well?
It would be so fucking cool to say that it would. But the story is different. There’s a statue of Varvara Schantin in our hometown Hamina and that’s the place we often used to meet up with friends before our night-time mischiefing.
I thought it was a cool name for a band when I moved back to Hamina after years of studying and becoming an adult and responsible parent for two kids, something honest and sincere from my childhood. I really do think we are all pacifists though and we all share these soft caring values.
‘Death Defying Tricks’ is your third studio album and fourth release. Is there anything you all would’ve told yourselves before recording ‘This City Offers No Comfort’ five years ago?
Its funny, we never really decided what kind of music we were going to play. I’ve been the main songwriter but its kind of cool how our own sound came out so naturally. The beginning of the band was very humble to try to make music that first of all, we would love ourselves but would be recognizable for someone else too.
We would have told ourselves: If the fun disappears, the band should end there.