delay trees.interview #34

photo by Aapo Huhta

From cold Finland comes the warm melodies of Delay Trees. A four piece band that in 2009 released ‘Soft Construction’, a cinematic trip in form of a seven tracks ep (or a 7 track ep in form of a cinematic trip, it’s up to you to decide).
Then last year, came out their debut album, following the same path of indiepop mixed with some shoegaze/post-rock and an atmospheric melancholia previously heard on their ep.
What makes Delay Trees’ music stand out, is how appealing it is to the memory  (and here I’m talking about very personal memories). Their songs have the effect of a faded picture that you haven’t seen in years and that suddenly, takes you back to a place filled with nostalgia, that you haven’t been in a long time, but still hold a sense of familiarity and remember everything: the colors, smells, weight of the atmosphere…
This is not music you would present to an acquaintance; it requires a certain intimacy that you can only reach with someone you feel comfortable to talk about your feelings in the most honest way. That same intimacy is what makes Delay Trees music so deep and compelling.  

Here's my conversation with Rami: beginnings, inspirations, past memories, bad covers and the connection between music and image are among the topics.

01. So, first of all: what’s your story? And what kind of image or meaning did you wanted to evoke with the name Delay Trees?
We have been friends way before the band so when I started to write these Delay Trees songs it felt natural to have Onni, Lauri and Sami in the band.
We had quite a few name suggestions and believe me, Delay Trees was the best of all the bad ones. We love effect pedals and nature, so there you have it!

02. Later we’ll talk more about how important it is for you to keep a coherence between your music and the imagery you pursuit with it... first I wanted to know if your music was a landscape or a planet, how it would look like? What are your influences in general, not only in music...
I feel our music as a quiet melancholic city with a strong Edward Hopperian mood around it. We get inspired from cities, people, places and music, but I do find art and especially the art of cinema very inspiring also.

03. In 2009,  ‘Soft Construction’ came out: an ep with 7 songs, independently released,  with a strong aesthetic and melodic direction. I had to include the ep among my list of best albums of 2009 - and not best ep's - because to me it sounded as complete as an album... Impressed me the fact that, as a first release, it already had a very peculiar sound, recognizable after the first listen (in terms of melodies and lyric subjects). Talk about the making of the ep and what’s your relation with childhood memories (the central theme, at least for me, of the album) when it comes to creating your music? 
Yes, I feel that nostalgia and memories are a strong theme in our music. It's not necessarily based on childhood alone but on anything (or anyone) that has passed... I agree that the EP seems more of an album than an EP. Maybe because we first planned it out as a full-length. Then after a while we ditched some songs off and decided to release it as an EP.
The making of it was exciting 'cos it was our first release and the first time we were recording our music in the studio and all this exciting stuff going on. Nobody knew who we were so we didn't have any pressure creatively and we had this fresh enthusiasm in every thing we did. But at the same time it was also quite stressful. When you have to do everything by yourself you start to lose the whole meaning and importance of the project behind practical issues and stress. I guess that's what sort of happened with the EP and we were sort of fed up with it when we finally got it out. But yeah, all in all it's a good starter for the band.

04. As I mentioned before, there’s a strong connection between your music, the images you sing (every song has its amount of cinematic imagery) and the visual material that comes with it… I know that some people naturally think about a work as an unity – and you seem to fit in this category. Am I wrong? What’s the importance of the visual material (whether artwork, videoclips, website…) to your music?
Honestly, I don't think we put THAT much effort to it. I mean, there are tons of bands who are visually so calculated all the time that I find it a little bit boring. We do, however, want to have some kind of bond between the music we make and all the visual stuff but we'll never want to take it too far. I mean, I adore The XX for their ultimate coolness, but then again Fleet Foxes seem like more approachable in some ways. Some bands, like Die Antwoord, would only be a shadow of who they are without their strong visual image and Ziggy Stardust would've felt very different without the space-age costumes and make-up. So yeah, pop music is strongly audiovisual and it's just natural to think of the visual things as well.

05. Your debut album was released under Johanna Kustannus and Pyramid. How did you got in touch with them? And what was their role on the creation/production of the album?
Nick Triani, the A&R guy of Johanna Kustannus at the time, loved our EP and came to see some of our shows and eventually offered us a deal. They were very cool about giving artistic freedom to us and they weren't too involved with the production. We got to choose the producer for the record and they only had a few small comments about the record while we were mixing it. They have been great for us, let's see what happens in the future now that the company has been sold to Universal.

06. The album follows the path of the ep and delivers great moments like the opening track ‘Gold’ (probably the saddest song of the year), ‘About Brothers’ (an instant classic taken from the ep), ‘Quarantine’...“Tarantula/Holding On” also is one of my favorites (even though the ep version has more impact, in my opinion)…well, I could mention all tracks because each one seems to add a different shade to a nostalgic and yet contemporary context/subject.
How was the recording and creation process of the album? Any difference in terms of recording production or expectations if compared with the creation of “Soft Construction”?
This time we had a decent budget for the record and we did most of the recording in a great wooden country house in Porvoo. We also had the chance to work with the talented Julius Mauranen who produced and mixed the album. If I said we didn't have any pressure I would be lying, but the pressure was just a good thing. It kicked us in the butt to go onwards and try new things. We had a great time doing the record, lots of laughs and relaxing moments. The whole experience was very different from Soft Construction-sessions, this had more extremes, the highs and the lows.

07.  Talk about the video for ‘Cassette 2012’. How involved were you in the creation process…
James Martin was interested in working with us already when Soft Construction came out. Unfortunately we didn't have any money to do a video. Then when we got the opportunity of making a video for Cassette 2012 we immediately thought of James. We had some chats about the video, we wanted something ethereal and dreamy, but didn't want to limit James' creative work too much. We were very happy with the result, I think it's a beautiful video. Talking of videos, we're releasing a new music video for 'About Brothers' sometime soon. It's also a beauty.

08. You are from Finland. There are some great things coming from Suomi lands in terms of music: Cats on Fire, Burning Hearts… looking back to the 90’s I can name Karkkiautomatti, Cessna… just to name a few that come to my mind at the moment... of course, each having a very distinct sound. From what I know of finnish music, there's a strong scene in terms of indiepop/rock but I don't know (or at least can't remember) another band that's mixing shoegaze with indiepop and post-rock elements like you guys are doing... Give us a glimpse of the finnish independent scene from your perspective… any great bands waiting to be discovered?
Yeah there are loads of good bands in Finland but unfortunately there's not enough record companies or people working for international promotion or export, so it's not that easy to find them...
Tampere-based On Volcano share some of the vibes we have in our music and Black Twig from Helsinki will definitely be a future favourite for indie-fans. They mix some of the poppier Sonic Youth moments nicely with MBV-esque shoegazing. Kaskas is another band worth checking, they play psychedelic organ-based indie. To me they are following the footsteps of the great 22-Pistepirkko.

09. Do you get to live of your music?
No we don't. Sometimes you don't even get enough money for the gas so, yeah, financially it's a bad choice to play this kind of music. At least in Finland. But then again, it's our passion and we love being in the band, love the touring and the studios. The future of this kind of music doesn't look too bright either, so I guess we should start playing the lottery or something...

10. Any song(s) you’d like to cover?
We've tried Kylie Minogue's "I Believe In You" a few times and some Velvet Underground but we haven't performed them live yet. When we'll get sick of playing the album then we'll play only covers. Bad covers.

photo by Aapo Huhta
11.Name the perfect place and time to hear your music.
Walking around the city during night time with a nice set of headphones. Go through different areas, downtown, the harbour, the rougher neighborhoods and the places where rich people live... I think it's also a nice soundtrack for a summery late night roadtrip with a few friends, stopping at quiet gas-stations and going for a swim in a secret lake or something like that...

12. Recommend something you've been listening lately.
I feel like I haven't been that into indie rock or pop for a while. The only pop songs I can remember that I've been really into this year are Lykke Li's new songs. I used to hate her old stuff but this new style really suits her and the songs are great. I also quite like the new Destroyer album, really fresh sounds. Apart from those two, Tortoise, Paavoharju and Can have been frequently played on my iPod. For the past month I've also been really inspired by Steve Reich's and Terry Riley's experimentalism. I've been creating these weird soundscapes late at night with radio signals and some synths. It's a lot of fun but quite far away from the masterful coherence of Reich's or Riley's I'm afraid...

13. Anything else you feel like saying?
Thanks a lot for the interview Felipe, love your blog!

Cassette 2012
About Brothers

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