Out of tune noise rock from Helsinki, Finland. Four guys thrashing their instruments while the girl tries to keep the songs together with her near angelic vocals. Started in 1998, Echo Is Your Love has raised from the improvised lo-fi soundscapes and led its way to whole new area of post-punk and hardcore that brings together the best elements of pop, no-wave, post-punk and art core, whatever that might be…
Hello! In the beginning could you introduce yourselves, give us a brief description of how long have you been together in Echo Is Your Love, what’s the story behind the band and what about your releases up to now.
Echo Is Your Love is NEA HELSTO vocals, MIKKO HEIKKONEN guitars + vocals, ILAI RÄMÄ guitar, TOMMI FORSSTRÖM bass, RIKU KORHONEN drums. The band started in early 1998 with a slightly different line-up. The guitarists and singer have remained the same ever since.
I moved to Helsinki from East Finland and knew Ilai and we had already agreed to start a band before I moved… So when I moved in he had to look for other members and introduced me to his friends who became the rest of the band. My girlfriend/current wife Nea was already going to be our singer. So we were kinda just introduced to ourselves at the first rehearsals. Ilai also came up with the name, I liked it immediately. Our first couple years we just recorded pretty much everything and released the stuff on 7”s which was fun back then but we can’t listen to that stuff anymore. We liked to improvise. Now we spend months on songwriting.
You’re recording a new material in 2008, can you tell something more about it?
We started working on new songs already in summer 2006 when we returned from our US tour, but everyone has been so busy with so many bands and projects that we ended up releasing a new EP just this year in April and planned to release an album later this year but it’s going to be spring 2009 when it comes out. We pretty much have the songs already written, we just need to work on them a bit, record demos and record the album in autumn.
What other bands are the members of EIYL involved in? What’s the main focus about playing in EYIL? It seems it’s a different kind of band comparing to the hardcore/punk background of the members? I know, you Mikko, are playing in Hero Dishonest but the other members have some weird experimental projects? Is there really a scene for DIY indie/experimental music in Finland?
Yes we all play in different bands: I play in HERO DISHONEST (the bassist Tommi used to play in it, too), the drummer Riku plays in a great noiserock band called FUN (www.noisecorewalze.com), they were the first Finnish band to record with Steve Albini in Chicago, Ilai plays in an electronic kraut band called SINIAALTO and KIRLIAN CROSSING which is kinda psychedelic experimental pop-folk, Tommi plays in VIOLA which is kinda electro-pop and he sometimes plays drums in BLACK AUDIO which is kinda electro-blues.
There’s a very good indie/experimental/folk/ psychedelic scene in Finland and the people sometimes cross with different music styles and bands. I think that’s the beauty of doing this, if you like music it doesn’t matter what the form is. I think all our bands are our priorities, we usually have a certain period when one band is active and then some other. Right now it feels like Echo could really become a little more popular by making a really good next record and touring more, so we try to do that as much as possible later this year and next year.
In the beginning EIYL started as a noise-rock act but you moved into more indie-rock or post-punk direction. Is it the band really moving into the pop music niche? How close to the mainstream can you be before your message is lost on the audience? Are you still completely DIY?
We all like pop so we’ve find it fun to have good choruses in our music etc. We also like good danceable rhythms but when we “interpret” our music with our loud noise guitars I don’t think there’s any “danger” that we’d hit the mainstream any time soon…. But it’s also never been our focus to be “indie” or “noise” or “not mainstream” or whatever. The progress has been very natural.
In the beginning we liked to jam and imrovise but when we started to tour around 2001-2002 we got bored with the 8-minute long songs and wanted to start rocking so we ended up writing these shorter and poppier indie/postpunk/whatever songs. We’re very much DIY and I certainly don’t see the point of limiting DIY to just some kind of music.
Hero Dishonest did a European tour with an American band called Fourth Rotor, a great Minutemen-sounding noiserock band from Chicago in 2005. They did everything DIY style and gave free stuff at their shows and gave their music for free on their website. Some Polish punks didn’t believe they’re DIY because they weren’t crust!!
We don’t distribute our records unless it’s our show, we don’t press our records (who does??), and I would love to see some bigger booking agencies doing our upcoming tours, but still I think we’re pretty much DIY. Where’s the limit? I also don’t worry about our message getting lost if we move closer to mainstream pop. How can the bigger crowd ever hear our message if we never play to them? DIY and punk and indie should never be any elitist bullshit that only the “chosen ones” are allowed to.
You’re releasing your records under your own If Society label. What’s the main idea behind If Society and is it hard for you to play in several bands as well as running a label? What is the role of the DIY record labels? What kind of bands are you releasing on IF Society, are they necessary part of the hardcore/punk scene in one way or another?
If Society is my and Tommi’s serious hobby since 1999. We’ve had 42 releases ranging from indie to hardcore, from electro to thrash metal, from experimental to pop. So, the style is “whatever we like”. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work. Now we also have record-comic store in Helsinki, it’s mainly comics and run by a third guy but we run the shop’s small music section. On our website (www.ifsociety.com) there’s also a fast growing webstore (800-1000 different items at the moment, from grindcore to free-jazz). It’s sometimes hard to find the time, there’s always more we could do, especially now that I’m a family man…
The problem is that people don’t buy records anymore. We’d love to release more stuff but honestly I don’t know what is going to happen. People say downloading will kill the big companies, but they are the only ones who will survive. Our new records are free on the internet immediately when they come out (we don’t put them there!) and it’s hard to sell even 300 copies these days…
How the hell can you keep on releasing good music when you first pay thousands of euros to put out a really good record and then you end up having 700 records in your warehouse because the kids at the shows say “sorry I’m not buying, I already downloaded it”. Start enjoying the Celine Dion records because they are the only ones that will keep coming out in future. The small labels will die if things go on like this. The records are not that expensive and people find it ok to pay for t-shirts, zines and beer, too, so why not for records, which after all are the reason for many of these subcultures.
What’s the difference between playing in Echo Is Your Love and Hero Dishonest? Maybe in Finland you have a lot of friends and audience attending to the gigs of the both bands but what’s the reaction to EIYL when you play together with hardcore/punk bands outside of Finland? How does one EIYL show looks like?
Echo plays with whatever bands, we have no preferences. Sometimes people dance when we play, sometimes not. It’s up to the night, the level of drunkness in the crowd etc. Hero Dishonest shows are usually pretty chaotic, things usually break… Yep some people come to both bands’ shows but these people also go to see very different kinds of bands. The punks usually come and see Echo if there’s punkier bands playing with us.
Tomorrow night we play with two mostly-girl punk bands. There’s usually a lot of girls at Echo shows and not too many at Hero shows.
What are your musical influences?
Some bands and artists that I like but don’t necessarily influence Echo (you can decide) are: Alice Coltrane (free-jazz) Ariel Pink (a great Los Angeles solo artist who records alone in his bedroom), Arvo Pärt (Estonian composer), B-52’s, Bauhaus, Beat Happening, Beastie Boys, Big Boys, Birthday Party, Black Eyes, Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Blonde Redhead, Bruce Springsteen, Cannibal Ox (great hiphop from New York), Captain Beefheart, Chromatics, Daniel Johnston, Das Oath, Dead Moon, Deicide, Descendents, Dinosaur JR, Erase Errata, The Fall, Fugazi, Gangstarr, Imatran Voima (great Finnish electro), John Coltrane, Joy Division, Kraftwerk, Leonard Cohen, Liars, Lydia Lunch, Madonna, Mayhem, Minor Threat, Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Mudhoney, My Bloody Valentine, Napalm Death, Nas, Neil Young, New Order, Nick Drake, Nico (who used to be in Velvet Underground), Obituary, Ornette Coleman, Out Cold (our friends’ hardcore band from Boston, one of the best..), Pan Sonic (Finnish minimal electro), Radiopuhelimet (the best Finnish band, like a mix of Dead Kennedys and James Brown… they’re on If Society), Ramones, Shellac, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Sonic Youth, Sun Ra, Sweetheart (Finnish band that sounded like Birthday Party), Talking Heads, Unwound, Velvet Underground, Voivod, Wipers, Wrangler Brutes, X…… As you can see from the alphabetical order I had to go through my iPod to find “a couple” favorites. And there’s a million more. Lately I’ve been into Orthodox churches’ music, Buddhist chants and Ethiopian jazz.
How would you describe the band musically? Where did you find inspirations for your lyrics? Are you involved in any kind of activism outside of the band and do you really have a political approach in your music?
We have a lot of lyrics about music. Love songs for music. We have a song about Dead Moon on our new EP. Music is my politics, it’s my weapon against everything that’s evil. We’re not really involved with any other activities than this. I think traveling around and playing at indie/DIY venues is political enough for us. A lot of the lyrics also deal with money and consumerism, growing up to fulfill others expectations about what is good life etc. We’re far in the left field politically (anarchists) but that’s something we don’t even have to think about or say in our lyrics. I think it’s just common sense to be there.
What are the most negative aspects of the neo-liberalism? Do you think it can be capitalism with a “human face”?
Bring down all the barriers from making as much profit as possible…? We are there already and I don’t think this machine can be stopped. Once you let the people have whatever they want for as cheap as possible there’s no way to take it back. I’m waiting for a big wave that will wipe away most of us… Maybe then we’ll learn.
Are you all in EIYL dedicated to vegetarian/vegan lifestyle? How much important is the animal rights issue to you? Do you support any kind of animal rights activism?
We are all vegetarians except Ilai who is vegan. I guess it’s important for us on personal level but it’s not really what this band is about. Again, I think it’s just common sense. Some of us have gone to some demonstrations and I think we have played at some benefit shows but the issue is very personal for us. I wouldn’t mind doing more for the issue as a band, like appearing on some benefit record or something. Since the choice is very natural for us we don’t really have to talk about it.
As a band with a female member how do you view the issue of abortion and womyn’s right to choose? Also what’s the course of the Finland’s government politics about womyn rights and abortions? Where do you see the sexism in society most obvious?
Nea is not here answering this so I’m trying to say something… It was very easy to be anti-abortion before we had a baby (Nea and I are married and we had a baby in February), but when we saw the living creature in the ultrasound pictures (I don’t know the right word but you know what I mean) it would have been an impossible idea to have it killed. I’m not saying it changed my mind about abortion but it’s never an easy question for me anymore. Of course women will have the right to choose, that’s how it should be, but it sometimes feels like that the people who most scream for the rights are a) guys or b) people who have never had kids. There are laws that ban discrimination based on sex but the reality is that women don’t for example get the same money for the same work as men. Of course teachers, nurses etc get the same money, but if there’s a woman leader in a company she doesn’t get the same money. And women are the majority in the “white collar” jobs. The minority of men get more money.
In the punk/indie/diy scene there’s hardly any sexism, at least it’s not admitted, but of course there’s always “guys’ talk”, I think it’ll always be like that. I believe the indie scene is less sexist than the punk scene. There’s a lot of girls in bands these days, but in the punk scene they are always “the girl band” and not “a band”. In the indie scene there are some very popular solo artists who are girls and girl bands, and people don’t pay much attention to their sex…
We’ve just played Helsinki Pride punk show… We played at the Gay Pride Week’s (a whole week of celebration) punk show last Wednesday. SPOILED BETTY started the night, they’re an all-girl punk band (again that label!) who sound like Bikini Kill. Next was CONFUSA, 3 girls and 2 guys, they’re pretty straight-up melodic punk. Echo played last. There were lots of people (i´d say 80% girls) and everyone had good time.
Tell us more about your scene? What are some of the good bands from Finland you’re playing at the shows with? Are there a lot of good venues, alternative zines and activities going on there?
Scene is really good, there’s a lot of all kinds of shows for every possible style you like, all kinds of venues (not enough all-ages venues, though), not enough zines because everyone is online these days, a lot of good bands and too many not-so-good… Some good bands: KYKLOOPPIEN SUKUPUUTTO (crazy fast thrash with totally unique playing and arrangements), FUN (our drummer’s noiserock band), FRIVOLVOL (noiserock-screamo), SUR-RUR (melodic punk like Husker Du and Wipers), RISTO (weirdo disco-rock..), PLAIN RIDE (hypnotic kraut pop)…. just to name a few.
Anything else you want to add?
Thanks for the interview! Hopefully we can play in Bulgaria someday. Get our new ep from www.ifsociety.com, it’s only 5 euros and support DIY culture! Cheers!
Mikko Heikkonen, Echo Is Your Love