International Music Interviews

A Conversation With Melua: On Music in Finland and Recording Their Debut Album

It’s hard to put a label on Melua. They have all of the progressive tendencies of bands like Tool, but they also deliver waves of immersive atmosphere, like King Buffalo. Perhaps, then, it’s better to fall back on the description they use on their Facebook page: “Beautiful music with a hint of psychedelia.”

However you describe them, Melua is art. Hailing from Pori, Finland, the band members have played in separate projects for years. Those years experience appear to have paid off because Melua performs together like a single, cohesive unique. With every groove and riff, the band pushes forward, drawing the listener in further and further.

That’s especially the case in their debut album, Melua.

We recently sat down with Ville, the band’s singer, and Tapio, the band’s bassist, to learn more about their debut album.

Melua On the Band’s History

Monster Riff: The new album is pretty sweet. I want to touch on that in a moment. I haven’t been able to find too much information about the band. Can you tell me a little bit about your history?

Ville: So, we’re a new band. We don’t really have so much. You can’t find so much from the internet.

Tapio: We’ve been playing together since 2017. That was the first grouping of the band because we have all been in different projects. But then we found each other.

Ville: Actually, the first time these guys started playing I really thought that this is going to be an instrumental band. But I’m glad these guys talked me over to singing. And, yeah, now we’ve got a great album and we’re really excited about it.

Tapio: Yeah. Ville is a really good drummer.

Ville: Yeah, I’ve been playing about 20 years in advance. I’ve been playing drums. And this is the first band that I’m doing the vocals. So, it’s a new thing.

Monster Riff: What has that transition been like?

Ville: I don’t know. There’s always been a side of me that wanted to sing. But I never really got into it. But it’s been awesome because you find out new things about yourself. And it’s been like a therapy for me. 

Tapio: He does it good. Yeah.

Ville: Yeah. It’s been awesome. It’s like, you just jam with the guys and it comes along naturally.

Melua On the Band’s Name

Monster Riff: “Melua,” I believe, is Finnish for “the noise.” Is that correct?

Ville: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true.

Monster Riff: Does it have any deeper connotations? Or is that just generally the definition that you were shooting for?

Ville: Yeah, we were thinking about some names for the band. And it’s actually Pete, the drummer, who came up with Melua. We were setting up a rehearsal space and Pete just said, “What about Melua?” We’re like, “Yeah, that sounds good, man.”

Tapio: Yeah, there was no really great story about it, that name. But don’t tell anyone. [Laughs]

Melua in a Hallway

Melua On Finland’s Music Scene

Monster Riff: It is a pretty name. And speaking of that, what strikes me about your sound that you’ve captured on record here… It’s also very pretty. It’s very atmospheric and I can hear a lot of different influences in it. But before we get there, I want to talk a little bit about being a band in Finland. Over here in the States, when we think of Finland, we think of metal bands. Melua isn’t quite that deep in the metal scene. So, I’m curious: What is the music scene like in general over there? Is there any pressure to go a little bit harder and heavier?

Ville: Well, actually, in Pori, where we live…

Tapio: …It’s been a musical Mecca.

Ville: Yeah, there’s always been a huge music scene over here. And it’s like, so many different, different kinds of music here.

Tapio: They’re mostly like, progressive bands, but there’s everything.

Ville: In the ‘80s, there were all of these different bands and if you were from Pori, you were signed right there. It didn’t matter. You didn’t even have to hear the band. You were getting signed. On the rock scene… There was a little bit of Punk Rock-influenced music. But now, over the last 20 years, there has been very progressive music. Art bands like Circle. 

Tapio: They’re from here.

Ville: There are many Metal bands, Rock ‘n’ Roll… There so many different kinds… Punk Rock. Everything. I think the music scene is very very, very large. We’ve been playing since we were teenagers in different bands, and absolutely there are different kinds of bands influencing us. 

Tapio: But Melua… It’s sort of like a feeling.

Ville: It’s sort of a metallized thing. I think at some point where I’ve been starting to listen to different kinds of music… I think bands like Pink Floyd and everything have been with us for our whole life and everything. But the first time we got this band together, we’re playing it and i sort of clicked, right? I think we found the thing that we’ve been looking for. 

Monster Riff: You’ve found you’re own sound here. How would you describe it?

Ville: Our own sound. I think we’re getting into this, like, Stoner sound, like Noxatras, and then I think there’s like this Psychedelic jam with it. With the vocals, there’s a little bit of a crunch that makes it unique.

Monster Riff: I want to touch again on Pori. With you describing it as a musical mecca, I’m trying to think of a comparison people might be familiar with in the United States. I was in Nashville, Tennessee, a few years ago, and I’m walking down Broadway and every few feet there’s a bar playing live music. Is Pori like that, with music going on everywhere?

Ville: Well, no, not like that. Actually, nowadays, what is a really bummer is there’s really not a live place to play. So, bars: boring at the moment. It’s not the brightest place because of the pandemic. It’s really a bummer because, years ago, there were different places that were playing, but they’re closed down. And that’s really a bummer. And I know it’s because people don’t really go to those live shows so much or something, but it’s going to get bigger. Finland right now is, it’s like there’s, only you know, the Ice Hall and big, big shows and everything, and then you’ve got the festivals, but I think the culture is getting, you know, weaker nowadays and there’s just not so many of the pubs and these little places that will do live nights. That’s too bad.

Monster Riff: How much of that is because of the coronavirus and how much of that is just the way it’s been going?

Tapio: Like how it’s been going. But then, also, I think corona affects it, but it just has been doing down. I don’t know why people don’t go to gigs. They just like to stay at home and go to these bigger festivals or something. I don’t know. I don’t know what it is because their gigs are cheap.

Monster Riff: As a band without these venues, where are you turning to perform?

Tapio: Well, just the smaller festivals.

Ville: I think there’s a big jazz festival that’s been around for 50 or 60 years, but then there are these smaller festivals that have played different kinds of music. But because of corona, they’re not playing this year. But there have been these streaming [festivals]. I hope this all will recover and we will have these places again.

Melua On Releasing an Album During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Monster Riff: When most bands have a new record, they have a few different ways of getting the music out there. They go on tour, they play live, they do everything they can to promote it. But releasing an album in the middle of a worldwide pandemic is tough. I’ve heard from a lot of other bands that have released albums this year—they can’t do anything. They have all this material they’re just sitting on. Do you have plans on how you’re going to get Melua out into the world?

Ville: Yeah. We’ve had a plan set. But we can’t go to gigs right now. But we have a plan set. See later, later, maybe this year, or maybe next year, we hope that this corona situation is going to be better and everything, but we’ve been promoting with this music video that our friend Simo made, and it’s been one of those things. When we can, we’re going to film a live gig and put it out at some point. We so much would like to go to live gigs, but it’s so difficult right now.

Tapio: But we’ve got plans for going out and recording new songs.

Ville: Yeah, yeah, we’ve been writing up this new album and we’re actually almost done writing it.

Tapio: We’re almost there.

Monster Riff: it’s pretty quick, considering you just released an album.

Tapio: it’s been good. We’ve been finding each other. It’s been easy to do.

Ville: Yeah, we’ve been sort of hanging out. We’re going to this rehearsal space. Once a week at least. We’ve been trying to hang out at least once a weekend to play a few hours and channeling the moment. It’s like, after this first album, I think the writing process became much easier for us. 

Tapio: You hear what you’re playing from an audio device. It’s weird. It’s just something that you cannot imagine before you hear it. It opens your eyes. 

Ville: We found our sound. And I think it’s much easier for us right now.

Melua On Writing Music Together

Monster Riff: Since we talked a little bit about your writing process, can you tell me a little bit more about writing music together.

Ville: Yeah. I think Olli [the guitarist] always bring in the main idea to the table, and he’s just got all these amazing riffs.

Tapio: Yeah. He’s just a wizard. 

Ville: There’s never a bad idea from him. Olli writes these things that his home studio, and then he comes to the rehearsal space and he shows us. “Oh, hey guys, I got these new ideas.” And then we just jam. And I think all the songs pretty much come together with this jamming. And everybody’s just, you know, everybody puts his own style into it.

Tapio: Yeah, and the song usually just evolves in different kinds of ways, and then we just decide where to go. But mainly there’s just one idea. There’s many ways, many ways to jam. It’s a weird experience.

Ville: Yeah, I think it just comes together naturally. And we know that when the feeling gets right. We know it. Yeah. I think that these guys are playing and finding the groove and finding the right atmosphere to it. And then I jam with the vocals. It’s been a hell of a jam. It’s been a really weird thing for me to jam with the vocals because I’ve always been jamming with the drums. First, I think that the songs comes to find its place, and then I will write the lyrics and everything out there. That’s the feeling I get from those songs and everything. But I think it’s like this group is where just everybody’s doing his own thing and evolves. It’s always evolving.

Melua On the Music Video for “Waves”

Monster Riff: You touched on a few things I wanted to ask you about, but the one item we didn’t dive into yet is your music video. The music video is gorgeous and heartwarming and emotional. I know you’re pretty close with the artist who made it. Tell me a little more about the creative process behind it.

Ville: Yeah, this is our friend Simo who made this gorgeous video. He’s just an amazing artist and we’ve been friends for many, many years. He’s just a wizard at that game. He heard our music and then he made the video. 

Tapio: Yeah, he’s been in our rehearsal space a few times just to listen. We did the song and recorded it, and he did some more listening.

Ville: Yeah.  Simo wanted to hear the vocals and everything. But, actually, mostly he just did it by himself. And at end we say this video. We didn’t really say anything to him about what he should do. It was his own vision. 

Tapio: You have to give the artist free hands. 

Ville: He did a great job and it just brings the song to life in a different way. 

Tapio: Yeah, he brought it to another level. 

Monster Riff: He really does a good job of kind of capturing that atmospheric psychedelic edge that you have. 

Ville: It just brings up the psychedelic side of us and the story is amazing in the video. I think it really captured the atmosphere and the lyrics and everything. When we saw the video, we were like, “Yeah, I didn’t even imagine this!”

Melua On the Band’s Influences

Monster Riff: I want to talk a little bit more about your influences. The top comment on the “Waves” music video is, “Heck! When did Tool and The Bad Seeds jam together?” You can hear a lot of different sounds and on the album, and that guy’s right. The album’s opening bass line immediately reminds me of Tool. Talk to me a little bit about who inspires you as you’re writing and jamming.

Ville: Yeah, yeah. Justin [Chancellor] is a good bassist. It’s just… I’ve always liked that sound. Although I’m not the kind of bass player I think Justin is. Tool has influenced my bass playing in many ways, but I’ve grown with, like, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I just love them. Flea is awesome and kind of different and I also like [Victor] Wooten, but I don’t have the skills to do some of those things, so I find ways to do the bass that just fits through the song. I don’t have just one band that’s inspiring me. All of them. 

Tapio: Yeah, I sort of think there’s a lot of influences coming from all different directions and everything. We listen to various artists and it’s been influencing us our whole life, of course. It’s just a combination of everything that we’ve been listening to over the years. It’s been helpful to have to play in different bands and everything with different styles and different generations. We like the same kind of music, but also there are different things inside the band that we like. For example, Pete, who plays the drums, he’s a huge jazz fan and I think you can hear it from his playing. He’s not like a usual metal drummer or something. It affects our sounds very much.

Ville: Lots of dynamics.

Tapio: I think the main thing is that our playing is not that heavy, you know? And that makes it an original sound, I think. It’s not like you’ve got fifteen hundred guitars in the studio or something. It’s actually a trio playing.

Monster Riff: It’s interesting you say that because you’re not super heavy, so you’re able to try a few different sounds. Do you feel like being a little lighter lets you explore new opportunities?

Ville: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. 

Tapio: It gives you some space.

Ville: Yeah. I think there’s so much space and we’ve been having this feedback from that too. It’s like a secret… It’s like you know there’s this heaviness that is coming with it and building and building. There are so many bands that want to play heavy, but we are all about the atmosphere and the feeling. We don’t want to, you know, hit hard and yell, “Motherfucker!” I think that we are also amazed about this thing that we have found. We found this sound that is really unique and fresh.

Monster Riff: As we as we look to wrap up here, is there is there anything I haven’t asked about for the record or about the band that you guys are really excited about?

Ville: When the record finally came out and everything, we were like, “Damn, we did a good record!” It’s the one of the things that really amazed us, that we really made this good record. A friend of ours recorded the album and mixed it and he did a fantastic job to really come up with this sound that we really wanted. 

Tapio: Some funny moments at the studio, like he’s really straight when he speaks. He’s never like, “That was pretty good, would you do it again?” He’s like, “That’s fucked up. That’s bad. That’s bad. Do it again. Do it again.”

Ville: Yeah. I think the recording process was actually easy. It took like, three days or something to record. I think I wrote half of the lyrics at that studio.

Monster Riff: One last question for you. You just put out a new record. Now you’re writing again and planning to go back to the studio soon. Do you think the new record will sound pretty similar to Melua since they’re written so close together, or are you exploring new avenues now?

Ville: Yeah, I think we are. I think we are. There are some songs we’ve been jamming since the last album. I think there’s gonna be a similar sound, but it’s evolved and everything.

Tapio: Yes, but more progressive.

Ville: It’s just, I think, that we got influenced from our own record, and now we’re evolving I think they’re gonna be long songs, long jams and everything. I think there’s gonna be some more atmosphere to it and jamming.

Ville: Yeah, I think it’s naturally evolving. Yeah, we never push the songs. It just comes out and we know when it’s right, you know.

Tapio: If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work, and then we’re gonna do a solo album. [Laughs]

Ville: It’s got these new songs that have this great and huge melody. Yeah, we’re fucking stoked about it. Really. They’re long songs. I think they’re something like eight minutes. 

Tapio: Yeah. 

Ville: That’s just the way we do.

Tapio: 6 to 10 minutes. 

Ville: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. But I think that if you like [Melua], I certainly think that you will like this new stuff too. Absolutely.

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