What does it sound like when a trio of Finnish gents take on some alt-Americana? The answer you're searching for is Joensuu Riihimaki, a group of rock and roll purists all the way from Turku in Finland (a city that also claims origins for varying music royalty from Hanoi Rocks vocalist Michael Monroe to inexplicable comeback kid Darude of 'Sandstorm' fame).
Running steadily since their formation in 2013, Joensuu Riihimaki (or JR for short) have never skimped on their initial game plan: "to set up an honest band with a sound which should be timeless and original". With three albums under their belts already, including their most recent release 'Highwater' late last year, there's always a touch of the organic to the typical rock swagger. Sure, you get the wailing guitars and drawling vocals, but with a steady injection of some earthy roots - and the occasional otherworldly tinge of what can only be described as "Finnish blues".
JR have already kicked off 2018 with a heap of gigs, and they've also shot into airwaves recently across the USA, UK, Canada and also here in Australia. But just how did this trio of Finns end up jamming out this perennial brand of roots-soaked rock? And more importantly would they survive a zombie apocalypse? The Soundcheck grabbed a few moments with the band to find out more...
BAND NAME: Joensuu Riihimäki
LOCATION: Turku, Finland
MEMBERS: Sami Joensuu - Lead vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo and harp Kari Riihimäki - Electric guitar and acoustic guitar Moilu Moilanen - Drums, percussion, backing vocals
HOW DID YOU GUYS GET STARTED? It all happened by accident. I asked Kari to play a few songs on the guitar that I was doing at that moment. This happened sometime in the summer of 2013, I guess. We noticed right away that the co-operation works unusually well together, we played a few gigs more and we did a few songs together more. Some point soon we realised that we have a whole album ready. First there was the idea to make music as a duo but we realised we needed drummer and Moilu was the ideal choice. Fortunately, he liked the band and the music, he has been involved from the beginning.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AROUND FOR? Since 2013.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR INFLUENCES? I'm influenced by many music directions. I'm listening to music from side to side and my greatest influences are strong songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Rhiannon Giddens, Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher, JJ Cale etc.
DESCRIBE YOUR BAND IN THREE WORDS: Americana Roots Rock
WHAT'S THE MOST MEMORABLE GIG YOU'VE PLAYED SO FAR AND WHY? One of the most unforgettable gigs was the opening gig of the Highwater tour in Helsinki at the Concert Hall.We played with a big band, we had additional musicians involved. Perhaps it make it also unforgettable thatthe gig was recorded and will be released as a live album later.
FAVOURITE JOENSUU RIIHIMAKI SONG? This is tricky one, there are so many and each song means so much to myself and they have a certain place in the heart. All songs have their own story and their own meaning well, but for one to choose it's The Lake. There is a very personal story.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON RIGHT NOW? ANY NEW THINGS ON THE HORIZON? We just started the Highwater tour and we are pretty busy. I'm mixing up with the upcoming live album, luckily there is no hurry with that. Looks like time goes with the music and art. New music will surely come at some point and a lot of things are now ready, just wait.
IF YOU WEREN'T PLAYING MUSIC, WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU BE DOING? I would certainly be a painter or a writer. I paint a lot of my spare time and write all the time anyway, they are my passion.
IF JOENSUU RIIHIMAKI WAS STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE OTHER BAND, WHO WOULD IT BE? Well, let it be The Corrs. It would be a good idea to spend the last days with the girl band. The singing would be successful. Of course, their male members would be sent off.. Hahah.
CATS OR DOGS? Dogs. I love dogs, I have two Chihuahua.
WOULD JOENSUU RIIHIMAKI SURVIVE A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE? No, because only Keith Richards survives.
AND FINALLY, WHAT'S THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL TIME AND WHY? Bob Dylan’s 'The Times They Are A-Changin’. It is one of the first songs that I remember ever to have heard, and it still works incredibly well.
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BY TIANA SPETER