I like metal and I like Scandinavia, so needless to say, I was excited for this interview with Finnish hardcore newcomers, New Waters. The band is releasing their debut album in late January after a painfully long wait due to production costs and other conflicts. I was able to speak with the band’s guitarist Oula Maaranen over Skype for a unique interview about the band’s new album, faith and difficulties in Finland. He’s been in the band for three years, the length the band has been around. He spoke English well, but for the sake of the interview, please read his words with a thick Finnish accent. It sounds significantly more metal that way. After all, he wore his American flag for you all for this interview.
For starters, what’s the weather like in Finland right now? I’m in the middle of the U.S. and it is absolutely freezing.
It just got colder. In Christmas we didn’t even have snow, but now it’s minus 20 Celsius. I don’t know if you have Fahrenheit degrees.
We have Fahrenheit. There’s some kind of exchange from Fahrenheit to Celsius that I learned in high school, but that was too long ago, so I’m not sure about that. (Google later revealed that -20 degrees Celsius is -4 degrees Fahrenheit.)
It’s really cold, as cold as it gets, here.
What part of Finland are you from?
The center, almost. Not in the Helsinki area. It’s like 300 kilometers from the south border. I don’t know how to call this, a state or whatever. Center Finland, I guess.
You mentioned that you’ve been in New Waters for the past three years. Can you tell me a little bit about how the band got started?
My friends, Pete and Miika, and I just wanted to play hardcore. I had a metalcore, almost emocore, band before, in my teens. That was the fashion back then; MySpace was full of that stuff.
But then the band got a bit wild for my taste, so I quit. They started drinking too much. I just wanted to be with my friends and make whatever comes to mind. No pressure about the music, just have fun with friends. We were aiming for success so much that it wasn’t fun anymore (pauses).
Well, I’m freezing. My English is a bit rusty. I don’t know what to say.
You’re doing fine (laughs). Your English is good.
I know it’s good, but I haven’t used it in a while.
If it helps, my Finnish is nonexistent. I don’t really speak Finnish very much.
I was learning Norwegian for a little bit. That didn’t get anywhere.
(Laughs) Have you listened to any Finnish language music or something?
Actually, I’ve listened to a fair amount of Finnish music, mostly the Finnish metal bands. A lot of black metal. Which leads me to the next question: Is hardcore music popular in Finland?
No, not exactly. (It’s) the pure heavy metal stuff that is the most popular heavy music in Finland. The biggest hardcore bands have, like, 1,000 fans in Finland. The metal bands make it outside Finland also, so I guess metal is the most successful music here. In Europe, there are a lot of fans of bands like Nightwish, Finntroll and Amorphis. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them.
Yep. All of them are actually fairly popular in the US as well. Finntroll’s been pretty successful lately. What other styles of music are big in Finland right now?
Pop music, pop rock, rock, hip-hop, all the mainstream music. There’s no difference to Finland compared to other countries; the same music is here. The Finnish acts are also trying to keep up with the mainstream music nowadays. They don’t try to make Finnish music; they just try to sound international.
That’s a pretty common trend. I know a lot of Swedish and Norwegian bands that essentially sound just like any other band from any other part in the world. But some artists do try to bring in their country’s musical influence in their music. For example, Finntroll mixes in a little bit of the folk and polka. In New Waters, have you guys incorporated any elements of Finnish music?
I don’t know. The melancholy elements are quite Finnish. The Finnish and Swedish bands, I think they all have something in common in terms of melodies and heaviness. Everything’s so melancholic, depressed (laughs). But we don’t have any folk elements or Finnish national stuff in our songs.
I think the melancholy atmosphere translates pretty well, especially on the new album Venture. Listening to (the new album), I noticed it sounded little bit different than the EP.
It’s a really big step up.
Definitely. What do you think makes Venture different than the EP?
It’s a totally different sound on the album. It’s not that much more progressive, but the songs are more aggressive. I could say that it has a lot more diversity.
I was noticing a lot of diversity, even on that first track.
I tried to make a lot more lead guitars and (add) some more melodies. We’re a better band in general.
It sounds really good; I enjoyed it.
It was recorded over a year ago. I’ve already started writing new material. I learned a lot from that record.
Why was there so much of a gap between recording and releasing the album?
I don’t know. Some money problems always occur. We sometimes couldn’t go on with it because we couldn’t afford it. Also, we didn’t want to release during the summer because in the summer, there are no shows. There are no releases. Everyone’s just chilling. No heavy music is being released in Finland, at least.
We couldn’t make it last fall, so we had to wait a year to have a great date to release. We were aiming for 2013 but couldn’t do it. It’s been a very frustrating project.
Because I hate to wait. I made the songs two years ago. I was excited then. It’s very hard to stay excited for two years about the same old songs.
The album is something to be excited about when it comes out.
I’m looking forward to getting some feedback from people. I think many people will be surprised of how good it sounds compared to the EP.
It’s very different. I enjoyed the EP, but this one I definitely enjoyed a little bit more. Who are some of the main musical influences on Venture?
That’s a hard question. I always try to avoid direct influence. Of course, the hardcore bands I’ve been listening to would be … Convered? Converg? How do you pronounce it?
Bands like that: the modern, heavy hardcore from the U.S. Trap Them. I also tried to add my own flavors to the melodies and lead guitars.
It doesn’t sound like one specific band. It sounds unique enough, which is a hard thing to do in metalcore.
I try really hard not to make the same song all over again. Maybe that’s the reason it sounds so diverse: there’s a big difference in the songs. It’s not all grindcore or D beat.
Which are good in small doses, but it’s nice to have variety. What are some of the biggest challenges of being in a band in Finland?
It’s hard to get good shows. There are not so many places to play shows in Finland. Of course, you can play in a garage somewhere or in your practice place, but that’s not really what we’re aiming for.
We envy the American bands because they have so many nice places to play. They don’t get paid, but they can still play. In our hometown, we have three places where there are metal bands. It gets repetitive very quick. There are like 10 bands in our town, and they play in the same places all over again.
That’s the biggest problem, I think. And the lack of people: There are only five million people (in Finland). How many people listen to hardcore? I don’t know, maybe 2,000 people. So there’s only so much you can do in Finland.
I heard you did a northern European tour last year.
Yeah, I think that was a little bit exaggerated. We did four shows in Finland. That was like a commercial. The label, Blood and Ink, wrote that. I didn’t correct them. I just let it be.
Northern European is Finland. So it’s true…
I think that’s the advertisement people’s way of saying things. Always making it sound a bit bigger than it is (laughs).
What was the turnout like for the tour through the different cities you haven’t played very much?
We played with a Swedish band that’s been in Finland a few times. They brought like 100 people every night. It was quite nice.
Who was the Swedish band?
Intohimo. It’s emo metalcore, pop punk.
A mix of things.
It’s nothing like New Waters, but our friend was their booking agent. He got us the gigs. It was fun. They were good guys, I enjoyed being with them. We always try to play with different bands, not only hardcore bands or metal bands. Of course, we’re not playing with pop bands. That doesn’t make any sense for the people who listen.
They probably don’t appreciate it quite as much. You said you don’t always play with metal bands, so what kind of bands do you usually end up playing with?
Anything that’s heavier than mainstream pop. We are having our record release party (and) the opening act is very much like Deftones. It’s a new band. They haven’t really got their own sound going, but they sound massive. Sometimes we have turned down gigs with pop bands. They’re not heavy enough. I don’t think that serves anyone if there’s a metal band and a pop band.
It might turn away people. Is the pop commercial, radio pop like Katy Perry?
No. We never played with Katy Perry.
(Laughs) No, I mean the style.
No. There are bands that are pop but not heavy enough for us to play with.
What have been some of your favorite moments so far doing shows?
It’s been a while since our last gig because we’ve been making this record. We did that tour last year. I think that was the highlight of our band so far. We played in quite nice places we never usually get to because of that other band. They got us there because they are a bit more popular.
We haven’t played shows that actively, maybe once every three months. We haven’t had a booking agency so far, but now we have a label that’s releasing our album. They are getting us more shows. We have a couple coming. But that tour was maybe the highlight of our career. We met some Swedish dudes and got some nice feedback from people.
Are you on Blood and Ink in the U.S. as well?
I’m not sure if they’re releasing any more records from us. We only did a contract for the Lions EP. Our manager tried to contact them about an LP, but they couldn’t fit it in (with) their schedule. They said they could maybe release it next summer. That wouldn’t work, because we are releasing now.
The summer’s actually a little bit more popular of a time to release albums in the U.S. It’s a different schedule for when albums get very popular, so it’s worth looking into.
Anyway, I’ve just got a handful more questions for you. If you could play any city in the world on a tour, where would you choose to play?
Hmm… That’s a hard one because I don’t really know where the hot spots are at the moment for hardcore. Anywhere in the States; that’s the biggest dream for us. We see so many good bands playing there. You have so many bands out there that are good, compared to Finland. I don’t know if metal or hardcore has a bigger fan base somewhere.
It’s definitely very big, especially on the East Coast it seems.
New York hardcore. It’s a thing. It must be a pretty big thing there.
With Madball, Cro-Mags and all of them, almost throughout the United States, hardcore is pretty popular. We see a lot of bands, even ones that aren’t necessarily traditional hardcore, like The Chariot, or even some of the pop ones, like A Day to Remember.
It would also be a place to play, Japan. I hear they like many Finnish bands. I would like to see how they (would) react to our band.
I have one last set of questions for you. How has your faith played a role in the band?
It’s a big deal. We were praying a lot for this band when we started. You can see in the lyrics all the ideas we have about faith, God, man, and our relationship with God.
Can you tell me about the lyrics on this new album?
There’s a bit more variety. I don’t know if you could comprehend anything we were saying.
I could understand parts of it. How about the lyrics on the song “Run to Your Grave”?
I don’t know if you know the traditional song, “Sinnerman.” David Eugene Edwards has a version of it (with) Wovenhand.
I don’t know what the official (song) name is. Most of the lyrics are from that song. It’s a traditional spiritual song.
Wovenhand is very good at using spiritual songs like that. I love Wovenhand.
That’s one of my favorite bands.
They have a new album coming out. It’s exciting.
Wovenhand’s new album?
Yeah. I believe they have one coming out.
I heard it’s coming out on Deathwish. That’s pretty rad.
That’s a funny label to put it out on (laughs). Have crowds in Finland reacted any different to your music because of your faith or is that pretty well accepted in the hardcore scene?
No, not in hardcore scene at least. It can be a setback for us sometimes. Many people are against religion, and they are even more against Christ. Finland is a Christian country (and) some people are fed up with that. Hardcore and Christ don’t fit together in Finland very well.
It looks like it’s a bit easier to be Christian in the States because there (are) so many people that some are bound to accept you. But in Finland, there (are) so few hardcore fans and most of them are not Christian. The Finnish hardcore scene is maybe a bit more punk compared to the hardcore scene in the States. It’s mostly punk people, who have punk ideals.
If we are true to ourselves and don’t try to act like we’re not Christian, we get more acceptance. They at least appreciate our honesty. That’s been great.
We’ve played with many bands. The bands don’t usually tell us, ‘We’re not going to play with you,’ but the fans are sometimes (rude). I’ve seen on Finnish punk forums on the Internet there (are) some people that are not giving us good feedback. Some people are like, “Get Jesus the f-ck out of our scene!” or stuff like that. That’s not so nice.
No. People online say stupid things anyway. That’s always a big thing when you can get away with it.
No one ever comes to say it straight to our face, but I know people talk behind our backs sometimes.
It must be a little hard. Are there any other faith based hardcore bands that you know of in Finland?
Not really. Maybe a handful if I really try (to think about it). I don’t really listen to Finnish bands so much. I’m not up to date with the Finnish Christian band scene.
You’ve got to pave the way. You get to start something more.
I think we’re the only band that’s playing in bars and restaurants. There’s this Christian music scene, they play for Christians at Christian places. But we’re not that kind of band. Never have been. We’re trying to reach more people, not just entertaining Christians.
New Waters was posted on February 3, 2014 for HM Magazine and authored by Sean Huncherick.