It’s always fun to meet a band you watched growing up – literally … With the new album about to be released, front man Samy Elbanna has indeed a lot to talk about …
The most obvious questions I’ve asked you already at the listening session – but one I didn’t ask: Why Braindead?
In the last couple of years Braindead has been a word that has been running around the lyrics and the overall attitude of Lost Society, so nowadays it’s almost like a slogan for us, or it goes hand in hand with Lost Society. It’s Lost Society and the Braindead Crew, and the Braindead attitude, so it came as a pretty natural decision to us to name the album like what we think Lost Society is all about – namely Braindead. And actually it was a funny thing that we realized after the recording and after I did the vocals, that ”braindead” actually is a pretty good word for what’s going on all around us, in social media and everything, I would say that society is becoming pretty braindead in some ways. The word means a lot to us right now (laughs).
I was actually thinking of your stage show, too… (laughter)
You could say in some ways that we are really braindead when we get on stage and overall, we don’t think with our heads when we do the music, we are going with what the heart says.
As it turns out, this slogan was inspired by an Exodus song and not by the legendary Peter Jackson horror&gore movie, which Sami had never heard of … so for all those who don’t know it either: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9SJP27mR1g
When was it clear to you that you want to make music, become a musician, what was the initial moment for you to pick up an instrument?
For me the decision that music is my passion basically came before I even touched an instrument. I actually remember the moment really clearly, I was seven years old, which is now 13 years ago. My big brother, who had started listening to Heavy Metal music before me, had made me this mixtape, I started playing it, and the first song was Iron Maiden’s ”The Prisoner”. A really special song – it generated so much feeling in me, so I started thinking that it would be the coolest thing in the world if some day I could be composing music that could give the same kind of feeling to somebody else. And that was really important to me. And then a few years later when my brother had bought a guitar, it was this brotherly rivalry going on – I had to buy a guitar, and then I just started playing it night and day. I really quickly noticed that this is my instrument, that this is really what I wanna do. So basically a combination of these two things made me realize that music is my whole life and this is what I wanna do.
How did your parents react – were they supportive, did they think ”this is just a phase”?
The good thing is that everybody’s parents in Lost Society were really supportive, mine too, and of course the initial shock is understandable. ”Ah OK, of course, he wants to be a rockstar – it’s a phase”. But I believe during these years when we have been to Japan a couple of times, released albums and stuff like that, they have started to understand that ”OK he is gonna do that, so hope for the best”. They have been super supportive of us always and they have been really happy about our success so far.
So what do you think is the secret of your success, as a band?
I would say that our strength has always been that we have really good work ethics, because making music and basically doing everything as well as we can has always been very important to us, we are practising 5 times a week. And before a show we don’t drink at all. We wanna do the shows as well as we can possibly do them. And I’d say that all of this is a really important part of Lost Society, and that is part of how we got this far.
For me a pretty surprising statement from such a young band; usually you get to hear stories of bad deals and that bands discover way too late to be needing a lawyer, and stuff like this… As an Austrian I have always considered Finland as a special case, a breeding ground of top notch Metal band, and Sami can only confirm that:
I think we are super lucky that we are living in Finland. I don’t know the music cultures of other countries of course, but I would say that this country is one of the easiest to break through with your music. And I don’t mean that you will sell millions of albums, but just that people will hear about you. And it’s really great! We started playing shows in youth centers, and it started with all our friends coming to our shows. Then you notice that this kind of bush radio works, someone who comes to see your show, tells friends about it, the next show they come too, and they multiply all the time. This is the really amazing thing about Finland. And we had great opportunities, even when we were under-aged. We could play in youth centers, and we got special permissions from bars to do shows. And I think this country has allowed us to become who we are, and I am super grateful for that. And of course we understood the fact that there are hundreds of bands even in Finland alone, and that you got to have something special about your act or your music. But we took it really easy all the time, we did not stress about it. We are just 4 guys who love to play Metal and we are amazed how far it has taken us.
How helpful was it to be in contact with older colleagues, other Finnish bands you played with?
Before we got our record deal with Nuclear Blast, we had played a couple of support shows in our home town (Jyväskylä), at Lutakko, the best venue ever (laughter). We played with Impaled Nazarene – great guys, and after the show backstage their bassist Arki talked with me for a long time just about music. Because we were an unsigned band, he told me this one sentence that I will remember forever: ”When you get your first record deal, it does not necessarily mean that it is the best one”. And 6 months after that we got our first deal, we were so stoked about it, but we took it easy because we wanted to think it over, like ”is this the best deal we could make?” And it wasn’t, 2 months after that we signed with Nuclear Blast. So I owe that guy a lot.
There seem to be overall friendly relationships between Finnish bands, as Sami describes:
It is a really cool thing – when I founded Lost Society back in 2010, there was this really intimate group of bands, they were my friends and everybody had a band. Some played Punk Rock, some played Rock’n Roll, and I think it was really cool that we always supported each other. We went to each others’ shows, and even though the genres weren’t the same, there wasn’t any bullshit; we always helped each other when we could. Which motivates you a lot. And it was cool to see that when we got the record deal, there was not any jealousy, everybody was happy for us, which was really cool. And before we signed to Nuclear Blast, there is this ”muusikoiden liitto” (Musician’s Union, the ed.) in Finland, with a lawyer who will tell you what’s good and what’s bad about a deal, which helps you a lot. We got help from a lot of people before we made any decisions.
Back to the new album – you’ve changed your style a little bit; did you feel any pressure when writing the new material, what was different this time?
Since Fast Loud Death (2013) our song writing process has to be totally natural, it’s always been just about us, just writing riffs and songs that come to our minds at that period of time. And it was no different with Braindead. We didn’t tell each other ”now we have to do a slow album”, It just so happened that when we started writing our songs, they came out a little bit different to what we have done before And I think it was a really welcomed change in some ways, because I don’t want us to release the same album six times in our career. I think it’s really important for a band to evolve – not necessarily change, but evolve. And because we always write the songs together, you can really see that we have widened our horizons. You know, we could listen to Pantera one day and listen to Shakira the next day (laughter) – because in the end of the day you never know what can inspire you. So the songwriting process was exactly the same as before, but more mature in many ways.
So when I got that right, you just go to the rehearsal room and start jamming together, and then suddenly a song evolves…
Basically, long story short – YES (laughter) Naturally it’s most likely me or our guitarist Arttu who starts the song, because we make some killer riff, then we show it to the guys and we don’t even need to say what to do, they start playing instantly, and it’s cool, because we can go through so many different ways of playing the song. But then just via telepathy we know what we have to do. It’s really hard to explain, but it’s probably just the product of us. We have been playing together for almost 5 years, so we really know how to work together Especially with the Braindead writing, I think it was the easiest songwriting process ever until now, because everyone knows exactly how the other one works.
Is there a common theme that connects the lyrics?
There are basically two main themes on the album – the first 2 songs I Am The Antidote and Riot, then Rage Me Up – the common theme is basically rebellion against everything. I Am The Antidote – a nation following blindly a leader, Riot is just ”fuck everything, we’re doing this our way” and ”Rage me up” is a lot about the same. Which has a lot to do with the Braindead theme. Then there is the other side of the album, a lot of weird fiction: Only My Death and Mad Torture – these horror scenarios that I have been thinking about. Hangover Activator is purely a tour song, it’s about being on the road, and Hollow Eyes goes back to the Braindead theme, basically a story about this character who has seen so much that he just wants to rip his eyes out, so that he doesn’t need to watch anything any more. In many ways this album has a much more of a theme than the previous ones.
You already mentioned horror – what else is inspiring you when writing lyrics?
This time it’s been a lot of my observations of what’s going on in the world. Last winter, when I wrote the majority of the lyrics, was a pretty fuckin dark time in many ways. It was just some stuff I started to think about; I don’t know why, but I just wrote it down, in my phone (laughter) and then we started writing songs, and I was like ”this is totally this song” (laughter). All the songs and themes material, the Braindead culture, this almost political stuff happened near our studio time. And it’s just a fact that the world is just fucked up right now, and this is the first time that you can actually notice it, so it’s just my observations of this fact.
You already mentioned Shakira (laughter), is there anything else in your music collection you love to listen to, but might be slightly embarrassing to admit?
You know, I’m past the point to be embarrassed about anything – the new Justin Bieber album is fucking killer (wild outbreak of laughter), at least a couple of songs I have listened to. Once upon a time I was one of those people who listened to Metal only and said ”I cannot listen to anything else”. But it was one of the happiest times in my life when I noticed that you can listen to anything. And if something sounds good, then it’s gotta be good music.
What is the special challenge for you playing guitar and singing at the same time – are you adjusting lyrics or phrases according to what you get to play, or does it come naturally – and why did you start with that?
How I became the singer of Lost Society is simply the fact that we could not find a singer – so I had to do it. Which is the same story with James Hetfield – or Ville Valo (laughter). And in the end I do not really regret it for a moment. The funny thing, even before I became the singer, I told the band that I wanna be the one who speaks in between the songs. Because one of the things I’ve always loved to do is just to entertain. And this is one of the things that I enjoy most in live shows. One of my influences is Bruce Dickinson – the greatest front man ever, it is so amazing to see him pumping up the crowd, and I always wanted to do that. Anyway, we’ve always first done the music and then the lyrics, and when we practise I never sing, but about a month before a tour I start learning how to do it. (laughter) And it needs some adjustments and a lot of practise, but I am always up for it. This particular Braindead album actually has a lot of challenging things that I had to do very slowly and see how I’m gonna work with it, but I think this singing and guitar playing at the same time is just awesome, I love doing it!
Have you ever considered a voice coach, for developing your vocals?
For me it’s always important that people evolve with everything and practise a lot. For guitar I never took any lessons, for some reasons I’ve always been against it. Of course there’s nothing wrong with taking lessons, but it’s nothing for me. On this album it’s for the first time that I have done a bit more clean vocals, which is a totally new environment for me. There is a possibility that I may take some lessons in the future for getting the technique right, because the growling was also something I just learned by myself through trial and error. I remember the first time when I did it, after a 4 hour practise session I started coughing blood. So after you do it for a certain amount of time, your throat adjusts to it and somehow you get the technique: I love learning things by myself and I love learning things by just doing it!
Final question- if Hollywood were to make a movie about the band – which actor should play you? (laughter)
Holy Shit… (laughter) well, it has to be Russel Brand! (outburst of laughter)
Well, anybody who would not agree with that?
Photos: K.Weber, band