It is always nice to chat with a gifted female Finnish singer (whose range covers Metal to classic), especially when she has amazing news to tell us here, which not only concern this band, but another one … We have introduced Helena Haaparanta to you before, therefore she can focus on introducing VALO to us:
The concept is basically this: there are three vital organs, and in the middle there’s a force holding it all together and making it all possible. The band wouldn’t work without any of the four parts. The three corners of our triangle are of course the three songwriters of VALO: There’s Toni Bite — the Visionnaire: the Sight of the band, if you please. Toni’s known of his long and productive career making beautiful music and playing guitar in hard rock and metal bands like The Ragged Saints, Gandalf, Soulgrind, Million Dollar Beggars, Shaman and Twilight Ophera.
Then there’s the very Body and Soul of the band — Harri Petjakko, who’s mostly in charge of our music programming. Harri hasn’t been idle in the music scene either: in his career this brilliant guitarist has been involved with bands like The Lips, Wasting Daylight, Million Dollar Beggars and Fragile Hollow.
Then of course there’s me, the Voice of our band. Together the three of us create the music.
The glue keeping us all together is naturally the Heartbeat of VALO: the drummer Teemu Laitinen. Teemu usually doesn’t take part in the songwriting process, but he’s an irreplaceable member of our pack when we’re on stage. With his invaluable experience in bands like Throne Of Chaos, Bride Adorned, Divercia and Thy Serpent, Teemu brings into our team also a touch of practicality that sometimes might be a little lost with the three of us working on the artsy stuff of the packet.
How did you meet each other and decided to form this band?
Before VALO, Toni and Harri had played together in Million Dollar Beggars and a few other projects, so basically it all started when they decided it would be time to work together on something completely new. They started to write pop songs with a vibe from the disco era. They asked Tuomas “Tommy” Tuovinen from myGRAIN to take charge of the vocals, and he ended up being in the project until he realised his work in myGRAIN took too much time for him to concentrate on anything else. The lads happened to know me via our common friends in my former band Tacere, and had asked me to join in for a duet with Tommy. I must say, it was a done deal after I heard the first song: these guys knew how to make music!
I’ve always been into pop music, and I just knew this was the project I wanted to work in. The first demo was made in english and by the name ViaColada. It was a funny little disco project, but nonetheless the roots of VALO. Pretty soon we noticed we had more to say than the happy stories of the adventures of this one couple we wrote every ViaColada song about, and we tried out a Finnish piece of lyrics I had wrote for a yet unnamed doom metal project (which hopefully will one day see the sunlight!). That was a powerful moment: at once we decided to change the language into Finnish, drop the silly idea of each and every song telling of the same happy ever-after couple, and dig deeper. We had a lot more to say both verbally and musically, and after exploring the light-hearted disco beats we found the true VALO sound.
Our first drummer was my old mate Jake Vanhanen (Tacere, Embreach, Foul Circle), but after it became clear he didn’t have time for VALO, we asked our old friend Teemu to join in, and loving what we had created so he was more that happy to join us.
How would you describe your musical style, and how did this style develop? What are your musical roots and influences?
Pop Elektro Rock. Yes, Elektro with a k, as it’s written in Finnish – to help people remember where we come from. As mentioned before, VALO took a clear step deeper from the ViaColada days… One could say towards what some of us were very familiar with: the themes of the songs turned a lot darker, and the lightness stayed in the music as a mere breath just before jumping off a cliff. VALO is Finnish and means visible light, but it can also mean something a bit more abstract like for example the light in someone’s heart. We Finns are widely known of our gloominess, but hey: it has to be dark for you to see the stars.
I believe our roots lie where we all have been roaming (rock and metal), but also in pop music. For example Toni and I share a strong enthusiasm for 80’s pop – he’s the biggest Sandra fan there is, and I’m a devoted friend of the German gift to pop music; Modern Talking; which I’ve been listening to ever since I was three years old. My parents had a cassette tape of In The Garden Of Venus, (-87) in our Datsun 100A, and no cassette of children’s songs would do, once I got into the taste of well produced German pop as road trip music. I still know some lyrics by heart. In hundred years love is illegal…
How do you write your music and lyrics, is it teamwork, and where does the inspiration come from?
Toni, Harri and I usually compose the songs either together or separately with one bringing the idea to the table and the other two giving their input to the song later on. Having three people deciding of the final forms of the songs is a great asset: we follow strict democracy when writing, and if any two of us think something works and one is against it, naturally the majority wins. All three of us are so different as composers that this method really has proven to be the best way for us to achieve the results we aim for. I tend to write all the lyrics, but Toni and Harri give me tons of great ideas and usually we decide of the core ideas of the songs together. As said earlier, Harri usually does most of the programming, but I’m learning fast, and hopefully I can someday write music down as fast as he does.
To get inspired one has to live and keep all eyes, ears and heart wide open. The world is full of stories that need to be told, and they’re right there for us to pluck from the field, catch from the air, dig from the depths of our sould and to mold in the fires of our hearts. We just have to look and be bold enough to share the stories as our own. And in my case of course sleep well, eat healthy, exercise regularly and live as stress-free of a life as possible.
What are your goals, dreams, what do you want to achieve with your music?
First of all we’d like our next single Purkkaa (meaning Chewing Gum) to take properly off in Finland and why not abroad too. We have invited Jimmy Westerlund from the LA Hub Studios to help us out, and the single will be released by the end of September. That would be a great start, but of course we hope that our full-length album to be released later this year will also get a warm welcome with the public. We love to play our music live, so naturally we hope to get some amazing gigs from Live Nation Finland we just signed an agency contract with.
Many of our songs tell of dealing with mental health problems, which I’m not afraid to say some of us and many of our close ones are too familiar with. We want to give out a message to the people who suffer from these kinds of problems: Hey, you there with the pill bottle in your hand: you are not alone. We know how you feel. We understand you. We see you. We know what you’re going through. You are not alone.
Are you looking for a record company or would you prefer to stay in the DoItYourself mode?
We actually already have a record label helping us. The Spinefarm Records founder Riku Pääkkönen has returned to what he likes most and is working now with new exciting music under his own label Ranka Kustannus, and he has kindly offered to be the wind between VALO’s wings in the future. But these days it’s not just about having a label working with you: we still rely on our fans to help us out when it comes to spreading the word. If you hear our song, and if you like it, then please tell your friends about us! If we’re gonna make it, we’re not gonna make it alone: we’re gonna make it because YOU made it possible! Together is how we can do this!
Do you have a weird /absurd story to tell, e.g. about mishaps at a gig/tour?
VALO doesn’t have a bass player. I’m afraid no matter what the world thinks of us heretics, we’re not getting one. It’s not because I tend to fall in love with them (which is also true, but not the actual reason), but because our synth bass lines are so essential to our sound. Bring us a bass player willing and skilled to play synth bass for a 2-hour gig, and we might consider.
What are your plans in the (near) future – gigs, also with other projects etc?
Single release, record release, gigs, success, rent money… Hopefully the whole lot! I’m whole-heartedly dedicated first of all to VALO, but I must mention of my other two dear projects, that I’m working on at the moment. Firstly, there’s Helo, a duo consisting of a violin, a 15-string drone kantele and 2 voices playing a unique mixture of pop and Finnish folk music. With Helo we’re doing gigs and preparing an EP to grow our fanbase and to lure interesting openings to our direction. And then there’s this old folk metal band you might have heard of… *drumroll*
Yes, it is official: I’m back in Crimfall. We’re currently preparing together our third album, and I must say you guys are in for a treat! More details are to follow, so stay tuned!