One Quart Magazine premiere Too Slow’s gorgeous debut ‘Sweater Song’. Nick Triani sat down with Joel and Iiro from the band to introduce you to the new gang in town.
Indie rock eh? 2017 has seen resilience in the often written off genre. Actually, if we’re being really honest, it’s supplied most of the highlights from an inconsistent musical year. Here’s the latest.
Too Slow are a quintet from Helsinki’s nascent and ever growing underground indie scene. I first saw the band at the now ‘verging on legendary’ Ravintola Sir Oliver in the Spring of this year. There were some familiar faces amongst the group members, but what struck me about the band was the offhand and casual brilliance of the melodies. Proper songs each fronted by a different member of the band and harmonies that even The Byrds would approve of. Really, you don’t normally come across such aspiring excellence in the urban concrete of Merihaka.
Your first introduction (and everybody else’s) of Too Slow comes from the soft-focus-rangey-strum of ‘Sweater Song‘. As inane as singing “if it’s cold outside I’m gonna need a sweater” might sound, something here tugs at the heart strings. Could be the simple chord pattern or the sympathetic vocals, but much like the fuzzy video, this makes you feel warm inside. Listen carefully, details are rich and there’s even room for some boogie. I’m dreaming it’s a love song.
Proper songs each fronted by a different member of the band and harmonies that even The Byrds would approve of. Really, you don’t normally come across such aspiring excellence in the urban concrete of Merihaka.
I sat down with Joel and Iiro from Too Slow to ask them the all important questions.
Nick Triani: How did Too Slow come together? Was there a shining light saying you must do this – and is there a mission statement?
Joel: We’re all musicians and songwriters who like to collaborate. There were a couple of songs flying around already when this line-up solidified. We felt very comfortable playing together from the get-go and new songs started to happen right away. Generally we just want to write better songs and record them.
Iiro: It all started from the name Too Slow, which came from some fortunate crust-punk’s mouth somewhere in Germany, where Juuso and Janne where touring with Lokit and Seksihullut in 2016.
NT: Who’s in Too Slow? And obvious question, do they play in other bands?
Joel: I sing and play guitar and some synth on record. Currently I’m also a part of noisy guitar band Deciders, drone duo Sandlådan and electronic act Patrik Pakokauhu. I sometimes perform solo as well under different monikers.
Joel: Sampo and Juuso both play guitar and sing. Sampo is also in Kynnet and Verandan, whereas Juuso is known for being in both Merries and Lokit. He’s also in Prospero and Testaa Rosso. Janne occupies our drum stool and sings as well. He’s also in Black Twig, Merries, Lokit and Prospero.
We share lead vocal duties and everybody does harmonies. The guitar arrangements are pretty much done in the same fashion. Everybody has lead and rhythm parts in different songs. Having frontmen or hierarchies is old-fashioned in my opinion.
Having frontmen or hierarchies is old-fashioned in my opinion.
NT: Indie rock sung in English is in general terms struggling for a foothold in Finland. Do Too Slow care about such distinctions and why sing in English against such insurmountable odds?
Joel: These things seem to go in cycles. What we do is really marginal at the moment but, like our other pursuits, it’s a labour of love. There have always been bands around Finland that have next to no following at all, but are more brilliant and original than the derivative nonsense that is presented to wider audiences as being some hot new thing.
For me English feels natural to write in, though I’ve written Finnish lyrics in the past as well. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing in Swedish and in German just to mess with the local audiences a bit. Good Swedish lyrics can be wonderful, so it’s a surprise that almost nobody here is writing them. Good lyrics in German are a real challenge, but it’s not impossible, as Dirk von Lowtzow and some others have proved.
Iiro: Language is not that important. I would not rule out that Too Slow could sing in Finnish or any other language. Singing is just another source of sound. What serves The Song best.
NT: There is a ‘scene’ happening right now away from the media gaze, emerging from places like Sir Oliver, Lepakkomies and inter-band friendships. Some, like Litku Klemetti and Kynnet have broken through. Do you feel part of this burgeoning community, and if so, what makes it so strong right now?
Joel: I think it’s natural for musicians to want to meet other musicians and to want to collaborate with them. When you do this for long enough with a large enough amount of people, a community or a “scene” forms sooner or later. Although I see Litku Klemetti and Kynnet more as a part of the Renaissance of Finnish Rock and New Wave – which we don’t really have anything to do with apart from sharing members with certain bands. We overlap into other scenes through our other bands and activities and already there’s a nice amount of cross-pollination happening. I’d like to see more of it, especially towards electronic and experimental stuff. The way things are now, it’s probably inevitable.
We overlap into other scenes through our other bands and activities and already there’s a nice amount of cross-pollination happening. I’d like to see more of it
NT: What’s on the Too Slow stereo?
Joel: Michael and the Mumbles, Look Blue Go Purple, The Raincoats and Aaron Dilloway.
Iiro: Odd Future boys! Frank, Earl and Tyler. Tall Dwarfs, Karkkiautomaatti and loads of great music made by our friends. Everybody seems to be giving their best at the moment.
NT: What’s the story behind ‘Sweater Song’
Joel: The recording is based on a demo we did at one point or another. The song itself was written by Iiro.
Iiro: It’s a stoner anthem for difficult Times. Some really effin’ horrid news around the world. But still we need to live our lives.
It’s a stoner anthem for difficult Times. Some really effin’ horrid news around the world. But still we need to live our lives.
The video celebrates friendship while summer turns into fall. Special thanks to the guys from Bemböle Cassettes for filming it. And of course for providing some good skateboarding and massive hammers.
NT: If an alien landed on planet earth any time soon (it’s gonna happen), why should they stop their planetary explorations and instead pull up a seat and listen to Too Slow?
Joel: If they prefer good, well written songs over music in which lack of content and poor songwriting are covered up with production choices based on whatever is considered the flavour of the month, they should definitely check us out.
Iiro: I want to believe! So they should too in Too Slow.
NT: Future plans? Is there a Too Slow album in the works? World Domination etc.
Joel: There’s an album in the works. There’s also quite a lot of proposed new songs. Personally I’m interested in experimenting with recording techniques and an even more spontaneous and improvisatory approach to writing and recording songs.
Iiro: The album is already recorded and more or less mixed too. But it just needs the final push. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play more gigs. And start work on the next album.
NT: In an ideal world, people would think of Too Slow as …
Joel: a collective of songwriters who record themselves.
Iiro: a great band among other great bands.