Tampere-based Ember Falls started out under the name of Mekanism in 2010, formed by brothers Jussi “Jay V” and Kalle “Calu” Laakso (guitars) and Mikko “OneOfHaze” McMenamin (formerly bass, later synth), and completed the troupe with drummer Jussi “Ace” Saurio. Three promising EPs and a couple music videos later, the band parted ways with their lead singer and after the current vocalist, Tuomas “Thomas Grove” Välimaa, joined the band in 2014, the guys decided to go for something bigger and better than their already catchy metalcore-infused rock. And so, Ember Falls was born! The first single and music video under the new name, “Shut Down With Me,” sparked quite a bit of attention in Finnish music medias right after the release with its high-end quality and the disturbingly, unapologetically catchy brand of modern metal. The best was yet to come roughly half a year later, when the band signed a worldwide recording deal with Spinefarm and Universal, and a publishing deal with Ranka Kustannus. Meanwhile, the group has grown into a six-piece with the addition of bassist Olli “Oswald” Heino, the debut album is on its way, and the band did a small tour in Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, and Hungary in May before hitting the Finnish summer festival stages.
Even though the local media has covered Ember Falls’ deeds and doings quite well, the band has managed to be somewhat outside of radar for the rest of the world, so we gladly jumped at the opportunity to fill the void with an in-depth interview after their set in South Park festival, Tampere.
Congratulations on flying start you guys have had with the new band name. How was the tour abroad?
Thomas Grove (TG): Thank you! It was great [laughs]. It was an epic trip.
Oswald (O): A lot of things happened that we are not going to mention here. Also, a lot of things happened that we’re going to talk about here, because it was great!
TG: We met some new people and it was nice to play to people that came to see us. It was awesome.
Did you have any Spinal Tap stories from the road or any wild adventures that you’re actually willing to share?
Calu (C): There’s nothing else! In Slovakia we were called the Finnish Mayhem by the locals, so that’s what happened.
OneOfHaze (OH): If you want all the specifics, you should read our manager’s Facebook page, because he has all the gory details there! [laughter]
TG: But there’s not an English version yet.
O: Basically, to sum it up, we had a gig in Frankie’s Club in Nitra and we went there the day before and the next day when we went there for the gig, we told them that we were here before and they said, “Yes, we heard.”
Ace (A): Hey, what’s going on?
A: Who are these guys?
O: Our drummer, Ace, just joined the party.
A: Just joined the band! [laughter] 15 minutes after the gig.
You guys have now signed a worldwide recording deal with Spinefarm/Universal after you released your music video for the single, “Shut Down with Me,” by yourselves – how did that happen? Were there any other record companies you considered?
C: There were actually two of them.
OH: We had Ranka Kustannus interested and Spinefarm.
A: Mighty Music from Denmark also.
C: Actually, in the end, we got both Ranka Kustannus and Spinefarm. Riku Pääkkönen from Ranka Kustannus came in to ask our producer; [he is now our publisher].
OH: So we are now working with him as well. He’s a great dude. He knows a lot of stuff about the music industry. He was the one who founded Spinefarm.
A: He’s one of the toughest guys on the planet!
The music video for “Shut Down with Me” is really visually stunning and it’s particularly cool considering you made it without the help of a record label. Could you shed some light on the making of the video?
TG: First of all, Kalle here had to take a student loan – almost 3000€ – so we could go and film the thing with green screens and professional photographers and filmers.
C: We had to ask a lot of friends for help. Actually, Tuomas’ sister came with her friends and stuff like that, and also make-up artists that Mikko knew.
OH: My cousin and his friend.
TG: A lot of friends came to help us and it was a busy day when we filmed it.
OH: Juho Peltari was the main man, really. He did an awesome job.
TG: He’s basically the director and editor of the music video.
C: The answer is: with a lot of help. That’s how we made it.
You guys have a very distinct visual style with your stage outfits, your promo material, and things like that. Do you think the visual aspect is a thing bands need to pay more attention to these days?
A: We just like make-up. [laughter] That’s the primary reason.
TG: We like to look pretty!
C: I think the shows would be a lot more whole… many people go on stage and they are wearing T-shirts and stuff like that. I don’t think it works. I actually think people should pay more attention-
Jay V (JV): For some bands it works, but not for us.
C: I think the shows should be more whole.
OH: For us, it’s not just about the music. We’re trying to create a whole world. A fantasy world.
Do you have separate stage personas from your actual selves, or are they more or less the same?
C: Isn’t it always like that?
TG: We go to the stage and we are performing. Of course it comes from yourself. You can’t pretend to be something you are not, so basically it’s…
An extension of yourself?
JV: Yeah, exactly.
Speaking of your visual style, we heard that there was a little bit of drama with Fireal. Are you willing to tell the story behind that?
TG: [laughter] I don’t think there’s much to talk about. We were accused of stealing another band’s identity, visual style… intellectual property.
C: And that’s been dealt with. It’s in the past.
TG: Basically, it was a false accusation.
O: We consider it a misunderstanding.
C: And we made our peace with the person.
Let’s talk about your music then! How would you describe your style to someone who has never heard your music before?
TG: Melodic rock metal.
C: That’s boring.
OH?: We have quite of electronic influences. Also pop.
C: And metal.
OH: And an industrial style.
C: So to sum it up, what can we say?
A: Post-industrial pop-rock-metal!
C: With new-wave! [laughter]
Where did the name, Ember Falls, come from?
A: From a list of 500 names, basically.
OH: It was kind of a combination of me and Ace’s suggestions. When we got the name, it was instant. We had the idea that it’s going to be this city or world and there’s going to be a whole story around the name.
A: I actually disliked the name at first.
OH: We have a screenshot somewhere.
C: The name got integrated into a story we are going to do in the future. We are doing it right now, gradually. Ember Falls is the place in the dystopian future we are going to bring to the table.
So it’s a musical story or a concept album, or are you actually writing a story?
TG: Maybe someday. I don’t know. The next album won’t be a whole album based on the Ember Falls thing, but…
A: Maybe the second album. It would be cool.
O: The dystopian theme is still there in the album. It’s important.
OH: We would like to bring more ideas of the story to the people. We haven’t done it yet, but it’s like we’re going to do graphic content, maybe a game or short stories.
C: We have a lot of plans but very little time.
Does your logo have a meaning related to that?
TG: It could be [a falling ember]. It could be a watching eye. I think it’s supposed to be a thing where people can think what they want to.
OH: Maybe the name, Ember Falls, it’s more like the falls like a city with a waterfall. It’s not just an ember falling, like many people take it that way.
You have your first album in the making – how good of an impression does “Shut Down with Me” give the listeners of what is to come?
TG: I think “Shut Down with Me” is a song that represents our strengths in a lot of ways, but not all the songs are going to be like that. I think we have so many musical influences within the band that it’s inevitable that there are going to be different kinds of songs on the album.
Do you have an official release date yet, or is it still uncertain?
TG: Not quite.
How about an expected timeframe?
A: Sometime in the next year or distant future.
TG: Early next year, I think.
The lyrics for “Shut Down with Me” seem to have a societal message to them – do you have any lyrical themes that you feel really strongly about?
TG: Personally I enjoy very emotional lyrics, like “Shut Down with Me” has a message. I enjoy lyrics with content, basically. Emotional or political or anything.
Do you ever worry that your catchy, accessible sound will get you shit from the hardcore metal crowd, or do you think that bands like Bullet for My Valentine and Amaranthe have opened the doors to poppier metal? Do you think the metal scene is getting less exclusionary these days?
C: I actually hope so. At least for myself, I’d like to have a really hardcore metal song on the album as well. We haven’t talked about it too much yet, but I hope it will happen. I think Jay V would also have something to say about this! [laughter]
C: He agrees with me!
JV: I agree!
TG: But it’s not something we’re trying to force. We try to do good songs that sound good to us. If somebody hates it, then hate it!
JV: Doesn’t matter.
OH: We don’t care what people think. Of course, we care what our fans think. I think a lot of people, when they hear our songs, they don’t think, “Okay fuck, they are pop,” but they hear good metal or rock songs.
TG: I think we are trying to go to the perfect middle ground, where both worlds meet.
C: Yeah, the pop influences are in the vocal melodies in a way that you don’t really see them.
O: Yeah, we’re just trying to do good songwriting. A lot of metal can have screams and double-bass, but they don’t have good songs.
TG: It can be awesome but it can also be very boring.
C: Actually, me and Jay V have grown up with Children of Bodom and bands like that, so death metal kind of stuff, so sometimes when I hear a song that has a really pop vibe, I might like it really much, but then I feel a bit sick. [laughter]
TG: I like it but I’m dying inside.
You guys have some miles behind you already with the old band, Mekanism, and now the new one as well. How did everything get started?
OH: Jay V was kind of the founding father.
JV: With Pyry.
OH: With our old singer and me as well. It was me and Jay V and our old singer, Pyry Laakso. It was the three of us, then Jay V asked Kalle to join us as the second guitarist at that time. Later on, what happened next? I asked Ace to be our drummer. We had a couple of other drummers in our auditions but Ace was better than all of them, of course.
C: Baddest motherfucker around.
OH: I had actually played in a band with Ace before.
A: One gig, which went really terribly.
OH: It was an awful gig. Then later on, when we changed our name to Ember Falls, I changed my instrument to the synths and we started to look for a new bass player and Olli joined in. And of course, when we changed to Ember Falls, that was the time when we switched the lead singer as well, so Tuomas stepped up and he replaced our old singer.
TG: I think some people might call it the end of an era, but I’d call it a fresh start for us and it worked out better than expected because we got the record deal.
OH: The band we were before all the changes, I think that was a different band. Ember Falls is a new line-up, new music, everything.
You mostly answered my next question there – how’s the energy and band chemistry now as compared to before?
C: We went on a European tour before, so it’s actually really good. There was only one bitch-slap in the band on the entire tour. No one got hurt.
OH: Ace actually really deserved that one.
A: I had it coming.
C: Actually, I think Ace thanked Tuomas after the slap.
A: It was really called for.
C: He really needed one. So the chemistry is actually really good.
Do the guys of you who were in Mekanism remember your first gig?
A: What was our first gig?
OH: I think it was Hervanta. [laughter]
C: Actually, I have to tell this story. Storytime! The place there as this huge column right in front of the stage!
OH: So you cannot see the artists.
C: There’s the stage, and there’s a huge column right in front of it, so I just can’t understand the place. And of course it sounded horrible and all the people were the drunken locals. That was a long time ago [laughs]. But yeah, we remember it!
How does the first gig as Ember Falls compare to the first gig as Mekanism?
C: What was our first gig as Ember Falls?
O: I think it was at Merirock.
TG: It was quite great!
OH: Actually, after the gig we signed Tuomas to be our permanent singer, because he was on trial.
TG: Were we Ember Falls? We were Mekanism still.
O: But we were thinking about changing the name that at that time already.
C: It was really great. We had a party. We were at sea.
OH: That was a great time. We had a bus full of fans going with us from Tampere to Merirock. I think we had forty fans joining us, driving with us, drinking with us.
O: And we kind of had a solo battle with Mikko, because Mikko stepped down from the bass and started playing the synths and this was the first gig I was playing the bass in, so it was a battle.
C: We had a drunken bus trip and the bus microphone, at the front of the bus, I actually sang “My Heart Will Go On” in the bus microphone, during our way there! [laughter]
TG: You can only imagine the journey back.
If you guys could collaborate with someone – another vocalist, musician, producer, mixer – who would you want to work with?
OH: We’re actually working with a guy who we can’t disclose at the moment, but he’s one of the guys.
JV: We are also working with Jacob Hansen and that’s quite awesome!
OH: Jacob Hansen is an awesome producer and mixing engineer. He did the “Shut Down with Me” mixing for us, but now we are trying to do some actual producing with him.
C: The entire album is going to be mixed by him.
OH: He’s an awesome guy.
Apart from the new album, of course, what does the future hold for you guys and what are you most excited about?
JV: Hopefully touring after that!
TG: Yeah, we have a big tour probably coming next year. We are planning on a month-long tour in Europe with a big artist and I think that’s something we are all looking forward to.
C: Although the week was already terrifying! [laughter]
TG: One week was terrifying. Imagine a month!
OH: Yeah! I don’t want to imagine it.
O: But I think the biggest thing that I’m looking forward to is when we’re going to release the album, people are going to know more than just one song, because we just have this one single and it’s always better if you have-
TG: We have these great gigs and people are coming to them, but they don’t know the songs and it’s frustrating in a way.
Are all of the songs you guys played today going to be on the album, or is that undecided?
C: Probably, yeah. We are still developing the album, but yeah.
That’s all of my questions. Do you have any closing comments for any English-speaking fans?
TG: Thank you!
JV: Thank you for listening!
TG & C: Chaos reigns!
Photos: Lene L.