In the Spotlight

Better Living Through Cosmic Repetition: Death Hawks & Siinai

Finland is the focus country of Eurosonic 2013 and thus we have 17 groups showcasing their talent at the festival.

Nuorgam, the snazziest little music site in Finland, takes a long look at the bands we are carting off to Eurosonic. In this first episode Death Hawks and Siinai go under the microscope.

Death Hawks and Siinai explore inner space. Both bands rely on repetition and strong atmospheres as they entice audiences to join them on their fantastic voyage. Both have been influenced by the kosmische big bang in 1970s Germany. Death Hawks adds some boogie, blues and the darker reaches of psychedelic rock to the cosmic soup. Siinai has been influenced by some genres that came along after and were influenced by krautrock, such as ambient, shoegaze and the oh-so-European phenomenon of the synthesizer wizard. For the sake of oversimplification, one might say that Death Hawks’ orientation is towards the other side of the Atlantic and Siinai looks to England. But, like I said, that’s cutting a few corners…

1. Death Hawks

Video: Death Has No Reprieve (dir. Juho Tanskanen)

What is it?

Death Hawks was put together in the spring of 2010 to arrange and record songs by singer Teemu Markkula, but it soon metamorphosed into a real band. The band’s intense live shows, with their psychedelic meanderings and in-your-face boogie soon created an organic hype around the band. They ended up signing with Tampere-based GAEA Records.

Why do we care?

Death Hawks is a timeless band. It’s references, or at least the most obvious ones, come from a variety of sources from the blues to psychedelia, early heavy metal to krautrock, but there is no way you can all the sound pure retro. There’s an overabundance of bands influenced by many of the same genres in the global underground, but few of them can rise above crate digging and pastiche, like, say, Primal Scream can at their best. So on paper Death Hawks sounds tiringly familiar, but as a listening experience it hits the spot, thanks to strong songwriting. High praise for the debut album and a reputation as a mind-blowing live act are now fueling hype outside Finland.

Lineup

Teemu Markkula (vocals, guitar)
Tenho Mattila (keyboards, sax)
Miikka Heikkinen (drums, percussion)
Riku Pirttiniemi (bass)

Releases

Death & Decay (GAEA Records, 2012)

If we had to pick three adjectives to describe the band, they would be…
…dark, rootsy, cosmic.

What record have the band members probably listened to the most in their lives?
Neu! 2, played simultaneously with Deep Purple’s In Rock.

If a good fairy gave the band one wish it would be…
…to see the 1970s Black Sabbath playing with 1960s Howlin’ Wolf in a bar in Düsseldorf.

If the band were to go on the road to support a big star, it would tour with…
Queens of the Stone Age that manages a similar magic trick of combining stellar musicianship to space and mysticism. Death hawks would add a dash of the blues to the evening’s proceedings.

In two years…
...Death Hawks is a regular sight at many European alternative festivals, from Radburn to Primavera, what with its ability to speak to both indie fans and people who love marginal genres of hard rock and metal. On its travels the band will suck up influences from all over the worldm like Hinduism does with the gods of others, and mold them in its own image through the process of osmosis.

2. Siinai

Video: Finish Line (dir. Caleb Dunham)

What is it?

Siinai was born without a defined agenda in 2009, open of mind and out of the act of playing together. The music found its way, like water, and the strongest influences came from Central Europe, the world of kraut motorik and epic synth vistas. Norwegian Splendour Records snatched the band up and released the debut album all over the world.

Why do we care?

Siinai’s instrumental music rewards the patient listener. It’s easy to see it as marginal, but really its beating heart could mesmerize an arena full of people into an epic trance. The band makes a big, unified sound where no one steps on anyone’s toes. The band’s debut was a critical success and a tour with Moonface throughout much of Europe and North America cemented their reputation as a first-rank live act that, at its best, offers audiences something resembling an out-of-body experience.

Lineup

Risto Joensuu (guitar)
Saku Kämäräinen (keyboards)
Markus Joensuu (drums)
Matti Ahopelto (bass)

Releases

Olympic Games (Splendour Records, 2011)
With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery (Jagjaguwar, 2012)

If we had to pick three adjectives to describe the band, they would be…
…insistent, synthetic, grandiloquent.

l What record have the band members probably listened to the most in their lives?
Meronia by Circle, but they jammed along on their synths.

If a good fairy gave the band one wish it would be…
…an opportunity to play at the 1991 Eureka show by Vangelis, on their own barge parked right next to the maestro’s.

If the band were to go on the road to support a big star, it would tour with…
The National, because, as the Moonface collaboration demonstrated, Siinai is a great band for others to work with. At some point during the tour Bryce Dessner, the guitarist for The National and experimental musician with ensembles such as Bang on a Can, would join the opening band on stage. This would the genesis of a great new project.

In two years…
...Siinai has released its second album, bringing the global indierati to their knees. The band is starting ot get serious about their collaboration with Bryce Dessner and Jóhann Jóhannsson.

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