Finnish trio Joensuu Riihimaki has just released their third album, Highwater a released taking the band’s roots rock/Americana sound to new adventures. We had the pleasure of talking with the Turku hailing outfit about their new offering, the band’s origins, and much more…
Hello, can you first introduce the band and give us some background to how it all started and what brought you all together?
Sami Joensuu (lead vocals/acoustic guitar/banjo/harp)
Kari Riihimaki (electric/acoustic guitar)
Moilu Moilanen (drums/backing vocals)
We started JR back in 2013. I met Kari at the songwriter’s club I was hosting at the time and we’ve worked together ever since. We found out that we were both looking for the same things in music and soon after, we played our first gigs.
Things worked perfectly right away and we released the first single, Joe’s Café Blues/ A Pale Wind Comin’ in 2014. Our first album, Greetings From The Edge Of The World was released in the spring of 2015 with Running Moose Record Company with which we have released all three JR albums.
Initially, we were going to play as a duo, but we soon realised that we needed a drummer, and that’s how Moilu joined the group.
Have you been involved in other bands before? If so has that had any impact on what you are doing now, in maybe inspiring a change of style or direction?
Yes, we all had several bands before Joensuu Riihimäki, Moilu used to play alternative rock band called Russian Love and Kari´s former band among others was Doggtown. I have almost always been a solo artist. Each musical backgrounds have contributed a lot of to JR. Diversity has always been a big part of the JR music.
It is obvious where the band name came from but the thinking behind it?
Joensuu and Riihimäki are our last names and it sounded good and “weird” at the same time. We have never thought to change the band’s name, even though we knew it is difficult to pronounce outside Scandinavia. Both the last names are also town names in Finland.
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer and how would you say it has evolved over time?
The first idea was to set up an honest band with a sound which should be timeless and original. The band must be at its best on the album and live. It felt like Joensuu Riihimäki needed to bring together; all the music around seemed so hollow and empty.
I wanted to offer something that matters. Maybe I wanted to bring something back from the roots. That’s why the roots music, and the same things still drive the band onward when it was fresh-faced and what the band is now. I’m so happy about it. Since our early days our sound is fuller and has more shades
Has it been more of an organic movement of sound or more the band deliberately wanting to try new things?
Yes, JR has always been more of an organic movement of sound but we have always been experimenting with new ideas with the sounds in every level. Our purpose is to create music that will last over time; we have our own sound which we want to hold on to.
Presumably across the band there is a wide range of inspirations; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the band’s music but your personal approach and ideas to creating music?
A wide range of inspirations, definitely. I have a very personal approach to music and writing music. Somehow in the process of creation all that process is very private and own, you know, at that moment.
Is there a particular process to the songwriting and where do you draw the inspirations to the lyrical side?
I write down what I witness into a notebook, which I carry around with me all the time, and turn them into lyrics. I generally observe society and people, the inspiration for the songs comes from ordinary life, really and I usually write rather symbolic stories and the lyrics and music are usually generated at the same time
Give us some background to your latest release.
We released our third studio album Highwater on December 1st last month. The reaction has been great. The reviews have been great and encouraging. Many of the songs from the album have received airplay all over the world and many of the songs can be found on top ten radio charts all over the world. So many cool things have happened in such a short time. We are really happy about all of this.
Could you give us some insight to the themes and premise behind it and its songs.
Highwater has ten different stories that tell about change in people and society these days, love and history; history that we must not forget. Sometimes everything seems so clear and clean, but there are always things on the other side, about these things have been Highwater done.
Are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?
The structure of the songs is usually quite ready by the studio, but the final arrangements take place in the studio. I usually come up with the ideas and everyone writes their own parts.
Tell us about the live side to the band, presumably the favourite aspect of the band?
We are absolutely at our best when we play live. We always put on an energetic show and we live in the moment, our live shows are just intensive. We try to let the audience be completely overwhelmed by our music. We just live with situations and with the audience. Interaction and communication with the audience is the most important thing. On stage I really feel alive!
It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it?
That’s true; here is no easy way to success. It has to do a lot of work. You just have to believe in yourself and you can be sure that you will be disappointed in many things and promises, that’s for sure. Each defines goals for itself.
How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date?
These days, it seems that social media plays a major role in marketing. Social media and the internet is an indispensable media but it is understandable that it is difficult for some to use it. For us, the internet has brought friends and fans around the world. That is awesome and we use social media every day.
A big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add or reveal for the readers?
Thanks to all our fans. Follow us on social media so you know what’s happening.
Highwater, the third album from Joensuu Riihimäki is available now to stream, download and purchase from Spotify, iTunes, YouTube etc…
Further info on Joensuu Riihimäki can be found through the following sites:
Pete RingMaster 23/01/2018
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