Interview: Satellite Stories

Esa and Marko of Satellite Stories sit down with Spindle before their gig at Camden’s Barfly last month. Their sold-out gig at Camden’s Barfly may we add. Not necessarily what you’d expect from a Finnish band, but this indie dance quartet will make you lose your inhibitions.

Satellite Stories’ third album ‘Vagabonds’ was released this January before they embarked on a European tour leaving snowy Oulu in Finland behind. After multiple EPs and a couple albums, the guys talk about how they’ve matured as a band, and how recording in the British countryside influenced them.

Have you explored London and Camden much before?

Esa: Yeah, we played KOKO a year ago. So we had time there a little bit to see Camden.
Marko: It was for Club NME.

But never Barfly before?

Esa: No, it’s our first time.

And it’s your first sold out London show!

Esa: Of course. Actually, when I got the information that it was sold out, I was cross-country skiing. Life is a bit different [in Oulu, Finland].

What’s different?

Esa: I think it’s more relaxed and you get to do the things for the music and then you’re here performing the music.
Marko: We had no idea before the tour, you get the presale of tickets of course but you live in your own peaceful land, then you come to play and every town the show is packed and it’s like you don’t realise. You kind of know it, but you don’t really know it before you appear.

So the other shows have been packed too? London’s pretty central in your tour, is it not?

Esa: I think it’s the first quarter. We still play 15 gigs after this.

That’s loads! And it’s all over Europe? Where are you most looking forward to? 

Esa: Every city is like worlds away from [Finland]. It’s hard to think of special places because you’re really excited about evenings. Tomorrow evening, today’s evening. It’s hard to picked one place.
Marko: Of course we are waiting for Spain because we are so up north so every time we get to visit Spain it’s so warm. People are really fun, party people. So that’s always really nice.
Esa: Compared to the weather, it’s snowing in our hometown.

Did you leave snow?

Esa: We’ve been touring around the bus, we left a little more than a week ago from our home.

From snow.

Esa: From total snow. We’re here with no snow and when we go to Spain I think it will be hot. We will get burnt.

It won’t be that hot, will it?

Esa: It doesn’t have to be so hot.
Marko: If it’s over 10 degrees…
Esa: That lamp will burn us.

You recorded the most recent album, ‘Vagabonds’, with Barny Barnicott in Kent. Was it a different recording process to what you normally would do?

Esa: It was much different to previous albums. We produced them by ourselves, and Barny brought a lot of new elements and a lot of new ideas to this album. We did it in the countryside in the UK so we had a similar peaceful place to what we’re used to. But in a way, a lot of good inspiration being in a new place.
Marko: And Barney wanted us to dry lots of different things in the album that we wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

Like what?

Marko: Like replacing guitar tracks with completely different tracks. Once he said, “put something cool on this track but don’t do it with guitar”, so I did something on synth and didn’t think once about it, just some ideas, and then it’s on the record. We used horns and steel drums and Esa played cello.
Esa: I played cello, which was quite nice. I can’t play it well but I tried.

A lot of new instruments! Had you played cello before?

Esa: I hadn’t played it before. It was nice to try for the first time. Some small bits ended up in the album.

Always good to add new elements. What’s the difference between your first album, ‘’, and ‘Vagabonds’, your third album?

Esa: Age. We’re a bit older. You can hear it in the music, I think when we released our first album, it was done during four years because it was from the start of the band to the point where we had that amount good songs that we wanted to release. It has this young, eager vibe to it. ‘Conquer the world’ in a way. Now I think we’re more calm, making music for every solution. We try to make everything, even the smaller bits now, the best that we could.
Marko: I don’t think the first album makes much sense. I listen to it and I think, “Who is this person?” We didn’t know pretty much anything. We just went to studio and said, “This is the music we like”. Now we’ve headlined, like last year a festival in Spain [Arenal Sound Festival], which affects your music. You think maybe this music is for a bigger audience.

It’s really dancey, we still feel that eagerness in your music.

Esa: I think you find a way to express yourself more rather than lose the control, going nuts. But on the live shows, we want to keep it. That’s one of the biggest things we want to keep in the music, to lose your worries for one hour and to just jump into this weird mood of party.
Marko: Now it’s not only about that. It’s about two sides. There’s energy and then there’s some other, deeper part that you can listen to at home.
Esa: We always wanted to give two parts. The side that you can lose your mind and go with the music, but also to have something to say. If we would’ve had only that side “just go dance” then we would probably say in our lyrics “dance, dance, dance” but we always want to keep something more deep.

The lyrics to ‘Heartbeat’, it’s dancey and it’s amazing, but when you listen the lyrics are lovely. It keeps those two levels.

Esa: I think so too. I think that that’s what we wanted to do, and in a way we’ve always wanted to do. But this third album, we come closer and closer to this point that we want. Now the lyrics also point that out quite well.

Do you all write together when you’re working on new music? What’s the process like for that?

Marko: Music, usually someone has some idea, maybe it’s just a drum rhythm and then building on that. Maybe we would take off the first rhythm, the original idea can disappear. It’s hard to know when the song has been first thought of because it’s quite a long process. On the lyrics, we split the lyrics and everyone make a base structure and ideas and then we build on that together.

Lots of building.

Marko: It’s not like one night we just jam and make a song. It’s quite long, we’re quite true in what we want.

How long were you writing ‘Vagabonds’ for?

Esa: One and a half years?
Marko: Yeah.
Esa: We were just touring, playing songs, playing shows so it’s really hard to say when it started. But I think one and half years.

How did you find the time to do so much writing when you did so many festivals and gigs?

Esa: I don’t think we’re the people that can sit and relax, we always have to do something. Even if we’re not four of us making songs, everyone is having their own ideas and doing something creative. It doesn’t stop, even if we’re on tour, we’re always trying to make something new.
Marko: There are always lots of songs that don’t make it to the album. This album we had four bonus tracks on iTunes, the ones that didn’t fit on the album. They’re on the deluxe edition of the album.

How do you pick?!

Esa: It’s always quite tricky but you go by your instinct and we discuss quite a lot.
Marko: And how the album flows. Maybe the first album was ‘this is our collection of songs’ now we think about it more.

Why the title ‘Vagabonds’?

Esa: I think it was because the times we were making the album we were constantly touring, it was like we had no home, or we weren’t at home at the time during those years. When we went to the studio and had a lot of time to be at one place, it started to feel like a good honest story behind the whole album, the thoughts about being on a tour constantly and travelling all the time, it was the good parts and the bad parts, we tried to put into an album.

What are the good parts?

Esa: You get to see Camden! And London of course, also you get to meet new people and see a lot of new places. You get to travel with friends, play gigs, play music, play the things you love and I think that those are the big things.
Marko: They’re really big things.

Did you ever thing a band from Finland would be enjoyed so much by a UK audience?

Esa: Sometimes. We do what we want to do and what we think we like and somehow maybe someone other will like this music. And that’s grown into this. We have lots of people around us, manager and tour manager, who are working so hard. But we want to do also our best.

And we’re sure you’ll continue to do so!