While the majority of eyes were on ELUVEITIE and LEAVES’ EYES public drama last fall, the Finnish folk metal scene had a little turmoil of its own, when FROSTTIDE parted ways with singer-guitarist Joni Snoro and bassist Lauri Myllylä in the middle of preparations for their third album. We’ve heard Joni Snoro’s side of the events, but his former band has been rather quiet about the circumstances and rather, focused on their new music instead. Following the release of the new single in the middle of July, Lene L. took the band back in time for a bit, and more importantly, asked what the future holds for FROSTTIDE.
It’s an almost blindingly bright Sunday afternoon in Jyväskylä, and we’re meeting up with the guys in a parking lot by the quite metal-y named Tuomiojärvi [doom/judgment lake] to hike up a ridge next to it. It’s been a bit over 7 years since the first time we did the same trip in order to shoot FROSTTIDE’s very first promotional photos for their then-upcoming EP, “Dawn of Frost.” Naturally, a few things have changed since then – in this case, mostly the landscape, with a frisbee golf route and some spray paint scribbles on rocks here and there, but shooting with FROSTTIDE not so much. Goofing around is inevitable, as is reminiscing about that first shoot, as well as wondering how the climb up had gotten so much steeper and higher than we recalled it being. After the fun part (and questioning our past selves’ life choices regarding photoshoot locations), we sit down at a bonfire spot for some more serious talk.
“Things are better for everyone now.”
FROSTTIDE was founded back in 2009, when all of the band members were just teenagers, barely old enough for high school, but the young age didn’t hinder the band one bit. After a year, give or take, the five-piece had put out their first EP and rallied enough of a fanbase to vote for them to be the Demo Band of the Year at the Finnish Metal Awards the following winter. It didn’t take long after that for the band to warm up stages for KORPIKLANI in Finland, sign a recording deal, and tour Europe with the biggest names in folk and pagan metal. From the outside, everything seemed to be going their way, up until last winter that is, so we felt like digging up the past a little bit. Did it really go just like that, and has anything changed much?
Some things have certainly changed since the last time we were shooting here. How does it feel to be up here again?
Juho: At least my stamina is worse: Climbing here was way worse than then, but-
Felipe: You were younger and prettier back then.
Juho: Yup. Not sure about prettier, but yeah.
What else do you remember from those times, back when you were making the first EP?
Juho: [chuckles] Pretty much nothing… I made only one song for that one.
Things started to escalate pretty quickly after you released “Dawn of Frost” – did it ever feel like you got a bit too much too fast?
Juho: Not too much or too fast at least… like, what we have really achieved now, it isn’t that much. There could be more.
Felipe: I think it has come more naturally. Everything has come pretty naturally, in the way we have been working. I think it looks like the band has grown at a faster pace than usual, but it just looks like that. We have been working all the time and nothing has really changed [in that sense], it’s just like… we got the record deal, then we got to play those shows – they were big shows and everything – but still the core of the band and how big the band is… we’re not really that big and it’s remained pretty much the same.
Juho: And all that we’ve [accomplished] has been because of the hard work we did. We’ve always worked for it.
Felipe: Yeah, so it’s natural because we’ve put work into it: it has been kind of expected that it should come one way or another. We have been lucky though, very lucky, that we’ve been able to get to where we are at the moment.
This is the first time you guys are doing something entirely without Joni. I know you haven’t been really open about this to the public earlier, but how did everything lead up to that point, that you couldn’t work things out between you guys, Joni, and Lauri anymore?
Juho: Well it was pretty much up to them. They didn’t have the motivation to carry on and work on this, and they suggested putting this project on ice so that they could focus on their new project. We just decided then to carry on with the three of us. Everything has worked better like that, I think, because things are better for everyone now.
Felipe: Yeah, it’s just better that we have gone our separate ways. We have a different work ethic, like, how we three work and how they do, the way they see how the music works. We were already working on the new album, rehearsing the new songs and everything, and when they wanted to put the band on hold and focus on their own project, it came as bit of a shock for us, because we were planning everything for the album recordings. So while we had this really strong drive to make the following record, they were not really into it and… well, things escalated in a way that of course nobody would like to in that situation. It was a very heavy situation still, but in the end, I think both sides are pretty happy – they get to do what they want to do, we’re happy if they are with what they’ve got going, and we feel very comfortable also being in a group that has the same work ethic and the same vision. It’s just way smoother right now.
Do you wish you’d have parted on better terms? Are you on speaking terms with Joni and Lauri these days?
Juho: Yeah, we are, at least with Lauri.
Felipe: I think it may take a while for things to set in. I mean, despite it having been more than 6 months, things are still quite fresh in a way. Maybe time will tell if we’ll be able to be friends and have things like they used to be, but one way or the other, the way things came to light… like, of course things could have been taken better care of, but on the other hand, there was no other solution, so…
Now that half a year and some has passed, what really has changed? In writing music, handling things with band, and so on?
Felipe: Things haven’t changed much, as in how we three interact. Of course, when there’s only three guys in a band, there’s much more work to do. However, thanks to the years that we have been working together and even just the experience, that makes things a little bit easier. So yeah, compared to the previous records, there is a little bit more workload but on the other hand, we have gotten things done efficiently. Everybody’s doing their job as they are meant to and things are fitting into place. Sometimes we have problems with our schedules of course, but still we get some free time and try to put things together on time.
From Whispers to Ascend
In spite of the drama, the band seems collectively content with where they are right now, and tentatively excited about future endeavors. While under no pressure to get the album finished, the guys took a moment to muse about what working on it has been like, as well as releasing the new single.
You released a new single, called “From Dusk to Ascend” in mid-July. What’s the feedback been like?
Juho: It’s been very good, at least on Facebook and from what I’ve seen elsewhere on the internet, though I try to read those [comments] as little as possible. And the live feedback has been good as well. People seem to like it.
Joonas: Especially Juho’s vocals, they’re saying that they are great.
Felipe: That’s been common feedback in the past as well; people have been saying that Juho is a really good singer.
Joonas: And there was this joke inside the band, because the title is “From Dusk to Ascend,” but y’know, in the first versions of that song, the vocals were really low, so it was like “From Whispers to Ascend.”
You’ve been working with Jouni Valjakka from WHISPERED on the visual side – how did that collaboration start?
Felipe: I know Jouni very well – I also participated on their previous album, “Metsutan: Songs from the Void,” where I played a couple keyboard lines – but yeah, I’ve known the WHISPERED guys for many years and I have always admired how Jouni does things, especially the WHISPERED music videos and all the artwork. So one day, we were just talking about, whether he would be interested in doing the artwork and something else, and he gladly accepted. It’s been very easy to work with him – he puts a lot of work into what he does and doesn’t really complain or anything. He just gets everything done as supposed to, so it’s really, really great to work with him.
Juho: Yeah, and now after the first concept that included two albums is over, it’s quite a natural decision to get somebody else to do the artwork and stuff, kind of an update to that too. And Jouni is the perfect guy to do it.
What about rest of the album? How’s working on it been so far? What can we expect from it?
Juho: [chuckles] Well, all the songs are written…
Felipe: All the string sections are done, all the guitars, bass, and drums have been recorded… there’s been a bit of a delay with the keyboards and orchestrations due to personal matters. Juho is the one who has written the songs and [Joonas and I] work as arrangers here. I think the sound is the FROSTTIDE you can expect, but of course there are new elements because we like to experiment with new things and we like to get out of our comfort zone. That’s something really rewarding. So far, at least I am very happy; Joonas has done really great work with the drums and Juho of course is improving a lot on guitars, arrangement-wise and playing-wise, and he also took care of the bass. So the bass also has a really strong role on the album. I think I’m very… well I won’t say I’m confident, but I will say that I’m extremely positive about how the album will turn out. Of course, anything can happen.
So there’s no release schedule yet?
Juho: No, not yet.
Felipe: Yeah, there are plans, but nothing really settled.
Juho: Yeah… it’s better to keep it that way and not stress about it.
Are there any tour plans for now, or are you focusing more on finishing the album?
Felipe: I think finishing the album is the main priority at the moment.
Juho: Yeah. Of course, we’re doing all the shows we can and are trying to somehow keep the momentum up.
Felipe: It’s been a while since “Blood Oath” came out – 2 years now – so it’s time to release something new, a full-length album. But we’re happy that we were able to release the single and that gave us a little bit of a breather. After all that happened [last year], a lot of people were wondering what the future of the band is and what we were going to do, but now that they’ve heard the single, there has been this new spark. People are like, “Hey, they’re actually alive and kicking,” and nothing much happened besides the vocals.
FROSTTIDE on ice, family matters, and the future.
All-in-all, FROSTTIDE looks to be in a good place with just the three of them. Upon asking about possible new additions, the discussion takes a turn towards more profound pondering on the fundamentals of a band community. Not for too long though, naturally.
So you’ve had session members stepping in for the past few gigs now, and you’ve handled recording as a three-piece just fine, so I guess you’re not really in a rush to find new permanent members.
Juho: No, I think it’s better to look carefully for the ones we pick for the band and keep the same momentum we have as a three-piece group. And since we can work with just the three of us on the album, it’s not really problematic.
Joonas: Yeah, and the recording process also tells us how motivated everybody is.
Joonas: So maybe after the new album we can get on that.
Felipe: Experience has taught us also to not make rushed decisions, and y’know, it’s completely different, how chemistry works with friends in daily life and how you interact when you do music. Especially because music is a creative art, but also a business.
Juho: But that applies to almost everywhere.
Working with your best friends doesn’t always work out.
Felipe: Yeah, I think one of the best ways to know – there’s always this honeymoon stage when you have a new member, everything is great and fun and all the gigs are awesome and everything, but then the reality starts to hit. Y’know, like when you’ve been together for a couple weeks and you’re in the same place all the time, things become a little bit more edgy, and maybe you get into fights and stuff like that, but that’s the reality. That’s when you know if the member really works with the band. Musically and studio-wise, of course, it depends on the motivation and that they know how to play, but I think for me at least, the most important way to see if that person is the right person for the band is when you have been touring for a while. Technically it’s a family – we see each other quite often and we share a lot of things. There has to be good chemistry.
Juho: And a good meter to tell who’s a good guy is that there will be conflicts and fights, but how you recover from them – that’s the thing, how you sort them out.
Felipe: And like, nobody’s perfect – these things just come – but if you’re able to talk through it and then improve your relationship within the band like, “I screwed up, I’m very sorry about that, it won’t happen again,” and you move on from there. That’s one of the most important things.
So what’s in store for FROSTTIDE in the long term?
Juho: Well, maybe some sort of arena tour, at some point…
Felipe: “Frosttide on Ice” would be awesome. [laughter]
Juho: Yes, a collaboration with Disney. But yeah… nothing much. Now we’re just focusing on the album, getting it done, and then we’ll see what happens.
Felipe: Just working hard and playing good shows so people can get motivated to listen to our music, and to see if some doors will open to new things [after future tours]. Because that’s actually how it happens. There’s not much said or done when you record the album, but then you play shows and then new doors will open and people will get interested in what you do and then you go to the next place.
Juho: Yeah, just… step-by-step to the next level.
Interview by Lene L.