There’s a new name in the Finnish music scene: PIHKA IS MY NAME. If you’re the type who enjoys creative electronic music (largely instrumental) and/or concept and story albums, this band is one you may want to keep an eye on this year. Made up of Lasse Turunen and Henna Helasvuo, this musical duo took some time to share some backstory on the concept and their musical partnership!
First of all, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. How are you doing during the recommended self-quarantine these days?
Lasse: Our pleasure, we really appreciate you talking to us! We are doing alright, trying to work from home as much as possible. It’s not possible every day, because we work with hardware instruments a lot and they’re at the studio of course. But we’ve got a small mobile setup too.
Have you been – personally or musically – affected much by the situation right now?
Lasse: It certainly has affected us a lot. We only had one gig that was coming up, and we did a live stream with a small mobile setup instead. But our studio business (meaning most of our living) is a bit difficult in this situation. We can’t have clients in the studio now because it’s a very small, confined space. On the other hand, we have a lot more time for our own artistic process now.
Are you staying home at the moment? Have you been doing anything interesting to keep busy/entertained since social interactions are not encouraged?
Henna: At home mostly. A lot of our time is spent promoting this new PIHKA IS MY NAME project of ours, actually!
Lasse: We’re also dedicating a lot of time into promoting our sync/title music work. We had a lot of success in that field last year with Finnish broadcast companies YLE and MTV, so we want to build on those relationships and find new ones.
Now on to more exciting subjects, tell us a bit about PIHKA IS MY NAME – how did you form, how did you choose the name, how did you come up with the concept; the basics.
Henna: We have collaborated before. We’ve made three Finnish-language pop albums (2014-2018) under the name Pihka ja myrsky. There were five people in the band, but me and Lasse were the main songwriters and sound designers. The two of us started gravitating towards the sound design part of it around 2016. We wanted to produce electronic music and started a new band for that purpose the next year.
Lasse: We started acquiring analogue gear then. I really went down the Eurorack rabbit hole and I never want to get out from there again! It’s perfect for totally unique sounds.
Henna: We wanted a front figure for the band. Lasse came up with the idea of an imaginary friend and I loved it right away! We both have had imaginary friends when we were kids.
Lasse: I’m a big fan of RÖYTSOPP, they have that great “Poor Leno” music video. That was a big influence. Also DAFT PUNK’s music videos. And Hayao Miyazaki and Pixar movies.
The word “pihka” in Finnish refers to the sap or resin that drips from trees. The only immediate association I see to the story is that the character is dropped off in the woods. Does the name have any sort of significance? How was it chosen?
Lasse: My childhood address was Pihkakuja, which would directly translate to “Resin Alley.” I was a very unsocial kid, especially during elementary school. I had a lot of imaginary friends there. Our business PihkaSound (formerly Pihkassa Musiikkituotanto) got its name from there, and we thought Pihka would also make a great name for our mascot. Because that’s what she is, our beloved imaginary mascot!
Since there is a character in the story having an adventure, is there any specific sound used on the album to represent Pihka as a character?
Lasse: We have been working on this concept for 3 years now. It has gone through various iterations.
Henna: At some point Pihka was singing with lyrics, like any other artist. We gave Pihka a voice by recording both of our voices in unison and “robotizing” the result.
Lasse: But we started to feel like she shouldn’t be so expressive. In this case vocals should be just effect-type sounds in the music instead.
Not having listened to the album yet, what can we expect from this concept? Is it an emotional journey, a tragedy, etc.?
Henna: This is going to be quite an abstract, non-linear story. Since we decided to not use too many lyrics, the story can only be heard in the music or seen in the visuals. And of course by following Pihka on the socials because she is going to post imaginary pictures and comments there herself!
Lasse: The listener might hear their own life’s emotional details in the story. We want to give them the chance for that.
Henna: Deep down, this is a story about looking at the world from the outside. And wanting to find a place in that world.
The first song we’ve heard is “Binaries”; where does it fall on the tracklist? Can you tell us a bit about this song as it relates to the overall concept?
Lasse: “Binaries” is the prologue. Like a pilot episode or an overture. Might not even be on the album. We’ll see!
Henna: We’re going to do three more singles before the album. One of them will have a video too.
Lasse: We would have enough tracks for an album right away, if we had to release it now. But we’ll keep on honing the concept and writing more material during these single releases.
“Binaries” also has a very artistic music video, combining what I’d call digital visual “faults” translated artistically – things often associated with graphic errors like streaks and pixelation, etc., and they’re used very emotively. What can you tell us about the video? Who designed it, created it, and so on?
Lasse: My brother Jussi Turunen did the video. He is a super talented motion graphics designer/animator who mainly works in Finnish TV shows. His eye for visuals glitches is very lovely indeed! We wanted the video to feel like a movie trailer or a prologue to a story.
Henna: We wanted it to look like live concert visuals. We’re going to use the video material as such too, when we get a chance to take PIHKA IS MY NAME live on the road.
For Jussi Turunen’s other music video works, check out for example:
Ukkosmaine – “Megaman II”
Pihka ja myrsky – “Häiriö”
Does it portray the concept visually or is it a separate entity from the album itself?
Henna: It very much represents the whole concept. We’re just going to take it deeper still with the album.
The artwork here, featuring Pihka holding a flower is very lovely. Who did the artwork and how was the style and color, etc., chosen?
Lasse: The super lovely artist Elli Maanpää designed the artwork and the character. I did some rough sketches to be used as a starting point, but like we expected, she made the design completely on her own! She also made us a color map that we use to give our social channels a coherent look. We’re collaborating with Elli in the future too.
Do you have any plans for livestreams or gigs coming up this summer or fall?
Henna: We had a great experience a few days ago with a live stream gig! So we are planning to do more of those. We are also releasing weekly Monday Jam videos on our PihkaSound YouTube Channel. We film those with a multiple camera setup with lights and all, so they are pretty fancy. You should check them out!
Were there any shows cancelled or postponed that you were hoping to see?
Henna: We were going to see Jon Hopkins in Helsinki in the end of March but that was moved to next November.
Lasse: I was also going to see PK Keränen. I think he’s going to do a stream, got to check it out.
That’s about all of my questions! Thanks again for doing this interview. Do you have any last words for the readers, or anything else you’d like to mention that I didn’t ask about?
Lasse: If you have the slightest urge to support our independent work, please go subscribe/follow PIHKA IS MY NAME on the socials. It really makes a difference with our visibility at this point! You may also want to get our newsletter from our website. That being said, thanks for just checking out our videos/music. It means lot.
Interview by Bear Wiseman