New on the heavy metal scene is a band stylized as TRUE CULT CLUB. Made up of some well-known names like Asim Searah [ex-KIUAS, WINTERSUN, DAMNATION PLAN], Rolf Pilve [STRATOVARIUS, STATUS MINOR, SMACKBOUND, etc.], and Christian “Chrism” Pulkkinen [SIMULACRUM, ADAMANTRA, ex-EDEN’S CURSE], alongside Miiro Varjus and Jaakko Nikko.
First of all, thanks for doing this and apologies that I couldn’t make it in person. How has this weird year been treating you guys?
No worries and thanks for having us!
Miiro Varjus: I’m not gonna lie: when it comes to livelihood, it’s been an absolute catastrophe. Most of the band members work in the music industry full-time and it should be clear to all by now what a devastating year it’s been for the industry. On a positive note, it’s given us an opportunity to really concentrate on getting the band and music out there.
Asim Searah: Correct. I was telling everybody last year that 2020 will be THE year, it’s gonna be big. The beginning was alright, and well – that was it. But to look at it in a positive light, it gave us time to breathe and to really observe our lives. There are many things we could have done much earlier, but the year’s still going on and I have a feeling we’re still in for a lot of surprises.
For those who haven’t yet heard about you, can you tell us a little bit about your inception and what you’re all about (how you formed, musical style, etc.)? How did you come up with the name?
Miiro: I had planned to work on some poppier music of my own for quite some time and having worked with Asim and Rolf Pilve for the past few years, I already knew I wanted them to perform on the demo songs that I’d written. I pitched the idea to Asim some time in 2019 and he was interested to hear what I’d come up with. I contacted Rolf soon after that and asked him to perform the drums on the songs, which he agreed to do.
Asim: Yes, I was hooked immediately when I heard the songs. It was exactly what I had wanted to do for a long time as well. At the end of the drum recording session at Sonic Pump Studios, we asked Rolf if he’d like to be a member of the band too and he was in without question.
Miiro: Rolf suggested getting in touch with bass player Jaakko Nikko and we met up not many days after. Everything clicked with Jaakko immediately and he was invited to join that very moment. Jaakko knew of Christian “Chrism” Pulkkinen and went on to ask him if ours was the kind of material he would be into. We met with him and the line-up was finished amazingly quickly.
Asim: As for the name, Miiro came up with the name and told me, “I have the name for our album.” I was immediately like, “No, no, no… that’s the band name!”
Miiro: Remember that I actually said, “True Club Cult,” but you asked me, “Don’t you mean True Cult Club?”
Asim: Yeah, yeah, right! We both liked it and it had a good concept. The name is provocative in the same way that our music is: we want people to think outside of the box. Obviously, “true cult” or “Trve Kvlt” means something totally different to many people, so it was a good way to make people see things in a different light.
What sorts of things do you sing about and write about? What sort of lyrical content will we hear?
Asim: We have a very strong meaning behind everything we write about. On the surface it may seem and sound like something else, but dig deeper and you’ll find much more meaning to it. We haven’t really written anything yet in the sense of a concept or theme album, because every song is different from each other and we want to keep it that way. Each song itself has a strong theme. Love and hate, yes; personal stories, yes; metaphorical stories, yes – practically every single thing we write, there’s a metaphor behind it.
Miiro: At first listen some of the lyrics can sound quite shallow; you could even describe it as party music. But there’s always much more to it.
Asim: Right. Just like in life, there’s two or more sides to just about everything. To look at things from another angle is our initiative – that’s the point of our music, the band name, and even the song names.
You’ve mentioned that you’re all about bringing a larger-than-life show to clubs (and vice versa) – what do you plan to do to make that vision come to life?
Asim: I believe many bands would agree that when you’re on a bigger stage, you lose some of the connection and intimacy with the audience. Then again, in smaller spaces, people don’t often expect to receive that grand feeling of a big show. We plan to fix both of these problems by delivering a crazy amount of energy and stage presence in either scenario. Obviously we don’t have extreme budgets at the moment, so we can’t bring fireworks to a venue of 350 people yet.
Miiro: Or we could if we hide them. Anyway, our aim is to have the crowd sing every song with us by the last chorus.
Is there anything else we can expect from the upcoming debut show this month? Are there any more shows lined up for the future?
Miiro: Well, a lot of killer songs that are unreleased as of yet.
Asim: Yes, and the songs themselves are full of surprises – not something you might expect from this group of players looking at their band history. We’re planning to do as many shows as we can possibly do during these times. The near-future is very uncertain for the whole industry, so we’re just glad that we’re still on track to actually have the debut show after many push-backs for all the plans for this year. More shows, we are working on it certainly.
Speaking of the future, what future plans do you have for the group, seeing as it appears to be a side project for some(/all?) of you? Will you guys be able to balance this with your other bands? Where does this band lie in with your musical priorities?
Asim: We all are taking it seriously. We don’t see it as a side project. Of course everybody has a lot of work with other bands too, but we’ve all been working with different bands for a long time and know how to balance it.
Miiro: To music enthusiasts who are fortunate enough to not have made music their livelihood, it might not be so clear that making any money out of just one band is not easy. Not even talking about making a living, I actually mean making a single cent of profit. That way it might seem like many artists dabble in many side projects just for the fun of it, and while some do for sure, I believe that it’s increasingly more common for musicians to be a part of and put a lot of work into multiple bands. For many musicians even in medium-sized touring bands, it’s still not enough to rely on for a living.
Asim: As such, we plan to make this a fully active band and that should show how highly serious we are. We are working towards putting music out regularly and making it a touring band.
Do you have plans to release a full album? If so, how far along in the process are you?
Asim: We already have enough song material for a full-length and we are working on finishing those songs. So we are planning to put out an album but nothing has been set in stone regarding that.
With the modernization of music these days, many bands are sticking to singles and EPs thanks to streaming services – did you consider this style at all. If yes, why did you opt for/against it?
Miiro: We have considered it and like Asim said, we haven’t set anything in stone. Personally I don’t see full albums as the be-all and end-all of artists anymore. We haven’t really decided for or against an album or just single-dropping yet.
Asim: Thanks to the internet and streaming services, you could put out an album and in less than half a year you could be forgotten if you’re not active and performing and out there for fans to follow you. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing either; it’s something we have to embrace and make it work for us.
Miiro: That’s exactly why I think it would make lot of sense for bands to put out singles or EPs instead of albums on a shorter interval. That said, we are open to ideas and a full-length is definitely one of them. This is where a record label would have a lot to say, if and when we are to start working with one. Somebody should start shoveling this gold mine before somebody else finds it.
Asim: Now there’s a catch. If you’re the A&R of a label and you’re reading this… What are you waiting for?
How has starting this band up differed from your experience with other bands? Has anything been better or worse?
Miiro: It was a new experience for me. All the songs were written by me before the band existed at the time, which has not been the case with bands that I’ve played in before. The band kind of formed around the music that was already there. Acting as the producer for your own music is not always easy either, but this time around it’s worked out without hiccups. I got to work with the people that I wanted to work with from the beginning, so that’s a win too. As always, it’s a lot of work, but for me it’s been a wonderful time.
Asim: With any band you have a different experience. You learn a lot from every one of them. With this group it’s been a ride of its own kind. Rolf, Miiro, and I have been working together for the last few years, so we somehow knew what to expect from each other. Then Jaakko and Christian came in and they made the mix even better. The support and feedback from everybody around us has been tremendous. I’d say the excitement with this group is much greater than usual because it’s not at all what people would expect from us. So the excitement is there and every time with each song that we are to release, I know we will have that extra twinkle in our stomachs, waiting to see how the listeners will react.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to share that I may not have asked about?
Miiro: Check “Empty Alley” out, come to the show, have a blast…
Asim: Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, subscribe to our YouTube channel, share it with your friends, stream the living shit out of the music on your favorite platform, even listen to it while you sleep.
Miiro: Even if you don’t like it. Especially then, you should listen to it in your sleep.
Miiro: Most importantly, hit us up and let us know what you think, good or bad. Your feedback means the world to us.
Asim: That is absolutely correct.
Thanks for the interview!
Interview by Bear Wiseman