A little while before the release of Flat Earth’s debut album “None For One”, we had the chance to sit down with Niclas Etelävuori and Anthony Pikkarainen to talk all about their new band and album.
Watch the highlights of the interview here, or read the complete text below.
Hi guys! Thank you for taking the time for us. How have you guys been? What have you been up to the last couple of weeks?
Niclas: We haven’t been up to much the last couple of weeks. Our drummer is in Croatia now. We did work on a demo.
Anttoni: And you’ve been working on the website and all that sort of stuff.
Niclas: Yeah, what a work. Too much. (laughs)
Anthony: So, we haven’t been up to much, but we have been working too much! So the balance is off.
Niclas: Now we have to try to get things back in balance.
Anthony: More rock, less work! (laughs)
So, let me get this straight, your drummer is having a holiday, and you aren’t?
Niclas: No, he lives there nowadays! So, he’s working there too, I guess he’s getting a drum kit there now. Maybe we can practice on Skype. (laughs)
Anthony: (laughs) Yeah, that would be something!
Haha, sure thing! So, can you talk a little bit about how you formed the band? I read that you started the band cause you had some songs on your hard drive?
Niclas: That was pretty much the first spark. I didn’t want to throw all that material away. I started to work on them for a couple of months. Then I met Silke [Yli-Sirniö, Flat Earth’s promoter] and she heard them and suggested to ask Linde for guitar, which I had been thinking about as well. I asked him and one month later he came by. Then Silke, again, suggested this guy who’s a great singer. I called Anthony and then two days later Anthony was around and then it was just about persuading Gas, because he was a busy man back then.
Anthony: He had a lot going on during that period.
Niclas: He had like three or four bands. Now it’s all good.
I normally don’t ask bands about how or why they picked their name. But… I assume you don’t really believe that the Earth is flat. Is there some deeper meaning behind your choice?
Anthony: Are you implying we don’t? (laughs)
Well… I don’t know! You tell me!
Anthony: It’s a funny name!
It is a pretty cool name!
Niclas: Yeah, somedays you can believe in it, some days you don’t. (laughs)
Anthony: (laughs) If you feel like it. And on top of that, you definitely get a response to that name.
Niclas: Flat Earth is vibrating in -8 Hertz.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s what we’ve been talking about that maybe we should incorporate that Hertz in there somehow.
Niclas: It’s a resonance thing. [Flat Earth Resonance]
Anthony: Yeah, just so that we could step just a couple of steps away from the theories.
Niclas: And resonate with the animals instead.
Anthony: We were actually a bit surprised about how much conversation it lighted up. The name, I mean. Then again, if you think about band names, they can either be very awful or super awful or just quite good. How many band names actually start or work as a conversation starter. Flat Earth definitely is. I think it’s one of those names, you have to have an idea.
Niclas: It’s an icebreaker.
Anthony: Yeah, it’s an icebreaker!
If you introduce yourself to someone as a band member of Flat Earth, don’t they think you’re part of the Flat Earth Society?
Anthony: Apparently quite many of them do. Even without our own introduction. People just reach out to us, through messages in the wonderful internet, suggesting that we are whatever they are called… Flat Earthers, Earthlings or theorists. They get their flames up and start banging us that we are so wrong. We’ve had multiple of these cases in our inbox just telling us how wrong we are. It’s easy to respond, we just tell them it’s a rock ‘n’ roll band, take it easy, enjoy! And of course, to check out our new video. Or something like that. But surprisingly many take it very seriously.
Niclas: That’s good.
Anthony: It is.
Niclas: Because sometimes you have to be serious in life.
Anthony: You do?
Really? Cause it doesn’t sound like a serious name. You guys seem at least like a fun band of guys. So, do you take yourself too seriously in your music?
Anthony: No! I hope not!
Niclas: I think it’s very multidimensional. Everything we do. The name as well. There is the serious side, but it also has a fun side. It’s the same with the music and everything. That’s the kind of balance that we are looking for.
Anthony: Of course, there’s a lot of depth. Initially, I thought that the name Flat Earth is a great example of how free one’s mind can be, that you can actually think of the Earth as being flat. I’m not saying what shape it has. But if you can have that idea in the modern era of technology and the knowledge that we have, that you can have that idea and you fight for that idea, that’s like the ultimate expression of freedom, isn’t it? So, if you think about it, it’s very punk rock. So in that sense, I just thought that Flat Earth is a bit of a fuck you to establishments to break the frames. It doesn’t matter if we think that the Earth is flat or not, we’re just saying that someone else can say it.
Niclas: Freedom of choice.
That’s somehow I would have interpreted your name as well. Cause I was initially thinking maybe there is some meaning behind it. So, it becomes kind of a statement if you think about it.
Anthony: It’s less funny though to have that explanation.
It’s cool to have one as well in a sense. It also resonates a lot with the style you have, the music that you make. It does fit with your band’s style. But going back to your music… How would you describe the sound of your band? You can definitely hear some influences of you guys as established musicians.
Niclas: I think it’s kind of piling up our histories together in one package. Our history has a lot of influences and there are a few different things there, but I think in the end we still come from pretty much the same origin. Even if it’s across different generations but still the same thing. I think that was the whole idea with this band, you know, bring out who we are as musicians and lyricists.
Anthony: And that was the most exciting part because we did briefly talk about it if we are we gonna go for a sound, and asked ourselves what are we gonna do. Now we have a couple of rough songs, that we know how to play, but what kinds of sounds are we going for? Then it was so obvious, let’s just go for the sounds that each player already produces.
Niclas: I mean… Linde has been playing his sound for over twenty years. Why change it now? Billy Gibbons [ZZ Top] wouldn’t change his sound, so why would we?
Anthony: Exactly, good point! (laughs) the exciting part was how would that sound and then add me on top of it. Because it could be awful as well, you know if the components wouldn’t just complement each other at all: We thought that it makes a lot of sense and sounds cool.
Niclas: At least we are doing something different from what we used to do.
Anthony: But the thing is that this is just the first record. Most of the material on that record was written by this guy [Niclas] before he even knew the band or what it will become. So the next record, when we get to write songs more collectively will probably establish the sound onto the 2.0 era. But for now, the record is a very good documentation of what we are and what we bring to the table collectively.
How was the writing process in that sense, you already wrote the songs but were there some contributions of the rest still?
Niclas: Yeah, and I mean I didn’t write all of the songs, I think I had 7-8 songs read and asked the guys if they had anything. Then everyone pretty much wrote something. So, maybe I wrote like 60-70% of them. Everybody brought to that, however, and added something to what I wrote. They wouldn’t sound the way they do now without them.
Anthony: The cool thing was the way he had those songs ready. He would take all the melodies and extra elements off the instrumentals of the demos. Just give them to me as if that’s the most base ground you can have on those songs. He had removed every bit of extra information so that I could get wild and figure it out myself. That was a gutsy and ballsy move. I don’t think many people do that to their demos.
Niclas: But those songs have been stripped and rewritten so many times to become the shape they are in now.
Anthony: Good point, well played!
So, Anthony, you wrote the lyrics and the melody lines for the album. How was it to write the lyrics and where does your inspiration come from. Is there like a theme of some sorts present in this album?
Anthony: Even though the songs came in a very short period of time, I don’t think there are any themes occurring in the lyrics. You know, as a lyricist I tend to bottle up a lot of ideas and then open the bottle when I have the right reason or time or just the urge to fucking do it. So, this was definitely one of those situations where I was given a task of performing my ideas on something where already quite established musicians wanted me to do my efforts. That was so motivating that it just sparked me up and stuff just came out flying. It was very fast and as soon as I demoed the first song which was “Noble Swine” and I showed them the lyrics they approved. After that I knew that I didn’t need to filter myself, I knew where I was, now I knew what they were capable of in terms of approving and then I could just focus on doing that same thing so I just kept on banging my head.
Now, most of you come from very big bands. How was it for you guys to start from scratch. You already have the connections, but is it still as difficult as small bands to rise up?
Niclas: Of course we had to pull every string we could but then luckily we had some strings to pull. It’s always hard to start to do new stuff, you know. It takes a lot of time and you have to think about a lot of things. Anyway, we weren’t in a hurry or anything, we didn’t have to do this in two months, we took our time and now here we are.
Anthony: It just happens that we are 13 months from meeting for the first time (laughs). We have almost a record out. Things are rolling quite smoothly. We weren’t in a hurry. But… (laughs) then stuff just started happening.
Niclas: Well, we had deadlines. But more for ourselves. Still, they were like months away.
Anthony: I can actually look at this from a very productive perspective because I have my own band Polanski who are struggling to what the essence of your question was: how to start a band. To have been in the very middle of this Flat Earth and to see how much strings it actually needs to be holding and to know how to pull them is quite overwhelming, but I think the most valuable knowledge is you know how to pull those strings.
Niclas: And if you pull the wrong one you might end up in a bucket of ice water in a way.
Anthony: In that sense, probably the same thing when establishing any band, at least you and Gas and Linde know what strings to pull and how to do it. So that makes a bit more rapid, the evolution of the band.
Was it difficult for you when you had your first show to kind of estimate the reaction of the audience? Was there already a single out?
Niclas: I don’t think there was a single out. Was there a single out?
Anthony: I think “Blame” was out.
Niclas: Well, what can you expect. We played songs no one had ever heard before. Some people still really tried to get into it. If I go and see something I have never heard before, I first listen to it. But from now on when the album is coming, it’s gonna be much easier to get the crowd going. At the end of each show, we’re doing pretty good. The first couple of songs people are just checking if they are getting into it or not and then they make their decision.
Anthony: I don’t think during the live performances that we’ve witnessed masses leaving the show early. That’s definitely a positive thing.
Niclas: And no riots.
Anthony: No riots and people are actually sticking around, but yeah, it was impossible to know what will be the reaction. There are poppy elements to the kind of rock music we make, but still, there’s a lot of variety. To suggest that people would just pick it up in a live environment is just too much to ask. Nevertheless, it’s been a wonderful time you know.
Niclas: This way we practiced our set with the crowd also. It’s been a good start. Because we couldn’t really start playing in the pizzerias now you know to practice our shows there.
Anthony: It will be most likely very different when the record comes out.
Yeah, and it already seems like you have some street teams and fan clubs in place.
Anthony: Yeah, I wonder why! I guess the people working for us through those teams are expressing their trust and faith and in what these individuals have decided to do.
Niclas: It’s been remarkable. I have never seen that kind of reaction before. Big thumbs up to them. They post more than we do.
Anthony: Times a thousand.
You guys also had a crowdfunding campaign, was that an important step for you as a band?
Niclas: A few days before we were to hit the studio we had this opportunity to do this crowdfunding campaign. We tried and so we did. It helped us.
Anthony: It taught us many lessons about what we need to be doing and how we want those things to be done. And how to run multiple things at the same time. Valuable lessons.
In what sense?
Anthony: In organizing and executing strategies.
Niclas: … And packaging!
Those are all things that sound very useful! So, let’s talk a little bit about what you have in store for us. What are your plans for after the album release?
Niclas: We will do shows for some time and then we have to start work on new material as well. Pretty soon I think.
Anthony: Which will be awesome.
Niclas: But let’s see how far we can tour first. Then when we can’t tour anymore, we make new songs.
Anthony: A lot of depends on how the album will be received. So, we just need to see that happening first. And hopefully, we will get to play outside of Finland as soon as possible now that we have a record label who are operating from Germany. It would mean a lot for us to go there as well. Hopefully, those things would happen quite how should I put it, fluently timewise.
Niclas: Next year.
Anthony: Yeah. And, I guess at the same time we will be working on the new material and once we get excited about the new stuff, the will is growing fast and it’s impossible to stop us.
You said before you were already working on a demo?
Niclas: We have some songs from what he [Anthony] wrote, what Gas wrote, what I wrote.
Anthony: Yeah, I have quite many songs already waiting.
Niclas: We have a bunch of ideas, but we haven’t finished any song yet. It’s just something to start from.
Anthony: Right now it’s just tough to find the time to collectively work on those songs and to get into the studio and put some tracks down. We’ll get there.
Niclas: Yeah, we don’t need to hurry, we haven’t released this one yet.
Anthony: (laughs) Maybe it’s gonna be a double album.
Niclas: It’s too late to add another album there, it’s printing already.
Anthony: Digitally, maybe the Spotify version will have it.
How were the reactions about your first two singles? Are there many people who still compare it to HIM or Amorphis?
Anthony: I would say that especially with our first single “Blame” we expected a lot of backlash in terms of comparisons, not all of it is obviously negative, but still it’s not really frustrating but it’s a little useless, because in the context of the whole album I don’t think those people would be saying or feeling so strongly about it after the first single.
Niclas: There would be the comparison anyway, it doesn’t matter what song we put out.
Anthony: We knew that that’s gonna happen. Even if we went with another one.
Niclas: It was good to get that over with and now the second single is a bit different, the third one is gonna be way different. Then they compare all of them.
Anthony: I’m just waiting for the fourth single, to get something heavier out. I’m waiting for that.
Sounds like you guys still have a lot in store for us! It seems like our time is up. Do you guys still have something to say to the people out there?
Anthony: (laughs) WE LOVE BEER! So, we love Belgium.
Niclas: Yeah, Belgium… Kirsch or what is it called.
Niclas: Kriek! Yes, Kriek!
Anthony: No, not Kriek. But Lambics. Oh my. And everything sour. Dude, I’m not sure if there are a lot of sour beers coming from Belgium, are there? You have any idea? Sour ales?
Niclas: No, but we will figure it out one day!