Although ‘Kristalliarkki’ is your third full-length album, and you’ve even played a show at Roadburn in 2013, I personally wasn’t familiar with your music yet (of which I’m truly ashamed). Most of our readers will not know you that well yet. Can you give us an introduction into the world of Seremonia, and about how it all started?
We are a five piece band from Finland. We play heavy psychedelic rock and sing in our native language Finnish. It's the usual story: We've been friends for a long time and even played music together in different bands. Since we share a love for old & obscure acid rock/ proto heavy /space rock /experimental music, we wanted to play that sort of stuff ourselves and do it in our own language. Svart Records was keen to release our first album, and the story continues.
What can you tell us about the band name? (the music itself, as well as the artwork and the presentation on stage give the impression of a certain mysterious layer)
Our bass player and main lyricist Ilkka Vekka had two options, Rituaali (Finnish for ritual) and Seremonia (Finnish for Ceremony). Since a ritual is something you can perform on your own, and a ceremony requires more people, he chose the latter. And yes, Seremonia is interested in the “mystic layers” of art and existence. Very much so on the new album.
Because I’m not familiar with the Finnish language; what are the songs actually about?
Since we're releasing our third album, the lyrical subjects vary from song to song or album to album. But there's an overall theme of evil in man and the destruction of environment and the human spirit. The lyrics tend to deal with the darker side of life and death. The new album is a kind of a theme album revolving around the teachings of a mystic spiritual sect. It's a religious death cult thing, a spiritual journey gone horribly wrong. We include English translations on all our album covers, so non-Finnish speaking people can get a clue what we are singing about.
Why the choice to sing in your native tongue anyway? Personally I was pretty much caught by the overall atmosphere and wasn’t bothered by the barrier of not understanding the lyrics, but haven’t you come across obstructions when it comes to trying to reach out to listeners abroad?
We've been constantly surprised how people abroad seem to “get” what we are about quite accurately. The choice to sing in Finnish was obvious, there's more than enough bands in the world doing it in English. Also, Finnish is a strange and beautiful language, and we like how it sounds in conjunction with this sort of music. The language obviously does create a different atmosphere. We also listen to a lot of bands that sing in languages we don't speak, like Japanese or Spanish and in many cases it just makes the music sound more original. I'm sure that a band singing in Finnish and playing somewhat creepy psych rock will not be a huge commercial success. But a huge commercial success does not interest us in any way, so no harm done there.
The music sounds heavily influenced by acid dinosaurs from the early seventies (with additional parts from Jefferson Airplane to Black Sabbath) going on a trip in a garage sound. Which bands would you actually call your sources of inspiration?
Well, we are big music nerds and record collectors, so the list of inspirational bands is endless. Some big influences: Haikara (a Finnish prog rock band), Terveet Kädet (a Finnish hardcore punk band)... lots of old African and South American heavy psych rock bands like Gnozi Family, Amanaz, Los Dug Dugs or Kaleidoscope... the heavier side of krautrock like Ainigma... Swedish psychedelic rock like November or Träd, Gräs och Stenar... and of course the obvious big names like Zeppelin or Sabbath. I think we are also influenced by a lot of stuff that's not so audible in Seremonia songs like free jazz, noise music or experimental movies, but it's more in the attitude towards playing music than in the actual riffs. And you are very right about the garage rock factor, we like the sixties sound very much.
The songs have some kind of care-free, freewheeling character, which makes make very curious about the songwriting process. How does a song come its final stage in Seremonia?
The process is care-free and freewheeling! Once we have the lyrics and the riffs, we try to be very spontaneous about the recording. Just sort of hammer out the song and leave space for all sorts of things to happen. Sometimes “mistakes” can be the most interesting things you play during recording. We want to capture the feeling of people playing together, and NOT lose the natural flow of things. We want it to sound “imperfect” in a way, since that sounds perfect to us. Maybe that's what's lacking from a lot of modern pro tools/trigger-drum/computer-fix/surgically tight -production?
Also about that overall atmosphere: any interesting details about the recording process, and what’s the gear used?
We record in a moldy old wooden house, basically our rehearsal studio in Tampere, Finland. We use whatever gear we get our hands on. We don't have the “right” vintage amps or guitars, but we do know how to use the crappy vintage things we have. We don't spend days looking for the guitar sound we want because we know how to find it in 5 minutes. On ‘Kristalliarkki’ there are more tape delays, auto harp, backward guitar solos and overall spaciness than on the two first records. Maybe a bit more avant-garde improvisation in general, for example vocals screamed into a cowbell with a contact microphone. It makes a crazy sound. We do have a vision what we are aiming at sound wise, and our other guitar player Teemu Markkula is also a great sound engineer, so we are able to do everything D.I.Y. style. Although we want to keep things loose and surprising, we mix our recordings very carefully and try to find the right angle for each song. Keep the simple rockers simple and rocking and go really far out with the far out ones.
The studio and production did a hell of job presenting this sound of the album, and it must have been great working on it, but I can also imagine you being a real live band (with some additional extended versions?). What do you actually prefer: working in the studio or being on stage?
Really enjoy both, but of course playing live is the “natural habitat” for this sort of music. There's a lot of furiously free improvisation in every show. Extended and/or shortened versions!
What was your most memorable gig (and why), and which band is still on your wish-list to share a stage with?
We've played some really nice festivals like Roadburn, Muskelrock or Heavy Days in Doomtown, and of course those are fun to do, but maybe my personal favorite shows are the really small ones. Like unofficial basement parties where it gets really ceremonial. Of course you can really lose yourself to the music on big stages also and blow your mind with just the power rock'n'roll, but I think the most revelatory moments have been on very small shows. Where it's a collective blowing of minds, band and audience alike. On a really good night it's more like the music is playing the band and not vice versa. We have been lucky to play with great bands like Pentagram, Electric Wizard or Skogen Brinner, and of course it's always a pleasure to share a stage and backstage with your favorites. It would be nice to support Darkthrone, too bad they don't play live! We have a couple gigs coming up with our Finnish friends and heroes Circle (the greatest band in the history of history and all categories of music), and I'm really looking forward to those.
Speaking of live gigs, as the final question, when will we able to see you in our neighborhood again, and what are the further plans for the future?
The new album comes out May 8th and we tour Finland with it first, hopefully we get to play to the Dutch people too later. And we are constantly planning the next two or three albums also... hopefully finding something new with every album.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these couple of questions. Is there anything you would like to add?
Thank you for the questions! Everybody should listen to Catherine Ribeiro & The Alpes!