Interviewed by Heili and Kaheli
First, for those who aren’t familiar with your band and may not have read your Q & A with us, could you introduce yourselves, please.
Soaring guitar riffs, vigorous bass lines, catchy melodies and pumping drum beats… the recipe for an indie lover’s wet dream… the truly distinctive sound of the Firsts! An international line-up gives the Helsinki-based Brit-pop influenced band an irresistible flavour with plenty of seasoning. Tune your ears in and get ready for your new addiction! Rumba Magazine placed our music in the “Melancholic Britpop” genre which, as far as we know, is pretty unique!
You guys have chosen a somewhat normal name but at the same time it makes one wonder…Why did you choose that particular name? And is there anything specific that you’re The Firsts at?
One person once said that our name was “a bit controversial”. I laughed and said “maybe”. I realized ‘the Firsts’ would make people wonder, primarily because it sounds a bit cocky if you don’t really think about it. However, the true intention/meaning of the name is a ‘tribute to the pioneers.’ It seems that Finns have so much fun pronouncing the ‘sts’ that they don’t really care what the name means! When we played in Kaisaniemi park (Helsinki) during the Night of the Arts Wallu Valpio introduced us as “the Firstststs”.
What is ‘Spinish’? And does one need to be drunk to speak it?
Mertsi, this is your specialty!
Yep! you have to be quite drunk if you want to speak it
Besides the instruments that you currently play in The Firsts, are there any other ones that you play?
I have a really crappy ukulele which I can kinda play but now it’s out of tune and I don’t know how to tune it
I play a guitar little bit, but haven’t ever played it in an actual band. It could take sometimes months that I don’t even touch my acoustic, but then there are periods when I play it quite a lot.
I started to play drums before I got a guitar, and actually I did play drums in the previous band we had with Tom. Besides that I can somehow play bass guitar and keyboards.
I have also studied drums in a music school but never really played drums in a band. Then I play guitar and piano somehow also.
Who writes the lyrics and music? Is it just one of you or do you all collaborate together?
Most of the music is written by Tomi and myself but we all collaborate to arrange the songs. I personally don’t have any proper musical training so I can’t specify chords etc. I write most of the lyrics but Tomi also writes a few of them.
Well said! We usually have quite a lot of stuff, and we try to be quite critical which songs we choose to work on. So in that sense only the best ones will survive.
I feel that my best input at the moment is listening critically the songs Tom and Tomi write and then trying to make them even better with some arranging ideas. I’ve written songs since my teen years but I am quite critical for my own stuff at the moment. I feel that because of this hectic life I don’t have the time for making as good songs that would like to make right now, which is a shame!
For Tom, what made you move from your homeland in Wales to Helsinki? How is life different in Helsinki compared to that of Tenby?
It seems there are two main reasons why British guys end up in Helsinki: Nokia and/or women… I came here with my ex-girlfriend in 2003. Comparing Tenby and Helsinki is interesting because both have a similar feel. Everyone knows everyone in Tenby, I hated that when I lived there but I am starting to miss it these days. Helsinki is cool because it has a small town feel, this is a great thing for a capital city! The work ethic is generally fantastic in Finland and I love the fact that the whole country virtually shuts down in July! The only thing I don’t like about Finland is the fact that everyone is so damn negative most of the time. Stop listening to songs about alcoholism and suicide, listen to our music, we’ll make you smile!!
Is there a specific reason the ‘S’ in your logo is backwards? If so, what is it?
No particular reason! I’m a graphic designer and I think it looks more like a logo with the ‘S’ backwards.
The ‘New Tiger Of Wales’…We’re curious about this, could you please explain
Antti L came up with this… at least it’s better than being called ‘Tom of Finland’! Yes, I know who he is!
Was that hairy chested guy Tom Jones from Wales and at least in Finland I’ve heard that they call him the Tiger of Wales? Our Tom is new equivalent of that.
Without the chest hair It remains to be seen whether fans will start throwing underwear at me!!
Antti states that it was by pure accident that he got in touch with his old childhood friend, Tomi. What was the accident that brought them together?
I can’t really recall any ‘accident’ how we met again, maybe Antti can. But of course thru the years we still kept in touch although not living in the same cities or countries. So it was pretty natural and obvious when also Antti moved to Helsinki that we caught up and started to be more in contact.
I think we have been in contact but not been talking about making music together. So in that sense it was kind of accident that Tomi’s and Tom’s former band was in a state where they wanted to try something different and I just happened to move to the city at the same time.
For Tomi, you stated that your brother helped you to learn the drums and guitar, does he tell people that he’s the one who taught you everything you know?
Maybe not, hopefully he has something better things to do. But he showed me the first steps, not everything I know. And I thank him for that. First song I ever learned with the guitar was ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ by The Beatles, and he helped me with the chords. Maybe even bigger influence I got was seeing him putting a real band together, I went to their rehearsals and gigs, and thought that was the coolest thing ever. And I was around 10 years old.
You have a digital release coming up in early March, you also have CDs currently available, tell us a little more about them. Such as the tracks, the storyline etc. and where can they be purchased?
Yea, the single will be available globally from March 5th from all major digital retailers (iTunes etc.). The CD is available (only in Finland) at Stupido, Levykauppa Äx, Popparienkeli and Keltainen Jäänsärkijä.
The single is called ‘Tenby’ and has two tracks; Tenby & Underneath the Covers. It was produced by Asko Keränen (from 22-Pistepirkko) and us. The title track is a story about a small town (inspired by my home town). The lyrics speak about rumors, repeating newspaper headlines, body-bags and booze! Underneath the Covers is about trust.
Do you have any plans in the near future to release a full length album? If so, when can we expect to see it?
Yea, we plan to release our debut album in the Autumn! We’re already gearing up to release our follow-up single before the summer holiday. Hopefully we’ll be able to find a sponsor to fund a tour of the album in Europe during Autumn/Winter.
You’ve described your music as having a brit-pop sound to it, could you please define brit-pop for those who may not be familiar with it? What other genres can one expect to hear in your music?
Britpop was developed as a “reaction against various musical and cultural trends” (according to Wikipedia). We’re reacting to the overly heavy Finnish music scene so the Britpop movement is the most fitting! We can’t call the music Finnpop cause Suomipop already exists and is definitely NOT fitting for us! Indie is an overused expression but we usually quote that when people ask, it makes things easier.
Everyone in the band has little bit of their own influences of course, but britpop was a big thing for me as teen. Such bands like Blur, Suede and Supergrass. Recently I’ve been quite deep digging 80′s post-punk bands. Stuff like early-U2, The Police, Joy Division and The Smiths.
What are the biggest obstacles you think bands face in today’s music industry? Do you think it’s easier or harder for a band to get themselves ‘out there’ today then it was 20-30 years ago?
I honestly think it’s much easier for bands to get ‘out there’ nowadays! The internet, specifically social-networking is a massive tool for bands, both signed and unsigned. We’ve gathered a following and fans from all over the world after just over a year of promotion. Labels only seem to be interested in making megabucks these days. One contact in the industry told me that most demo CDs from unsigned bands go straight in the bin so what’s the point chasing a record deal the “traditional” way? If a band makes enough noise and gathers a large enough following through online communities and live shows the industry will start to notice. Arctic Monkeys are a fine example of this. The only real issue is finding the money to record and tour. The ideal scenario would be to find a sponsor to help us with our expenses.
Yep it’s easy to have your music out there, but that also means that there is just millions of bands and artists trying to make it. Like Myspace has exploded and it’s impossible to find anything from there. So in the old days record labels were more like filter which let good stuff thru. But at some point labels got more and more intrested to only make mone, instead of finding new acts.
Tell us about this amazing new website/company, Hitlantis. What’s it all about and how does it work for musicians and fans? Have you become their unofficial spokesperson? Yes, we found some YouTube videos…
We jumped into Hitlantis very early on and have already played two great gigs courtesy of the service! The guys who run it seem to use me as an unofficial spokesperson because of my mother-tongue English. I’m happy to oblige, it’s great exposure for the band at the same time!
Best thing with Hitlantis is that they are doing their thing with huge drive and excitement. They are seriously trying to make it big, and we are very grateful and happy to be in front of that train. But the competition is getting harder and harder as it grows quickly.
Also, could you tell us about the Thirst Music Club? What’s it all about and how does it work?
“Thirst Music Club (TMC) makes a point of avoiding Finland’s dominant genres, instead offering alternative/indie artists the opportunity to shine! Run by Tom Morgan, frontman of the Firsts, TMC gives exciting new bands from Finland and beyond the chance to play right in the center of Helsinki! The main concept behind the club is gig-sharing. All we (the Firsts) ask in return for you playing at TMC is the opportunity to share a gig with you in the future. If you can already offer us a gig it will increase your chances getting on the roster at TMC Just drop an email to thirstagency(at)gmail.com with a link to your website and we’ll be in touch if we like what we hear!”
For Tom, now that you’ve been living in Finland for a few years, have you developed a liking for mämmi and saunas? Not necessarily together but…
Believe it or not I do like mämmi! Once a year is enough though!. I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Finland during Easter to try some! It may look like something one would excrete from one’s posterior the morning after a Guinness binge but don’t judge it purely by looks! I do enjoy a good löyly and I even influenced my folks to install saunas in the cottages in Wales
Any last thoughts or comments you would like to add about The Firsts?
Keep your ears and eyes open, we plan to be everywhere by the end of the year!
2010 will be our year, there is just so much happening; singles, debut album, our own Thirst Music Club, Hitlantis… There’s nothing stopping us now!
2011 will be our year also so get used to us, we have come here to stay!
Oh! You can buy our debut single here – http://itunes.apple.com/fi/album/tenby-single/id350925239