Chatting: Kimmo Kurittu (bass, b-vox), Mikko Pere (guitars, b-vox), Lasse Alisaari (drums)
(the other two members are Pekka Alisaari (lead vox, guitars), Ossi Alisaari (lead vox, guitars))
"Anola" is Penniless' fifth album and looks set to be the release that breaks them throughout the UK and Europe following a successful decade touring in their native country (Finland) which has already seen Feeder dubbed the English Penniless. Taking their influences from both the UK and the US the band have been compared to the Pixies, Weezer and Ben Folds Five. We caught up with the guys to find out what all the fuss is about.
Q: "Anola" is the fifth album. You used to be called the Penniless People Of Bulgaria. Could you fill us in with the edited highlights?
Kimmo: Well, we shortened our name because it was not funny any more, it lost it's meaning. Besides, we started to get millions of angry e-mails from Bulgarians and x-Bulgarians - living the life in U.S.A. - pointing out that Bulgaria was not a poor people's democracy, at least not anymore. But we were still, so we kept the "Penniless". To be honest, Penniless People Of Bulgaria was just something we scribbled on a demo cassette the last minute before sending it to the big bosses - but there was a point in it: we come from a small rural town, Nakkila on the Finnish west coast, you could say from nowhere (and perhaps a couple of radical thoughts have always been floating around in our humble cabin, so -).
Mikko: Every album has stood out as a highlight! One of the reasons is of course that we have produced them ourselves, we have learned more and more about recording and sound engineering along the winding road. We are so to speak, home growers. That's our rock'n'roll high school with us five as headmasters. I think music should be made with melody and punch in it, nothing else matters really, not much anyway. Our Roskilde Festival gig in 1998 is also a highlight, and our two month on the road across Europe in 1996, supporting Mucky Pup from the States. That was something, totally greenhorns got to taste the real thing for almost an eternity.
Lasse: Yes, I agree with Mikko, it's always a highlight when we have created a new song or an album. Playing live with your best friends including touring is one of the Top 1 parts of being in a band.
Mikko and Kimmo: Liam and Noel should read this, Lasse's got two brothers in this band, and he's talking about playing with his best friends…
Q: In the UK we seem to be looking everywhere but in our own backgarden for the next big thing. Take the Hives, The Vines, Soundtrack Of Our Lives or the Strokes for example. Have you ever felt the need to take in Finnish culture or has your cultural / musical influences always been taken from the the States and the UK?
Mikko: Almost everytime I have tried to shape songs in the major key, and those influences come from either UK or USA, but there is always underneath our clothes (sorry, Shakira) a Finnish melancholic mood or stripe, which is our inheritage from Russia and Eastern Europe.
Kimmo: As I see it, our own culture (or our own local Nakkila culture) is present in Penniless music as humour, our sense of humour. On the other hand, the world of today is also regarding music just a large melting pot - it's hard to find national or local or whatever characteristics in music here and there.
Lasse: Our cultural influences come from the deep forests around our home town or village, but our musical influences come mainly from the States. Maybe you can hear a few echoes of the world famous Finnish melancholy in the vocal parts of our songs, which we usually tend to coat with happy, crazy lyrics. Peace!
Q: Continuing from the last question in a sense. Have you always sang in English and what effect does this have on the lyrical ideas. Do you for example write in your native tongue and then translate them over into English?
Lasse: I'm unfortunately not the right brother to deliver an answer to this one. But as far as I know my brothers don't suffer from too much pressure of writing. In our band music is the main thing and will surely stay that way. Words and vocal parts are there for ears to hook on. Still, lines like these (from Adam's Apple Pie) "all my bones, all my bones are full of you, if you go i'll feed the dog", are rather qute.
Mikko: In the beginning words were no big deal (sorry, Holy Bible), they were first and foremost chosen ones if they sounded good, could fit into the melodies, and weren't too hot potatoes in a Finn's mouth. Nowadays our so called lyrics are more carefully prepared, we build them on and around a leading head sentence, not trying to build up a whole short story though.
Kimmo: We have never written anything in Finnish and then translated it into English. Usually the core or idea is that a certain line rocks, pops or is just loaded with crazy irony.
Q: Naive. A Sense of Humour. All words that have described Penniless. Do you think rock music can get caught up too much with being serious and have you always been attracted to bands who don't take life to seriously?
Mikko: Music should not be a too serious thing! Already as a teenager I was a big fan of The Who. I've tried to follow the same carefree route in my own doings. Another good example is a band every now and then mentioned when talking about Penniless, and that is of course Pixies - and when you take a look at Mr Black himself you can't keep from feeling good.
Kimmo: That humour aspect is double-barrelled thing: on the other hand we have these humour bands like Leningrad Cowboys and Eläkeläiset that have almost nothing to do with music but have represented Finland abroad. We aren't a humour band but we are a band with humour. We do music sincerely, but there's always a nice humour seed planted in it, be it irony at our own expense (we aren't that penniless), or irony at the expense of music business. However, bands that do not take into consideration that music business on the whole can be quite amusing and ridiculous, they are the most gruesome and corny, like some of these nu-metal jumpers…
Lasse: Almost everyone takes life too seriously. Maybe our message in a bottle is to live a bit loose, say please and thank you to each other. It makes our living much easier on this mad balloon. If you can't joke about a thing perhaps it's not worth considering with deep thought either.
Q: You've had the album released all over Europe. When can we expect you over in the England and which bands will you be bringing over with you?
Kimmo: England must be the biggest challenge for unknown bands to tour. I'd say it's quite easy - well almost, that is - to take a trip to Germany and Central Europe, but the the British Isles are hard to "get on knees", being so to speak the cradle of rock (this hits question number 2 with an alternative light). But if we come gigging we will only bring ourselves. There are five jolly good reasons for that.
Lasse: I hope we'll be there quite soon. But to be honest it can take an album or too, we are Penniless, aren't we! We'll come flying like Finns as soon as there's an order for us.
Mikko: I've never even been to England, it would be smashing to come for a gig or tour. An album has been for sale at Tower records in London, some fans have ordered cd's, Steve Lamacq at Radio 1 has played a song once, and "Imbecile" was playlisted on Xfm for six weeks in November and December last year, so at least our music has taken a tiny step on British soil.
"Anola" is out now
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