You wouldn’t immediately think that the suburbs of eastern Helsinki are a prime location for the crafting of electro-pop music , but synth-brandishing duo Villa Nah have proven naysayers wrong. Childhood friends Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä have been making music for years- Juho writing the songs and handling vocal duties with Tomi programming the electronics- but have seen something of a culmination of their artistic endeavours over recent months. Releasing their debut album ‘Origin’ to rave reviews, as well as snagging a ‘Song of the Year’ gong at Finland’s Dance Awards last month for their track ‘Ways To Be’, the duo are immersed in a whirlwind that one could easily envisage whipping across the tundra-like topography that characterises their homeland. Melding ethereal analogue synths that perfectly capture the austerity of their Scandinavian environs with heart-wrenching pop melodies and pulsing beats, Villa Nah are as much a group for the introspective wee hours as for packed club dancefloors. We gave them a call on a rainy Wednesday to see what they had to say.
Notion: You’ve been friends for a long time, how did you get around to making tunes?
Juho Paalosmaa: We’ve known each other since we were kids and started experimenting with music in our late teens; Tommi’s dad had a Korg in the garage. Initially we just played rock instruments, but then we got into synths. It was a process that seemed natural, and we played a lot of ambient stuff, just to get to grips with the equipment. Then, around 2 years ago, we started out with Villa Nah.
N: Do you think the geography of your upbringing in Helsinki has had an influence on your sound; is it the area in general- with that distinctive landscape- that has at all distinguished your music, or are there any Scandinavian musicians who you cite as influences?
JP: It does mostly come from the environment. Our musical influences aren’t really Scandinavian though. We never really listened to domestic music, the influence was a lot more from British and European stuff really. David Bowie was a big influence, though you can’t necessarily hear that in the music. People expect you to namecheck quintessential Scandinavian bands, but we’re not necessarily like that; we’re really into the golden era of pop music, the late ‘70’s and early ‘80s. I think our synths create that ‘80’s feeling. I think the reality is that we’re into pop music, but we make it with synths.
N: How was your recent mini-tour over here last month?
JP: It was surprisingly nice. We expected the response to be quite harsh, with the crowds being completely disinterested, or even worse, not there! We had a good turnout and people were quite into it. More people came to the later shows though, and by the end of the tour people seemed really into it.
N: You’re playing in Lisbon with Tiga at his ‘Planet Turbo’ event. How did that come about?
JP: I think it might have been to do with our connection to Jori Hulk. Tiga really liked our album and wanted us to be involved on his tour, and then we got a call from Tiga’s tour manager. It remains to be seen how that event will pan out. I think they’re going to build that night around our music in a way, so perhaps it will be less banging than a regular Tiga set. I think he might play some of our songs…we’ll see if he can stick it out. It’ll be interesting to see how it all goes down, due to the fact that they’re going to all be playing really hard dance stuff, and we will be playing Romantic pop songs.
N: Who are you listening to at the moment?
JP: I’m quite into a lot of the old-school house tracks at the moment, stuff like A Guy Called Gerald and Mr. Fingers. I quite rarely dabble in new music even though there’s a lot of good stuff out there. I spend a lot of time going through the history of music because there’s so much great stuff from the past to discover.
N: Over summer you’re playing Bestival. Are you going to any other festivals as a punter, or is it just as artists?
JP: We’re mostly going to festivals as artists. Before Bestival we’re playing Monsters of Pop in Finland. I’m going to Roskilde as a punter because of Prince, I’ve never seen him live and have always wanted to.
N: What’s next on the agenda for Villa Nah? Do you plan on continuing touring over Autumn and into Winter, or do you think a break is in order?
JP: We’ve had some talk of a tour and playing some more shows overseas. I think it will either be that, or we will just go into the studio and make some more songs! All the time we have is just spent playing shows and I’m aching to get back to writing songs as I have loads of ideas to work on. Due to the touring schedule I have had to delay some of that songwriting process, but I have a feeling that the new stuff is going to be very strongly familiar to our current sound. People that have heard the album think that it’s very fresh and current sounding, but it’s simply what we’ve done for a long time, so I think that the new material will work as a continuance of that. We don’t want to have a repeat of the last album though, thematically or sonically, as that’s uninteresting, but when it comes to genre and style I think we will remain similar. I think we’ll also use a lot of the same equipment to keep the sound relatively similar to the last.
- Seb Law/ Tim Robins