Posted on September 22, 2016


What does everybody do in the band?

Mikk: I’m the drummer.

Hando: I would like to only play bass but due to the unfortunate situation, I’m also playing keyboards and guitar. And Johanna is singing and playing the keyboards

How did you hear about Zandari and why did you apply?

Hando: I think the main person to blame for all that is our manager John because he has been working with different smaller and larger artists touring Asia before, like Mogwai and stuff like that. So he has some good connections with everybody who is doing music in Asia. I think he pitched our music and videos to the people over there and one thing lead to another and then we got a super nice invitation letter from Zandari saying they would be very happy if we would come. Of course we were super surprised that our first concert outside Europe is in Asia. It’s something I haven’t really dreamt of before. I was always thinking that maybe we would do some gigs in Europe and then we’d go to the States because that’s a logical way of how things go. But now Asia, and it has like a snowball effect. So, two months ago we had one gig in South Korea, now we have two and there are some other dates in Japan and China. Interesting times.

What are your expectations from Korea? Do you have an image in your head of what it’s going to be like?

Hando: I’ve done my homework. I’ve talked with one woman who lives in Korea and I asked about the audiences and what to do and what not to do in Korea. I have really high expectations; if there are people at our concert then most probably we can get them dancing and shouting so that’s one goal we would like to do I guess.

Mikk: Yes I have high expectations as well because it’s always fun playing outside of your own country, and as we have reached very near the Baltics like Lithuania it’s already so awesome, so I cannot imagine how awesome Korea will be.

What’s the music scene like in Estonia?

Mikk: Estonians love indie rock a lot. The music scene is really vivid here actually. I think we’ve had some amazing artists here in the last 5 years. A lot is happening here. We have still a bit of that post-Soviet vibe but with Western influences so it’s still interesting and in a sense unique. So I guess the kids who are growing up now and would start making music in ten years or so, they might have lost that. I don’t know what the future will show. EDM is really popular, so me and Hando were also thinking that maybe if we were 14 year olds now, then maybe instead of going out and wanting to buy a drum set or a bass guitar, maybe we would just want to have a Mac computer with Logic and synthesizers on it or something.

Hando: I think it’s just a trendy thing right now, and all trends pass. Hopefully this one goes away fast too.

What is your group dynamic? Do you all have different roles in the band?

Johanna: I am the face - the hardest part. And that’s it!

Hando: Writing songs, there’s usually two ways how we roll. One way is that I just come up with an idea and then mess around with it. Then I send it to Johanna and Mikk, and they will say it sucks ass. And then I’m go back to the drawing board. Then at one point they just get tired and then they say, “Okay, it’s okay. We can go on with that song”. The other option is that me and Johanna are just in a studio together for a maximum of two hours or one and half hours and just come up with something from scratch. Looking back at our history that has worked the best.

Mikk: Lately we [Mikk and Hando] have even been jamming and coming up with ideas. Just the two of us on the spot - messing around with drum machines and whatever instruments we feel like playing.

Hando: We try to keep it evolving all the time so we won’t get bored. And I’m dealing with all the money things, which I hate. And then we [Mikk and Hando] are brainstorming how to conquer the world daily.

Mikk: We come up with ideas and then we try to persuade Johanna to go along.

Hando: We are usually all gungho and like “it’s an unbelievable and crazy idea, let’s do it!”, and Johanna is usually the voice of reason. Which is good…

Mikk: Or the voice of stubbornness.

Hando:  Our light guy said we are the most nerdy band in Estonia because when we are backstage we don’t invite hookers or drink or do cocaine. We are just sitting …

Mikk: … and watching movies and … peanuts! Like, “Oh, I like these peanuts more than these peanuts”.

The album sounds great. How do you feel about it? If you could go back in time, is there anything you would change about it?

Hando:  For me it’s always that when I listen to some of the old songs I’m surprised that we came up with such cool ideas. But right now I’m much smarter and I know some technical things much better. So there are some things I would just like to do better, so things would sound better and more interesting. But I think that’s a normal thing; we try to evolve constantly and try to learn how to get better sounds and how to mix better and so on. So hopefully all the new things we do will sound more interesting and better than the last one.

Mikk: I’m really happy with the songs. Sound wise, I would like to redo the snares and toms. That’s just like evolving, and they say it’s a normal thing to feel that way, but I believe that we are all really proud of the album and proud of the outcome and that we got to a new level for ourselves in terms of songwriting and in sound. So I think we did a pretty good job and that’s a very good feeling after an album. It helped us believe that we can do even better in the future. This was the first one - I think we all were satisfied with it to a certain degree.

Hando:  Yeah, and with this Patience album it was the first time we really left no stones untouched or unturned. Every song had a lot of research behind it like what synthesizers to use with each song and what microphones and so on. Even to the level that we changed the audio cables in our studio to good and expensive ones so that the EQ would be better. So we really went insane with this album … and with the next one I think we will go even deeper.

Was it all self-recorded in your own studio or did you have a producer or engineer?

Mikk: We did the drums with José Diago Neves, he’s from Portugal but living in Estonia and has worked worldwide, in one of the best studios in Estonia. But the rest of the stuff we did at our own studio and had some help from friends. We also had for the first time actually a proper producer, Martin Kuut. And we’re working with him on the next one already. It was a big game-changer that we had him on board. Especially he knows his way around with Johanna. Johanna can maybe comment on that?

Johanna: I dunno, I just get along with him…

Mikk: He’s really like Special Forces in vocals and vocal harmonies so he really brings a lot to the table.

Hando:  For me it’s always so difficult with all the vocal parts because I treat her singing like I treat a Moog synthesizer. In my head it’s just like ‘turn that knob hard enough and then the right sound will come out’, but voices are totally different and more complex and diverse. Voice is not like a modular synth you can just plug cables into and mess around with the sound until you are satisfied.

When you do vocals, do you try to do it in the first few takes or is it more like a hundred?

Johanna: Around a hundred times I think. But it depends if we decide to go with emotion - if the song is emotional then we go with it.

Hando: With vocals, there are some songs where you have to tell a story and need the right emotion and sometimes we use the third or the first take and we don’t do many overdubs. But when there are more electronic songs, then we try to layer the vocals so we can bring them out from the madness of synthesizers. Vocals can be a difficult instrument and to make it stand out, so we have to layer it and mess around with some effects and so on.

The record sounds like it’s going to sound amazing live. Do you feel that there is a difference between the live performance and the album?

Mikk: Beat wise or drum wise there are a lot of electronic beats, some of which were done with a drum machine or a computer. Live I play all that stuff so it definitely will be more aggressive. I like to think about it as if you listen to Nine Inch Nails stuff – the last three albums where the albums are done with all drum machines, but live he’s playing it so that gives it more emotion, more aggressiveness, and more punch. And our sound guy can manipulate the low end and make it more aggressive in a good way. That will get you more engaged in what we do.

Hando: With the mixing of the album also we have a mixing guy who is a very well educated and has super long experience with mixing a lot of different kinds of music. We try to find that golden way where it sounds good when you’re listening to the album on the radio or through a great speaker system at home. When we’re live we can effect the low end to be much punchier and more present. Our sound guy always says a concert is good when your bellybutton is wobbling. So we try to get that emotion out every time, if the PA allows us… We are doing our best on stage to get that emotion up in the audience.

Before you go on stage do you drink anything or do you concentrate on being in the zone?

Mikk: I haven’t drunk before shows, for a long time. I used to, but then I discovered that I play so much better when my head's clear and I have better memories and I can really be in the moment. I party afterwards.

Hando: Like there’s no tomorrow! With me also, I’ve had some experiences when I was younger and I almost fell off the stage because I had too much Jägermeister. After that I thought, ‘Fuck it! It would be better to do the gig without alcohol’. I have to do so many things to do on stage - I have to trigger the samples and play guitar, bass and keyboards and so on. So my mind has to be sharp, if my mind is not sharp then it will be chaos.

Johanna: It varies from the gigs but I tend to get big stage nerves before every show so my cure is one vodka-cocktail.

Mikk: With Johanna it varies from one tequila shot to a bottle… Actually that’s a joke!

Johanna: One time I had this experience when I was too drunk, not with this band but I was a backing singer. At the end of the show I realized I didn’t understand which key I was singing in. So that was like ‘ding! ding! ding! ding! Ding!’

Do you have any non-musical influences on your music?

Mikk: For me, and I think Hando also, movies are a really big part of our lives. I’m not just a movie fan but I’m a cinemagoer. Even if there are months when I’m broke, I still find the cash to go see some movies. I get a lot of ideas, sometimes I even have ideas to take some monologues or conversations and make them into lyrics because the point is just so clear. I also really like to read. I’m a big dystopia fan; Orwell and stuff like that.

Is there a country that was the best or had the best show?

Mikk: Lithuania has always been good to us. We felt more at home there than at home I guess.

Hando: Yeah. In the spring we supported the Hurt in the Baltics and when we did the Latvian show it was going to be a big arena and we were quite skeptical of the Latvian audience, but it worked out really fine. Then we came to Estonia and did a gig here, also a big arena, and there were girls in the front row who were on Instagram the whole time and the people really didn’t care. Which was a little bit sad. Then we went to Lithuania and people went crazy from the first song on, and people were singing the lyrics and so on so. It was a very nice moment.

If you could choose one country to play a show, apart from Korea, where would you choose?

Hando: I always like the big outdoor festivals in the UK like Glastonbury, Leeds & Reading Festival. I would really like to play there because in all the videos I’ve seen it looks amazing.

Mikk: I would like to play Roskilde because I’ve been there. I’d also like to play Red Rocks in the States… And maybe Rock in Rio in Brazil or Portugal. That’s huge but so many people would be interested in what we do. And I’d like to play in Russia. Red Square, man!

Hando: I know the Deftones did a very special gig in Iceland inside a volcano - that would be cools also. To go and give a concert in a place that no one else has ever been to. I know Metallica gave a concert in the South Pole or something like that. It was a sold out concert… there were like 40 people there!

What’s your favorite song to perform?

Johanna: [I’m Loving It]

Hando: Yeah, [I’m Loving It]. For me because it has a very simple but working bass groove and I really enjoy playing it. And also, our second song when we do out concerts Driving Alone At Night, I like to play that also because it has good energy for me.

Mikk: Yeah, [I’m Loving It] for me too because it’s a very strong song, so as a drummer I don’t have to play much. I really appreciate being able to play for the song so I can just keep a nice paradiddle groove on the song - I don’t have to be flashy or make a lot of breaks or just over play it - I can just stay in the pocket and just groove. This song just has a different vibe and it stands out for me even when I’m listening to it or when I’m playing it.

Who are the bands or artists that inspired you to become musicians?

Mikk: The first point I think of is when I was seven years old. The bands that inspired me then were Nirvana, Offspring, The Prodigy, and Queen. I remember hearing those bands when I was seven years old, it was ’93, I was like ‘I wanna be a drummer in a band’.

Prodigy when you were seven? They were scary!

Mikk: I remember I was in second or third grade; I had MTV and stuff like that. The Prodigy’s Poison video came on TV, and I remember I went to school that day and to my desk mate, I just sang him Poison. I was like, ‘man, this is the most awesome thing I have ever heard’. A few years later, a friend of mine, I think I was in fifth grade, gave me a cassette of Nevermind and I was just hooked. I was just like, ‘This is the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me so far’. So that was the beginning of the journey. And I remember Queen’s I Want To Break Free… Tina Turner! I had the Best Of Tina Turner. I love Tina Turner.

Hando: [chuckles]

Did someone laugh at Tina Turner?

Hando: Yeah, it’s me!

Mikk: I Can’t Stand the Rain – that’s an epic tune. Oh, and Meatloaf! What’s the song?

Hando: I Would Do Anything For Love.

Mikk: That was my favorite song, you know.

Hando: Yeah, anyway, Mikk had a really troubled childhood… But for me, I saw a German band called Guano Apes and their bass player Stephan Ude was really insane on stage; he was jumping around and had a really good bass sound also. At that moment, while I was enjoying the concert then I had this light bulb moment, “Ah, I want to play bass, I want to be in a band and I want to be like Stephan Ude”. That’s how it started for me.

Johanna: My parents are both into music; my mother is a conductor and my father plays bass also. I’ve always sang, you know. I took part in every school competition and so on. But I think the first time that I thought, ‘I want to be alone singing, not only the backing vocalist’ was when I saw Lykke Li in 2007 or 2008 on YouTube. That was the moment I thought, “Yeah, I want to be her”.

If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?

Hando: I would like to do something together with Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails because I really admire his approach towards music and all the electronical stuff. If it’s not possible to do something together with him then I would just like to have the privilege to just sit in the same studio with him and watch how he does what he does.

Johanna: I would like to sing backing vocals for Queen’s of the Stonage. Or do something with Son Lux.

Mikk: I would also like Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor. I’d also be happy for the opportunity to just be invisible in the room, sit quietly. I’d be ready to starve, and not have toilet breaks… Just be there. Otherwise I guess Florence and the Machine - I think Florence and Johanna would be very nice duet partners… I can’t think of any other… actually, I would love to do something with DJ Shadow. I would like to play those beats he’s creating, sampling. I would like to play them live.

Who made the album art and what was the inspiration behind it?

Hando: I think Johanna is the best person to comment on that.

Mikk: Because her boyfriend made it.

Johanna: I just had the image in my head and I told the boys that maybe it’s something we could do, the photographer also liked it… and the idea stayed. We went to see lots of different horses and tried to get them to do the jump … but that’s another story. My boyfriend is a graphic designer so the album stayed in the family you know.

Mikk: The concept was patience. If you are not patient, the horse of life or the universe will throw you off it’s back. So stay patient and good things will come to you. That is the main theme throughout the songs and the album. Also, the way to move forward with this band was for us to learn to be patient ourselves; that is something I still feel we need to improve on. That process is ongoing.

It’s been fun, thanks for talking with us.

Hando: See you in Korea soon!

Interview: Mike McGrath
Korean Translation: 임도연

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