Finland may be known for its “midnight sun” and northern lights, but it is also a country with a rich musical culture, which, while influenced by USA and UK, retains a distinctive character of its own. Matti Kervinen, head of Running Moose Productions, oversees a roster of indie bands for whom the natural landscape, dramatic seasonal changes, and deep folklore provide inspiration.
“From the start I’ve been a music lover,” says Kervinen, “I´m so lucky to do this.” Kervinen has been in and around music for much of his life. He played with prog-rock band Pax Romana in the ‘70s, Wolf Larsen in the ‘90s, before co-founding the band Kataya, whose 2010 album Voyager was nominated by ProgAwards for “Best Foreign Record.” Formed the same year, Running Moose owns two labels: the roots-orientated Puuma Records and Presence Records, which leans to Kervinen’s prog-rock predilections.
“Nature here truly is an inspiration,” confirms Rikk Eccent, whose second album, OwlAWOL, has just been released on Presence, “My roots are pretty much in a Finnish village called Maakeski. That translates directly to 'Middle Earth' in English—straight out of the Lord of The Rings.” You can hear it all on OwlAWOL, a glittering beast of a record, rich in melody and grand statements.
The Finnish climate is also a huge influence for guitarist and keyboardist Joni Tiala from the lable-mates Moonwagon. “Very long, cold and dark winters really affect you and not always in a good way,” he says, “but summers are very bright. So there’s a huge contrast between seasons, and we try to bring that contrast into our music.”
The juxtaposition informs the remarkably deep and dense sound produced by the trio. Their album The Rule of Three, echoes prog giants of yore with its layered textures, extended passages, and shifting tempos, but adds shimmering guitars, imaginative compositions and some delightful twists.
...there’s a huge contrast between seasons, and we try to bring that contrast into our music.
Also featured on Presence is Jeavestone, a band with its collective tongue held firmly in cheek. The video for the title track of their 2016 album, Human Games includes glimpses of a live performance with the sawing of logs, dismembered mannequins and a rowing machine.
This is an outfit capable of surprises. Take “I’d Be Your Weakness” from their wonderfully titled album Spices, Species and Poetry Petrol, which kicks off with some gorgeous classical guitar and faultless harmonizing before a wistfully dreaming violin comes in to anchor the melody. “The Leap of Faith’” by contrast gives us thudding drums, metal riffs and portentous vocals leading to crashing crescendos, while “Snowfall” is full-on folk rock.
The nights may be long and winters cold, but Finns can find plenty of white light and heat in their music scene. Just follow the Running Moose.