Musical innovation often comes from opening your mind to the unfamiliar. We spoke to two artists pushing their respective genres forward with the help of unexpected and diverse influences.
Unlike Jaakko Eino Kalevi, whose fifth album was recently released, Linn Koch-Emmery is yet to release her first. However, everyone already seems to want a piece of her and we can only imagine where she will be musically once she has the same number of albums to her name. The vitality of her catchy indie rock is set to mesmerise a large span of audiences while still staying true to the sonic traditions of her genre. As a lover and creator of synth-based music, Kalevi generates fresh, new sounds, mainly through his exploration of technological tools. Still, he maintains a scaled-back soundscape that is accessible and meaningful, in both musical and lyrical composition. It is intriguingly futuristic in its own way. Even though their musical styles differ, these artists are brought together by their ability to create melodies that heavily characterise them as creators. And one thing is clear: diverse and unexpected influences are fuelling both their distinct sounds.
With the buzz building about forthcoming releases, the Swedish artist Linn Koch-Emmery is certainly turning people’s heads. Over the past two years, she has been increasing her repertoire of melodic indie rock, with her artistry landing her supporting gigs and tours for acts such as Johnossi and Pussy Riot. Her raspy and intimate vocals soar over effect- driven and guitar-focused tracks. It’s the perfect combination of accessible pop elements and powerful concert material. This dynamic became even more apparent with her EP Waves, released last year, which followed the well-received Boys of 2017. On Waves, she was even more explosive and energetic, while preserving her melody-heavy sound that has made her stand out as a songwriter. Having been finding her voice as a songwriter since her early teens, Koch-Emmery has always chosen to sing in English rather than her mother tongue –
“Maybe because I naively had my mind set at world domination when I started out. English is not my first language, but songwriting is not rocket science either.” And so, when asked about what rock music needs, she says “good lyrics”. And, apparently, better drummers. She wants to have her mind blown and feel something she didn’t expect to at other artists’ concerts: “Tears are good, at least if they’re in the eyes of the audience.” She’s currently excited about the New York-based indie-rock outfit The Dig, a band whose haziness and most distortion-driven moments resemble her own music. “Their album Midnight Flowers has been my soundtrack to pretty much everything during the past couple of months.” However, she has a much broader palette of inspiration than rock. She also mentions Lil Peep, who died in 2017, and whose merging of emotional rock and hip-hop quickly made him famous as part of the rising genre of emo rap. “He had the ability to make young people feel stuff, me included,” she says. “That itself is more rock’n’roll than anything else.”
Koch-Emmery has been known to incorporate her guitar pedals into her live shows in a chaotic manner, where the performance sometimes shifts away from the microphone to the floor. “Sometimes it just makes more sense to turn knobs and push buttons. I never had the patience to learn to play solos.” Perhaps her previous ambitions of world domination weren’t so naive after all, at least in the world of indie music. Koch-Emmery already has a growing international following, in Scandinavia and Europe, as well as across the pond. Up next is a tour that will encompass parts of Northern Europe and England. After that, we can start to get excited about her debut album, which she’s recording later this year.
Jaakko Eino Kalevi
Last October, Jaakko Eino Kalevi released his fifth album, Out of Touch, with this latest addition to his considerable discography showing that his dreamy electronics, rhythmic repetitions and register- roaming voice have come to act as constants. Nevertheless, he is always tweaking and experimenting with new sounds, pushing the envelope without relying on a particular genre. The results are often intriguing journeys through songwriting and astonishing production. With Out of Touch, Kalevi has steadily navigated stripped-down lo-fi and synth-heavy pop, a direction that largely stems from his background in dub. The way his vocals sometimes seem to take the backseat has some similarities to Bibio, while there’s something about his evocative 1980s groove that is reminiscent of Alex Cameron. However, inspiration is inevitably something that shifts over time. “Lately, I have been listening to music kind of passively, without necessarily knowing the artist,” he says. He also mentions an array of artists who inspired him when making the album, who range from the legendary jazz pianist Steve Kuhn and star-spangled funk god Bootsy Collins to Brazilian psych-rock pioneers Os Mutantes and comedian Tim Heidecker and his humorous songs. This somewhat-surprising collection of influences is, at least genre-wise, a good representation of how he is able to repeatedly surprise fans with his unpredictable sonic nuggets. In his songwriting, his dub background clearly manifests itself in his fondness for creating tracks that have melodic synths dancing around a steady beat. “My songs are usually built around a beat,” he says. “First I do the drums and then the bass and then build on that.” But the reverse process can be just as useful.
“Sometimes ideas come in a different form, though. It could be also a piece of melody. That’s actually great because it is easier for me to come up with rhythmical stuff. Athens was especially an inspiration for many of the songs on this record,” Kalevi says, who alternated between spending time there, in surroundings more unfamiliar to him, and at home while putting the album together. He also mentions other influences on the lyrical themes of his latest release, which are small stories in themselves. “Some thoughts from my youth. A memory of an old song my friend used to play,” he says. “A fortune cookie. Shampoo commercials. Cooking at night. Dream girls and romances that never happened. Unconditional friendship and stupid fears.” Simultaneously ambiguous and specific, they are all elaborated on in this album. Despite being able to make his living through his music – the dream of many aspiring musicians – Kalevi says that even though he appreciates he is in that position, it wasn’t something he was actively aiming towards initially. “I would like to have some other job though. Just as a balancing thing,” he says. “Sometimes I feel I’m thinking too much about myself. Maybe I could be a waiter. Or a bellboy.” Let’s hope he sticks to music. Regarding his future evolution as an artist, he admits he’s playing it by ear. “I’m always after new synths, and that is inspiring and brings new ways of doing things,” he says. “Maybe there is a new direction that hasn’t been present in my music yet. Who knows?!”
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