Rubik’s roots really help them to rock

After Finnish pop-metal band Lordi won the famously fickle Eurovision Song Contest, most people thought the only music coming out of the Scandinavian country was headbanging tunes. Rubik proudly show the music scene in Finland isn’t just brutally fast, guitar-shredding black metal bands.

“The majority of those bands that have broke, and gotten out of Finland as well, are metal bands,” says vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Arturri Taira from his home in Helsinki. “Metal has penetrated on every level of life in Finland. Our PM can throw the horns with his fingers and say ‘I like Lordi, I like metal.’ “

The art rockers, who have been compared to critical darlings like TV On The Radio and Animal Collective, are in the process of releasing their album Dada Bandits in North America. Loaded with weird and wonderful songs like “Goji Berries,” a spastic pop track which moves back and forth from Unicorns-esque spacey vocals to stomp-and-crash drums before finally bursting without fanfare like a child’s too-large bubble. Bandits is full of brilliantly composed tracks, truly amazing work from the Finnish unknowns.

Despite the myopic view of North American music journalists, Taira explains that Finland has a lot of great acts which only need one big break to get their music out there internationally.

“I think [Finland] has a pretty good indie scene — a pretty good underground scene as well,” he says. “It actually has stayed underground — or not as such of course — but those are not the kind of bands that fill the tabloids or get any airplay. They are very good and they gather a pretty big audience. At least in the big cities.”

Whereas places like Canada have multiple resources for independent music to get out — college radio, alternative weeklies, the CBC — it is different in smaller countries like Finland. Taira remains upbeat, saying it is the best time to make music anywhere, especially in his native country.

“We’re living in pretty exciting times, especially in consideration of what was going on 10 years ago,” he argues. “We had few metal bands. We had some indie scene, but the time wasn’t right for that.”

Yet, for Finnish bands, there’s one major issue: to make it locally, you need to sing in the native tongue. But for international success, it’s commonly accepted wisdom that it’s hard to break in English-speaking countries without English lyrics.

“[Finnish songs have] been in our culture for, like, 50-60 years,” Taira explains. “It started in the ’40s and ’50s when big international hits were translated into Finnish and I think that kind of started the heritage of Finnish songs.”

This is easily explained by the country’s relative youth. Finland declared independence from the Russian Empire in 1917 and was recognized on January 4 1918, so their own culture is very important to them.

“We don’t have a long heritage,” says Taira. “We’re kind of a newcomer in our independency. We haven’t been around for even a hundred years yet. It kind of created a demanded for a strong sense of nationality and that has had a really huge part of why the most popular bands in Finland sing in Finnish.”

For Rubik, who sing in English, it’s a problem they brush off easily. Good things are happening in their home country, good things which can only lead to success in the future.  

“As I said, it’s about to change,” Taira says hopefully. “The last 10 to 15 years have become more open minded. I’m looking forward to the future — but we’ll see.”

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