Originally from Hämeenlinna, Finland (the same town that brought the world Jean Sibelius) Teemu Sätilä found his way to Sydney, Australia and now London, each destination painting his musical path. Sätilä writes alternative pop music that is both wrought in emotion and totally addicting. His latest single, “Like You Do”, was released earlier this year and an acoustic version released just last week. Check out what else he has up his sleeve and where music all began for him in our interview below!
MFL: I have read that you started writing music at age 7! I’d love to know if you remember any of those songs and what you were inspired to write about at that age.
Teemu Sätilä (TS): I do, unfortunately. I remember I started writing songs in English when we started learning it at school at age 9. I would just make songs out of the stories in our books, like Goldilocks. I can’t remember any of the early original stuff, though.
MFL: Along those lines, are there any trends in what you feel inspired to write about as an adult with your latest project, Sätilä? How does this differ from previous experiences in other musical projects?
TS: I’m quite reflective and the move to London has aroused thoughts on community, loneliness, pursuing dreams and self-doubt.
MFL: Where in Finland did you grow up and how did that community influence your decision to choose music over other careers?
TS: Most of my definitive years I lived in Hämeenlinna, a town of 50,000 people an hour north from Helsinki. I had friends doing music when I was young and they were getting international recognition, too. Jean Sibelius was born in that town, maybe that has something to do with it. There’s a band called The Holy who are doing well and growing internationally and most of the guys are from there. When I started releasing music I lived in Turku and the community over there really encouraged and supported me to do music. I’ve been studying and working in retail on the side as music is not yet paying my bills.
MFL: You have bounced around from Finland to Australia and then all the way to London. How do you think your travels have influenced you as a musician?
TS: I think they have opened my eyes to see possibilities in music, whether that’s artistic choices or the different ways of creating a sustainable career. I love Finland but the size of the market and music industry feels very limiting at times. I guess that’s the problem of many small places.
MFL: Even though you are now based in London, do you still have your finger on the pulse of Finnish music? If so, who are some musicians from Finland that you feel are making waves?
TS: Oh for sure! I think there are really interesting music in Finland and also coming out of the country. I mentioned The Holy earlier, they’re really cool. Also an indie folk producer duo Lake Jons is very worth checking out. Karina makes soft indie pop in Finnish but are gaining traction abroad, which is so inspiring. If you enjoy cinematic indie folk pop, you have to check out Peura! Inside Finland, artists like Vesta and Ruusut are challenging the mainstream pop arena. And of course, our pop export legend Alma. She is a great writer, genuine person and has a sick voice.
MFL: When you are writing, recording and editing a new song, when does the song feel complete?
TS: Good question. I think it varies a lot. I think the song feels complete when you are satisfied with how the song conveys the original idea. Deadlines help a lot because you have to stop working on it at some point. If you still feel like it’s not complete, maybe leave it for a while and work on something else.
MFL: How did you come to work with producer Mikko Pennanen on “Like You Do” and what did he bring to the creation of the track?
TS: We met ages ago through a mutual friend. I was looking for new people to work with. I sent him the rough acoustic guitar version of the track and we met and chatted about music and what my inspirations and sonic vision were. He then went on to work on the track on his own and sent me the first idea. I loved it, we did a session together playing some more instruments and working on the production and eventually recorded vocals. The vocals have actually been done three times cause I wasn’t happy with my performance. It’s very rhythmic and especially the post chorus’ massive choir was so hard to perfect. I’ve never worked on a song like this, either, but Mikko managed to bring my vision to reality in a beautiful way, helping me develop my sound.
MFL: You mentioned once that “Like You Do”, was part of a bigger vision for you as a musician. Can you tell me more about what this musical vision is and when we can expect to hear more of it?
TS: At the time I started releasing music, I was inspired by singer-songwriters and folk rock. Australia and its scene had a massive impact on my early sound. I was listening to artists like Boy & Bear, Matt Corby, Ben Howard and Of Monsters and Men. The musical landscape started to change more into electronic music and I was listening to more electronic stuff so I felt the need to move with it. In a way, it was really painful and I think you can kind of hear the growing pains on my Out of Love EP. I was looking for ways to incorporate synths and electronic elements with the organic music I was making, still very much singer-songwriter at heart. The music that is sitting on my hard drive waiting to be released is a mixture of indie rock, alternative rock, singer-songwriter and electronic influences. Inspiration varies from Foals to Ry X and Tame Impala to Maggie Rogers. My love for pop music is manifested in the melodies and the polished sound, which makes it hard to box my music to solely indie or pop. The next single will be out early next year and it’s a mellow, more electronic track.
Thanks to Teemu for answering all of my questions so thoughtfully and to Lydia Reed of LPR for coordinating. You can follow Sätilä on Facebook, Spotify and Instagram.
I first heard LIA’s sound when listening to “Out of Control”, the track off of the top of her debut EP, Vasilia. I was instantly captivated by her soaring voice and clear command of electronic music.
LIA’s passion for music started at a young age and has carried her through her musical career including many exciting collaborations, debut EP and a collection of remixes titled Drifting Remixes, just released YESTERDAY (11/15). We discuss all of this and much more below.
MFL: When and how did music become part of your life? Discuss any influences including friends, family or other musicians.
LIA: I always loved to sing. Both of my mother’s parents were professional singers at a point in their lives (my grandpa has perfect pitch and grandma sang for a Madrigal choir in her youth that toured the east coast of the US). My parents sent me to singing lessons at 10 with a local Opera singer but I stopped after a year because I hated practice. It wasn’t until age 13 when my dad taught me how to read tabs for guitar that I started playing and singing on my own for hours at a time. My dad really encouraged me to take up guitar. He used to play me classical pieces he remembered from his studies at uni on his acoustic guitar when I was younger.
MFL: Is there a moment you recall when you landed on what would become ‘your style’ of music? Perhaps the first single you released or the first song you wrote?
LIA: I used to be so stubborn about what I thought was quality music. I hated electronic music and thought that acoustic or very minimally processed music was the best kind. I listened to a lot of early Bon Iver, Dave Matthews, Ben Howard so I think my lyrics take inspiration from them. When I was learning to sing, I heavily relied on covering Adele, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor and Feist so I think my vocal technique and melodies originate from them. I was invited to Banks’ show back in 2014 without knowing who she was and that night opened my eyes to the possibilities of marrying my voice to electronic music. I started to experiment on GarageBand. Once I explored the electronic scene in Montreal and met all of the collaborators I’ve worked with, I fell in love with electronic production. I would say my production is most heavily influenced by Bon Iver, James Blake, SOHN, Tourist and my friends!
MFL: Congratulations on the release of your EP, Vasilia. I understand it is inspired by a slavic folktale. Tell me more about the reason for this source of inspiration and how you wove your music around it.
LIA: Thank you so much! This EP began from a place of deep internal distress. I started some of these lyrics when I finished my undergrad degree at McGill back in 2016. I believe Out of Control is the oldest. When I had the initial idea, I remember feeling like I was walking down a path into the unknown – it reminded me of Hansel & Gretel. I built the lyrics off of that. Another day, I thought of the concept for To The Woods by exploring ways to metaphorically talk about the self. These organic landscapes and stories of challenge reminded me of the folk tales I’d been exposed to earlier in life. When I was a kid, I played a computer game called Baba Yaga and the Magic Geese. Out of curiosity I researched her legacy a bit and came across the story of Vasilisa (a protagonist who triumphs against Baba’s challenges). By researching eastern european folk tales, I stumbled across Uldus Bakhtiozina’s stunning photography and found huge inspiration from her aesthetic. Kissel Shore was written based on one of her photos.
MFL: What have been some of the greatest challenges you have experienced as a musician since you started writing/releasing music?
LIA: Definitely the pressure of an online presence vs. real-world. Everything is quantified and it’s very anxiety inducing to think someone can look at your statistics and assign you a value without ever experiencing your art or you as a human. There are many beautiful advantages of technology’s integration into the music industry: for example, the democratization of distribution, accessibility to music production tools and networking capabilities with other artists & industry professionals. Then, there’s a really dark side where people constantly compare themselves and feel inferior to others with bigger budgets, more time or more savviness. At one point this year, I was definitely spending more time worrying about statistics than making music and that felt awful. MFL: It looks like you have done some incredible collaborations including “Distant” with Clement Bazin and “I Promise” with Fossa Beats and Thomas White. How did these collaborations occur and are there more coming in the future?
LIA: Thanks! Both of these were internet connections. Clement is based in Paris and Fossa in Melbourne. Clement reached out with an instrumental and my friend Thomas White pitched me a collaboration he was working on with Fossa. I wrote and recorded both in my bedroom actually! There are for sure more collaborations coming with some very exciting and talented artists 🙂 I don’t want to spoil anything though so just keep a lookout!
MFL: I read that you grew up in Washington D.C. then moved to Montreal for school. How did this change in location change you both musically and otherwise?
LIA: Before moving to Montreal I would say my taste in music had less variety. Montreal pushed me to expand the horizon of my inspiration and of the self that I could be. I felt like I grew up in a fish bowl and I entered an ocean when I came to this city. It’s not even that big but there’s just so many people from so many places that all come here. Lots of cultures meld together to create the pulse of this city and I love it. It pushed me out of my comfort zone when I needed to grow and has had a huge influence on how I matured into adulthood.
MFL: Is there a particular time of day you feel the most productive/creative as a musician? If so, when is it and how do you harness those moments of inspiration?
LIA: I really love mornings for work but I find I have the best ideas at night. I guess I’m most productive starting my day and most creative ending it. I like to develop new ideas at night and round them out the next day. MFL: When you are not writing or recording music, what are you doing with your time?
LIA: Cooking mainly. I love getting creative with new ingredients or recipes. It’s a great outlet when I’m not feeling I’m flowing musically because I can get immediate results from my efforts when I decide to make a dish. Also, connecting with friends is really important for me. I often make time for dates with my good pals! MFL: Finally, what does 2020 hold for you musically?
LIA: My first release of the year will probably be a remix EP. I’ve solicited 7 incredible producers who all happen to be women. I’m also doing a remix by myself. Many times it’s not assumed that I produce or that my female friends do either. I’m really excited to release a project that puts a spotlight on talent that doesn’t get recognized often enough! My collaborations will be trickling out throughout the year as well. I’ve already started my next project which so far has 10 tracks all in different states of being finished so next year I’ll definitely finish it and start the release plan.
Big thanks to Ava Muir of Auteur Research for connecting LIA and I and BIGGEST thanks to LIA for taking the time to answer my interview questions while simultaneously working on releasing her remixes ❤ You can follow LIA on Facebook, Instagram and Spotify.
Just over a year ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danish power duo, Louise Væver Andersen and Line Mortensen, who call themselves ARES in the musical world. You can read that interview here! Now ARES is back with a new single and a new sound. Their more minimal approach to the new single titled, “Ghosts”, showcases their ability to expand and experiment with their sound while still delivering rich and emotionally-invested music.
They had this to say about “Ghosts”:
“With our previous releases we introduced a more dark and melancholic side of the project, but with ‘Ghosts’ we wanted to show that our sound and songwriting is constantly evolving. ‘Ghosts’ shows a different and more minimalistic soundscape than what we presented on our debut EP. We wanted to challenge the classic and well known ‘pop formula’ and show that a good pop song doesn’t necessarily need to end with a double chorus.”
The track was released TODAY and is the first taste of more new music that we can from the duo in the coming months!
Fall went by in the blink of an eye and winter is…basically here. However, this playlist includes music that came to me rapidly and in high volume during this lovely fall season. Please enjoy, there is something particularly excellent about this collection of tunes.