Ochre Room. It’s hard not to notice that name when I scrolled through the Lost in Music Festival 2014 line-ups. Ochre Room’s going to play in that annual city festival held in downtown Tampere, southern Finland on Saturday, 18th of October 2014. It’s not only their name that makes them stand out. The combination of Americana, folk-rock, with a touch of northern melancholia in their music makes Ochre Room unique. With six members, the Finnish band has been known not only in Finland and Nothern Europe, but their albums are also available in Central Europe and UK.
If I talk about Ochre Room, I think I will have to mention about their music videos as well. Don’t Try and My Summer from their first album, Evening Coming In (2012), also Garbage Trucks Are On The Move and Other Side Of Town from their recently released album, Box, Bar, & Diamond, they all have something in common. Ochre Room’s music videos tend appear like short films. We can see the story and how it relates to the song, making the music has cinematic sound in it.
With their second album just came out, I was very lucky to be able to contact its singer/guitarist/composer, Lauri Myllymäki, to have a bit of talk and get to know more about the Ochre Room. He talked about the band, the music, and their upcoming goals.
Q: First of all, why did you name your band “Ochre Room”? What does it mean?
A: We had a hard time naming the band and we had played around with different ideas and came up with different words and word combinations to the point of frustration. I recall it was our rhythm section – bass player Tomi and drummer Antti – who coined the words ‘ochre’ and ‘room’ and put them together. This name seemed to fit the music well; it had a nice eeriness to it. The ochre room is a mystery, it doesn’t refer to any particular room. It’s a space of imagination and emotion, like a space in a David Lynch film.
Q: How do you describe your music?
A: It’s rooted in North American singer-songwriter-music and folk rock of the 60s and 70s but the fact that we come from Finland lends it a unique vibe, a Scandinavian melancholy if you will. Atmosphere and “mood” are important to me as a songwriter. And the mood is always created as much in the arrangements and the instrumental parts as it is in the lyrics. We make use of the soloist potential of instruments like trumpet, cello and guitar for example. It’s nowhere near pure “roots” or “country” music. I like to think it as musically and lyrically ambitious folk rock.
Q: What are your songs mostly about?
A: They are mostly songs about loss, but not always about losing somebody. It can also be loss in a wider sense, melancholy songs, songs of sorrow. There’s no way around it; our lyrics are quite mournful. But, on the other hand, there’s often a certain comfort in melancholy. It’s a whole other thing than depression. Some people have told that our music and our live shows have a somewhat transforming effect – from sadness to peaceful delight. One person even said that seeing us live is like a church service. That’s about the greatest compliment I can think of!
Q: What makes your band different from other bands?
A: That’s a hard question for me to answer since I can’t view our band from the required objective viewpoint. But now that you asked… Certainly there are not many bands like us in Northern Europe where we hail from. We don’t follow any trends or some fixed idea of a genre. We also seem to take things much more seriously than many other bands out there. We make a painstaking effort in writing the music and the lyrics. Unlike most of the indie folk bands, we don’t consist only of four skinny, long-bearded guys but also have two gorgeous women (the second vocalist Minttu and the trumpet player Tanja) in our ranks. Some of the most recognizable features of our sound are the harmony singing between me and Minttu and the use of trumpet and cello.
Q: You recently released your second album, what’s the concept of this new album and what makes it different from the previous one?
A: The previous album Evening Coming In (2012) was our debut and at that time we had little experience about studio work. We just performed the songs in the studio the way we’d played them live. In the making of Box, Bar & Diamond we wanted to focus more on the art of recording, on different arrangements and instrumentations. I had bought some recording equipment myself and recorded some of the instrument parts at home. The outcome is sonically a bit more versatile and more self-confident. It sounds like a band that’s found it’s sound. Songwise the new album is more twofold than it’s predecessor; on the one hand there are plenty of catchy country/folk rock-songs and on the other hand more epic, cinematic songs.
Q: I see your band has played in many shows, which show is your favorite and why?
A: We have lots of good memories from the road. Three shows at Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg last year were awesome and we can’t wait to get back there as soon as possible. There will always be something special in the shows at our home town Tampere and especially at our favorite bar Telakka. One of the most important shows on our journey has been the first one, of course. After we had released a three song EP Blue Ribbon in 2011 we played our first gig at our flat for a handful of friends. It was the first time I ever sang in public. We were all grave and anxious as hell.
Q: Last but not least, what’s your next goal for your career?
A: Our most important goal at the moment is to do as many shows outside of Finland as possible. Germany is the first country we’re striking! But of course the main goal is always the new undiscovered songs, the unrecorded albums, the undiscovered sounds… I have plenty of new song ideas and they are quite unlike the old ones. Much more acoustic and obscure. I don’t know where they are taking us but I’m sure that this is the right direction.
So what comes up in my mind when someone says “Ochre Room”? I’ll think of an atmospheric melancholy music that brings a story with it. A different kind of Finnish music.
Ochre Room’s gonna have a new live session music video coming up online on August 24th, where there will be five songs recorded and shot at an old cabin by filmmaker,Sami Pöyry. It should be a good chance for you to experience the sound and the story of Ochre Room yourself. http://ochreroom.com
Elsa Hestriana, 2014.