A Conversation with Finland's Freeweights
Many of us audiophiles (read: music snobs) are rather guarded, cynical people, careful to hide ourselves and our feelings behind carefully woven veils of irony, cautiously maintaining a distance. As such, we are distrusting of music that doesn't try to make us connect disparate dots into constellations of meaning, that doesn't force us to search the fog for something concrete. And when we do like something that doesn't hide itself away in layers of ambiguity, we do so ironically, calling it a "guilty pleasure," a term that shields us from truly identifying with something so upfront, so uncomplicated.
Cutting through these anxiously constructed layers of bullshit are the fantastic compositions of Helsinki's Freeweights. Instead of dealing in uncertainty, Freeweights work with neon lights. Their '80s-inspired tracks are a breath of fresh air—a defiant, youthful expression of honesty, paired with a level of talent and musical craftsmanship not often associated with contemporary pop music. There's no guilt in this pleasure.
If you haven't given Freeweights a listen before now, you need to seriously get on that. Like, right now. Here, I'll make it easy on you.
And if you're not on Spotify, Freeweights have put all of their songs up on their website to listen to for free. "Losing Sleep" is a personal favorite, but you literally can't go wrong with their music. Just hit play.
And now on to the main event!
A huge thanks to Markus Pirilä—Freeweights' guitarist and primary songwriter—who was kind enough to talk with me about everything from Tom Cruise films to wanting to play the Super Bowl halftime show one day. Certainly would have been nice to have Freeweights' music stuck in my head when Russell Wilson handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch for the game winning touchdown a few days ago, but, alas, it was not to be...
This City of Islands: What brought you all together as a band two years ago? Had any of you worked on music projects before Freeweights?
Markus: We started Freeweights with Toni (vocals) and myself (guitar) as a duo back in 2012, but we weren’t really a band back then. After our friends Anssi (bass), Antti (drums), and Kane (synths) joined us in 2013 things really got started. All of us had bands and musical projects before, but Freeweights started as a band with no pressure. We just have a passion to make very sincere pop music with a lot of emotion.
While it's not hard to hear the '80s influences in your music, what are the bands you guys take inspiration from that may not be readily apparent in your music?
Yeah, we do like '80s music, but not just because of the sounds or the crazy looks those bands had. I just think the music and the delivery from that era is so sincere and loaded with honest emotions without any irony. About the other influences, I think movies—especially Tom Cruise movies—have affected us pretty heavily. If these movies have nice looking cars in them, all the better. And, of course, relationships provide the best ideas for songs—you can’t deny that.
There's been a pretty strong '80s revival in music for a while now, but most contemporary acts seem influenced by bands like the Cure, Joy Division, and the Chameleons. What attracted you all to a more new wave pop sound pioneered by bands like Johnny Hates Jazz, Breathe, Culture Club, and other similar groups who were able to marry pop accessibility and musical depth?
That’s a good question. When we first started, we were exploring those muddy analog synth sounds for sure, but something dragged us towards cleaner, crisper sounds and moods introduced by the bands you mentioned. And by implementing some of these sounds in our songs we were able to bring more positive vibes, depth, and air to the music. I think our passion for that new wave-ish pop sound also has a lot to do with the music our parents were listening to when we were growing up. Bands like Go West, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Kenny G, etc., were rotating heavily on their record decks.
While your sound is quite unique compared to the American scene, are there bands doing similar things to Freeweights in Scandinavia or elsewhere in Europe? What are the local/regional bands you guys are into right now?
I’m sure there are a lot of bands doing music with similar influences and even with similar sounds. Some bands just do it with a lot of irony attached to their music, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but that's not the thing with Freeweights—we don’t have a lot of irony in our songs. I think this will stand out in the long run. I also like the fact that we’re basically a classic pop band using a rock setup, we’re not just another electro pop group.
Regarding local bands, there are a lot of great bands in Finland. It’s hard to name any without leaving someone out. Sorry!
What is your songwriting process like?
I write the music usually at home using my crappy Logic programming skills. After that the real work begins, I bring a demo to the rehearsals and we start playing it, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Everyone does their part, for sure.
The production on your music is incredible. Where do you guys record? What recording software do you guys use? Is Kane available to teach me via Skype how to produce music the way he does? Can he rope Matias in on the call, too?!
Thank you. We’re a DIY band and extremely proud of it. I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but we record practically all the instruments and vocals at our rehearsal space using a laptop. All the credit for this goes to our synth player/producer Kane. He’s a skilled professional studio engineer and he really does the magic when we want to sound good. Big thanks also to Matias from Audiamond for the mastering help. As said, I use Logic for putting together a demo and when we’re finalizing the songs. Kane uses ProTools. Ping, Kane, and Matias, share the knowledge.
Do you guys have plans to release a full album in the near future?
Sure, there are plans for an album—and we've got the material also—but we feel that we need a proper label to work with because our resources are just too limited. So until a publisher comes along that believes in our cause, we'll continue releasing singles and keeping our fans satisfied in small doses.
Are there any plans for larger European tours? Even—fingers crossed—an eventual American tour?
Of course an American tour would be the ultimate thing to happen one day. A half time show for Superbowl would be nice, too. We’ve already done a Baltic tour, and hopefully this year we can do some gigs elswhere in Europe!
What can people expect from Freeweights over the coming year?
Awesome gigs and new releases. We’re gonna record new songs, release a new music video, and hopefully we get on the road for an European tour soon.