“The Beatles!” This is what Asmo (singer & organ)
and Topi (guitar & keyboards) of Downstairs first tell me when I ask them
about their influences. Listening to their raw and edgy music, it might be hard
to imagine such an answer. Indeed the band defines its music as “fat drumbeats
and cactus-like vocals up your bleeding ass”. Not really all-you-need-is-love
type of music.
Downstairs is the latest product of the Fullsteam
Records factory. They just released their first album, Oh Father and they start
appearing in most of the music magazines. Their indie punk rock might not be
suitable for everyone. Even their live act can be a weird unpleasant pleasure
with Asmo singing his guts and redeeming the darkest demons of the fun house.
But don’t be afraid, Downstairs also presents one
catchy first single (Peephole City), which should be part of the next Suomirock
is going fast for you lately: a deal with Fullsteam Records, last year and now
a lot of hype around the album release. How do you feel about it?
Asmo: We feel happy obviously. We want to get noticed.
We want people to know who we are and what we do.
Topi: The whole media seems to be quite interested on
Fullsteam Records as a label and its bands. They have so many bands that have
grown from there, new bands that they signed and went big. This is interesting
for the media.
expecting a call from Fullsteam?
Topi: I think we were a bit surprised. The other bands
there are a bit more mainstream. But we’ve known a few of the guys that work
there for a long time. Anyway, I guess you can say that we were surprised.
"They were afraid we were going to screw up the album and make a very clean sound"
Tell me a
little bit about the recording process of the album.
Asmo: We were writing for the record when we got
signed. We were about to release it ourselves, but as we got signed we kept on
writing the record. It happened naturally.
Topi: We agreed doing the contract a long time ago,
but it wasn’t made public until October. So, we officially put our names on
paper in October but the album was recorded in September at Finnvox Studios.
Did you have
any pressure from the label to make the record like they wanted?
Topi: No. We did some demos of the album. When they
heard we were going into Finnvox Studios, which are one of the best in Finland,
they were scared that we were going to screw it up and make a very clean sound.
So they wanted us to record more stuff sounding like the demos: garage,
distorted and other things like that. There was no pressure for us.
like it was the opposite you would expect from a record company?
Asmo: On Fullsteam, the bands do whatever they want.
They might come to the studio to check, but they don’t interfere.
What is the
meaning behind the album title, Oh Father?
Asmo: There are tons of meanings. Whatever you want to
make of it. Obviously father is father, but it can also be god or just our way
of saying what the hell is going on. It is just a phrase. It has an open
meaning. It fits differently to every song individually, but it fits to all of
them as a whole too.
the songwriting? You have pretty interesting song titles and lyrics. Where all
these ideas come from?
Asmo: All the ideas come from everyday life. I might
see something in the news that I don’t like or I might write about my personal
life. Lyrics are pretty obscure. They are not meant to be understood
completely. Just make up whatever you want from them.
Peephole City? What is it?
Asmo: It is a classic escape song. It means that you
want to go somewhere else.
Topi: It is like Gotham City!
Some of the
bands you mention as your influences are not so old (At The Drive-In, Fugazi,
…Trail of Dead). But do you also listen to the “classics”?
Topi:Also Black Sabbath, 70s Alice Cooper: Billion Dollar
Babies, School’s Out.
Asmo: I like Rolling Stones, The Clash, MC5, Iggy Pop
& The Stooges, Led Zeppelin… the first bands that I got into. You might
not hear them in our music, but they are there. We listen to all kinds of
pretty interesting indie / alternative scene in Finland at the moment with
bands like Rubik, Lapko, Sweatmaster… Many of them are your label mates, what
do you think about this situation?
Asmo: It’s great. Most of those bands are in
Fullsteam, which is kind of a phenomenon in Finland. They release good music.
Topi: All the people at Fullsteam they operate kind of
underground. They go to see gigs. If we are on tour with a good band, we’ll
tell them check out this band. Finding new bands that have potential before
major or other record labels find them. That’s one part of the reason why so
many promising and talented bands come from Fullsteam Records.
Asmo: They don’t sign a band that they think will sell
millions of records. They sign a band they like.
Topi: They let the band grow. They don’t say that if
you don’t sell 200,000 records with your first album, you will be kicked out of
the label. They give their chance to grow. For a long time all the successful
bands were heavy metal bands. There were no indie bands known. But Fullsteam is
doing a good word spreading the word.