Not a Finnish – Estonian band anymore

mid 90s, there was no pub or venue in Finland where Smilers did
not play. They gained lots of experience in the music circuit, but
the success was waiting at the other side of the Baltic Sea.
Nowadays, there is no other band in Estonia with so many well known
radio hits and catchy melodies. Good times to smile!

We sit
down to have a chat (and a beer) with the composer and singer of the band
Hendrik-Sal Saller and the bass player Urmas Jaarman,
while the rest of the guys eat their lunch after the sound check,
getting ready for the concert that will take place in a quaint old
gunpowder cellar turned into pub in Tartu. Being cataloged for many
years as a Finnish-Estonian pop-rock band, Hendrik recognizes that
maybe it is about time to change that perception of Smilers for the
public, since only one original Finnish member, the keyboards player
Mikko Saira, remains from the old Finnish times.

there wasn’t place in Finland where we did not play. Somehow I
think that there was a problem because we did too many gigs at that
time and people were a little bit bored at the end. One day maybe the
audience was composed of only 6-7 people. It was quite hard work. And
there were guys who did not want to do it in that way anymore. At the
same time a friend from Estonia made an offer to make a record in
Estonia so I just put the question on the table: “who wants to
come with me to Estonia”. Some guys wanted and some guys not, at
that time it was quite Finnish-Estonian band, now it is more
Estonian-Finnish band.” 

Good football is better than bad sex

the change did well for Smilers
name of the band is inspired by a Rod Stewart’s song).
They started to collect awards and to be well known wherever they
played. This has led to a chain of radio hits like no other band in
the country. Songs like
or Käime
katuseid mööda
are almost
like second national anthems in the small Baltic country. Not
mentioning the unforgettable chorus:
on parem
(literally: Football is Better
than Sex). The compulsory question comes: Is it really better?

it depends. If you look at the
finals… maybe yes. Good football is better than bad sex, of course…
jokes Hendrik. I
can’t remember how the idea came out. The line just came out, and
yeah…I knew that in the history of my life, everybody would ask me
that question until the end of my days…"

catchy lyrics not only make Smilers popular for the audience, but
also for the companies in Estonia. 3 or 4 of the biggest brands in
the country have used Smiler´s tunes when advertising their
products. "
Everybody knows the songs.
They work out well in the radio. They have good spirit, so that is an
additional value for advertising. I don’t think there are other
reasons behind", adds Urmas, the bass
"And I must honestly say that we
are very lucky to have such a good composer as Hendrik is". Indeed
Hendrik is well known also in this aspect, having composed for other
Estonian artists like
Ines, Supernova
or the recent song representing Estonia in the last Eurovision Song
Contest in Helsinki for
Gerli Padar
(the sister of
Tanel Padar, the
national hero who won the contest in 2001)

was a big surprise for me. I am well known guy here against
Eurovision contest. And then our song has won the national contest.
At that time we were skiing in France and I got a call
“Your song is at Eurovision”…I was
feeling like…oh yeah…whatever. But well, it is a good song, I
think. It deserved better luck. I was in Finland for 2 weeks and it
was a nice experience to see all the big show around

that night, another good show for a band that does not need to prove
anything new to an audience that knows by heart all the lyrics.
Urmas swings his bass player wildly not stopping sweating copiously
while Hendrik jokes with the audience. Young girls dance cheerfully
in the first rows and the band attends the petition of its public
finishing the concert’s encore with the much appropriated song
Korrata (literally
“one more time”).

band does not seem to care about the hard life on the road and the
heavy tour schedule that they have year after year. Urmas comments:
"No. If you choose this occupation you
must be up for it. If any band member would say “no, I can’t do
it” then I would say ok, you are not a musician if you don’t like
to do this. It is our life, so it is never enough." 

we are doing a break in autumn and
other in spring. So
we are privileged since choose when to have holidays, so you can’t
really get tired", reaffirms Hendrik.

dedicates to the Finnish au
dience the only
sentence he remembers in Finnish: “Kaikki Uimahousut mukaan!”
That would resume very well the cheerful spirit of a band that takes
life easy and transmits a happy feeling wherever they play.