Poets of the Fall: ‘No Time to Get Complacent’
The Finnish rock giants are back in India next week for performances in Meghalaya and Kolkata, promoting their new album ‘Ultraviolet’
Anyone would count Finnish rock band Poets of the Fall among those ‘big in India’ artists and it’s not just because they’ve visited the country multiple times in the last decade, but also because they hold the distinction of releasing (via Indian imprint Sa Re Ga Ma) a Best of compilation album.
The compilation arrived in 2009, which is pretty early for a band who had been active only since 2003. But they had their time in the sun with songs like “Carnival of Rust” and “The Ultimate Fling” and certainly become one of the most popular artists in their country, topping the Finnish charts with every release. But even now on their eighth album Ultraviolet – which expectedly topped the charts once again – vocalist and founder Marko Saaresto says they aren’t ready to sit back any time soon. “I don’t think there’s any time in one lifetime to get complacent, even if you’re happy with where you are,” he says over email.
Saaresto finds a great unifying factor in the global listenership they’ve accrued over the years. “It’s great to have people coming to see us live, singing the songs at the concerts, wearing our t-shirts and all that. It means we have a common ground, a shared understanding that is music and its power to create something good and lasting,” he says.
Poets of the Fall head out in search of that common ground once again, promoting Ultraviolet with two shows in India this year, as part of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Meghalaya (November 2nd) and the Weekender Express edition in Kolkata (November 3rd). Considering they were one of the artists chosen as a result of a public survey by the festival, Saaresto couldn’t be happier about how they’re making their seventh visit to the country. Excerpts from the interview:
I understand this must be your sixth time in the country to come by and perform in India? Not many international bands get this lucky to come down here these many times! In fact, just this month we had someone like Bryan Adams, whom I think you’re about to surpass now in terms of India visits!
I think I counted seven just the other day, so that makes quite a few visits to India, yes.
And what is it like coming down to India each time and learning something different? You’re going back to Kolkata, where you must have some recollection of it from the previous times you’ve performed there? What stood out for you in that city?
It’s true, coming to India is always an opportunity to witness something new and fascinating. It’s also one of those places, where performing is so much fun, because people are really into the music and they are with you all the way at the concert. So it’s great. Kolkata, the previous time, was just amazing.
Coming to Ultraviolet, it’s your eighth album. A new album invariably means you end up pushing out a bunch of older songs from the setlist, right? What is that process like?
That’s just super tough, because you’d obviously want to play so many songs live. There’s also the time constraints to take into consideration. So you’re left with the task of fitting new material where there’s really no room for it. Easy peasy. But really, it’s also a great way to freshen up the performance.
You leave out some stuff you’ve played on the previous tour, and take on some of the new material. The choice is never easy though, and every song takes a lot of work and prepping to get it from the album to the stage, ready to be played live. We always try to think of what the concert structure will be like, in terms of what would it feel and sound like to us, if we were in the audience, what songs would we absolutely want to hear and what would be a nice surprise.
Poets of the Fall have approached music from a cinematic perspective, especially on Ultraviolet. Is that fair to say?
That’s a good question. I suppose that’s always been one of the approaches we’ve used. For me personally, music is a visual endeavor as much as a visual endeavor is a musical one. Does that make sense to you? I mean, when I write or hear music I see it visually, when I look at images I hear music. Weird, huh? But then, we’ve all got our quirks.
The band has certainly found a place in video games (like when “Late Goodbye” appeared on Max Payne 2 and Alan Wake), but I think it also goes really well with anime shows or TV shows and movies. Has that kind of offer come your way yet?
We’ve had some collaborations with films in the past, like the Finnish movie Year of the Wolf, which featured an instrumental version of “Carnival of Rust.” There have also been numerous offers from other film projects over the years, but no anime so far.
What the band has certainly admitted to in interviews before is that more than heavier music, there’s darker, more emotive songwriting going on. Is it just an effect of getting older where you just begin to mellow?
I think it’s more a matter of what speaks to us personally at the time a piece of music starts to play in our heads and we feel the need to get it out there, to express that vibe musically. It’s really not that much about choosing a style or genre of writing. It’s vital self-expression. The choices of style and details in production, whether musical or lyrical, come later, after the initial intuitive part of songwriting is done. I doubt age has much to do with it.
It feels like you’re one of the few bands that doesn’t get a lot of criticism from fans if you’re no longer heavier or anything like that. How often do you end up reading comments on social media or on YouTube to gauge responses? Or do you think most of social media for bands is now a bit toxic?
We do receive a great deal of our fans stories and responses on social media. For the most part it’s good, positive feedback and our fans know we don’t get hung up on any particular form of music, because for us music is just music with no boundaries. So we follow our love for it when making new songs, not genre guidelines.
And who knows what the next song or album will be like, full on acoustic with violins and noir lyrical content, or gnarly and industrial with dramatically distorted guitars and flying solos, or a bit of both in a nice mix.
While social media seems to be the drug of the modern day, it is like anything else with an edge. It can be used to do good and it can be used for other causes, all depending on the person using it.
You are on tour right now through Europe and then you have more shows through February next year. What else is coming up?
Well, I guess we’ll do the tour first, see where it takes us and then we’ll see what happens next. We are cooking up some new and exciting projects already, of course, but I can’t really divulge anything about those yet. We will certainly keep everyone posted on our website and social media soon as we have something definite.