Helsinki-based heavy rockers DIRT are on the precipice of both their debut album and a new year, and the November 19th release of their latest single “Real World” has given listeners a taste of the band’s direction. The single’s most recent predecessors are 2019’s Low Life EP and “Cold Sweat” cover, and the five-piece—including Aleksi Tiainen (vocals), Kappe Koutonen (guitar), Alex Anttila (drums), Sebastian Frigren (guitar), and Benny Raivio (bass)—have endured the strain of waiting for live music to fully return.
Abundant with catchy riffs, “Real World” also boasts vocal harmonies reminiscent of Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell, and features subject matter born from Tianen’s personal life. It’s solid rock, but not overtly heavy; although in an interview with Metal Solstice, Tiainen hinted at a range of heavier elements to come. The vocalist also shared details about the assembly of “Real World”, the soon-to-be-unveiled album set for release in 2022, and the cocktail of rock, grunge, and glam that inspires both the band’s stage presence and fashion choices.
Metal Solstice: “Real World” has gotten a warm reception so far, with over 18,000 Spotify streams in its first couple of weeks. Can you discuss your typical songwriting process, and more about how this one came together?
Aleksi Tiainen: “Real World” was written in Autumn 2019 during the intensive process of writing the upcoming debut album. Our guitarist Kappe had a bit weird and annoying but great riff, which we joked about a lot. The song turned out to be a poppy and groovy powerhouse that stood out from our catalog in an exciting and different way. It’s one of the strongest songs on a very strong record, so we, together with Ranka, decided to release it as the first single.
Our songwriting is based on riffs and melodies and raw instrumental demos Seba and Kappe (our guitar players) record at home and then we build songs out of them, all five of us together, at our rehearsal place. When it comes to lyrics, the majority is written by me and I usually need my personal space to do it, but we’ve thrown some ideas around and made lyrics together as well.
This is the usual procedure, but I don’t think there’s anything “sacred” in that recipe. After all, this is our first album, so anything could change in the future. In my books we’re just getting started.
MS: Is “Real World” a one-off single to tide listeners over for the time being, or is it a hint at the content—both musical and lyrical—that will come on the full-length album?
Tiainen: No, it’s not. Or maybe it is! [Laughs.] Our debut album reveals the whole spectrum of what DIRT is about; there’s without a doubt the heaviest stuff we’ve ever done, and also the most tender pieces of music we’ve ever come up with. “Real World” is somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, so yeah, it’s a great appetizer for the upcoming album. And at the same time it doesn’t really tell you much about the full-length LP.
“Real World” is about feeling like a nomad in the daily grind, as life on the road has been on hold for almost two years now. Having a little to no shows has been a very tough pill to swallow, since playing live has been my thing since the day one. I went through a lot during the recording process, so many other lyrics on the record are also about “finding the way”, no matter what the specific subject is. So I guess there’s a pattern, a very loose theme in the lyrics.
MS: You’ve got a couple gigs planned so far for the rest of 2021; how else do you plan to “ride the wave” of positive momentum that “Real World” is generating after a relatively quiet couple of years?
Tiainen: Yeah, we’ve got two shows coming up in 2021: we’re warming up the stage for Lost Society at Tavastia on the 13th of December, which is going to be a blast, but we’re also playing at a magnificent indoor festival called Hoarsefest at On The Rocks, Helsinki on the 26th of December with Oceanhoarse, Thy Row, and Varjola. So people have got a couple of chances to witness us live real soon, which is still, to this day, the best way to promote the upcoming record.
We’re also going to release a music video for “Real World” very soon and the next single is in the plans. A lot of cool stuff is in the works, for example the record release party is going to be something special. The date is TBA though, so stay alert for more info regarding that!
MS: What progress can you share about the full-length album’s completion and release in 2022? Recording was completed in late 2020, correct?
Tiainen: We began the recording process in April 2020, right after the so-called feces hit the fan all around the world. All the rhythm parts were recorded live (drums, bass and the majority of guitars) during an 11-day studio session at Lammaskallion Audio in Tuusula. It’s a warm recommendation for every band out there; it’s a top-notch studio surrounded by the most beautiful countryside in the whole Southern Finland. The vocals, some more guitars and some additional instruments were laid down at Studio Muuntamo in Helsinki during Summer-Autumn 2020 and the finishing touches were made in November-December 2020 during the mixing of the album.
We had no rush to finish the album, because no one wanted to release it to a world without concerts, where the proper marketing of a great record isn’t possible. We were pretty much out of patience many times, since playing live is the number one passion for every one of us. But now the release train’s rolling, we’ve booked some shows to next year, and the future’s looking great. The album is due 2022, and the exact date will be revealed in the near future.
MS: Will any of the unreleased music appear on the setlist of the December shows?
Tiainen: Yeah, we’re going to play several unreleased songs from the upcoming album. So if you want a sneak peek of what our debut LP is all about, those two days should be on your calendar!
MS: How has the partnership with Ranka Kustannus been so far, since releasing the “Real World” single was your first endeavor with them?
Tiainen: Obviously there’s not much to tell, since so far only one single has come out, but when we negotiated with labels, Ranka gave the impression they are genuinely interested in us and it seemed like a very good direction to go. So we made a deal and it’s all looking very good. The future will tell us more!
MS: One constant across DIRT’s catalog is the presence of Juho Salaterä. Can you tell a bit about his role in the band’s journey, and perhaps why he’s been the right person to include on production and mixing duties, release after release?
Tiainen: Juho has been our go-to guy since the day one. He recorded some of the instruments to our very first singles (2018), mixed those songs, and the Low Life EP (2019) was recorded, mixed and technically also produced by him. But we feel like Juho became the sixth member of the band during the making of the upcoming album, where he was, for the first time, heavily involved in the song arranging and writing process too. He has seen us evolve and grow as musicians and he’s got that vital “producer skill” to bring out the best of us every time we grab the instruments and the tape starts rolling. Juho has truly cared about this band and the process by being patient with our perfectionism and by giving it everything he’s got to make the record sound phenomenal. And it does.
MS: You’ve really made a home for yourselves in the Finnish rock scene—perhaps alongside Dead End Scene, Arion, Shiraz Lane, and several others. Which bands would you consider your local “partners in crime”, and why? Also, which band(s), Finnish or otherwise, would you like to perform with in the future if you could choose?
Tiainen: Our influences are mostly in heavy metal, extreme metal, hard rock and grunge, but labeling us as a “heavy metal band” or “grunge band” would feel like a wrong thing to do. I consider DIRT to be a rock band, simple as that, end of story. And because we’re quite heavy and versatile for a rock band, we’re a good fit with almost any rock or metal act out there.
DIRT has played, for example, with Shiraz Lane, Temple Balls, Oceanhoarse, Dead End Scene, and Wake Up Frankie, among all the others, and it’s been great fun every time. Those are, for sure, some of our “partners in crime” in the Finnish scene at least. We’re also really looking forward to the show at Tavastia with Lost Society. I’m 110% convinced it’s one hell of a combo you should not miss. Would be fun to tour more with those guys, that’s for sure!
MS: You just signed up for TikTok last week. What prompted the jump to this platform, and what kinds of DIRT-related content do you have in the works? Is this kind of content creation something you plan to invest a lot of time in, or is it more of a side activity?
Tiainen: Right now I feel like an old geezer in TikTok, but I’m learning. DIRT is going to release at least some live clips and behind-the-scenes videos there in the future. It’s nowadays a very important platform that we’re just starting to explore, so we’ll see what happens!
MS: It’s no secret that DIRT’s got style; it comes in a combination of fashion choices and a certain finesse on stage. What are some of your sources of style inspiration?
Tiainen: Seba and Benny have their style influences in the heavy/extreme metal world and on the other hand, Kappe and Alex look like they’ve formed a motorcycle-driving outlaw country duo straight outta 70’s. My style is basically a traditional rock n’ roll style with a hint of grunge and glam metal. So we look very different from each other, but we’re still definitely from the same “catalogue” and I love it. In my opinion, that’s way more interesting than five guys wearing similar shirts and pants in order to look unified. Though I love uniforms and the certain kind of show value that usually comes with them, that’s not our thing.
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