Finnish rockers Gardenhead released a new single “Devoured” on January 14, building upon their first single “Ordeal” and gathering momentum towards the end of their first year publicly together.
“Devoured” is just heavy enough to satisfy even the metal crowd, toying with time signatures and delivering both a progressive and desert rock-inspired feel. Singer Jonne Nyberg’s vocals play up this sound with the right amount of grit, and the band’s composition—a collaborative effort replete with lyrics by drummer Antti “Andy” Silkelä and musical ideas mostly born from guitarist Eero Silkelä—leads the listener to believe that the they’ve been together longer than one trip around the sun.
In an interview with Metal Solstice, Nyberg delved into the band’s origins and described their blend of influences that prove unique in today’s current Finnish rock and metal landscape. The vocalist also shed light on Gardenhead’s upcoming debut album, which has yet to be formally announced but is slated for spring 2022. (On a separate but related note: Christina Aguilera, if you’re reading this, please scroll to the end; Jonne Nyberg would like a word with you.)
Metal Solstice: For those just getting to know you, we’ll start with the basics. Can you share more about Gardenhead’s origins?
Nyberg: Coming up with a name was a great source of frustration for us and we fought about it a lot. At least to me, the most important thing about music and art in general is the emotional resonance that you get. Interpreting and analyzing is secondary, although important. That kind of goes for the name also. But with a gun to my head, I guess the name tries to express how the songs grow from our particular traumas and idiosyncrasies. The mind is a garden and the soil is our experiences…or some new-agey bullshit like that.
The members of our group are Andy (Silkelä, drums), Eero (Silkelä, guitar), Antti (Lammi, bass) and yours truly (vocals and guitar). We are split between Helsinki and Tampere at the moment, but we are all originally rednecks from Joensuu. Most of us have been friends for about 20 years now. Andy and I met in 2001 and have been playing together ever since. The other guys came in a few years later. The idea for the current band started about two years ago when we decided to take things in a new direction. Previously our sound was more rootsy, although we sometimes flirted with the kind of stuff that we play now. Things started really getting together for Gardenhead a year ago when we went to the studio for the first time.
MS: On your social media, you reference progressive/stoner/desert rock, to name a few. What would you say are some of your biggest musical influences?
Nyberg: Trying to describe your own sound is always hard, and we felt that those genres somewhat represent what we sound like. But to be honest we don’t really listen to that much stoner. Mostly our music is grimy and heavy prog rock that sometimes bursts into these ethereal choruses, and we occasionally throw in a fuzzy riff on the low D-string.
We all have our own influences that come through in the music. I’ve been listening to a lot of indie singer/songwriter stuff lately. Eero is probably the biggest consumer of modern prog and djent metal in the band. I would say that on this first album you’ll hear influences of ‘90s and early 2000s alt rock and metal quite a bit, but there’s also some Mars Volta, Nick Cave, and King Crimson. But to be honest, every person who’s heard us so far has described us differently.
MS: Does it feel like a bold move to write this style of music in a market that’s saturated with more extreme varieties of rock & metal?
Nyberg: Well I feel that our sound stands out in this age of generic desktop metal. I think there’s more ways to write extreme music than to just detune the guitars and scream all the lyrics, although we all enjoy that kind of stuff as well. To us our sound doesn’t feel bold at all, since we’re just making music that comes naturally. People can probably find familiar elements in our music, but I think overall we’re doing something unique when it comes to the current rock scene.
MS: Let’s talk about the album you’re working on now. What is the band’s collaboration process like during writing and recording? How much material did you have to choose from, and what can you share about the tracks that made the final cut?
Nyberg: Usually me or Andy has a song and then we hash it out with the band at the rehearsal space. Our latest single “Devoured” is a bit of a departure since most of the music was written by Eero, and it was more of a collaborative effort in general. The lyrics are written by Andy and they are about a friend who has passed away.
While we have been recording, Andy has acted as a producer when he’s not busy playing the drums. When we decided to start working on a full length album, we probably didn’t have a single song fully finished. In the end a lot of ideas were left out but the ones that made it seemed to naturally form a cohesive whole.
MS: You’ve spent time in East Sound Studios and Lammaskallion Audio over the past year working on this album. Was there anywhere else you recorded? How did these studio environments contribute to the outcome of this body of work?
Nyberg: We also built a studio setup in my apartment where most of the vocals and lead guitars were recorded. During the Lammaskallio sessions we had Janne Hakanen as our sound engineer and he also provided the equipment for the home studio.
The home studio setup was purposefully chosen for the vocals, since then I could get creative and play around with different ideas without the typical time constraints of a professional studio. I think this really comes through on the record and I’m really pleased with the vocals, which is not typical of me. In the other places we recorded we were well prepared and most of the time was spent dialing in the sounds. With this combination we were able to get a professional sound and also maintain a level of authenticity in the performances.
MS: What lyrical themes can you share about the forthcoming material? Is there anything that particularly drives the flow of the album?
Nyberg: Most of the lyrics, if not all, are about people stranded to the outskirts of society, either physically or psychologically. Some of the lyrics are inspired by actual people we’ve known and others are more abstract, describing an emotional state rather than focusing on a narrative.
We also tried to have a congruent sound and feel in the music. All the tracks are separate pieces but they are still connected through musical themes and sounds.
MS: We’re all dreaming of consistent live shows. What is your ideal Gardenhead gig or festival lineup, if you could choose? What kind of atmosphere do you intend to bring to the stage?
Nyberg: We’re equally anxious to get on the road. Our main focus will be abroad since we don’t really see a market for this kind of music in Finland. We have toured in Europe with our previous projects and those trips have always been amazing experiences.
Once we DO get on stage, we want our live shows to complement our music with large shadows and mystical atmosphere. We want our performances to feel like a force of nature rather than a typical rock show with egoistic macho flexing.
The perfect festival lineup for us would be Mastodon, Type O Negative (with Steele still alive), Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera (and she comes to sing a duet with me!)
Check out Gardenhead on Spotify here: