Recently I got an email from a Finnish group called Eva on the Western Castle Island wishing to share some tunes. After listening to their music I was surprised by their sound, definitely not what I had expected to hear from a band out of Helsinki. Intrigued, I asked Eva on the Western Castle Island if they wanted to do an interview, they agreed, and after a few emails back and forth the end result is the conversation below.
Portraits & Walls: How did Eva on the Western Castle Island come to be?
Eva on the Western Castle Island: Ilkka, Eero and Martin have been playing together almost eight years (wow that’s a long time! :D). We met in High School and formed and Band called Mulletproof. We played some kind of progressive rock mixed with some metal elements and pop melodies. It was quite weird and in the end no one really understood our music. That band lasted till the winter 2011 when we decided that wasn’t something we wanted to do anymore. Some members left the band but the three of us wanted still play together. We weren’t really sure what kind of music we wanted to play but one thing was clear; We wanted to play music that is based on good catchy melodies, fresh sounds and not as melancholic as the music you normally hear in Finland. Ilkka started to compose some new songs, but somehow it still didn’t feel right. One day we started jamming a rough version of Shooting Stars & Satellites when Martin got inspiration about how to arrange the song and how it should sound. That song was sort of the kick off for Eva on the Western Castle Island.
We felt really good about our new direction but we were still missing a good singer with some personality. In the spring 2011 we found Eva through an ad she had posted on an internet music forum. She seemed really interesting with her Malaysian background and her sound was also really different from all the other singers in Finland. Luckily Eva liked also our melodies and the happy vibe in our music.
P&W: You mentioned that Eva grew up in Malaysia where she was also a professional singer, how did she end up in Finland?
Eva: At the age of 19, I realized that the type of singing career in Malaysia wasn’t really what I dreamed of. Instead of having the talent of singing, being young and nice looking were actually the elements they were looking in singers, and I knew that it would be only temporary. So I needed a change. I wanted to get out of that small bubble and seek for new challenges. Fortunately my sister lives in Finland. With her encouragement, I came to Finland to pursue higher education. Simultaneously I managed to develop my vocal technique with a good coach and now things are rolling quite nicely!
P&W: Your music is definitely unique in its genre mixing and Asian influence, not something that would typically come to mind when think of music from Finland, How did you end up settling on your current sound?
EotWCI: Well it all sort of just came together when Eva joined the band. We thought that it would be really cool to sing also in Chinese because after all Chinese is her mother tongue. It fitted our music really well too and so we decided to make it a permanent part of our music. Eva’s way of singing and also her phrasing is really Asian-like.
P&W: One of the things I’m always curious about is what bands draw influence from, so, what do you guys as a band draw influences from and what do you think has the most impact on Eva on the Western Castle Island as a whole (or individually)?
EotWCI: All of us have sort of a different tastes in music but there are also a lot of bands we all like. Currently you might hear influences from bands like Surfer Blood, Deerhoof, Rubik, Magenta Skycode, The Stone Roses, Mew, Real Estate, Wild Nothing, Woods and The Naked and Famous to name some.
P&W: Whats the significance to the name Eva on the Western Castle Island?
EotWCI: Western Castle Island comes actually from our surnames. Eero’s surname is vesterinen which stands for Western, Martin’s surname is Linnankoski (linna = castle) and Ilkka’s surname is Saarinen (saari = island). And well yeah, Eva is our singer 😀
P&W: Your lyrics are predominantly in English, despite being a group from Finland with a singer from Malaysia. Why is that?
EotWCI: Eva’s mother tongue is Chinese so Finnish wouldn’t really work… We can’t also do music only in Chinese so English is a quite natural solution for us.
P&W: It’s definitely crazy how a band from Helsinki and a music blogger from Louisville, Kentucky can connect via the internet. How do you think growing technology and what not has changed music? How do you all feel about it?
EotWCI: Yeah, it’s definitely crazy! All in all it has made the world so much smaller, which has its good and bad sides. For the music business it has made a lot of things easier and especially for bands like us. 15 years ago it was still really difficult for Finnish bands to get any attention abroad but nowadays there are a lot of bands that are more popular abroad than in Finland. Our kind of music is (at least now) quite marginal and for us it would be quite difficult to make a real breakthrough over here. In Finland the music scene is still pretty much about Finnish “schlager” and pop. There are a few bands that are sort of in the same genre with us and they are doing quite fine here as well, but still, it’s nothing compared to the “schlager” artists. Through the internet we have the possibility to find our audience wherever they are and we don’t have to be completely dependent of the Finnish music industry.
P&W:You all are still a relatively young group, having formed in the spring of 2011, what are your goals for the future? What do you wish to accomplish as a band?
EotWCI: Yeah, it all just started! We are really happy about the attention we have gotten already and we are working hard to make this thing really happen. Currently our plan is to make brilliant songs and to do as much gigs as possible. We are also planning a little tour in Malaysia next year. Let’s see if we can make there. Hopefully people keep on liking us and the word keeps on spreading. We hope to get some gigs also in Central Europe and to release an album in the near future. It would be also really cool to play one day some gigs in the US too. As a band, we wish to accomplish the same thing as probably all the other bands in the world. To make our mark on the history of music!
Check out some of Eva on the Western Castle Island’s tunes!
“Shooting Stars & Satellites”