TMF meets Von Hertzen Brothers
Formed in 2000 and hailing from Finland, the Von Hertzen Brothers are an award-winning five piece, comprised of titular siblings Mikko, Kie and Jonne, with Mikko Kaakkuriniemi on drums and Juha Kuoppala overseeing keyboard duties. Often described as having classic prog rock tendencies, the VBH' sound seems to be defined more by its spiritualism, intrinsic to their upbringing and personal travels.
With the release of their fourth album Stars Aligned in 2011, the band made some headway into the UK and began to gather a loyal following. Last year’s Nine Lives further cemented their reputation as being not only one of Finland’s leading rock acts but one deserving of even greater things. 2014 saw them back in the UK, supporting The Wildhearts and soon they’re about to go to the other side of the world in tackling the Asian market.
We caught up with Kie briefly to find out where they’re at and what to expect in the future.
Well, at this moment we’re trying to concentrate on new material and the plan is to hit the studio this summer or early fall. So, we will be doing shows off and on but maybe save a major tour for the next album!
You’re playing at the Great Escape Festival in Brighton on 8th May, an event known for introducing upcoming artists. Though you can be considered veterans yourselves at this point, it’s a great opportunity to open up. I guess you’ll be soaking up just as much of the atmosphere when not on stage?
Definitely! We’ve heard so much good about the festival. Somebody said The Great Escape is, in a way, reminiscent of this Flow Festival we have in Helsinki, Finland, which has this super cool and special vibe to it.
You’ll be performing a few dates in Japan soon. Have you visited before and if so how have they responded to you? Hanoi Rocks is still a huge deal over there and I imagine they have this inherent love of Finnish music.
Yes, in 2007 we actually played there a showcase with Apocalyptica, Stratovarius and the likes, as a part of this “Finland Fest” event arranged by Music Finland. The reception was absolutely warm and supportive. And yes, I have a feeling that, at some strange level, Japanese and Finnish have something in common. We all love Japan and are more than exited to get there again.
What's your average live schedule like?
It depends whether we have a new album out or not. I would say we’ve done some 70-80 shows after Nine Lives.
It’s true; our roots lie partly in “classic rock” or “prog rock” and we’ve listened to bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, The Who, Queen etc. Especially in our earlier stuff you can hear a tendency for epic, ten minute songs with more than average ABABCB-song structures. But that’s just one side of VHB. We’ve always listened to so many different kinds of music and had also those four minute songs that are simple and catchy on VHB albums. Are Muse or Biffy Clyro prog bands? It’s fair to say we are definitely not just a prog band, maybe a modern rock band if labels are necessarily needed.
From what I’ve heard to date many of your songs are nicely layered, some containing a mixture of metal vibes, Americana and Asian references. There’s certainly something a little profound about your lyrics. How would you describe your philosophy on life and approach to sound and is there an overall message to your music?
Hah, well, we are not exactly about the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, that’s for sure! The fact that Mikko lived in India in an Ashram for seven years obviously has a certain impact to his philosophy and the lyrics in his writing. Music-wise and message-wise, it feels stupid to even try but if I had to put it into one word: freedom.
In 2011 we did this exclusive one-off show “A Night At The Huvila” with a great former Finnish band called Rubik. The evening was based on the music of Queen and we heavily re-arranged the songs for that special evening. The version of ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ was arty, hectic and manic; very much percussive driven. I, for example, played a metallic trash can picked up from our rehearsal space. Every now and then we’ve been playing this acoustic version of the song, just for the fun of it. Apart from this, the only cover VHB has ever put on an album is ‘21st Century Schizoid Man‘ by King Crimson.
Would you say that your fifth studio album ‘Nine Lives’ best represents you at the moment? I find it’s a very diverse album, which has a distinct flavour, yet I think if I were to recommend you to someone for the first time, it’s a good starting point.
Yes, the latest album obviously represents where the band is at present. And as you said, Nine Lives is probably the most diverse album so far, maybe along with Stars Aligned. On the other hand, when we play live we tend to do stuff from pretty much all of our albums, so there is also a Best Of that gives a rather good insight on our previous material.
What can we expect from VHB after this?
After The Great Escape and Japan we start to really focus on the new material. The album is to be done and dusted by the end of the year and out in March 2015. After that...hopefully ZILLIONS of old and new fans for whom to play and with whom to share this musical mission of ours, hah!
Thanks to Kie for taking his time out for us.