Smackbound, the new metal band from Finland featuring members from Stratovarius, Wintersun and Tracedawn, is like a natural red wine: full of elegance, lots of complexity and something that gives you joy. PowerMetal.no asked a few questions to founder, vocalist and yes: wine expert, Netta Laurenne, to find out more.
You have a long career singing in various bands as a session vocalist, mainly in Finland. And as far as I know Smackbound is your first band that you have started. Can you tell me the idea behind Smackbound?
Netta: You are right, Smackbound is the first band I have started myself. I have had this vision of powerful, energizing music where I can use my voice the way I want to. I got my first paycheck as a singer in 1999 and have since sang a lot of things to others. Often, over the years, I’ve found myself in a situation where I’ve been asked to sing «pretty» and less intruding. I wanted to free my voice to be what it is, have my «own voice» in this world. I wanted to be able to sing powerful but still have great melodic music. I wanted great musicians around me that share my vision. I wanted it to be a band, not a solo project.
Along with vocalist Netta Laurenna, the lineup is completed with guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari (Wintersun), drummer Rolf Pilve (Stratovarius + Wintersun), keyboardist Vili Itäpelto (Tracedawn) and bass player Tuomas Yli-Jaskari.
How was the search for musicians? Did you have an idea of who you wanted to join?
Netta: I knew I wanted both Teemu and Tuomas to be in the band since I knew them already. Then Tuomas suggested Vili from his old band Tracedawn and I met with him and it was an instant click. Teemu said Rolf might be interested to join and I sent him the two demos. I knew I wanted him in the band the second we met to discuss the possibility and next thing I knew…we had a band!
Did you have songs written, a musical direction and an overall plan for the band all worked out before the other guys joined, or have you worked all that out together?
Netta: I had two demo songs I played for the guys when I asked them to join, just to give them an idea what the band is about. We listened to a lot of music discussing the things we want in our music and what we do not. Then we started having songwriting camps; packing our gear to a van and driving to a cabin in the woods for days just to be together and write. All songs are made this way, together.
So everyone in the band is involved in the songwriting?
Netta: We have written all songs within the band. Vili, Tuomas and myself are the core team always participating in the songwriting and Rolf and Teemu are present whenever they are available from other obligations (i.e. bands). But even if they are not there when we write the song, they always check their own parts and contribute that way to the songs. I write all the lyrics. I’m very conscious about how we talk about things.
I know that the songwriting started soon after the lineup was completed, and that you decided to found a cover band (Run For Cover) to be able to play together right away. That seems like a smart move, but that does also mean it’s easier to get booked as a cover band than as a «real» band? Who came up with that idea, and how did that work out?
Netta: I wanted to form the cover band to be able to play right away together. I wanted to get to know the guys better and see how we work together on the road. This was to make sure that we actually fit in together well because life is too short to be playing in a dysfunctional band. The cover band was step one. If something hadn’t worked, I would have made changes to the line up before going forward with songwriting. But gladly all worked like a dream; we have great dynamics and always fun together. After about a year doing gigs together, we started to write songs for Smackbound. We were ready, I was sure about the band. Nobody wanted out. We had become a family.
You have so far released one single; is that song a good representation for the musical direction of Smackbound?
Netta: Hmmm…a difficult one. Yes and no. It is the true essence of us indeed, but we have complexity and not all the songs are as «poppy» as “Drive It Like You Stole It». But our songs are energetic, empowering and melodic. We mix several genres together and have fun with the music.
Is there a debut album ready to be released in the near future, and what can you tell me about that?
Netta: Our album is going to be released in early 2020. I really don’t want to give away too many details, but it’s going to be fun, surprising, energizing and full of good music. Music we love to play.
You mentioned earlier that this is a band and not a solo project. All five of you are involved in various other bands and in other projects; do you consider Smackbound to be a side project or is this a real full-time band?
Netta: This is a real full-time band. There is no question about it. We are all in this with our hearts. This is our band, not playing in a band. Of course, we have to balance with other bands as some of them are bigger then we are at the moment but we put our all into this.
What are the future plans of Smackbound? We now know that there will be a full-lenght album in early 2020, but will there also be a tour in the future?
Netta: We will tour in Finland when the album comes out, but we are hoping to be able to tour soon also in other countries. Our biggest target audience is United States at the moment, so we hope to be able to tour there also in the near future.
One final question: I know you are a wine importer; what wine would you recommend to Smackbound? And more generally, is it possible to recommend wine to music, is there any similarities there?
Netta: There are a lot of similarities between winemakers and musicians. Both have the same passion towards what they’re doing. But it is quite impossible to just pick one wine to represent Smackbound. I would say it’s something wild, so a natural wine, maybe an orange wine, maybe red but always with elegance and lots of complexity. Not too much oak as the focus should be on the grape itself. Something that will explode in your mouth. Something that gives you joy!