NMR Interview: Kontio Polaris 🇫🇮
To kickstart a new series of NMR interviews, I thought we should start with a new band. Kontio Polaris are from Helsinki and we’ve been speaking to Henry, Matias, Joppe and Roope about the important things, notably dog walking, football and Cardiacs. We’ll do a special interview with missing 5th member Ilari another time, or maybe just speak to his dog Juno instead.
NMR: Okay my experience of band names is that they’re mostly chosen whilst drinking beer in a bar. How was yours chosen and why Kontio Polaris?
Henry: Ilari and myself were walking Ilari’s dog Juno at Tervasaari (a small island in Helsinki) and we had been brainstorming band names for so long at that point, and near the dog park we saw two giant ice-breakers perfectly lined up side by side. The other’s name was “Kontio” and the other’s “Polaris”. It was somewhat a cinematic moment and it was clear to us that it’s going to be our name.
NMR: Sounds like you guys all met when you were pretty young at high school. Can you tell us your earliest memory of another bandmate please?
Matias: I remember that I was quite impressed with Joppe’s ability to grab nuts from the air. The record was several tens of meters I think. Henri: I remember the first time we had cigarettes with Joppe during recess and we immediately started talking about music. It didn’t take long when our first (former) band was formed. Joppe: Matias simply crushed me on Crash team racing that we played on his PS1. I had always thought that I was a good player until that moment. Roope: I remember listening/vibing to Avenged Sevenfold in math class with Henri! And I think I met Ilari first at his own house party?
NMR: And at what point did you decide to form a band?
Henri: We had a band with Matias, Roope, Joppe and myself which was formed at high school back in 2011 and we felt that we were going around in circles. For us it felt that it’s a school band, not “a real one”. We planned to change the sound and our name and in a way to start over. Ilari was supposed to be the producer of our new upcoming music, but he told us that he would like to join the band because he hasn’t been in one for a while and the music was good. We were of course surprised but over the moon by this and so the new band was formed.
NMR: You’ve released 2 tracks so far, the 1st ‘Brother’ was quite an intense one about brotherly love and support after a family divorce, what’s the new track Sleeping with the Waves about?
Band: It’s about longing and loss pretty straightforwardly. It is a farewell note to a loved one who has passed. Writing a song about it was a way to process these emotions. It’s more like a fleeting moment or a thought than a story or a song lyric.
NMR: Are the lyrics a group effort or the responsibility of one person? They’re obviously both really personal songs and I’m guessing that’s quite a difficult thing to write ‘collectively’.
Henri: I’ve written those two released songs by myself and in the beginning we thought that maybe I should be the one writing the lyrics ’cause I’m the one singing them, but for a couple months now me and Roope have been writing together (because I’m a pretty slow writer) and it has worked surprisingly well! It’s not self-evident that it would feel natural to write about personal stuff collectively, but maybe it’s because of our decade-long friendship that makes it feel easy.
And I’m so amazed by Roope’s lyrical talent, after all he has never written song lyrics before (Roope can correct me if I’m wrong) and it feels like I’m working with a pro. We aren’t yet as great as Lennon-McCartney but maybe we’re getting there (lol).
Roope: Suddenly I remembered how in high school we wrote lyrics to one song by brainstorming as a band and it ended up being the corniest shit ever xD But kind of epic too!
But yea, up until now Henri has been writing all of the stuff but this spring I’ve begun to take part in writing the lyrics too. Like Henri said, it was initially kind of a pragmatic move just to get more stuff out. And for me as a person who used to not really pay attention to lyrics (except for rap) it was quite a leap. But as we started writing together I think we hit it off really well! It has been very easy to bounce off ideas and concepts with Henri, because has the talent (in music and in lyrics) to transform half-baked ideas into cohesive pieces. So I don’t know about my lyrical talents yet but it has been really fun and fruitful so far!
NMR: We’ve been bemoaning at NMR the demise of real ‘protest’ songs… what would each of you most like to write a protest song about?
Matias: In addition to the suggestions of the others I’d write a protest song about the state of our democracy. I think that things like listening, tolerance, facts and respectful argumentation should be embraced regardless of the platform. Henri: There are so many topics to write about, but there are never enough protest songs about equal legal rights for the LGBTQ community. FREE LOVE!
Joppe: I think that arrogance would be the theme of my protest song. Kind of arrogance that makes you spit on people that are different from you. So peace and love pretty much. Roope: Hmm, a real protest song should aim for real impact so my protest song would be called “Stop The Clock”. It would urge all the workers of the low-paying global infrastructure complex (like in Amazon warehouses) to stop working for a day. Genre would be kraut-rock/Industrial!
NMR: Anyway what did you think of Eurovision? Fair Result?
Matias: I was in the team Switzerland (sorry Finland) so the result was a bit disappointing. On the other hand, I never listened to the winning song at any point so maybe this isn’t a completely fair statement. Henri: Italia deserved their win, rock & roll shall never die! BUT I was really rooting for France and Switzerland.
Joppe: I was rooting for Iceland, so no. Also no one played “Ja ja ding dong”, so more no! Roope: Infatti! Lunga vita all'Italia!
NMR: I liked the Finnish entry and at least it finished higher than Denmark, so I guess the most important question is whether you think you can repeat this in the football Euros, given your 1st game is against the Danes later this week? Any predictions for the tournament?
Matias: Should be an easy one. Henri: I have no predictions or expectations. I just really hope that Teemu Pukki’s ankles are ready for the Pukki Party. So yeah, I’m hoping that Finns are going to surprise everyone, but nonetheless – beer will flow. Joppe: I want to believe that everything will be fine. I really want to.
Roope: Qualifying is already a win so better just enjoy the ride! But seriously, I think Finland is going to surprise, like Iceland a few years back, but it might not be against the Danes.
NMR: Ok back to music, can you recommend any other Finnish bands you think we should be listening to?
Henri: I’d recommend to see The Holy’s live set once you’ll get a chance. They rock so hard. I also have to say Jaakko Aukusti (though I’m in it), but it’s a damn good band. And then Ruusut of course. Joppe: Ursus Factory Roope: Jesse Markin, Karina, Ruusut, Fram, Colorblue, Oranssi Pazuzu … !
NMR: Oh I really like Jaakko Aukusti, and actually I have an almost funny story about one of the song, because I was trying to add their track ‘Moon Tower’ to a Spotify playlist a few years ago but unknowingly added it to a special family Christmas Day Playlist we have by mistake, and it now comes on every year whilst we’re having Christmas dinner in between ‘Rockin Around The Christmas Tree’ and ‘We Three Kings’ sung by the Cambridge Kings College choir. Anyway is there any more Jaakko music due soon? It’s been a while...!
Henri: Hahaha nice! Actually Jaakko is making a Christmas album at the moment. Just kidding. New music will be out soon, I cannot say the due date but it might be sooner than you think ;) And I’m really fortunate that I got to be a co-producer for a couple songs on the album. It’s gonna be hot stuff!
NMR: So I’m sure we’d all like to spend our ‘working days’ just doing music stuff, but I realise that’s not possible – so I once spent a week working in a wildlife park separating mating / fighting Cassowaries with a wooden shield. What’s the most random / obscure jobs you guys have done?
Matias: One Christmas, I worked as Santa's assistant, carrying bags and playing the recorder badly. Henri: I consider my current job to be rather obscure. I’m at almost every Finnish family’s (who have children) home nearly every morning. That sounded shady.. I’m a voice actor for children’s cartoons and movies. Joppe: Speaking singular Finnish words in a row for XBox voice control development Roope: Making fake bags of meat for a TV prop with artificial color, paprika and snow! Or driving in a circle with a boat to keep the ice melted.
NMR: These are all brilliant, especially as I also once worked as a Santa’s ‘Elf’. So other than Matias playing the recorder badly, what instruments can you play that are not featured in the band?
Henri: From the music producer’s angle I think that it’s good to know how to play every ”band instrument” even a bit. So guitar, bass and drums aren’t strangers to me but I cannot say that I’m a virtuoso with those, but I manage. I also know three chords from a five-string kantele (a traditional Finnish instrument).
Roope: I can play a bit of all the band instruments but for me it is a steep curve down going GUITAR > bass > drums & keyboards. So nothing fancy (at least yet)!
Joppe: I started with classical cello when I was six. Four strings is all you need, maybe thats why i switched to bass!
NMR: I have musical ‘homework’ for you, as it’s come to my attention that not everyone in Finland has come across the greatest British band of all, Cardiacs. So your task is to watch this and give me your 1st impressions….
Matias: My attention span in the form of a song. Good stuff. Henri: Sheesh! This sounds like an opening theme of some kind of tv show, where they teach your children how to do psychedelics. Joppe: Oh my! I think I just found my new favorite band! Unexpected, hyperenergetic, Frank Zappaish, The Beatles on drugs (or I mean… on more drugs), something for the whole family to enjoy together. Roope: Woah! This feels like music from an alternate timeline that popular music could have taken after The Beatles! Or an answer to the question: please describe your most intense fever dream. All in all this is just a reminder that music is a gift that keeps on giving, if you just keep digging!
NMR: All great answers, but I love the idea of a TV show that teaches children psychedelics. So what TV show would you actually commission if budget was simply not an issue?
Roope: I would go for some weird Rick & Morty type comedy that would be filmed ACTUALLY in space.
NMR: So… finally what are the plans for the band over the next few months. Live dates? Any more releases due?
Band: Live performance of “Sleeping With The Waves” will be published very soon! We also have a week-long studio booked for July and some live dates booked for the Fall. So more songs and releases are coming up towards the latter part of this year and some live action in the Fall at the latest (but hopefully sooner)!
Thank you so much everyone, look forward to future releases. Stay in touch.
Find them on Facebook.