Musical Discoveries: Would you tell us a little about your background and musical training and how you first got into music?
Laura Närhi: I was born into a very musical family. My father is a musician, my mother and grandfather used to work in a record company, and my stepfather is a composer and is also involved in the recording business. So I guess I have always been surrounded with a lot of music.
As I child I played the piano for about ten years. I have never taken any singing lessons, but I sang in a choir for many years. As a teenager I started to sing in TV and radio advertismets. I haven't done them for a few years, but they taught me a lot about working in studio.
What artists, if any, do you think have influenced your singing style?
People say I sometimes soud a bit like Suzanne Vega, and I have always admired her singing style. Her style, like mine, is quite mellow and plain. Also I really love the voice of Nina Persson from The Cardigans. I am not I big fan of these young R&B singers who always seem to forget the melody and concentrate too much on showing off their technical skills.
And which artists and bands do you find yourself listening to most?
I used to listen to a lot of female singers like Tori Amos, Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple, but lately I have been listening to bands like Elbow, The Killers, Mew and Kashmir. I also listen to many Finnish bands and artists, such as Lemonator, PMMP, Don Johnson Big Band and Jonna Tervomaa.
How was Kemopetrol formed; at what point did you join the band and how did that come about?
I met Kalle Koivisto who is the band's keyboard player and composer when we were studying at the same school in 1998. He had been doing some electronic stuff with our guitarist Marko Soukka. We played as a trio for a few months. Then Teemu Nordman and Kari Myöhänen who played with Kalle and Marko in another band, joined Kemopetrol. About six months after that we were already recording Slowed Down, so it all happened pretty fast.
How did you come up with the name Kemopetrol?
Kalle and Marko found the name in some old Ice Hockey book. The name is taken from a Czech Ice Hockey team called Chemopetrol Litvinov. We just thougt is was a cool name!
Tell us something about the early gigs; do you enjoy the live experience?
I did enjoy them, although we had very little experience in playing live. We started getting a lot of shows very early, so we had to learn everything as we went aong. Nowdays I'm much more experienced and relaxed onstage.
We pay a lot of attention on the visual side of the shows. We want to create a new and fresh look for every tour. We always try to offer the audience something extra.
Tell us a little about the making of the first album Slowed Down.
None of us had any experience in making an album so everything was new and exiting for us. Luckily our producer Kalle Chydenius was a true professional and his influence can really be heard on the album. We basically recorded all the songs we had rehearsed so far. Nowdays we try to make at least twenty demos that we can choose the songs for the album from.
Musically, there are a lot of unusual sounds and ideas going on. Was there a lot of experimentation once you got into the studio, or did you have a good idea beforehand what you aiming for?
It always depends on the song. Some songs sound almost the same as the demos and some songs are arranged in the studio.
What was the public reaction to the CD?
It was far better then anyone could have hoped for. The reviews were excellent and people thought that Slowed Down was something new and refreshing in the Finnish music scene.
You've done a number of videos. How do you find the experience? How have the videos developed and does the band have any artistic input in them beyond the music? Is there an actress in you?
I have never played any role in our videos, I've just been singing as myself, so I guess there is no actress in me.
For some videos we have asked for treatments from a few directors whose work we like. And with some videos we have chosen one director and developed the script with him. We always try to respect the director's vision of the song and let him do his work without interfering in every little detail.
"Child Is My Name" from Slowed Down is an absolutely stunning track. How important do you think that song, and the accompanying video, was in your early success?
That's probably the most important song in our career. It's our first hit single and the song people always remember us from. The video was really unique when it was released. The look was far more international than other Finnish videos used to have at that time.
How did the recording of the second album Everything's Fine go? Was there pressure of expectation following the success of Slowed Down?
I don't remember having any pressure when recording Everything's Fine. We had been touring a lot after Slowed Down and were really exited to get to record some new material and introduce people to some new sounds.
On release the album went straight to No. 1 in Finland. Was the over-riding feeling one of joy or relief?
Both of course. We were and still are concidered as a semi-indie band and we weren't sure if people would still remember us. We were very happy we could compete with the mainstream acts.
We did lots of promo work and toured a lot so I guess we were pretty busy.
How have the live shows developed over the years? Do you have an on-stage persona that's distinctly different from the 'everyday' Laura?
Our live shows have devevoped a lot into a much more rock direction. Of course we still play some of the old more mellow songs but we like to play very energetic shows. People who haven't seen us live before are often very suprised by our live energy after seeing our show.
I'm much more shy person in everday life than I am on stage. The performer in me comes out only when I'm on stage. I´m a very private person and I don't want to share my persona with everyone.
How is the song writing done?
Kalle is of course the musical director in our band and everybody is happy with that. It's better to have one person with a clear vision of the music than to to have five people with different opinions. We all take part in arranging the songs and especially when reheasing the live versions we all have more say in the arrangements.
When did you learn to speak English and do you find it difficult to sing outside your native language?
I've always listened to English and American music and that's why it feels natural and easy to me. I have always been pretty good in foreign languages and the pronunciation seems to just come out naturally.
After having a settled line-up since the band started, bassist Kari Myöhänen decided to quit in the summer of 2003 prior to the recording of Play For Me. Did this come as a surprise and how did it affect the band dynamics and the way you worked in the studio when recording the new album?
Kari's leaving the band didn't come as a suprise. We all knew he wanted to do other things, for example travel and make some other kind of music. We all understood his reasons and there were no hard feelings what so ever.
Because we were about to start recording Play For Me and didn't want to rush into finding a new bass player, we decided that our producer would play the bass on the album. He happens to be a highly appreciated bass player in Finland, so the recordings didn´t suffer at all.
How do you feel the music has developed and changed over the course of the last five years?
I think now we sound more like a band than we did on Slowed Down. Our new material is more uptempo than the earlier recordings.
Slowed Down is, I think, our most electronic album. Everything's Fine has more of a pop feeling to it. Play For Me is rather mellow and a very beautiful album. Teleport is really energeritic and has a strong 80s influence.
What brought about the change in the artwork and photography--from a more natural look to glossy--on Play For Me?
We just wanted to make something different. We thougt that the songs were really beautiful and that's why we wanted to take beautiful photos as well.
Would you like to tell us a little about the new Kemopetrol album Teleport?
Teleport is the first album that we have produced ourselves. Of course we had some help in arranging and mixing, but Kemopetrol is the main producer of the album. Allthough the album is much more electronic than for example Play For Me, we wanted to capture the same energy that we have at live shows. We used a lot of 80s synth sounds and drumloops but still wanted to keep the sound very fresh and modern.
Do you feel that you're now well versed in the ways of the studio or is the of recording of every album different with new things to learn?
There is always something new to learn when it comes to recording an album. Especially now, when we produced it ourselves, we learned a lot of new things. We always want to try to find new ways to sing and play and develop ourselves as musicians.
What were the aims and objectives you set out with when writing and recording Teleport?
We just wanted to create a new and fresh sound and remind people that Kemopetrol is much more than just pretty melodies and mellow sounds.
How has the band's profile developed outside of your home country?
Not as well as we would have hoped. It's really hard for a Finnish band to get releases and gigs abroad. The main problem with foreign record companies has been that we are too pop for indie audience and too indie for the pop scene. They like the music, but they don´t know how to sell it. We do have many fans outside Finland, and thanks to iTunes, they can also hear our music even if the albums are not released in their country.
What part do you think the internet has played in your career?
We have always been very active in comminucating with our fans on our website. Our website is very important to us and we try to update it as often as possible. Now with MySpace it's even easier to get in touch with people all around the world.
What are your interests outside of music?
Pretty normal stuff. I like to cook, go out, meet my friends and family. Nothing that special or interesting really.
What plans does the band have for the immediate future?
I just want to continue making good albums with Kemopetrol and try to get something nice happening outside Finland also!