Built on a synth-rock foundation, Finnish band Skinjobs offer up a fascinating combination of dark and brooding indie goodness that they describe as “dark and mischievous, light and earnest.”
The intrigue of the Helsinki band is summed up in latest track Soothsayer, which was released last month. It opens up with a little synth sound that sounds like something off the Casio keyboards I grew up messing around on in the late-1990s, before the intoxicating vocals of Katja Laaksonen take over in an atmospheric verse.
It suddenly bursts into a chorus of Katja’s intriguingly disjointed vocals, which burst into big high notes, over soaring synths and a looping guitar riff.
Another laid-back verse follows, then a second chorus drops into an edgy instrumental section then an atmospheric pause for breath gives way to a variation on the chorus. Layered vocals take over, before it comes to a light ending. It’s a really delicious track, and you can check it out in the super cool video below:
Their previous track Rachael plays more heavily on their synth influences, opening up with a stabbing synth sound that lingers through a verse dominated by Katja’s vocals. Booming synths briefly kick in, as the atmosphere builds through a second verse with faint backing vocals then bursting into high-pitched vocals in a brief chorus.
The second verse gives way to cries of “Danger danger danger” then another brief chorus, then drops into a verse of delicious high-pitched vocals over synth sounds. Repeats of “Breathe into my mouth” build up to a powerful chorus of “do you want me, Rachael do you want me” over stabbing guitars and big atmospheric instrumentals bring the track to an exciting conclusion. Check it out below:
There is a rockier edge to the band too, which comes more to the fore in their 2016 debut EP, which is a little heavier as epitomised by the delightful Salpêtrière.
We had a chat with Katja to find out more. Read on below…
GR: Who are Skinjobs?
KL: “Skinjobs is an indie/alternative rock quartet from Helsinki, Finland. We’re a collaboration between singer-songwriter and keyboardist Katja Laaksonen, producer and bassist Ville Leino, guitarist Arto Alho and drummer Antti Lustila.”
“We’d been jamming together for a while, when I decided to have a go, come out as a songwriter and play a few songs of my own. My piano-driven songs became something else entirely, and we felt like there was something special and intense in our sound. Things happened really fast, and suddenly we were recording our first EP in 2016. Since then, we’ve been honing our sound, touring and making new music.
GR: You just released Soothsayer. What should people be expecting from the song?
“Soothsayer is a song about pleasure and personal boundaries. It’s synth-driven, ecstatic and full of raw emotion. Yet there’s also a lightness to it; joy of coming to terms with past, present and maybe even future. Writing and arranging the song was intuitive and fast. We also made a very 80s-inspired music video.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
KL: “Our sound is pretty eclectic, playing with different genres and roaming freely. I think it’s fun that our music has been compared to Kate Bush, Dead Can Dance and Pearl Jam.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
KL: “Personally, making music feels like exploring all things hidden, difficult and out of sight. It’s very introspective and sometimes even therapeutic.
“Recurring themes in our songs are embodiment and sexuality. I’ve also written a dystopian love story and a mythological psychodrama taking place in a French mental institution, so I’m quite the drama queen. I love literature and cinema, and the lyrics have references to books and movies. I’m a big fan of Margaret Atwood and Blade Runner.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
KL: “I’ve been deeply influenced by the likes of PJ Harvey, Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Jeff Buckley. Ville and Antti draw from indie and Britpop. Arto is our underground and blues person. I guess our eclectic sound makes sense in the light of our different backgrounds!”
GR: We haven’t met too many Finnish bands – but I love a lot of old Finnish bands! What are your thoughts on the current Finnish rock/metal scene?
KL: “We have a fierce and thriving underground and indie scene. It’s very lo-fi and prone to Finnish language. We kind of stand out. When we were green and new, we were surprised to be climbing up the gig venue ladder rather quickly. To make it big you must know the right people and have the right connections, however.
“I love Color Dolor’s sensual electronica, Janne Westerlund’s dark Americana and Itä-Hollola Installaatio’s energetic lo-fi to name but a few.”
GR: What have you got coming up through the rest of 2019?
There will be a surprise release in August, and our next single Breathe will be out in September. We’re also recording new material, and at some point we’d really like to release an old-fashioned, full-length album, vinyl and all. We have lots of gigs coming up in Finland for the rest of the year, and we’re planning on touring elsewhere as well. UK would be lovely!”
GR: Anything else you’d like people to know about you/your music?
KL: “This year we experienced a nerd’s dream come true. Our single Rachael is featured in the soundtrack and ending scene of Lorelai, a horror adventure by Harvester Games. Their previous game The Cat Lady is one of my favourites ever, so I’m very honoured and excited.”