Grus Paridae is a co-operative collective and project of two music makers, Petteri Kurki and Rami Turtiainen with special guest Jarno Koivunen on violins.
The band recently appeared on Progstravaganza XX: Landmarks and they answered our standard questionnaire.
How did you come to do what you do?
Petteri: I’ve always been interested in music, especially in the ‘how it’s made’ aspect. I try to bring in to my own music the bits and pieces I’ve found worth listening to and gathered into my ‘box of good stuff’ through the years.
Jarno: Lifetime love for rhythm, harmony and melody.
Rami: As the guys stated I share the same lifetime interest towards music. As far as I can remember and even though I’ve made a lot of different things in my life, music has always been the main key determining my identity.
We have all taken instrument and theory lessons as youngsters, Jarno is a professional classical musician and over the years I have taken some music technology and production courses and also studied musicology as a minor subject at the university. I have also put some focus towards rock criticism and music aesthetics in my art philosophy studies.
As a band or a collective if you like, Petteri and I ended up doing music together in the summer of 2011. I think it was originally my idea since I knew Petteri shared the same musical interests with me. We already knew each other’s band history, were very good friends and had been doing some jamming together over the years. I was pretty convinced a very long time before we actually started Grus Paridae that Petteri’s love for strange harmonies and my interest towards the wholeness of the song structures were something that needed to be united.
It was also clear from the very beginning Jarno would be our number one choice if we ever would need any violin parts. Jarno and I first met when we studied at the high school of music in the beginning of the 90’s and played in metal bands together back then. After high school Jarno had his progressive rock band called Relayer in which I was some kind of background figure for a couple of years until Jarno started his studies to become a professional violin player and violin pedagogist.
What is your first musical memory?
Petteri: Listening to my mom’s and dad’s LPs at age four or five.
Jarno and Rami: Finnish band called Hassisen Kone was something we both remember for being one of the first concrete memories what comes to rock. Hassisen Kone was a first major band for a very talented Finnish rock musician, composer and lyricist Ismo Alanko in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Alanko has made a very successful career since and is still very much active, appreciated and uncompromising artist. He actually started his career in a prog rock band and has added progressive and highly artistic elements in his music since. So in a way, it’s quite funny and nice we both share a similar memory here.
Jarno: From the classical side I would like to raise a memory that may not be the earliest one but the firs that really hit me. It was when Leonidas Kavakos won the Jean Sibelius Violin Competition held here in Finland in 1985.
Rami: I think the actual earliest memory I have is listening to the old Finnish childrens songs by Georg Malmstén as well as a cassette with a blue label sticker on the cover, containing a compilation of old 50’s rock n’ roll classics and me imitating the singer of the band. These both occurences must have happened during the 70’s.
First classical memory for me is the hearing of the Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf for the first time and of course the compulsory Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Petteri: From the phenomenon of stumbling onto good sounding chord progressions or melodies that instantly make me want to develop them into complete pieces. This usually happens when I’m just playing whatever whenever… mostly lucky accidents.
Jarno: I get inspired by starting to improvise when some special feeling or idea hits me like a glimpse of a moment. Or sometimes just by listening or playing myself some very good music done by others.
Rami: I have to follow Jarno and Petteri here what comes to composing and arrangement issues. Jamming and improvising by myself are of course in major role as well as all the music I have listened to over the decades. I’m also a freelance music journalist which means I tend to listen a lot of quality music that may not always fit to my every day musical taste but all and all can still save some interesting feelings and ideas to the back of my head.
As a lyricist I usually get inspired by some interesting sentence or phrase I spontaneously invent. Especially when I find it working immediately on many interpretational levels. This normally gives me the pulse to build a whole text around this invention. As cliché as it may sound, for me the philosophy has also been one of the concrete tools for inspiration.
What message does the song on our Progstravaganza compilation carry?
Rami: As a lyricist I try to operate on somewhat metaphorical level and try to do both: to put more levels and dimensions to the phrases than the surface shows at first impression but at the same time leave the text open enough for one’s own interpretations. Despite of the former I also try to raise at least a distant feeling there might be some kind of loose narrative included. So even if the text have some meaning to me, I’d like to think it could mean a totally different thing to someone else. Maybe the phrase ‘The question of ability / turning the question for the reason’ from Passes By gives a small hint of the several interpretational levels I try to ‘pack’ to my texts.
Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a song?
Petteri: It’s usually the traditional song structure that I start with, but I try to change it if possible or if the song needs it. If the idea is good, things fall into place quite naturally. I tend to write vocal melodies as the last thing; I’ve never written a song that has started as a vocal melody.
Jarno: ￼I sure hope not. Well, to be honest I find composing using piano a bit comfortable than using some other instrument. Still in the end the main thing is you don’t lock yourself into one specific pattern using one and only familiar tool or method but rather try to give space to all ideas to flow free.
Rami: If there are some patterns they are more the methodical ones. I think you can find a better explanation from my following answer.
What is your method of songwriting?
Petteri: First I come up with a chord progression for verse and chorus and a bridge or two as well. Then it’s building the backing track around them. If there are solos, they usually come next. As the last I come up with a vocal melody, to which the lyrics are written, along with any vocal harmonies that are needed.
Jarno: Improvisation. Piano is a good tool for improvisation for me. As well as violin.
Rami: Earlier I used, and of course am still using the traditional way, first searching for interesting chord structures using guitar and then building the whole song from those seeds. Lately I’ve also been using a completely different method starting from some percussive rhythm I’m satisfied with. Then I try to add some interesting bass line and finally layer by layer start to add melodic and harmonic instruments in. Both methods have their pros and cons. The old school guitar method gives me a much wider space to go where ever I want but the negative side is it’s sometimes hard to decide where to go. The rhythm method on the other hand gives me a clear frame where to work but the lack of this method is it’s sometimes too constricted.
How do you see your music evolving?
Petteri: Nowadays it’s easier to see how to develop an idea into a song. I now have more courage to go and try different things for a song. It’s a never-ending process, I hope!
Jarno: Every song is a new story. Trying every time to do everything at least a bit better than previously.
Rami: An idealistic wish for me would be something like being able to create songs that are in some way timeless and at the same time both artistically challenging and still something someone somewhere could relate to. Creating songs that proudly carries all the influences from this enormous and lovely source called music but still can stand on their own personal and characteristic feet. David Bowie for me represents a good example of an artist who lets his influences be present but is still always sounding nothing but himself.
What advice would you give to other musicians, trying to make inspired music and get it out in the world?
Petteri: Listen to anything that’s good and find out why it’s good. Try to decipher how the music is played, the chords, the melodies, the sound, the touch. As to getting out in the world, I don’t see that very important; the main thing for me is to come up with stuff I like, then it can be shared with others, too.
Jarno: Trust to your instincts. At the end of the day it’s the only thing you can really hang on to.
Rami: Guys just stated out major issues here! You have to do both: do the hard and dull work and study, whether it means some formal studies or something you are doing by yourself. The phrase ‘Live the music!’ could be some kind of guide line to follow. By that I mean everything from listening interesting (and sometimes not so interesting) music, rehearsing with your instrument and with your band, improvising, analyzing, jamming, and last but not least: not forgetting purely enjoy music without any intentions! With these topics in your mind your instincts will also develop by themselves helping you to go further.
What comes to getting your music out in the world I would say be ready to work and be realistic. Try also be honest to yourself and find out what you want to reach and what’s the real motivation behind your aims. That goes for both on artistic and creative levels as well as all the other non-musical effort for finding contacts, accepting the fact that without personal effort for marketing and communicational issues, etc. it will not be very likely someone will come and pick you up from home and gives you the opportunity. Today’s digital age is both a blessing and a curse. Supply is nowadays enormous but at the same time it’s much easier to find music lovers around the world who are interested in the same kind of stuff you’re doing. Also try to find a balance between aiming artistically as high as possible but avoiding the trap of the over-self-criticism preventing you to go out with your stuff and in worst case killing your joy for making music.
What are you looking forward to?
Petteri: Progress with my songwriting skills and better ability to venture to new areas in music, whatever they may be. To find the much talked-about ‘own voice’ somehow, not copy others too much. Learning to sing better, as well!
Jarno: The freedom and joy of self-expression.
Rami: To be honest and speaking on everyday level: finding more time for music making! Speaking on a more sublime level: develop as a music writer, musician, vocalist, lyricist as well as production wise, to explore new musical paths and to enjoy music every time I’m dealing with it.
￼Do you think that Progstravaganza compilation series is good way to showcase the potential of many unheard bands on the already overcrowded scene?
Rami: I think every opportunity focusing on the stuff or a genre if you like which helps you to find people who share the same musical interests with you is a great opportunity!
Prog Sphere is compiling the first physical (CD) Progstravaganza progressive rock & metal compilation. Interested acts can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org