Brian Wilson is a musical genius. Anyone who thinks of the Beach Boys as mindless, simple, surf music has not really listened to Brian Wilson’s work. I’m fascinated by the “Smile Sessions – Box Set” and listening to all of the bits of pieces of “Good Vibrations” and learning how that all came together. (I have that playing in the background as I type this) What even makes me happier is seeing so many younger bands coming up who are influenced by Brian Wilson. This is by far our longest interview and a great discussion of music, songwriting, Aves, Brian Wilson, Smile and more. Enjoy!
Brief introduction To Aves
Birds (class Aves) are feathered, winged, bipedal, warm-blooded, egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Aves uses tropical tones to paint reveries, moments of astonishment, and the mercurial border that separates dream from reality. The sparkling textures, compassionate melodies, and vibrant visions twine together into an elevated state of mystical presence.
Eino, what is your songwriting/composing process?
I write a lot on the piano by just coming up with chord progressions and melodies. Then, also Antti has come up with some vocal melodies as a sort of addition to my chords, like Shoreline’s and Sarah Sunk’s verses. We also jam a lot with Antti – me usually on Roland Juno-60 and mic and Antti on drums, which is a way we’ve come up with a lot of the ideas and grooves originally.
Sun Sky and You, Lucid I wrote entirely on piano and Rhodes originally by just singing and playing scruffy recordings on my phone, and then progressing by me and Antti jamming on the songs, so the chords and melodies became more of a cohesive thing. Sarah Sunk has a bass riff from Joonas, our bass player, that me and Antti kind of just took from one of Joonas’ old demos and started making a song around to. Time passed and we completed Sarah Sunk, and Joonas was interested in joining us for making music and touring and it just felt like the most natural thing, since we hadn’t yet made any gigs nor even released Sarah Sunk yet at that point. Joonas also comes up with a lot of bright ideas, Sun Sky’s C-part after the two choruses is one of them, it’s his bass chord progressions and piano melodies that we made together with Joonas.
You, Lucid we demoed by recording me an Antti playing the entire song from start to finish on the same room, with a pair of mics pointing to the PAs soaking in an old scruffy Vestafire reverb that I was a huge fan of around that time. We built the whole song around that demo, by playing a bunch of Rhodes keyboards through a Vibrolux amp and a bunch of Juno-60 tracks through a series of guitar pedals, such as the Holy Grail reverb as well as a Black Finger tube compressor which I was also a huge fan of around that time. Everything about the original demo simply got left intact to the finished track.
On Sun Sky I knew I wanted to flirt with jazz elements and sort of mix together everything about the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s AND the 90s that I love. So I sampled a huge bunch of 50s jazz recordings cause I’m a huge fan of the 50s jazz sound, and took all the good parts between the chords to make harmonies behind and between the Sun Sky’s chords.
The 60s part is the whole Wall of Sound thing, to create distinctive harmonies from so many different things that it’s impossible to hear each sound unrelated to others. That’s the fascination to me about the whole Brian Wilson sound. Creating cohesive soundscapes from different sounds in a way that the sum is a wall of sound that just washes over you and hopefully at best makes you feel kind of overwhelmed.
The 70s thing was to me making big chords with wurlitzers along with big song progressions but mixing the 80s with big drums and Korg’s Polysix pads. A huge influencer to the beat on Sun Sky and the rest of the album and the snare sound specifically has been my favorite Michael Jackson album, “Dangerous” from 1991 along with the whole Ghost movie, and I specifically wanted to use some 90s style Lexicon plate reverbs as a sort of homage to the hifi-fied sound of the 90s splashy snare drum.
Then there’s the Sun Child Suite which is a big thing on the album’s themes, which are a lot about childhood. My father passed away a couple years ago, which has affected a lot of the album creation. My father used to always play me all kinds of songs from Beatles to Beach Boys and his vinyl shelf had all kinds of treasures from Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed” to these Synthesizer Greatests collections packed with all the 70s synth pioneers. There’s a lot of paying homage to my childhood favorites, some 50s jazz, 90s New Age and R&B stuff and 70s synth pioneers as well as the affection to the tiny, unfinished songs that make a beautiful cohesive whole that Brian Wilson came up with SMiLE.
Have you become comfortable with writing on the road, or is that something you still do at home?
I’m still mostly writing at home or at the studio. Elise was pretty much completely written and recorded at our cabin though, where we’ve recorded almost all the drums, synths and keyboards on the record as well as the vocals.
What are you most proud of?
I’m happy about the vastness of the album and at the moment I’m most proud of the ambient soundscapes I did at later stages to the album that for me sort of made it all come together in a more meaningful way.
Let’s talk Beach Boys, more specifically Brian Wilson. I love that younger groups like you, and Young Dreams, are bringing back that “Brian Wilson sound”. What lead you to, as I read, “paint in tropical tones about reveries, baffled moments and the mercurial line between dreaming and reality with bubbly textures, hazy motion and fresh pop-hooks.”?
I can only speak for myself, but Aves for me is simply music that I want to make, listen to and perform. It’s music that I channel and music that just happens when I get in front of a piano, a synth or a computer. It’s music that happens when we three guys get together to jam and to write songs and a lot of it in the end is the sum of all our aspirations and our own personal jams.
I’m a huge Beach Boys, Brian Wilson and Dennis Wilson fan and what I love about the Wall of Sound of which Phil Spector originated and which Brian Wilson was a huge fan of himself and was channeling in his music, is how the sound sort of takes your breath away, washes over you and makes it impossible to separate the tracks from each other. I’m still finding so many things from so many Beach Boys tracks after years and hundreds of listens. A year ago I remember hearing a harp playing on a Pet Sounds track for the very first time, and I had listened to the album years already. I remember thinking like, “Wow, that’s what I wanna make. I wanna make timeless music filled with so many details I won’t get bored of it even after years of listening”. Talk about aspirations and reaching high but well, one can try right, heh. I always have these few starting points on making music. If I’ve gotten truly bored of the track already when I’ve been mixing it for a while, it’s going nowhere. And if I don’t dance or listen to the track with my eyes closed while I’m making it AND still after countless listens, it’s, again, going nowhere.
5 Favorite Beach Boys/Brian Wilson tunes?
I found it impossible to rank five of them, so I’m just going to throw some real favorites with saying SMiLE with all it’s million bootlegs and Pet Sounds are obviously the biggest favorite Beach Boys albums but I’m gonna leave them out and mention some other awesome ones.
Til I Die (Alternative Mix)
Love Surrounds Me
Cool, Cool Water
All I Wanna Do
Our Sweet Love
Be With Me
Make It Good
Midnight’s Another Day
Their Hearts Were Full of Spring
Can’t Wait Too Long
Do lyrics come quickly or do you revise them over a period of time?
Lyrics are something that take ages for me to come up with and that’s one of the reasons why the album took so long to make. I wrote a big chunk of the lyrics in Berlin where I stayed for a month last summer, and if I hadn’t done that I don’t know if the album would be ready still at this point. Maybe, but just very different. For me, lyrically there has to be something to be written about for the words to come to me and to actually mean anything.
What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
I find it extremely difficult to pin point just one Beach Boys lyric but my favorite one all around is definitely Van Dyke Park’s amazing work on SMiLE. Those words amaze me again and again. They’re just breathtakingly beautiful, clever & imaginative.
Other lyricists that I’ve really aspired to are Conor Obrest (of Bright Eyes) and the late Richey James Edwards of Manic Street Preachers as well as Conrad Keely of …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.
“Sun Sky a Floating”, where did that come from?
One of the big themes on the album is outer forces and the Sun Sky versus the Sun Child is kind of a metaphor for that. Sun Sky is safe haven, a contradictional heaven of sorts, or specifically a drug, medicine, coffee fix, faith or a difficult relationship. All these things that do us so good, but that we know do us harm or hardships at the same time. Sun Child is one’s self, me you and everyone else.
“Sun Sky a Floating” is sort of the nickname for this higher safe haven of sorts, as within the album I’ve been trying to sonically describe the time and place as much as possible.
Other one of the big themes is the contradiction between the body and the mind. Sun Sky is the mind and Sun Child is the body, and the album is a lot about the difficult relationship between those two, and about ways of being merciful to both of them.
On the album I’ve been also writing a lot to my late father and trying to create a beautiful place for me to picture him living in, so “Sun Sky a Floating” is also the calm place I’d like to think my father is living in these days.
What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Be true to yourself and bring out your heart. Don’t aspire on following others too much. That’s all I can say, as I feel I’m still pretty rookie myself as well.
If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
SMiLE by the Beach Boys most definitely. To me the whole album and the story behind the making along with all the making of snippets there are, is simply the most fascinating tale of creative genius at it’s peak.
If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Michael Jackson and Vangelis. All have created highly influential soundscapes to me and all would probably have a lot to teach about songwriting if it were.
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