“You have to love what you’re doing, otherwise no one else can love it “ – Interview with Netta from Smackbound
Smackbound are already working on their next album!!! Now that this is out, we can focus on the other news we got from Smackbound’s vocalist and mastermind Netta Laurenne during our interview in their hometown Helsinki end of September. Smackbound’s debut album 20/20 has just recently been released (find our review here), but these super creative musicians cannot contain their energy and inspiration and are already working on the next album. But who are Smackbound?! Not even two years ago, Netta Laurenne gathered four professional metal musicians around her to bring a fresh, powerful, diverse, fun vision of music to life. Smackbound is formed by guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari, best known for playing in Wintersun, and having the reputation of being one of the metal world’s finest, most versatile and virtuous guitarist, his Wintersun colleague Rolf Pilve (also drummer in Stratovarious), keyboardist Vili Itäpelto, who is playing in the band Tracedawn and who is also teaching at the Pop/Jazz Conservatory in Helsinki, and Tuomas Yli-Jaskari, also in Tracedawn, playing the bass and responsible for the overall production of Smackbound.
Netta Laurenne therefore surrounded herself with experienced musicians, coming from very different genres, bringing in their particular styles and creating the mix of sounds and songs that we enjoy on Smackbound’s debut album 20/20 (Frontiers Music SRL). The singer herself has multiple talents, being a successful actress and a versatile vocalist, classically trained and capable of performing any kind of music, from opera, pop, jazz, folk to metal. This powerful lady is kicking butts and is a very pleasant interview partner that I found out when I met Netta Laurenne in Helsinki. If you haven’t listened to Smackbound yet, please check them out, the SKULL NEWS team agrees on Smackbound being one of the best releases in metal of 2020! Check out our interview with Netta Laurenne here:
“We are currently working on our new album and we are very happy with it”
Jasmin: Hi Netta, thank you for meeting me!
Netta: Thank you for having me!
Jasmin: So, you said that you are in the studio and making the next album? How exciting!
Netta: Yes, so many gigs have been cancelled this year, due to coronavirus, so we decided that we would write new songs, as we’ve got time now. We’ve been writing since April and we have half of the songs of the new album ready. We’re just missing one last song to complete everything. We really use the time we have now and I am so happy with the new album!
Jasmin: This is super exciting news, new stuff from Smackbound! Especially as your last album isn’t that old, it’s only a couple of months old! On 20/20, you treat some negative subjects in some of your songs, but you treat them with so much energy and in such an empowering way. I’m therefore very curious about what will come now with the next album.
Netta: It will of course take some time to be released. Maybe in a year. But we just wanted to use this time to work on the new album, for when everything opens up again, when everything becomes normal again, hopefully, the we will have the album ready. We want to be ready to play the gigs and not have the stress of writing a new album at the same time. I can not believe how I happy I am that, I don’t know why, but it’s very optimistic and has this soothing vibe about it. Even us, within the band, writing the music, we were wondering why we are so optimistic. For some reason it comes out like this and we are happy about it.
Jasmin: Sounds great! But Teemu Mäntysaari is still in Switzerland, how do you work with him? Is he recording at his place?
Netta: Yeah, basically, in this covid situation, Teemu is unfortunately not involved in the sessions, but he will later record his parts in his home studio.
“I don’t believe in boxes. We want to be free and be ourselves”
Jasmin: I was hoping he’d be part of the new album, that’s good news. Teemu has such a unique style playing the guitar. In general, what makes 20/20 so fresh and enjoyable, is that you have many different influences in the music, very varied songs, but still Smackbound has a particular, consistent sound. How did you create this consistent sound?
Netta: We just wanted to be very free of any limits. We don’t want to limit ourselves by terms of different genres. We don’t care about what we can do and what we can’t do in metal. Basically, we just want to have fun and play around, just play the music that we love! If we wanted to have a slap bass, we integrated the slap bass and we wanted to be free, because it is not our job to put ourselves in a box. It’s for others maybe to do so, but I don’t believe in boxes. In general, I don’t believe in boxes and we wanted to be free to just make an album that we love. Our goal was to be ourselves, to not repeat ourselves, to have a fresh input in every song. We are trying to do so in the future also. We achieved that in our latest album 20/20 and want to maintain that freedom in songwriting on the next one. So, we don’t start to think about what people might be expecting.
“We want to combine the songs of 20/20 and the new songs for our live gigs next year”
Jasmin: So you are using the energy boost from the last album for the songwriting of the next one.
Netta: I think for us it’s a good thing that we are forced to write new songs right away, because now we haven’t been influenced too much by the reactions yet, or the pressure of what the people might like best. We don’t have to pay attention to this at the moment and can play around, be creative, and hopefully we can continue like this in the future.
Jasmin: Although it is a shame that the songs of 20/20 haven’t been played live too often! When, fingers crossed, Smackbound get to play live next year, I hope you will perform some of the songs of 20/20, too, as you will be promoting two albums at the same time?
Netta: Yes, we are totally going to bring the best of the two albums together, we are definitely going to perform a lot of this first album, too, plus the upcoming one. But this one is still at baby stage! This is what we are planning on, as it is very weird after one year after releasing the album to do the first gig, that’s we are thinking about releasing the new album first and go on tour then. Now it is a very difficult situation and to have debut performance a year after the release is weird. It looks like there’s not going to be any gigs this year anymore and spring is very uncertain, too. We have our hopes in summer festivals, after that we hope for autumns 2021. At the moment, it looks like this pandemic is going to stay with us a lot longer than we first thought.
Jasmin: We all should get a sabbatical to go to all the festivals next year to balance out all of the cancelled concerts and festivals of this year.
Netta: A sabbatical for festivals, that would be great. To have this every year haha!
“At some point, “lockdown videos” have reached a saturation point”
Jasmin: Oh yes! Instead of festivals, you’ve been busy this summer. You published a few lockdown diaries videos, but you stopped at a certain point.
Netta: Yes, we stopped, because we felt it is something very difficult to do. It is not like a music video, it’s not live, because we can’t play together live, as we live in different countries. Technically it is impossible to get everyone to join live simultaneously. It would never synch up, that’s why recorded separately and used a split screen. Then, after a time, we felt that people have reached a saturation point of this kind of videos, of live streams, so we took time off of this. A lot of videos like this have been published, we felt that we didn’t add something to the thing and felt like people started to lose their focus on what is going on. We made a few, maybe we will create new videos later, but at the moment, we want things to calm down and focus on the actually new songs.
Jasmin: That’s understandable! The videos Smackbound released are great, though. Talking about videos, yesterday your new music video for “Run” came out!
“For the music video for “Run”, we got ideas from a Madonna video”
Netta: Yes, “Run” was actually re-released, as it hadn’t been released with Frontiers Music, first, we had published it last year with a lyric video before we signed up with our new label Frontiers Music. We re-released the song with Frontiers Music and now with the video to let the people know we are still active and that there’s a whole album to listen to.
Jasmin: Thanks for this little sign of life of Smackbound! I was very happy that you chose “Run” as the next single, it’s one of the most powerful songs! The video only shows you, I guess it’d due to the situation that you are not everyone here in Finland?
Netta: Yes, we didn’t have the chance to get everyone here. The video was shot before the coronavirus pandemic, but already then, it’s been difficult to reunite as a band. We could have had three of us out of five, then we decided that it has to be either the whole band or just me, or the lyric video. The other choice would have been to not make a video at all and that wasn’t an option. 2019 was top, because we had more time together. In the first five months, we only got everyone together one day and one night. This is the challenge of a band that is formed by members of other bands, so we have to still be able to do our stuff, even if we don’t get together all the time. That is why we decided to make this lyric video with only me.
Jasmin: As it is, it actually fits the lyrics, just you running. Isn’t it a fun new evolution of music videos that we have for a couple of years now, the lyric videos? There had been times when music videos were huge productions, then, nobody could keep up with this, and now we have lyric videos that have a whole new aesthetics, bringing the lyrics to life. Do you think that this way, people start to care more for the lyrics?
Netta: Absolutely! It is great to see that happening and you can do lyric videos with less effort, less budget. We wanted to have a visual to our music, because videos are so important on social media. We wanted to make sure to have many singles to deepen the image of the band. For the song “Wall Of Silence” it had to be the whole band, it’s so strong. For “Run” it was a good thing that we could release this kind of lyrics video and we actually got the idea for the visuals from a video of Madonna! She had this looping image, it was only one image and this aesthetics have been so interesting and we wanted to construct our video this way. It’s just a few short clips that we are looping, that’s the idea we stole from Madonna. Sorry Madonna! We just felt that this will look cool to this video.
Jasmin: What have been your criteria anyway to choose the singles? All songs on 20/20 are so special!
“Shooting the video for “The Game”, naked and covered in mud, we felt vulnerable and beautiful”
Netta: Intuition! Just the feeling that this could work. That’s how we chose the singles. We wanted to choose the songs that pull out the best of the album and we wanted to have versatile videos also.
Jasmin: Especially the video for “The Game” is strong as it is just you guys standing still in … is it color?
Netta: It’s mud! The real deal!
Jasmin: It’s a very impressive video as it really shows your acting skills!
Netta: Thank you! It’s one of my favorite songs on 20/20 and about the video: I have been thinking about this mud idea for years! I had this vision that it would look cool, but it has to have the right moment, it can’t be used just like that. Then when we decided “The Game” is going to be the single, I thought, this is it! This is my time to realize my dream of making the mud video. Well, I went to the store and bought the mud and I texted the guys in the morning that I wanted to do this. I asked them if it is ok that they’re going to be naked, but that there’s mud. They were like, “Ooooooookaaay”.
Jasmin: First question: Who’s gonna apply the mud?!
Netta: Yes! Exactly! We applied to each other, because it was impossible to get it on to yourself and we were laughing as it was weird, even to Finns. We are used to being naked, we go to the sauna together, this is a Finnish culture thing, but the mud was something different. We laughed a lot during the applying of the mud, but then it changed when we dried up and became these statues. Then we went into the shooting area, we just stood together in a circle, not face to face, but our backs together. The song started to play and we felt so weird, we became totally quiet, felt like monks in a monastery. We felt vulnerable and beautiful together! We couldn’t see each other, but felt our backs and then we were just there, listening. A beautiful moment! We laughed in the end, but it was so beautiful to go through as a band. It was actually one take for each, from me, it’s one take of my face and then we circled around so that everybody was visible. Therefore, we played the song and shot five times.
Jasmin: How could you keep up this state of mind and this tension for a long time like this?
Netta: It was a challenge, but the song itself brought ourselves to feel it, we felt it so strongly that it was easy to get there, we were just lost in the song.
Jasmin: It’s such a strong song and the video matches so well, as the naked body is the most of what you can expose of yourself, visually.
Netta: You’re just so vulnerable to whatever happens. I really wanted to keep it that way that we wouldn’t move, I didn’t want to sing along to the song, I didn’t want to point out the obvious. We just wanted to show the feelings.
“Just be strong and don’t think yourself as a “female” too much”
Jasmin: Speaking about your career, you’re active a while now, as an actress, as a singer. Have you witnessed a change of how women are perceived in the music industry, in metal?
Netta: It depends on how you look on it. I personally never ever think about of myself being “female” or anything. I just don’t think about it. I just do what I want to do, of course it is present that I am a woman, but it’s not important for me or for what I do. It’s so different to what role the women have in band, too, if they’re the singer or the drummer or a musician. Maybe it is still more difficult for women to be a musician, if you play another instrument than your voice. As a singer, there are so many female singers, but there are still not too many metal bands with female musicians. There, I don’t see any problem with the gender, or with women being singers. Another question is to see the equality in a band, but I am a very strong person, I formed the band. I don’t know how it feels to be a singer coming into a preexisting band. The dynamics might be totally different! I cannot answer your question from this perspective. From my perspective, my experiences, I feel totally equal. Of course, I need to point out that we have a very good situation in Finland. We have a high level of equality for more than hundred years now, so we are lucky. I see what happens in the world, when you go to different countries and you see that the dynamics can be different from where we live. Realities are different, but the basic thing is to be yourself. Know yourself. Just be strong and don’t think yourself as a “female” too much. It is a state of mind to fight for yourself and to think of yourself as equal. Your state of mind affects everyone else around you. If you think of yourself of being equal to everyone else, you can become equal. It’s not only a struggle with society, but also a struggle with yourself to know your own worth. To feel that you are just as worthy as everyone else. It’s about finding inner strength. And also, the metal world expects you to be strong if you’re a man or a woman, they want you to stand up for yourself! This is what Smackbound is about, we want everyone to feel better about themselves.
Jasmin: The whole 20/20 album is empowering and strong, how did you as a person grow into this strong character of yourself?
Netta: I think I, and all of us, became like this through struggles and hard times, phases of feeling unworthy, small, incapable, experiencing a lot of hardship. But I think I always had this strength in me, since I was a kid, I always had this strong will. I always felt like no one has the right to disrespect me. They can disrespect me, but they don’t have the right to do so. I went through the stages of being the victim and feeling angry, I was too humble and didn’t appreciate myself as I should have when I was young. I think we all go through this stage when we are young, it’s not weakness. It’s not a flaw, it’s a basic stage of your personal growth you have to go through especially for women, because we see what we are supposed to be in the social media and magazines. We are brought up to be nice and to not be loud and be kind, silent and smiling. I do believe in kindness and smiles, but it doesn’t mean that you have to do that to please others, it’s just about realizing that whatever social norms we have, we really don’t have to follow these norms if they don’t fit us, if they make us feel bad. Growing up is about finding freedom from what people expect.
“If you only want to please people, this can leave you crushed if they don’t like what you do”
Jasmin: The whole album reflects your pursuit of freedom and creativity – how was the general reception of 20/20?
Netta: The reaction and how the album has been received had been really good and we are very happy about it. We went out like, we loved the album and that’s enough for us. This is what you have to do! You have to love what you’re doing, otherwise no one else can love it. If you love it, it doesn’t matter if anyone else loves it. If you are doing it the other way round, if you want to please people, trying to analyze what would work for the others, this can leave you crushed when no one likes it. You felt from the beginning that it’s not good, it can’t turn out good. For us, 20/20 is out and we love it. We got so much love back, great reviews, people are loving it, of course, not everyone likes the same – but our album has found its audience and we are feeling that we are welcomed.
Jasmin: That’s a great statement to end the interview.
Jasmin: Thank you for your time, Netta, and good luck, great success with the new album!
Netta: Thank you!
Tracklist: Smackbound 20/20 (June, 12th, 2020, Frontiers Music SRL)
01 – Wall Of Silence
02 – Drive It Like You Stole It
03 – Close To Sober
04 – Run
05 – The Game
06 – Those Who Burn
07 – Hey Motherfuckers
08 – Troublemaker
09 – Date With The Devil
10 – Wind And Water