While the COVID-19 pandemic likely will go down as the great tragedy of our lifetime, there have been some silver linings, if you choose to look at it that way. Unable to tour, musicians have found solace in creativity, writing and recording new albums sooner than expected or pursuing new side projects and collaborations. One of the latter saw Finnish singers Netta Laurenne of Smackbound and Noora Louhimo of Battle Beast come together, under the appropriate moniker of Laurenne/Louhimo, to record “The Reckoning” (July 9, 2021, Frontiers Records), an album that draws heavily on classic metal and hard rock influences. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently connected with Netta and Noora to discuss the collaboration, the duo’s plans for the future, the Finnish music scene and more.
LIVE METAL: You two, as I’ve read in the press releases that have gone out, are from the same town originally, not just the same country, right?
NETTA LAURENNE: Yeah, it’s kind of a half truth. We’ve both been living in the same town for a very long time but not necessarily at the same time with each other. I was born in Pirkkala, which is like 12 kilometers from Tampere. A lot of my youth and young adulthood, I was there in Tampere, until I was 29 or something when I moved to Helsinki, the capital. And Noora, you’re from Rauma, right?
NOORA LOUHIMO: Yeah, I was born in Rauma. It’s like a harbor city in western Finland. But I just went to be born there, because my family’s from northern Finland. But long story short (laughs), Netta is more like a barefooted Tampere girl. But we have been living in the same city until she moved to Helsinki about 10 years ago.
What is the city where you’re from like? Is there much of a music scene there?
NETTA: Yeah, it’s the rock city of Finland.
NOORA: Yes, it is. Still living here. (laughs)
NETTA: It has a strong life to it. Being very rock orientated, there’s a lot of musicians living there particularly. It used to be a kind of a industrial city back in the days. So there was a lot of pop culture and a lot of live music always. I think it’s the official unofficial rock city of Finland. It’s like you know what you’re gonna go listen to, live, when you go to San Antonio, Texas. It’s the same thing. You kind of know what you’re gonna hear when you go to Tampere.
From my perspective, at least, as an outsider, it seems like Finland has a pretty thriving metal scene. Is that accurate, and if it is, why do you think that’s so?
NOORA: I think it’s in our blood. (laughs) How better can you say it? I think from Finland comes a lot of good stuff. Besides heavy metal music, we’ve got great technology or people in technology coming from Finland and very talented people in many industries. But I think why exactly heavy metal is the thing that we are actually bringing to the world is that—this is just my opinion, by the way (laughs)—but I think it’s something about the melancholy that we have here. There’s something in our water. (laughs)
NETTA: That’s true. In our folk music and traditional music, there’s the same kind of melancholic vibes. We also have our own tango. We’ve always had that. It’s a bit different than Argentinian tango, but nevertheless it has the same kind of longing, melancholic vibe to it that tango has and this dramatic feel to it, and that’s our traditional music style. But I also think that it has something to do with this, like Noora said, that there’s a lot of great technology coming from Finland. I think it’s something to do with our personas that we like technical stuff, and a lot of us are introverts and we like to stay alone a lot. I think we’re drawn into practicing, so we like to learn these technical things. So why metal, I think it’s interesting for Finns to start playing that at a young age, because you have to have these technical abilities to do this. You can’t just whip it up from somewhere. You really have to practice and study it. When it comes to, also, singing, it’s not the easiest style of singing, so it kind of intrigues us. Maybe it’s the same gene in us that makes us great in all technology that draws us to finding metal music.
Obviously, both of you are in other bands, so how did this collaboration come about?
NETTA: Well, I had had this dream, in the back of my mind, for years that I’d love to do something with Noora, because I had followed her for a long time. I loved her style of singing, and she’s just a kickass singer, and I admired that. We’ve met a few times in a bar or something, so we kind of hanged around a bit. But we didn’t know each other so well, so deeply, because we were living in different cities. But when this pandemic hit, I was talking with my husband, and he said, “You should call Noora now. Let’s try it out. Call her, and listen to what she’s gonna say.” I’m like, “I can’t call her. She’s gonna say no.” But then I called her, and she said yes, straightaway. (laughs) Because you did have the same dream, you told me later on.
NOORA: Yeah, it was funny because after I said yes, we started meeting up and going through the demos Netta and Nino had done. Also, we drank some wine together and started talking deep shit. (laughs)
NETTA: (making air quotes) Some wine. (laughs)
NOORA: (laughs) And I was trying to sing along to the demos, and we laughed our asses off. And also, I told Netta the same story that I actually had the same dream about her, that I wanted to do something with her because I had been following her for years and admired her singing. So it was a match made in heaven, I think.
NETTA: So two stalkers. (laughs)
NOORA: It’s also a Finnish thing that it’s written in us that we have to stay really humble and kind of insecure in some ways. Like, “Yeah, well, I shouldn’t even ask, because she will say no.” But I’m happy that Netta called me, because I felt that, also. I was shy about this thing (laughs), even though I’m not known as being shy in any way. (laughs) This is a really delicate and sensitive thing, because when you are asking someone to join your forces with and singing-wise and as artists, it’s really a sensitive thing. So I think this was just meant to be.
What is it like working with another singer? Because you don’t do that in your other bands. What was it like to figure out who would sing which part and stuff like that?
NOORA: I think it went really easily, because Netta was the songwriter with her husband Nino, and she made sure that we both were seeing an equal amount of lines and stuff like that. She told me that she wants this to be totally equal. This is not a competition between us, but we are actually embracing each other and the music that we are doing. This whole album has been done in a goodwill and embracing good music and friendship, and all the people who’ve been participating doing this album are friends of ours. This has been one of the best projects that I’ve been in, and we’ve had so much fun in the studio. Half of the time we were recording, we were just laughing.
NETTA: (laughs) We couldn’t make it because it was impossible to sing.
NOORA: We love to joke around. You shouldn’t take yourself too seriously. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.
NETTA: We have a lot of recordings saved where we’re singing and we fucked it up totally. Then both of us shout, “Vittu!” There’s so many, because it’s a Finnish curse word.
NOORA: It means fuck. (laughs)
NETTA: We have like 10,000 fucks. (laughs) We have this one file that has them all, and we can, afterwards, compose it. (laughs)
NOORA: In different pitches. (laughs)
NETTA: Yeah, and a lot of laughing. (laughs) Yeah, it was really organic, and it was very easy to choose what the other one is singing, because we both felt like the lyrics, even though I wrote them, they are really from both of our hearts. So it’s like, Noora can feel them her own. It was just about staying equal. That was what I was checking, that if I have a C part in this song, it’s gonna be a C part in the other song to Noora, or if I’m starting this song, Noora will start the next one. And the lines were equally split, so that was the main thing. When it came to lyrics, I think everything was working fine. It was like, “You take this, I’ll take this.” I think I had one line in the whole album that I wanted to say. I can’t remember what song it was. I remember it’s the C part and one line from it. But now, I can’t remember what song it is.
NOORA: What usually the audience doesn’t even know is that the pre-production and the whole production of the album takes a long time before it even gets released, and we are already doing other stuff when it’s released. Of course, now we are still preparing for the album release and still gonna do some music videos and building this up. But anyways, it’s been how many months now since the recording?
NETTA: We recorded the vocals in January and February, so it’s been a long time. Going into the studio to sing is really fast. You go there with the lyrics, and then you sing them. Usually, there’s no time to have months of rehearsing. You’re rehearsing when you’re in the studio.
How did the pandemic affect the writing and recording of this album?
NETTA: Well, I think it allowed us to do this album and this collaboration, because otherwise we would not have had time to do it. So in a way it was a blessing to this project. Of course, if we think about all the pain and losses that people have had, being it family members or friends or anyone close to you and your own health, and also financial problems, to everyone, of course, it affected greatly. But if we just try to stick to the positive and think what it meant to this project in particular, it made this possible.
NOORA: Exactly. The recording, like I said, for me it was just a blast because we were joking around and singing. (laughs)
NETTA: It was amazing to be able to meet in person, because there was not that much human connections, otherwise, outside this because we stick to the minimum of seeing anyone, of course. Like everyone, we were basically put in lockdown for most of the time. So it was beautiful to just embrace the fact that you can hang out with someone in person, you can touch that person and you can be in the same space. It was really, really precious.
NOORA: Talking about this pandemic, it has really been the salt for life, this making music and being creative and putting your mind into something totally, focusing on this. I also did my own solo album during the time, and it was just released in March. These are the projects that we get connected with the people we love, and it’s really, really important. What I’ve noticed, I guess we all have gone through a bit of a self-searching during this time, and I’ve noticed that the people that we love are the most important thing in life, and we should always treasure it.
I think over the next year or so, there’s probably gonna be this flood of new releases coming out, because nobody was touring and they’re all just writing and recording. It’s gonna be a good time to be a music fan, I think.
NOORA: Yeah, and nonstop shows coming up. (laughs)
Yes, I’m so excited. That’s one of the things I wanted to ask about for this collaboration—what the future is gonna hold. Is this a one-off thing, or will there be more albums and touring and things like that coming up?
NOORA: Well, we keep our minds open. The most important for us, I guess, has been that we did this album together, and we have the music out there. Two singles now, but the whole album, in a month, is gonna be out there for the people. I hope—and I guess I can talk on behalf of Netta—that we want to give people power. We want to empower people in a good way, kind of in a loving, kickass way. People need that right now, I think, more than ever. Even though it’s been a long time and we have all been isolated, and we’ve lost our loved ones and it’s been a really rough time, now it’s time to stand up and live and go forward.
You must be really itching to get back up on stage and perform.
NETTA: Yeah we are, and we do have a dream. Of course, we want to do live gigs together. We just have to wait and see for the pandemic to clear out to actually be able to plan. But yes, this is also a dream of ours, that we can hit the road with this project and be able to kick ass on stage. (laughs)
NOORA: Exactly. That might not be this year. I’m gonna be really busy with Battle Beast now. We are releasing a new album, also, in the end of this year. But definitely we are gonna find a time and place for performing together, because that is also something that I want to be part of, and I want to see us together on stage and singing these songs to people.
NETTA: The perfect gig would be—we’ve been laughing our asses off about this one. The perfect thing would be, because Smackbound also will release a new album next year, so we’d have Smackbound as warm-up number one, then Laurenne/Louhimo as warm-up number two, and then the main show would be Battle Beast. (laughs) So we’d each have two shows in a row. So I would be exhausted when Laurenne/Louhimo hits the stage, and Noora would be exhausted with Battle Beast on stage. (laughs)
NOORA: That would be, actually, something very new, a new concept.
NETTA: (laughs) Don’t leave the stage, Noora! Next!
I think a lot of fans would be into something like that, though.
NETTA: Yeah, that would be fun. I just don’t know if it’s physically possible. (laughs) Let’s see, let’s see. If we start rehearsing now, maybe it’s gonna happen.
Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?
NOORA: Well, of course I want to say go to LaurenneLouhimo.com and pre-order the album, and go see our singles “Bitch Fire” and “The Reckoning.” They are cool music videos and I really love the songs, so really recommend! (laughs)
NETTA: And, also, we have Facebook and Instagram, so join us there. Like Noora said, LaurenneLouhimo.com has all the links to buying and pre-ordering this album. There’s also going to be vinyl, so for vinyl lovers, that’s great news. There’s going to be also red vinyl from EMP Germany, 100 pieces of that. And then there’s also a purple one that’s gonna hit the stores a little later. There’s gonna be more info on that on LaurenneLouhimo.com. So a lot of vinyls are going to come. But we just hope that you stay healthy, stay happy, pursue your own passion, listen to good music and live the good life.
NOORA: We love you!