We first became aware of Koria Kitten Riot back in 2015 when we featured the brilliant single “Between A Pillow And A Soft Place” in our Finnish music feature. Since then we’ve been wishing and hoping and thinking and praying and dreaming about a new LP. And now here it is – “Songs Of Hope And Science” (Vild Music) and a very fine disc it is too.We were delighed and excited when mainman Antti Reikko answered some questions for SWIT. Check it all out below!
When/Why did you decide to become a musician?
I don’t know if I ever decided, to be honest. I consider “a musician” someone who makes most of his income through music. In that sense, I am not a musician. I’m also not particularly good at playing any instrument or singing – but I can perform what I need to, in order to achieve what I want to do. And I do think I’m pretty good at writing songs and I have strong need of making music. I don’t know what that makes me.
But I started taking piano lessons when I was 5, then switched over to guitar at the age of 11. Then I’ve constantly been in bands since I was 13.
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
Hard to say! I think one of the first ones was “No Limit” by 2Unlimited. I have no idea why – it was catchy and somehow there was a slight, tingling sense of danger that appealed to me. Their debut album was the first cassette tape I ever bought. I was also heavily into Roxette for a while, and after that I got into AC/DC for a bit. The first CD I ever bought was “Dookie” by Green Day.
I’ve always loved catchy pop songs. A big wake-up moment for me was when I heard “Buddy Holly” by Weezer on the radio for the first time. It felt like the music I’d longed for the entire 12 years of my life thus far. I guess I drifted into being an indie kid from there.
How long have you been working on the new LP? Are you happy with the results?
I think it took about 3 years. At our level, with virtually no budget, it always takes so much longer than you initially plan to take. And you’re never 100% happy. After such a long time, all you hear are mistakes. But yes, generally I’m very happy. I feel these are the best songs I’ve written and the production generally supports the aesthetic I was looking for.
Tell me about the title “Songs Of Hope And Science”.
While making the album, I had quite a bit of trouble personally, and the world increasingly seemed to get into more trouble as well. I noticed a pattern in my music-listening habits that I’d constantly reach for something that would give me hope, instead of songs that dwell on pessimism and darkness. I wanted to make something like that as well, in large part for myself, but I thought perhaps other people would prefer some consoling too.
Science was another thing that comforted me. I’m not religious, but watching documentary films and reading about the universe and string theory etc. kind of filled in for that. I think it’s soothing to realise how little we know about things – we all ask ourselves “is this all there is” from time to time, and it’s nice to be able to answer yourself “probably not”.
Who did the album sleeve? It’s great!
An artist called Kalle Kotila illustrated it and Lauri-Matti Parppei designed the layout. I think it’s great too! The weird thing reflecting in the astronaut’s helmet is the Calabi-Yau manifold. It was pretty much the one thing I insisted would be included in the illustration!
What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?
A tough one! There’s a lot of songs on the new album where I felt I topped myself. But I might just say “White Trash Kids” – I’d had a long writer’s block after our previous album “Rich Men Poor Men Good Men”, and I figured I’d possibly lost my songwriting abilities for good. Then one day, that little thing just popped out of my guitar and I instantly felt cured – “Yup, still got it!”. So that one’s a little special.
How difficult/easy do you find to write songs? There are some beautiful melodies on the LP, do they arrive fully formed or do you have a particular method?
I don’t really have a method, other than that the music always comes first and I tend to write the lyrics a lot later. I’m not one of those people who sit down by their desk and go “alright, let’s write a song”. Those are the pros. I’m an amateur songwriter – and for me, most of the stuff seems to come in from somewhere, and my job is to recognise it’s worth something before it disappears again.
What musicians would you consider to be your biggest influences?
Hmm. The Beatles, definitely. Also because anyone else I was influenced by, was influenced by them. Elliott Smith was a genius songwriter to me – I think his chords and melodies were outstanding. The Flaming Lips. The Velvet Underground. I was super into Neil Young for a long time since I was 14. I’ve been fascinated with Bob Dylan for the past ten years or so. And I’ve always loved a certain catchy-pop-song-meets-weird-and-noisy-production thing – Neutral Milk Hotel is one of those bands. Radiohead, Weezer and the Smashing Pumpkins were very important to me growing up as a teenager.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
Ohhhhh! I’m not sure if I have that. I’ve never thought of this, actually. Somehow I feel I’m glad I haven’t written any of my favourite songs – I wouldn’t be able to enjoy them as much if I’d written them myself.
What is the best new band that you’ve heard recently?
I’m not sure how new they are, but at least they’re rather unknown here in Finland – I’ve very much enjoyed the album “Holding Hands With Jamie” by Girl Band recently. It’s from 2015, so it’s not NEW new. Also, Andy Shauf is one of my favourite recent discoveries, but he’s also got two albums under his belt, so I’m not sure he qualifies. He’s pretty new to me tho!
What’s your idea of success?
In music, I think I’d feel successful having enough people interested in it and income from it to be able to keep making it without considerable difficulty. I’m not quite there yet! Success is largely in your head, I think.
If you weren’t a musician what would you love to do?
I work in film, I’m a film editor. I like the job, sometimes even love it, but music is definitely the love of my life. As to answer the question, I don’t know. I’m having a hard time coming up with something I’d have as much passion for – I’d have to be a different person.
Do you consider yourself an optimist?
I do! It wasn’t always as clear – when I was younger, I kind of thought I was a pessimist. But I think that was just because I tend to not expect too much from things – that way, you’re usually pleasantly surprised when all goes well. Deep down, I do believe I’ll eventually land on my feet. I think that makes me an optimist.
How do you fell about Donald Trump?
He scares me. I’m baffled by what the state of the world has come to in such a short time span. A lot of people seem to think he’s stupid, which I think is a little dangerous. I don’t think he’s Stephen-Hawking-smart, but I’m pretty sure it takes a certain amount of intelligence to make it to the president of the United States. A lot of it, I believe, is an act to appeal to the everyman – and to not seem like as much of a threat to others.
For me, all the alarms set by ‘thirties Germany are going off. It is a scary time, and not just because of Trump – the whole global, conservative, right-wing movement is appalling and shameful and needs to be fought back.
What question would you like to be asked that you never are? And what would be your answer?
Well, I kind of wish interviewers would ask more specific questions about my songs, and then I could go “everything’s already in the song, man – I wouldn’t write a song about it if I could just say what I mean”!