by Andrew Muzyk
From the frozen tundra of Finland come the lads of Cessna, bright eyed and ready to take on the world. With releases on esteemed pop labels like Jigsaw, Fantastic, Tweenet, and Radio Khartoum, Cessna have seemingly taken over the indie-pop landscape with their brand of jazzy grooves and soulful lyrics. Their newest release, titled Loves, Longings and Regrets of Cessna, stays true to the Cessna formula, presenting the listener with seven songs that explore the passions of life while sparing no time for the complacent and ordinary. With its themes varying from a manic bubble gum instrumental to a trumpet dosed love song, and instrumentation ranging from an antique Lira organ to that of a laugh reel, Cessna provides a soundtrack full of infectious melodies and heartfelt lyrics for a life based on impulse and emotion.
The following interview was conducted via e-mail with Kimmo and Sami of Cessna for Ink 19.
As an introduction, can you describe how Cessna got together?
Sami: Tomi and I knew each other from high school, he knew I was dabbling at music, so later on when he began to write songs, he asked if I'd like to play with him. We were both well into our twenties and it was the first band for us, so we figured it would be nice to have other people around who knew the ropes and had some equipment. Kimmo was a college friend of mine who had played in bands before, so we asked him along. Jani and Mikko, who have played drums and keyboards in the band, respectively, were also local lads who had had various bands in their teens. It all came together very naturally. I'm sorry if this sounds rather prosaic!
Anything you'd like to tell the readers about your new album, Loves, Longings and Regrets of Cessna, released by Radio Khartoum?
Kimmo: The most remarkable thing about the CD must be its sleeve; I might be biased, but I'll have to say that it is one of the best-looking CDs I have ever seen. As far as the music goes, those familiar with our debut CD, Bordeaux, will notice a few developments: the overall sound is richer, the band is tighter, and there is a load of cool keyboard stuff going on almost all the tracks, thanks to our friend Mikko. In addition, on this release we entered a completely new territory for Cessna in the form of the three off-the-wall instrumental tracks on the CD counterbalancing the melancholy and introspective mood of the vocal tracks.
I've read in an interview that you believe your music to follow a sort of Cessna ideology, one that is likened to a kaleidoscope producing different fragments, styles, through a unified whole; do you still feel the same way with this new release?
Kimmo: Yes, I still find the kaleidoscope metaphor quite applicable, if somewhat naïve, when describing the essence of the Cessna sound. However, messing around with a variety of different styles and approaches is not our aim per se, rather it is something that comes naturally because of the different backgrounds and interests of the band members. On The Loves, Longings, and Regrets of Cessna, the spectrum of songs may not be as wide as it could have been due to a smaller format, but I am sure that our next album will again feature a broad range of different styles, from new wave to post-pop.
You guys seem to have a very loose knit way of making your songs. You seem most focused on investing your time into producing music that is more full of emotion and fun to listen to.
Kimmo: It is my experience that too much polishing and focusing on the quality of recording often takes away from the excitement, energy, and emotion of the music. In fact, these are the very aspects that make some records classics in my book, while other technically flawless but at the same time spiritless records do not have the same lasting quality. I'm not saying that every release should be recorded on a four-track with cheap mics, but in my opinion, it is essential to be able to capture the freshness and the excitement of the music. In a raw form, the original vision of the artist shines through, and it more than compensates any technical defects.
You chose to sing in English on your releases, save for a couple of songs here and there. However, in "Continental Diner," you opt for French. I know that all of you are linguists, but I was wondering: why do you not sing in your native tongue?
Kimmo: There's a phenomenon called "Suomi-rock" here in Finland which involves hard rock bands with long hair and leather boots singing in Finnish. They are hugely popular among ice hockey fans and wanna-be Formula 1 drivers. And, believe me, it is something you want to dissociate yourself from, so it is quite natural, even necessary, to opt for English lyrics.
Do you think it is necessary for bands to sing in English in order to gain acceptance into a wider market?
Kimmo: If you are talking about the mainstream Top 40 kind of a market, then it probably is. French or Spanish will quite likely get you somewhere in a more marginal market like the international indie pop scene, too.
Since your material has been mostly on American labels, do you find that you are more accepted here than, say, in your home country of Finland?
Sami: I used to think so, but recently this seems to have changed a bit, ever since we started to play out more. I have so many insecurities about the band, I always find it hard to believe when someone tells me they like our music. But during the past couple of years, I've felt like we've become more widely recognized here, almost a part of a, uh, scene.
In order to prevent me from badly describing your music; if you were making a mix tape for a friend and wanted them to really understand your sound, what two bands would you place a Cessna song between, and why?
Kimmo: I'd have to choose three tracks: "Shake" by Kasenetz-Katz Super Circus for its bubble gum pop sensibility and great organ and hand claps; "Each and Every One" from the Everything But the Girl debut album for the major 7th chords; and anything from Tago Mago by Can to demonstrate what goes on in the Cessna practice room when the tape is not rolling.
You have had releases on many different formats, the cassette, vinyl, and the compact disc. What format do you prefer, and which do you think best suits the Cessna sound?
Kimmo: From an aesthetic point of view, the number one format for me is the ten-inch vinyl, though I have to admit that I tend to listen to CDs mostly due to their convenience. As far as Cessna material is concerned, I think some of our songs are best suited for seven-inch records -- I am still dreaming of making a perfect seven-inch release. We got quite close with "My Blue Anglia," in my opinion, but with a little effort, I am sure we can top that one.
Sami: Well, I definitely prefer vinyl as a general rule. However, badly done vinyl is one of the most frustrating things I can imagine. Therefore I must say I've been most pleased with our CD releases -- the new one particularly -- whereas the sound quality on our vinyl releases has at times let me down slightly… Also, as much as I dislike CDs these days, Radio Khartoum CDs are simply too charming to resist!
How did it feel to be part of the Twee Net and McBain compilations, since they both compiled such a wide cross section of the more prominent indie pop bands in the late '90s?
Kimmo: The McBain compilation was really special to us, because it featured the very first Cessna release ever. At that time, it felt unbelievable that we were asked to participate. When the Twee Net compilation came out, we had already been on a couple of similar collections, so it didn't quite feel the same, although it certainly is one of the better compilations of its kind. I used to buy lots of indie pop compilations, but soon got tired of their general lack of originality and inventiveness. Of course, there are exceptions, like the Radio Khartoum compilations, but then again, everything that label does is exceptional in more than one way.
The new album, obviously, is concerned with loves, longings and regrets. I won't delve into loves because it may be too personal, but what are some longings or regrets you may have about the music you produce or the way things have unfolded for your band?
Kimmo: I regret not buying all those cool '70s analog synths when they were dirty cheap in the mid- and late-'80s, when new digital technology was thought to make them obsolete. What I long for sometimes is the naiveté and innocence we had towards writing songs and recording them when the band was in its early days. Today we are a lot more conscious about what we are doing, which, on one hand, can help us to focus on a singular goal like recording songs for a certain release or practicing for a gig, but on the other hand, it may have brought some creative limitations upon us and kept us from exploring some areas we could have, if we were still making music only to ourselves.
Sami: I regret not having played in a heavy metal band as a kid, because I could really use the technical prowess now. I long to own a guitar of my own so that I wouldn't have to keep borrowing other people's equipment.
What are some things that we might find the boys of Cessna listening to this year?
Kimmo: Mostly I have been listening to '60s pre-fusion jazz by Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, albums like E.S.P., Nefertiti, and Maiden Voyage. Also, lots of Jamaican music from the late '60s and the early '70s gets played on my stereo these days. As far as indie pop is concerned, I haven't been very impressed by anything since the Brittle Stars CD, but I always keep listening to The Magnetic Fields and Le Mans. And every time I listen to anything by Famous Boyfriend, it just blows me away.
Sami: If you mean music, I know I'll be listening to a great deal of new and old hip hop and reggae records, the new Aislers Set album, anything put out by Ninety-nine and The Lucksmiths, and hopefully as many Office Building shows and recordings as possible. Also, I'm planning to finally get my hands on that Kissing Book album, as well as some of that new two-step garage stuff coming out of Britain… Other than music, I think I'll be forced to listen to a few moralistic sermons, unless I mend my ways of course!
What might be some other stuff that people can look out for concerning Cessna. Upcoming releases, side projects or stuff from your 'zine?
Sami: Tomi and myself have been moonlighting as the rhythm section in a group called Artichoke, assembled to perform the songs of one Jari Hilden, an old friend of ours. A release of sorts may be forthcoming. Cessna are also gearing up to record new music, we have a number of new songs and we're anxious to release another album as soon as possible.
Kimmo: I'll take this opportunity to apologize that our last seven-inch, "Television Song," has not been very easily available, to say the least. The Japanese label Honeydew has made it impossible for us to have more than few copies leave Japanese territory, but I hope these songs will surface somewhere else in the course of time.