"Music is therapy!"
Interview with Besra Members Hannes and Ville
Besra are one of the post-metal bands that get a feature on my blog whenever they have new stuff ready. Their music is too good not to share with you, listening to it all by myself. I already took the chance to post my review of their newest album, "Transitions"—a story about the pains of change in six beautiful chapters. After sharing it with the guys, we agreed to an interview, and here we are. Please enjoy. Hannes (Hietarinta, lead vocals, keyboards), Ville (Kaisla, drums), and I had a very personal chat, and they shared lots of precious insights about "Transitions" with me.
Anne: Hi! Thanks so much for taking the time! How are you guys doing today?
Hannes: Doing great, thanks! There is a lot of stuff on our plate right now since the album just came out: tweaking our live set, doing promotional work, applying for festivals and all of that.
Ville: Hello Anne! I'm starting to feel calm and relieved from the pressure created by the album release. There has indeed been a lot to do—so, exhausted but happy.
Anne: Isn't that the best condition of all? Congrats on your new album, "Transitions"! It's awesome! Are you satisfied with the outcome of your work?
"It's important to acknowledge you did a good job!"
Besra at the video shoot for "Transitions". Picture © Besra
Hannes: Thank you so much! We are very satisfied. It was a long journey creating this album, but in the end, it came together better than we ever could have imagined.
Ville: You're welcome! It's nice to hear that the album has been rewarding. I enjoyed reading your review! When it comes to an album, there's always room for improvement, but it's also important to pause and acknowledge that it turned out pretty good! There were several uncertainties: Are the sounds exactly how we want them? Does the album cover genuinely represent the music in the best possible way? Do the videos align with its theme? Reading the reviews now, it seems like they do adequately!
Anne: Thank you very much! I heard you wrote some of the songs years ago. Why did you decide to release them just now?
Hannes: Well, actually, it has been a constant writing process since, right after we released our first album, "Anhedonia", in 2018, that aimed for the second album. It just took a bit more than we expected. We had a few breaks here and there and re-arranged some of the songs entirely during this time.
Ville: The oldest track, "Landscapes", almost made it onto our first album. We had to draw a line somewhere, and now it's found its place on this album—although we did indeed rework it a couple of times. It would have felt wrong to exclude old songs just because they are older compositions. Our album is like a wine-tasting evening—you are comparing different vintages but still getting intoxicated from the same alcohol!
Anne: That's quite a good comparison! One of my absolute favourite on "Transitions" is "Cries and Lamentations"—the middle part is pure magic. Do you want to tell me the story of this grand finale of the record?
"I had my 'Toto' moment with 'Cries and Lamentations'"
Hannes: Yeah, so when we started recording the album, we still needed to add my complete (vocal and keyboard) parts. The more I listened to it, the more I began to hear it as the ending, an epilogue if you will. I also had a lyrical idea of how to end the album, and the few words I had written fit the song perfectly since it did not need that many vocals to begin with. I also saw an opportunity to have my "Toto" moment with the piano in the middle part, so I dove in and just improvised.
Ville: This song, on the other hand, is our most recent composition, and we finalised part of it in the studio with the attitude of "let's see if we can make something sensible out of it." I think it's an excellent example of why sometimes it's worth bringing even unfinished songs boldly into the studio and letting improvisation guide the way. This time, it paid off, and this song is my favourite on the album, too—especially on melancholic days!
Anne: Ville, you said "Transitions" revolves around confronting the complexities of human behaviour and the tumultuous landscapes we create—both in our social behaviour and the world around us. Do you want to tell me some examples of these complexities and landscapes?
Ville: During the making of the album, the world faced several crises, with the COVID-19 pandemic being a prime example of the socio-psychological challenge that the majority of the world had to confront. We all had to reevaluate our behaviour during the lockdown when our activities suddenly became so restricted. I noticed myself becoming an observer of people around me, watching with interest how some minds succumbed to conspiracy theories while others experienced anxiety and fear, and some even displayed problem-solving skills and optimism. These circumstances, of course, affected all of us during the album production, leading to many discussions. We were also forced to pause our encounters, which was unfortunate and temporarily stifled all creativity.
Following this was the Russian attack on Ukraine, and again, I observed the various ways people reacted to it and the absurd theories some of them formed. Crises seem to pull humanity in different directions, creating an unpleasant emotional divide between "us" and "them", which, in my opinion, should be avoided at all costs. The issue is definitely not straightforward, and the only solution seems to be continuous and open dialogue together.
Anne: "Transitions" is also about change being the only constant in our lives. This fact can be an overwhelming realisation. Did you always want to create a piece of art, like this album, around it?
"Crises made us contemplate change on a broader scale"
Hannes: The theme came together originally from the mental place I was in when I wrote the lyrics—but also the songs being so diverse. The more I wrote, the more I started to realise that the same theme kept repeating itself but in different patterns.
Ville: Perhaps these crises made us contemplate change on a broader scale. As a band, we understood that our album would differ significantly from our first. However, we also wanted to encourage listeners to reflect on their adaptability in the face of very different songs and the continuous changes in the world simultaneously: be flexible with uncomfortable situations (and our meandering album, heh), and you might discover something new about yourself!
Anne: There was also some change going on in the musical development of your band since your debut album, "Anhedonia", in 2018. How would you describe this development?
Hannes: We started to grow more musically together whilst rehearsing. Our way of making songs also changed. Before, it was more Johannes (Nygård, guitars) or Ville Ville (Kujansuu, guitars) bringing pieces to the studio, and we, as a band, were just rehearsing them. We started to involve the whole band more in the arranging process. And since we weren't in a hurry, we put more effort into details and the purity of playing.
Ville: Our move to a better rehearsal space before the album production was one significant change. This playing space is inside the Rødhouse Studio, allowing much higher-quality demos and experimenting with different ideas. If someone had a great idea, we could turn it into a multitrack recording within a few hours, providing a solid foundation to develop the concept further. Being in the new space makes you want to hang out longer, fostering more discussions about ideas and ensuring that band members don't just disperse to their homes immediately after rehearsals. You can imagine how much more relaxed it is to create an album in an environment like this compared to a cramped, sweaty room.
Anne: Besides the point that your style and way of making music has evolved since the early days of Besra, were there any other particular changes for you—personal and band-wise—you want to talk about?
"If you want people to find your music, it's a tremendous amount of work"
Ville: We have discussed how everyone has evolved as musicians since the first album. While "Anhedonia" was an experiment to see what this band could be, "Transitions" clearly represents what we want to be and the emotions we want to convey to leave our mark on the world. Roles are more precise, and the band's vision is sharper.
Personally, I have also learned a lot about building our social media presence. I can tell you—and you probably already know this—that it takes a tremendous amount of work if you want people to find your music amidst all the noise in the music scene. Why should anyone dedicate five minutes to your band? That's a great question. That's why I'm grateful for entities like yours that want to conduct interviews and highlight unknown names. Surprisingly, we seem to be gaining a lot of listeners from Germany, and I am incredibly excited about all the support we are receiving there! It appears that at least someone in that part of the world understands our sound, heh!
Anne: You can see that you put a lot of effort into your social media accounts – They're awesome! When you started making music: How old were you, and what were your former projects or bands you've been part of?
Hannes: I've been consistently doing something musical since maybe I was four or five. I started from the traditional piano lessons and then got into drumming around the age of ten. I've had the opportunity to play in quite a few projects, but the most important besides Besra would be Rites of the Youth, which also was my first actual vocal position.
Ville: My father got me a drum set through some shady car deal when I was nine. I didn't even want to play any instrument then, but that's how it started. I've played in various small projects since I was 16, ranging from black metal to hardcore and melodic metal. One of the most well-known former bands of Besra members is the post-metal band Callisto, which Johannes co-founded. Go and listen to their "Noir" album. It's wonderful!
Anne: I love this record ("Wormwood" was always my favourite Callisto piece), and I also like their records "True Nature Unfolds" and "Secret Youth" a lot!
Would you say making music transformed your life into something better?
"I couldn't picture myself without music"
Besra at the video shoot for "Transitions". Picture © Besra
Hannes: I couldn't picture my life without it, so, yes, definitely! I'm into it so deeply that I don't know if I could climb out even if I wanted to. It's my daily work, hobby, and way of getting the shit out of my system.
Ville: Music is therapy for me, too. My day job can be very exhausting at times, and it seems that I can't fully recover from it just by taking a hike. Creating music, and most recently, this album as a significant project, has given me much fulfilment for my well-being and creative needs!
Anne: Change is omnipresent and happens permanently. Do you have any other changes planned for the near future?
Hannes: We always want to change things for the better. Make better songs, be better musicians, and get better live shows.
Ville: Our keyboardist and third guitarist, Mika Mäkilaakso, recently joined the band. I believe this change will bring a diversified sound both in our live performances and the next album. The perspectives a new member brings are an exciting aspect, and I find this very inspiring.
Anne: What do your overall future plans look like? Do you have any tour dates to share? More studio days planned?
"We want to play festivals all across Europe!"
Ville: There's still a lot to do to make sure new people get to hear our album. That means touring, promoting, and getting to know new people. Currently, we're applying to festivals all across Europe, so we'll see where our efforts take us. We also have a stack of new song ideas to work on, but let's get back to those a bit later!
Anne: Thanks for this inspiring chat! All the best for your plans and the promotion for "Transitions"!
Ville: Thank you, Anne, for the great conversation, and all the best to you in Hamburg!
Besra is an experimental post-metal project from Turku, Finland.
- Hannes Hietarinta – lead vocals, keyboards
- Ville Kaisla – drums
- Ville Kujansuu – guitars
- Mika Mäkilaakso – guitars, keyboards, vocals
- Johannes Nygård – guitars Pekko Seppälä – bass
Besra discography (so far):
- "Anhedonia" (LP / 2018 / Temple of Torturous)
- "Unsullied" (Single / 2020 / Besra)
- "Live at Rødhouse Studio" (EP / 2023 / Besra)
- "Transitions" (LP / 2023 / Suicide Records)