If, like me, your three favourite things in the world are music, (watching) sports, and Karhu beer, then you definitely should have been with me on the 20th of May in Saaristobaari. I know it is a bold and assured statement. I know I am basically saying that you should have been hanging out with a person you do not know instead of enjoying pussikalja by Aurajoki with actual friends on a sunny Saturday, just because we might or might not share some basic convictions about what makes life worth living. But hey, if you love those three aforementioned things as much as I do, the decision would have been a no-brainer: you would have gotten the chance to watch the brilliant Turkulainen Jazz trio MÖLy performing, chat with them, have some pints, and also keep an eye on the Finland – Sweden ice hockey Championships semi-final.
The game started while Jaakko Martikainen (saxophone), Johan Ölander (drums), and Pasi Lyysaari (bass) were setting up their gear, a few hours before the gig. The band had to multitask to do the sound-check while keeping track of the events in what is one of hockey’s greatest rivalries. Multiple round trips between stage, mixing table and TV were required but, you know, focusing on many things at once is probably not unfamiliar to jazz musicians.
Sweden scored the first goal. It inevitably struck up a conversation about the Finnish team’s chances of winning, and Johan delivered an insightful piece of advice for these nerve-wrecking fixtures. “Never be too optimistic before the game: you’ll be less disappointed if you lose, and will enjoy it more if you win.” As the game continued, the goals kept on coming for the Swedes and we had to settle for being relatively less disappointed than other overly optimistic fans. It is not the best consolation prize, but while The Leijonat were not having a terrific time on the rink, we were having a lovely chat with and about the band.
The word “möly” means “noise” in Finnish. The band’s name is not merely a dull description of their sound (in your face Metallica!), but it is also a combination of the musicians’ surnames (Martikainen, Ölander, Lyysaari). Jaakko, Johan, and Pasi all come from different musical backgrounds and have been playing different music styles. Johan started as a rocker then got into jazz through 70s jazz fusion legends. Pasi was also a rock kid who went on to play with acts as diverse as iskelmä legends Matti ja Teppo and Turku’s Symphonic Orchestra. When we were talking about their different paths in music, Jaakko insisted that his most meaningful experiences in terms of growing as a musician have come from playing with different musicians in different kinds of bands. “[When playing] with people you get to test some ideas. See if they work. Ask yourself what is there to be done if they don’t work. It is like a never ending expedition.”
And it was this musical journey which led to him bringing MÖLy together for the love of jazz and improvisation. Pasi said that “a good sax player just needs a trio” and that is basically the dynamic of the band: the saxophone player is the pivotal figure in MÖLy. Jaakko writes the music that the band works on before exploring deeper, with room for everyone to express themselves, their varied influences and experiences. It is a kind of structured chaos, where ideas and inspiration can come from places as unexpected as, say, Jaakko’s dog.
It got me curious as well.
It turned out that one of the band’s favourite tunes from their album Floating in Nauvo and Other Stories is ‘Remu The Dog’, in which the band encapsulates the personality of a dog named Remu. Maybe you are asking yourselves “do they trade their instruments for bones?”, or “how the hell does one channel the spirit of a dog through a song without the use of psychedelic drugs?” The answer from the songwriter is more conceptual than actual clinical lycanthropy, but is nonetheless compelling: “‘Remu the Dog’ is probably the funniest [story off the album]… We all play quite freely in the song, and there is this passage with just drums and saxophone that I am leading a bit like a dog, in a way, making dog sounds… Those ideas, plus the Afrobeat feel in the main theme just fit the name of the song”. By a funny coincidence, I ran into Jaakko a few days after the gig. He was walking a dog that was being quite a handful, so we didn’t have time to talk, but judging from the dog’s joyful frenzy, I bet my bottom euro it was Remu.
Around the end of a fairly underwhelming game (from a Finnish perspective), we were lucky to be discussing more uplifting topics than the 4-1 defeat against Sweden- the Turku jazz scene for instance. During the last five years the scene has been improving, according to Jaakko, who describes his hometown as an “active jazz city”. Credit to the Jazz City Turku project and the work the prominent figure of Turku jazz scene Jussi Fredriksson. It was only natural, therefore, that MÖLy did the recording and mastering of their album in Finland’s oldest city.
But as attached to Turku as they can seem, a band has got to tour- which is rather convenient for the audience I reckon. So don’t miss out on MÖLy next time they are in town. If you are a fan of jazz, or if Remu aroused your interest in discovering the other gems of Floating in Nauvo and Other Stories, you can go and enjoy all of that on the 19th of August at Turku Jazz Festival- and this time you can enjoy it first-hand.