Interview: French Films

French Films - Photo by Tuomas Välinen

French Films - Photo by Tuomas Välinen

Parts of Berlin may have experienced their first snowfall of the season this afternoon, but freezing temperatures won’t keep things from heating up inside later tonight when Finnish band French Films brings its dance-inspired, carefree, summery sound to the stage.

Indeed, the band plays a special brand of indie rock that isn’t entirely becoming of what a Finnish band should sound like in the minds of most people.

But while French Films is many things, what it isn’t is a band concerned with the expectations of others.

The five formed last year after guitarists and vocalists Johannes Leppänen and Joni Kähkönen met in a bar and bonded over a shared love of bands such as the Ramones, the Strokes and the Clash – three largely influential bands whose sound isn’t necessarily all that apparent in the music of French Films. Bassist Mikael Jurmu, synth player Santtu Vainio and drummer Antti Inkiläinen round out the group, and the members insist that it’s their unique combination and shared vision – not their location or origin – which explains the trademark French Films sound.

“Pretty much, we knew what we wanted to sound like, but it wasn’t forced in any way,” Kähkönen said, specifying the organic nature of the music and inadvertently summarizing the band’s mission. “We are just gonna make a record and it will sound like us.”

Meanwhile, Inkiläinen explained that, while the response to the recently-released debut album, “Imaginary Future,” has been positive, it’s still difficult for many to reconcile the band’s origins with the songs it writes.

“They don’t see Finnish music culture as developed,” he said. “When they hear our sound, they think, ‘OK, this sounds like this and that. This can’t be authentic from Finland. This has to be borrowed from somewhere. It has to be copied from somewhere. It can’t be Finnish.'”

He attributed this to a combination of the Finnish music industry not giving itself enough credit, as well as to the preconception in the minds of many that warm sounds can’t come from an arctic country.

Yet the confusion over reconciling these aspects hasn’t kept the band from gaining a rapid following in such a short amount of time. In fact, things have transpired in such a way that the members are still somewhat trying to process the transformation from playing shows once a month to essentially touring the world.

“I have just become amazed how quick everything has happened,” Vainio said, also making mention of the fact that the members don’t take their position for granted.

“We can’t complain,” Inkiläinen reiterated, explaining that although touring is full of homesickness, lack of sleep, and stress from always being on-the-go, the guys are lucky to be doing what they’re doing.

“Sometimes we may be, like, really, like tired and really in a bad mood, but when we get on the stage in the evening, it all just goes away,” Kähkönen said.

Inkiläinen agreed, sharing how even the most unresponsive and unenthused of crowds doesn’t stop the band from playing loud and having fun.

“We won’t back down,” he said with a smile.

French Films plays tonight at Roter Salon in Berlin as part of Nordic By Nature‘s Scandinavian Disco. The event begins at 23.30.

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