INTERVIEW: A Day In Helsinki | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Paul Knight

It’s always good to come across a new band on the North East scene, and ever since being blessed with the dubious honour of winning Battle Of The Bands 2016 at Bubbles venue in Ashington, Newcastle-based A Day In Helsinki have gone on to record their debut EP and book a headline show at O2 Academy in Newcastle. I caught up with main man James Cowans to chat about where he’s come from, and where the band are going.

“I started off in a couple of Uni bands, released a few EPs, but fell out of love with music along the way. Then a chance encounter thrust me back into music, and I remembered how much I enjoyed playing, so I started playing solo acoustic gigs – except I got sick of people talking over the songs! So six months later I found these guys and A Day In Helsinki was born. That was two years ago and here we are on the verge of releasing our first EP.”

Entitled Guiding Lights, the EP showcases a band very much in the modern vein of high drama; extremes of dynamics and a unique vocal delivery from Cowans defiantly sets them apart. His voice is by turns tremulous and unafraid of falsetto range, reminiscent of high-period Brett Anderson, androgynous but with a raw tang when emotions run high. Where does that come from?

The EP showcases a band very much in the modern vein of high drama

“I’ve had a few people comment on my singing style! A lot of the songs I tried to sing along with when I was younger (mostly from my parents’ record collection – John Denver, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell) all tended to be too high for me. I guess it’s that, and whatever seems right at the time.  Music theory was drilled into me at school but I prefer to go with whatever feels right. I’m endlessly rewriting stuff – it drives the guys up the wall!”

The title track is all grand sweeping gestures and mighty crescendos. The lyrics are oblique, but I think he’s a bit upset about something, by the way he’s emoting his heart out. The other two tracks continue in the same vein – if you like big, chugging, indie guitars, this’ll be right up your street. Finally, what of the name?

“I’d love to say it was in relation to reading a book about Leon Trotsky and his flight to Helsinki.  It could have been a group chat we had where lots of stupid ideas were thrown about and twisted by everyone until we had something we liked. And it’s nothing to do with someone watching the Eurovision Song Contest when it was held in Finland.” That’s that cleared up then…

A Day In Helsinki play O2 Academy, Newcastle on Thursday 18th August.


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