Interview with Pekka Ansio Heino of Brother Firetribe

What pictures do you have in your mind when you think about the “vintage” America…? Crowded drive-in theaters, diners with the obligatory black and white floor tiles, open highways, old timers… And that’s exactly the vibe a Finnish act Brother Firetribe captured with their upcoming album Feel The Burn aesthetically – from the videos to the single covers, it’s retro America all the way. But where does this idea come from? Here’s the band’s lead singer Pekka Ansio Heino explaining it all – and providing an insight into the new release all Tribesters can’t wait to hear.

Brother Firetribe

Alexandra Mrozowska: To start our chat on an optimistic note, I’ll refrain myself from asking about cancelled gigs or the postponed release date of your new album. I’d rather ask about the future plans the band has once the pandemic is all over…

Pekka Ansio Heino: …I like this interview already!

AM: (laughs) Always look on the bright side of life, huh? So let’s start from the three singles off the new album Feel The Burn. Would you say they’re representative towards the rest of the new material in terms of music, or can we expect any surprises?

PAH: Yeah, sure they are. We still think of an album as a format where each song is a part of a big picture. There’s some stuff there that might take people by surprise but what do I know… we only did what felt right and sounded great to our ears, as always.

AM: The reason I’m asking about surprises on the new album is that Sunbound ‘s final track “Phantasmagoria” may have left some of your listeners with an impression you’re inclined to explore slightly different sides of your creativity than before…

PAH: I’m glad you noticed that! That’s exactly why we decided to close Sunbound with “Phantasmagoria”, because it was different and kind of left the door open when thinking about the follow-up. But in reality, we never thought about it once we started working. We just hammered out songs to our best abilities and hoped for the best!

AM: Brother Firetribe’s unwritten tradition is to include one cover song per album – will Feel The Burn be any different?

PAH: Unfortunately, there’s no cover song on this one as we simply ran out of time! Corona got in the way and we had priorities in getting our own songs right. We did check out possible candidates at some point but just didn’t have the time to make it happen eventually. We’ll get back to the tradition on the next one, I’m sure!

AM: Do you plan to release any more singles prior to the album release due in September, or is that sneak peek we have already enough?

PAH: We’ll put out one more single two weeks prior to the album release. I’m REALLY excited about this particular song.

AM: Earlier that year, you’ve announced that Emppu Vuorinen decided to step down from Brother Firetribe due to his obviously busy schedule with Nightwish and that he will be replaced with Roope Riihijärvi whom your fans already know from the band’s more recent live performances. How do you think this line-up change will influence the music and dynamics within the band? How many guitarist will put their stamp on Feel The Burn?

PAH: Of course it makes a difference in both. Emppu has a unique sound and style which was a huge part of Brother Firetribe. Any guitarist who’s worth a mention has that and we’re lucky that Roope is one of them. Plus he fits in like a glove personality-wise, just as Emppu did. And well, Emppu plays on two tracks on the album. On the first two songs we recorded before we decided to go our seperate ways. We have three guitarists playing on the record; Roope, Jimmy Westerlund (the producer) and Emppu.

AM: Watching your new videos, it’s hard to escape the feeling there’s this “vintage America” visual vibe to them. Is this aesthetical choice influenced by the band’s trip to the US or something else…?

PAH: Good question! It’s just that we find that vibe and style to be timeless and like it. All the old movies, cars from the ‘50s to the ‘70s, you know…? We just thought it’d be cool to try to capture that thing with our new stuff and it works great! It really had nothing to do with our awesome trips to US but it didn’t hurt either! Man, we had fun. The title of the album Feel The Burn actually came to us during the last trip so you may have a point there actually!

AM: In our previous interview in 2014, in the Diamond In The Firepit era, you claimed that Brother Firetribe has “never felt the need to be political or to change the world” and “aims to entertain” when it comes to songwriting. Did the band’s approach changed in any way since then?

PAH: No, not at all. And I’m glad it didn’t. We’d have one depressing album in our hands, looking at the way the world is right now…

AM: Speaking of it – in spite of all the restrictions, Brother Firetribe used all the opportunities possible to keep in touch with the fans and stay active. I’m obviously speaking about the acoustic live performances that were streamed via your social media page…

PAH: Yeah, I’m so glad we did them! It was good to have something to have our focus on in addition to finishing the album at the same time. It was a cool way to keep busy while all the jobs were gone and things got really nutty. Plus the band’s followers seemed to be pleased to see us do different stuff. But I have to be honest, playing a full set to a camera has NOTHING on playing to a live audience. It’s not that easy. Playing live in front of flesh and blood is still the best part of doing what we do. No contest.

AM: Can you envision yourselves doing similar live streams in the future, alongside regular gigs – perhaps for the fans from the remote parts of the world who are unable to see you live?

PAH: I think I most certainly can! And now that we know how to do it properly, I know we’ll come up with something in that vein. We’re actually in talks of doing something along those lines as we’re talking.

AM: What do you think will be the lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic when it comes to the music industry and the ways people create and consume music?

PAH: Hard to say at this point when the situation is still very much on. I’m sure online gigs will become the norm, an expected way for people to see their favourite acts but I just hope that after this madness calms down there’s still a demand for bands and artists playing live… I’m sure there is as nothing beats the live concert experience.

AM: Absolutely! During the mentioned acoustic live streams you’ve also held Q&A sessions, answering fans’ questions. Do you think such a direct way of communication between fans and artists will soon replace the traditional media interviews like the one we’re having right now? Do fans’ questions happen to be more accurate or well-thought than questions issued by the media?

PAH: Hadn’t thought about that, a good point. From the fans’ point of view it’s probably awesome to get to be in direct contact live with the band or the artist, getting a chance to ask something that matters to them personally. But at the same time a well-thought, full-scale interview is still a great way to get to know what’s going on in your favourite band’s world. Good music journalism is always appreciated, at least with yours truly.

AM: The last but one question brings us back to the band’s previous effort Sunbound again. One of the most memorable songs on the album was surely “Indelible Heroes”, a homage to deceased music legends such as Lemmy, Prince, David Bowie or Glen Frey. But who are your personal “indelible heroes”, not necessarily coming from the music industry?

PAH: I’m lucky to say my parents. It’s not obvious for everybody unfortunately. I’m always inspired by courage and people who stand up and defend the weaker ones. People who step up to do good. People with kind hearts who are ready and able to kick ass if necessary.

AM: So, is there anything you’d like to add in the end?

PAH: Thanks for a cool interview! I hope everyone stays safe and gets through this madness. Check out Feel The Burn, hope it makes you feel GOOD. See you out there soon!

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You can check out the video to the latest Brother Firetribe single “Night Drive” below: