Steve ‘N’ Seagulls began as a lark. A bunch of musician buddies in Finland decided to get together and work out a bluegrass-y version of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” They filmed a video, with everyone dressed up in tattered overalls and other country-esque attire. And as you could likely guess, it went viral, racking up millions of views around the world. Wise men that they are, the members of Steve ‘N’ Seagulls ran with it. The next thing they know they are touring the globe and releasing two albums of their hillbilly covers of rock and metal classics.
The most recent full-length from the group, Brothers In Farms, just came out earlier this month, featuring rollicking renditions of everything from “November Rain” to Motorhead’s “Aces High” as well as working in an original composition by the band for the first time.
We caught up with Pukki, the bassist and vocalist for the band, via email during their current U.S. tour (see below for dates) to find out about the current state of this wild and wooly bunch of Finns and how they go about choosing their fun, stomping covers.
How do you guys go about choosing what songs to cover on any given album? Are you thinking thematically or just about what songs would be the most fun to play?
Usually we just toss ideas around, try them out and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s fairly simple. Up until now we’ve mainly just played stuff we used to listen to or still do, but I imagine we need to broaden our horizons a bit at some point. Would be interesting to make a cover album out of songs we hate.
How do you then go about deciding how to cover them, or what style to put the songs in? Is it about trying to capture the feel of the original or just having fun with the tunes?
Someone comes up with a suggestion for a song and a basic idea on how to start arranging it. Then it’s just playing, trying a couple of different approaches, and normally in an hour or so we know if we’re going to keep working on it, put it on hold or discard it completely. We always try to keep some core element of the original and put in a different context; sometimes we end up changing very little except the instruments. The whole process is pretty intuitive and we try to just have fun with the songs instead of overanalyzing them.
Have you heard from any of the artists that you’ve covered?
Not directly, no. We’ve heard something secondhand but those are just rumors…
The big news about the new album is that you have an original song on it for the first time. How did that tune come about?
We had a few demos, but this is the only one we thought was ready to be released. It was Herman’s composition originally, then Remmel mostly did the lyrics and we went about arranging it like we usually do with any song. I think it turned out fine, now we’ll just have to wait and see how it’s received!
Why did you decide to start writing some original stuff now?
It was time.
Does that mean we’ll be hearing more original material in the future?
Most likely! But we’ll keep the dose far from lethal so expect more covers as well. We haven’t touched Bonnie Tyler yet…
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a bunch but how does a band from Finland come to start playing very American sounding bluegrass/country?
Result of American cultural imperialism, I suppose… But seriously, in our band we’re all into a lot of different stuff, so I guess it just felt like a fun thing to try. Actually this was originally only a side project that surprisingly took off.
Is there a big audience for that style of music in Finland?
A lot of Finns do seem to enjoy country music and there is even a tiny bluegrass scene over here, although it’s sort of absorbed into the fairly lively folk music scene. I don’t know if there’s a big audience for any style of music in a nation of less than six million people, though.
Are you surprised at all by the attention that your band has received, particularly out here in the States?
Definitely. We knew to expect something when we started getting messages from the US but the amount of it is just overwhelming. We are really looking forward to coming there again. We’ve toured the States twice now and both trips have been really good. What’s recently been surprising is that the French apparently have taken a liking to us. We’ve done quite a few gigs in France this year and the reception has been fantastic. We never thought that our stuff would go down over there.
What comes next for you guys?
The rest of the year looks busy. We’re on a U.S. tour that we finish on October 8th at The Armory in Brighton, CO. After that we do a bunch of gigs in Finland and in November and December we’re going to tour other European countries.
SEP 28 Duck Room @ Blueberry Hill UNIVERSITY CITY, MO
SEP 29 George’s Majestic Lounge FAYETTEVILLE, AR
SEP 30 Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival GUTHRIE, OK
OCT 01 The Riot Room KANSAS CITY, MO
OCT 02 7th Street Entry MINNEAPOLIS, MN
OCT 03 Rascals Live MOLINE, IL
OCT 04 Vaudeville Mews DES MOINES, IA
OCT 05 The Frequency MADISON, WI
OCT 06 Rose Music Hall COLUMBIA, MO
OCT 07 O’Leaver’s OMAHA, NE
OCT 08 The Armory Performing Arts Center BRIGHTON, CO