The Scandinavians are invading again. From the thumping, dancefloor euphoria of Icona Pop to the floaty electro of Postiljonen, "Scandipop" is everywhere this year; in the charts, on your iPhone, and worming its way incessantly into your brain. But it's not just the land of ABBA that's providing the soundtrack to pretty much everything - glance east and there are plenty of other bands beavering away on interesting sounds and textures, hoping to catch a break and follow in the slipstream of their more famous Nordic cousins.

Bands like Redder, a Finnish duo who specialise in gloomy, haunting electronica. Like the frozen tundra, the six tracks on their debut EP have a spectral quality, a melancholy that, as they explain via Skype from Helsinki, reflects the national temperament of their home country. It's a remarkably assured listen given that Frans Saraste, 24, and Vesa Hoikka, 23, haven't even known each other that long and come from different musical backgrounds. We called them up to talk about Border/Lines, playing live, and why the darkness is here to stay.


How did you guys meet, and what made you decide to make music together?

Frans: I had a solo folk project that had been running for over a year, and I'd released my debut EP. I did some gigs in Helsinki during the recording of it, and Vesa came to a few of them; later he contacted me and asked if I wanted to do something with him. It took me about a month to get back to him, but then we started working together almost right away; the second time we met up, we worked on 'Faster'. Everything just clicked right away.

Finland is better known, at least in the UK, for its metal scene and hard rock. What led you to making the kind of music that you do?

Vesa: I think the music we make was born, in a way, because Frans was making folk music, and I had more electronic stuff going on; we just pretty much merged those two, and that's what led to our sound.

Frans: Personally, I'd been writing "easy going" music for such a long time, so it was a breath of fresh for me to start doing something completely different. The dark sound was also something I'd been wanting to do for a long time, so when I met up with Vesa, it just seemed natural to do what we've done.

How would you describe the music that you make?

Vesa: There was one blog who called it "audio noir", and I think that's pretty apt. It doesn't describe all of our songs but for most of them, the term fits pretty well.

Frans: We really try to capture the Finnish gloominess, and that's something that a lot of Finns try to get away from. A lot of Finnish artists try to escape from the dark environment that we live in, and we've attempted to face it head on and take inspiration from it. There are a couple of other bands we admire who are doing the same, especially from other Nordic countries like Iceland - really being inspired by the place where they live.

Lots of music from Scandanavia, especially so-called "Scandipop", is based around happier, lighter themes and very pop orientated. Why does a lot Finnish music have a darker edge?

Frans: I don't really know. Sweden does have a very strong history of pop music, beginning with ABBA, so I think it's a cultural thing. Iceland also has some gloomy, darker music as well, really interesting stuff.

Who do you take inspiration from, and who are the other artists you admire or respect?

Frans: It's funny because we both have very different tastes; we're constantly teaching each other about stuff we've been listening to, and I don't think there's anything that we've both been fans of previously. Lyrically, I'd say Simon & Garfunkel, Elliot Smith, and more folky stuff. James Blake is also someone we've been listening to a lot, and we're into Massive Attack and the trip-hop sound. We listen to classical music as well, as we're both classically trained - Vesa plays the trumpet and I play piano - and we try to incorporate elements of that.

Is there a big market for what you do in Finland? Is there a big audience to appeal to?

Vesa: It's not big, no! There are some people, but not many.

Frans: Yeah, I'm not sure there's a market for anything here! We've been getting some response here, but it's marginal. I think Finnish people like the poppy stuff more.

Vesa: As we said, Finns aren't really comfortable confronting the gloominess and darkness of our country. Because you have to deal with it every day, and it just becomes so normal, our music doesn't feel special or different.

Frans: We have a good friend, and when we played our first song to him, he listened to the whole thing without saying a word and when it ended he was like "Man, it's so depressing!" Music here is more a form of escapism, and since it's so dark, they don't want to listen to dark stuff - like when you're depressed and you can't watch sad movies.

As a duo, how do approach songwriting? Do you start with a sample, or a particular sound or loop and build around it, or does it grow more organically from just being together and experimenting in the studio?

Vesa: We do pretty much everything ourselves; we record, we produce, mix and master it all on our own. So it's us, sitting in the studio, throwing ideas in the air and seeing what comes up. Sometimes Frans will have some lyrics, sometimes it's a sample - I don't think any of the songs on this EP were made in the same way. But they all very much grew from us hanging out and talking a lot - as we didn't know each other before, we have to explain everything to the other person, in detail, so they'll understand. We're big on communication.

Frans: It's something we've kept up from the beginning. Because we weren't friends before we started collaborating, if there was something I wanted to put in the song, I couldn't just say "Trust me Vesa, this is gonna be great." So we had to really fight for why we wanted this change, or why a major chord would be a better fit. Even though we're really good friends now, we've kept up the habit of explaining why each detail is necessary, which I think is healthy.

Have you played many live shows?

Frans: We've played under ten shows so far, mostly just warming up for other bands. We're hopefully going to play a couple here in Helsinki when the EP comes out.

Do you find it easy to transfer the atmosphere and mood form the EP onto the stage with just the two of you?

Frans: We have a lot of fun with it. We both play a lot of instruments, and almost all of it is live.

Vesa: I wouldn't say it was easy to come up with everything, but we somehow managed it. The thing is, when we play live, we don't want it to sound exactly as it does on the record. The last gig we had, we played 'Border/Lines' acoustically, with just guitars, because we thought it would add value to the whole process of the live show.

What inspires you lyrically, and what are you trying to convey?

Frans: I usually write the lyrics after the melodies have been figured out, and I spend a lot of time asking the melody what it wants to be, and trying to feel what would be the most natural fit for it. Then after I've figured that out, there might be something specific - like 'Faster' is based on a childhood memory of a boat ride, while 'Border/Lines' is about a film I saw on Russia, and being there after World War II.

Do you have any plans to come to the UK?

Frans: Absolutely. We've gotten a pretty good response so far from British people, so we're really looking forward to coming over if we get a chance. Nothing specific has materialised yet, but we've had some enquiries.

Vesa: We're in discussions, and hopeful it'll be soon.

Are you working on your debut album? Will it be more of the same, or are you constantly evolving and changing your sound?

Frans: Yeah, it's coming along. We're probably going to have to postpone the release date, but it should be out within a year. It'd be optimistic to say it'll be done in 2013, but around there.

Vesa: We're constantly writing new songs, and we have things lined up, we just have to actually start working on the recording and producing aspects. I wouldn't say it'll be the same - we're always evolving and trying to come up with new, interesting ideas; we figure providing it's interesting to us, it'll be interesting to other people.

Frans: But I think the gloominess is something we're not giving up, so it'll be just as dark. That part is here to stay.


Redder's Border/Lines EP is out now.