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Siinai: Finnish Prog Champions Think Big on ‘Olympic’ Debut

Siinai / Photo by Vesa Mäkinen

Who: Finland may be small, but that didn’t stop prog champions Siinai from thinking big. “We wanted to have a grand, national-anthem feel to our music,” says guitarist Risto Joensuu, speaking in heavily accented English on the phone from the band’s studio in Helsinki. Indeed, when he formed Siinai in 2010 with drummer Markus Joensuu (no relation), synth player Saku Kämäräinen, and bassist Matti Ahopelto, all in their mid-to-late 20s and active in the city’s thriving experimental-rock community, they weren’t interested in scaling Olympus via shortcut. “We knew we could not rely on pop elements or singing,” Risto continues, though he adds, “We didn’t know exactly what we’d do without them.”

Sounds Like: Siinai deliver a world-class instrumental spectacle on their debut, Olympic Games (Splendour). Drawing on the major-key crescendos of kosmische icons like Popol Vuh and Tangerine Dream, as well as the stirring synth washes of Vangelis, tracks like “Anthem 1 & 2” and “Victory” unfold in winning, slo-mo majesty. “When we heard the songs all together,” recalls Risto, “we were like, ‘This is really dramatic stuff. It’s like a great athletic contest.’ ” Not that he would know. “I mostly jog,” admits the guitarist. “I listen to CCR when I do it. I couldn’t listen to our album. That would feel like masturbating.”

Lunar Leap: Though Olympic Games is the band’s debut, Siinai backed Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug on his Moonface project’s recent (and stellar) full-length, Heartbreaking Bravery. “He liked some stuff I’d sent him and asked us to record with him,” says Risto about the collaboration. “It was amazing to see how he works on instinct. Maybe in Siinai we think too much sometimes.” The quartet will back Moonface in the States in June, then return later in the year for their own tour.

Citius, Cltius, Pay Us: Despite their defiantly nonpoppy tilt, Siinai are still holding out hope for a tie-in with the Olympic Games this summer. “Someone at the record label must have a marketing strategy for this circumstance,” says Risto impishly. “Right?” If they didn’t before, they do now.