ALTAMULLAN ROAD – Music is born from rare and true friendship

Behind the moniker Altamullan Road, Finnish singer-songwriters Johanna Kurkela and Johanna Iivanainen join forces. In anticipation of their European debut this weekend in The Netherlands, the duo took a moment to introduce their self-titled album, released in 2020, and share their upcoming plans with our editor, Cristina. Immerse yourself in the enchanting and folk-inspired ambiance of Altamullan Road through this interview.

Behind the moniker Altamullan Road, Finnish singer-songwriters Johanna Kurkela and Johanna Iivanainen join forces. In anticipation of their European debut this weekend in The Netherlands, the duo took a moment to introduce their self-titled album, released in 2020, and share their upcoming plans with our editor, Cristina. Immerse yourself in the enchanting and folk-inspired ambiance of Altamullan Road through this interview.

Altamullan Road
Photo by Ville Juurikkala

Welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. Thank you for joining me today. I am looking forward, actually, and I hope you will enjoy the interview. First of all, how were you how is this period treating you?

J.Kurkela: Well, thank you, first of all so much for having us. We’re delighted to interview you and chat more about our dear band, ultimately inroad. It’s been a wonderful spring. So far, we have done an extensive tour of Finland. Wonderful shows. Everything went better than we expected.

J.Iivanainen: Yes, it was perfect. with wonderful people and so many people.

Altamullan Road introduction

Okay, so for me following the Finnish scene, I’m already aware of Johanna Kurkela, and Johanna Iivanainen, for our European audience, I would like to ask you to introduce the band. Also, I know that you are coming in the Netherlands in a couple of weeks.

J. Kurkela: Well, where to start, right? We both have been solo musicians or singers for a period before we put this band together. Yes. In Finland, this band was sparked and inspired by our friendship, which started in 2009.

J.Iivanainen: Yes. Wow. So long already.

J.Kurkela: From the beginning, we loved singing together and shared a passion for many similar things. And, then we went and did a trip to Toronto. I never forget it. Well, I never remember the year. Which year was it?

J.Iivanainen: was 2013?

J.Kurkela: That’s it? We saw this awesome, all-female duo called Scarlett Jane perform at the marketplace. And we’re just sold on the idea that maybe someday, we too, could have a band together. Then finally, we started writing. Well, no, we first did the tour.

Touring with unreleased material

About that it’s quite unheard that their start touring without having their own material and then after the tour, they go into the studio. You know, usually, what I come across is, well, we are a brand new band, we are doing our debut album, and we go further. What’s happened with you is we go first off the tour, we do some collaboration on our songs covers, and then the unreleased material. If you ask me, it’s kind of an interesting dynamic.

J.Kurkela: It certainly is. It certainly is. Do you think we should spill the beans and tell them a little secret about the first album how we started to create it? We started making a finished album before the tour that we did in 2019. Was it 2018? Yeah, so we began to write, well, we had this awesome project going on. But you know, sometimes life happens.

And we never got to release that album, which was sad and made us anxious to finally get to singing together which we’ve been hoping to do for so many years. At that point. We wanted to get out and sing together because that had been our dream all along and so we decided to scrap that off. And start from the beginning and go and do some live shows first to get our feet in the water and test, test it all out. After then, start writing our material which ended up coming so naturally in this other language, English.

The beauty of Altamullan Road

I love the album and I’m still surprised at how much beauty there is inside. And how much just two voices can create. So I was also interested in how you collected all the material and how you worked on the album.

J.Iivanainen: Well, with the album, we worked together a lot. And also separately, the songs were, we had a sort of half and half. Everything started with me playing a melody on my keyboard and having this like eureka moment in which we found out a melody that clicked immediately.

J.Kurkela: Great, like a certain natural process for us to work together and put the music together. And it felt like a breeze. I still reminisce about those times. And I’ll never forget how I felt when we close up in my studio, working on the songs and just getting so inspired. And you know, working with Johanna was wonderful, something that fell. So Right. And especially at that moment we’re been waiting for so many years to make an album together that we can also release it. It was It felt so wonderful. Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback, it feels good to hear that, that emotion and all the things that we felt recording the album and making the songs translate to the listener as well.

Altamullan Road
Photo by Ville Juurikkala

The singles from Altamullan Road

I would also like to mention the singles On the Water and When it’s Time also their companion videos. Amazing ones.

J.Kurkela: Thank you. Um, yeah. They were “On the Water” was one of the first songs that I wrote. I was sitting at a piano that was a bit out of tune. It was a rainy day. And well, you can probably picture the rest and set the right mood for that song. I was hesitant. I remember when I played it for Johanna and I was kind of skeptical or nervous about it. For some reason, I wasn’t sure if it would make the cut and make this album. But um, do you enjoy it and encourage me to work? Work more at it and yeah, added on to this album, that it fits.

J.Iivanainen: That I had chills all over and tears in my eyes. It was a moving song.

J.Kurkela: The emotional impact of Johanna’s rendition of “Art of Losing” mirrored my own deeply moving experience, evoking tears. The genesis of this song’s lyrics dates back to our 2018 tour, drawing significant inspiration from my grandparents’ lives. Yet, like any piece of music, its lyrical essence invites diverse interpretations.

The debut in Europe

As you know, the album was released back in 2020, making it four years old now, yet it still resonates strongly. It’s remarkable that we’re still discussing it after all this time. Just recently, we wrapped up another significant tour in Finland, and as I mentioned earlier, this month marks the European debut of Altamullan Road.

So, there’s undoubtedly a long journey ahead of us. Regarding the upcoming gigs, there are two key dates—one in Zwolle and the other in Dordrecht. What are we anticipating? Well, while we’re already known to the Finnish fans and likely gaining recognition here in Europe, there’s always a mix of nerves and expectations. How will we approach these live performances? That’s the question.

J.Iivanainen: Well, with such gratitude and excitement, of course, it is wonderful. Before that, we were invited to those shows, and I’m looking forward to these debut gigs in Europe. So it’s, it’s just wonderful. And I don’t know if I have any expectations. It’s interesting to see how it all works and how it goes. And we just, we are happy to be able to sing and let these songs to the audience abroad, Finland also.

Altamullan Road
Photo by Ville Juurikkala

J.Kurkela: Allow me to share a bit about our approach to performing these songs live, which mirrors how we approached our recent tour in Finland. While the album encompasses various elements, the live environment offers a unique opportunity. I’ve always regarded live performances as a fresh canvas, a chance to reinterpret the songs anew, to dress them in new attire, so to speak.

With two exceptional musicians, Mikko Iivanainen, Johanna‘s husband, along with my brother Timo Kurkela, joining us on this journey, we’ve reimagined the songs to suit our current ensemble. What you’ll experience in our live shows is a fresh take on the album tracks. We intentionally avoided the use of backing tracks this time, opting instead to delve deep into the musicianship and essence of the songs, crafting a profound and impactful experience with minimal elements.

The future of Altamullan Road

Okay, well, that’s interesting. By the way, I will try to be present in Dordrecht. So the day that you will open for Delain together with Damian Wilson. Yeah, I’m looking forward. My next question is, well, this album was released in 2020. You girls are still massively touring it. But is there any plan for some new material or have we to think it’s just a one-go project?

J.Iivanainen: We’ve already started our second album. And it’s very, I think we have almost the new album ready but we need to develop the songs.

J.Kurkela: Certainly, and I feel like the tour we just did, and the shows we get to do still in the Netherlands and a few shows and summer shows in Finland still left. Those have given us so much new energy and drive to move forward with the new album. And that’s actually why I mean, we had a lovely goal and dream to be able to tour with the second album as well as to have two albums under our belts already before we finally did this tour after COVID. But as life happens, you need a little break.

Taking a break after COVID

During COVID, both of us found solace in creating more music. However, when the pandemic disrupted our plans for touring the album we had been working on, we found ourselves back at square one, returning to the studio. Amidst this, we shifted gears to other projects; Auri and my band Eye of Mellion recorded new albums, while Johanna pursued her own endeavors. We initially aimed to complete our second album before hitting the road again, but it became apparent that we needed a fresh burst of energy, particularly from my end.

It’s perfectly understandable. Giving it time to evolve is crucial, especially considering the pace of our society. It never ceases to amaze me that even after four years, discussions about your debut album persist. Typically, such conversations settle within a year. You know? Yet, it still touches me deeply. When I listen, I never assume it’s been four years already. It feels as though it was released just yesterday. And COVID certainly didn’t make things easier for anyone. So, it’s entirely justified to say, “I’m taking a break.”

J.Kurkela: Yes, we all do need that, don’t we? And thank you so much for your sweet words and kindness, kind feedback. It touches our hearts and, and we feel that it’s, it’s timeless, isn’t it like friendship and the joy of making music together, and I’m satisfied that is kind of something that we can celebrate as it being new and something fresh.

Altamullan Road and Ranka Kustannus

Well, you just mentioned some new insights. Now, my next question is about Altamullan Road’s debut which was released on the amazing Finnish label called
Ranka Kustannus
. What I’m trying to ask now is, considering you have a local label, are you considering signing onto a more European-based label for distribution? Because for us in Europe, accessing the album through the internet, like, for example, isn’t an issue, as many fans purchase their music there. However, it’s also about establishing a more European presence. While the local aspect is important, having a foothold in Europe is equally crucial.

Altamullan Road
Photo by Ville Juurikkala

J.Iivanainen: Absolutely. Do you have it? Well, I haven’t thought about it. But it sounds quite wise , that maybe we should think about it.

J.Kurkela: Yes. I mean, it’s somehow I mean, I’ve always viewed music so universally, and the fact that it can, it can reach people all over the world. We’re just really grateful for our wonderful label reco, at Ranka Kustannus who kind of took us on board when I mean, you have to kind of there are these diamonds of people out there who see the potential in starting new starting bands, and that’s who Riku was to us. So we’re indebted to him, for helping us out and releasing this album. And who knows, let’s see what the future holds. But definitely, we’re excited to explore outside of Finland too, and, maybe even do more shows in the future outside of Finland as well. That’d be great. We’d love to do that.

Closing words

Well, so. Yeah. For me, first of all, I’m I’m looking forward forward to seeing Altamullan Road in Dordrecht. And secondly, I want to thank you for the interview and for taking the time to do this interview. So if you want to conclude the interview, as you wish that’s that’s your space right now.

J.Kurkela: Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure chatting with you and hearing all these wonderful things. It’s always it was something that we missed during COVID. This, you know, live connection, connection from heart to heart, sharing the passion for music by listening to it and just sharing it all over. It’s, it’s a beautiful thing. We’re very honored and happy to have done this. Thank you.

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