Mixing heavy rock guitars with electronic sounds and huge pop melodies, Cyan Kicks was birthed in Helsinki in 2016. After their 2019 debut album "I Don't Love You" and last year's "Not Your Kind" EP, the fearless foursome fronted by energetic singer Susanna Alexandra decided to team up with Amaranthe singer Elise Ryd to write a Eurovision Song Contest entry for Finland. While "Hurricane" ended up at 2nd place in the national finals, it gained the band one of their biggest tracks. Still, one thing is for sure: This hurricane most certainly won't stop!
Participating in Eurovision Song Contest has been a troubled experience for many Finnish artists. Finland has a long history with last places and zero points in the competition. Even for the sole Finnish Eurovision winner Lordi, the win has been a stigma that has arguably kind of of tainted the band's reputation among audiences after a brief taste of success.
Yle, the national broadcasting company of Finland, started refreshing and toying with the Finnish Eurovision qualifying event a decade ago. After trial and error the Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (UMK for short, which translates to "Contest for New Music") triumphantly managed to lift its profile a few years ago. UMK is now a serious competition that has spawned commercial success to not only the winners but to other participants as well.
One of the most fresh-sounding artists participating in this years final was Cyan Kicks. In the UMK finals, held on February 26, their entry Hurricane ultimately landed at second place – only losing to Jezebel, a new song by melodic rock heavy-hitters The Rasmus. Already, Cyan Kicks has drawn many comparisons to Blind Channel, last years UMK winner and Eurovision Song Contest finalist gaining the 6th position in the race.
"It's frustrating", Cyan Kicks' singer Susanna Alexandra comments the Blind Channel comparisons.
"We respect them, but our music has nothing to do with theirs."
Guitarist Niila Perkkiö clarifies that while Blind Channel clearly is influenced by the early noughties nu metal, his band has drawn inspiration from bands such as PVRIS and Bring Me the Horizon. Hurricane is definitely a rock song – albeit shamelessly poppy and seasoned with electronic elements derived from dance music.
Hurricane was written in collaboration with Elize Ryd, the powerful vocalist of Swedish pop metal greats Amaranthe. Cyan Kicks met Ryd last summer when she was in Finland performing as a guest at Apolyptica's concert in which they were the opening band.
"She saw our gig and liked it a lot. We started chatting and talked about the possibility of touring together or writing a song", Susanna says.
But what could've been just casual small talk actualized only a few weeks later. The Swedish singer returned to Finland to live up to her word.
Hurricane's theme is in parallel with our band's work ethic, never giving up. – Niila Perkkiö
"It's no secret that Elize has had struggles with Lyme disease. That was a topic that she wanted to address: beating the illness. The theme was in parallel with our band's work ethic, never giving up", Perkkiö says.
The fans are alright
Hurricane was recorded with the help of Chris Walla, the producer best known as the former guitarist for indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie. Recording with Walla turned out as a precious experience for the band, says Niila who thus far had been the main producer of his band.
"I learned some valuable lessons for example in precision. It was obvious that he trusted our band and vision but challenged us and pushed us forward", Niila says.
Cyan Kicks wanted to use their fans to help with the chorus. Walla supported the idea but got a bit nervous when ten young fans turned up in studio.
"He was anxious about how the randomly picked quire would manage their part. It turned out great and actually Chris was the most excited person in the room. It seems we have a decent musical upbringing in Finland", Niila laughs.
The fans are alright
Cyan Kicks has a loyal fanbase. So loyal and active that they figured out Cyan Kicks' plan to participate in UMK before it was official.
"I started following some people from Yle who work for UMK on Instagram and noticed that these social media detectives had done their math", Susanna laughs.
The bands fanbase has been built by keeping in touch with them.
"We are really close with our fans. I spend hours every week answering their messages on Instagram, because I know it may mean the world to them. When our fans give us so much, why wouldn't we try to give something back?" Susanna asks.
Quit your day job
Hard work has been the modus operandi from the beginning. Susanna Alexandra and Niila Perkkiö had a history playing together but when they formed Cyan Kicks in 2016 they made the decision to fully commit to it, along with bassist Leevi Erkkilä and drummer Pietari Reijonen. Cyan Kicks isn't a hobby – and that meant they had to quit their day jobs and put the band before everything else.
They spent the first year writing songs and rehearsing like maniacs. Cyan Kicks recorded a four song demo and filmed a music video. They were self-confident and proud about the outcome and sure about inking a record deal in an instant.
"We sent it to approximately hundred labels. The only one who replied was a UK-based label that seemed way too shady", Perkkiö laughs.
In retrospect, he understands the lack of interest.
"There was no foundation. In fact we demolished any foundation we had managed to build when starting from scratch with this project", Niila explains.
"There was a logo of an unknown band and a handful of songs which – I can now say – were executed far from perfect."
On a mission from Riku
Riku Pääkkönen was one of the many receivers of Cyan Kicks' promo package. Pääkkönen is best known as the founder of Spinefarm Records (now owned by Universal Music Group), the label that introduced the Finnish metal giants Nightwish and Children of Bodom to the world. He now runs Ranka Kustannus which has a reputation of developing young talent, for example Blind Channel who moved to Century Media after Eurovision Song Contest last year. Pääkkönen is credited for being an important piece in negotiating the record deal for Blind Channel.
The first years with this band, we struggled to find our voice and vision, but it all unfolded naturally with time – the visual aspects, our sound, everything – Susanna Alexandra
Niila Perkkiö says Pääkkönen hadn't even opened Cyan Kicks' package before a mutual friend recommended him to check the band out. Pääkkönen, who says he focuses on releasing music with vision, saw potential in the newcomers.
"From day one Riku has been emphasizing the meaning of persistent long-term work. He's told us over and over that this will take us years to the point of it being boring", Susanna Alexandra laughs.
"And of course he's been right. The first years with this band, we struggled to find our voice and vision, but it all unfolded naturally with time – the visual aspects, our sound, everything."
Cyan Kicks had several foreign festival appearances and gigs booked in 2020 but covid-19 messed things up. When the world starts opening again, they are ready for international arenas thanks to a freshly signed agency deal with Contra Promotion. The German agency represents several Finnish bands, Blind Channel and Nightwish to name a couple, so there's Pääkkönen's fingerprint all over the deal.
The cancellations forced Cyan Kicks to switch plans. They recorded the seven track EP "Not Your Kind" (2021) which is an important release for the band's story. While Cyan Kicks' debut album, "I Don't Love You" (2019) is thematically a classic heartbreak album, "Not Your Kind" pushes their lyrical topics further.
We want to write about all the hardest things we've seen. So there will be heavy and bleak topics like domestic violence and being a victim of a narcissist – Susanna Alexandra
"It's more profound, like a dive to the abyss of our minds: How we experience the world and its grievances. There's criticism towards consumer habits and other statements", Susanna says.
A second album is in the works. It will of course include the empowering anthem Hurricane but otherwise it will cover even more personal and dark themes than their previous releases.
"We decided with Niila that we want to write about all the hardest things we've seen. So there will be heavy and bleak topics like domestic violence and being a victim of a narcissist for example", Susanna says.