Limelight: Octopie

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We’ve heard of bands forming at school, college or in the pub before but – thwack us with a birch twig – never in a sauna. Still, Octopie being from Finland and all, we suppose we should’ve expected it…

“It was 2009 when I met Tom [Tamlander, vocals/flute/bass] in a sauna at a friend’s party,” reveals keyboardist Axel Thesleff, “and he asked me to play keys in his Rainbow tribute band. After a while this covers band broke up and we began writing original material together. We started looking for a line-up. Jere [Lehtomaa] played bass in the Rainbow band and he switched to lead guitar when we formed Octopie.”

After adding drummer Visa Kivisaari, “there was definitely some kind of magic when we started sharing our musical ideas,” says Tamlander. “Axel was already into prog and introduced me to Jethro Tull, Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson. I was pretty excited to start writing that kind of music. It has a lot of self-expression to it.”

We wanted to have an adventurous theme with the feel of a children’s book to it.

Octopie released their debut album, Fresh From The Oven, in 2012 and a self-titled EP followed in 2014. “Our sound has been the result of trial and error,” Lehtomaa admits. “The new record is a tighter and more energetic package than the previous releases.”

He’s referring to The Adventure Of Harry And Walrus Kane, an album that’s really tickled our tentacles here at Prog. Quirky, jerky and highly reminiscent of Gentle Giant, it tells the deeply affecting tale of a large-flippered marine mammal (the walrus) who helps a lonely man find joy and meaning in his life again.

“Gentle Giant have always been a big influence on Tom,” Thesleff divulges, “maybe more so than me, although the synth solo on Just The Same [from GG’s 1975 album Free Hand] made a big impression on me. I’ve also always been a big fan of their album Acquiring The Taste [1971].”

Plus, let’s not forget the title of the Giant’s fourth album, released in 1972. Octopus, isn’t it? “Right,” agrees Lehtomaa, “although I must say I’ve also always been a huge fan of bluesy and classic rock kinda stuff. Pink Floyd, Beatles and 60s hippie psychedelia can’t be missed from our albums either.”

Tamlander reveals that the concept behind …Harry And Walrus Kane came about when “Axel and myself were space-jamming with piano and bass, and somehow we started singing the line: ‘I am the walrus, I come from the sea…’ We began brainstorming ideas and came up with this story of the protagonist falling asleep and having this crazy dream. We wanted to have an adventurous theme with the feel of a children’s book to it.”

“At the end of the album Harry finds fulfilment by adopting a ‘walrus state of mind’,” says Thesleff. “It’s like nirvana, where you’ve found your inner child and can experience life to the fullest.”

Finland is renowned for its long, dark winters and summertime days of almost perpetual sunshine. Has that extreme climate in any way influenced Octopie’s music?

“The latest album was composed almost entirely during summertime jam sessions,” says Tamlander. “I think you can hear that in the music, too. The two previous records are more autumn and winter-sounding.”

We must ask you about that photo of yourselves wearing walrus masks. Do you have an obsession with creatures of the sea?

“No, not really,” says Thesleff, “although I understand why you might think so! It’s more of a coincidence, actually. The concept of the walrus and the sea really is about the primal relationship we have with water. The album is about going back in time to your childhood and the roots of your psyche. The concept of the sea reflects this in the sense that the sea is where we all have come from at the end of the day.”

Octopie haven’t played any live shows outside of their native Finland yet, but that’s a situation they plan to rectify soon. “If the opportunity presents itself, we’re more than happy to do it,” promises Kivisaari. “We’re constantly looking into expanding our music outside the borders of Finland.”

What does the future hold for Octopie?

Lehtomaa replies: “We’re happy to be in a creative phase where every rehearsal usually brings some new workable material, or new ways to vary the old stuff. So for now we’ll continue pushing the walrus concept forward, but new material is definitely about to come because we don’t seem to be running out of ideas any time soon!”

Finally, we must ask why you to decided to call yourself Octopie. Is ‘octopus pie’ a Finnish delicacy, perchance?

“We just like playing with words,” chuckles Lehtomaa. “We were going to call ourselves Astray Dog at one point. The quirkiness in it really describes our musical humour pretty well. There are no culinary references behind Octopie, although we do celebrate every album release with a seafood dinner.”

PROG FILE

line-up

Tom Tamlander (lead vocals/flute/bass), **Jere Lehtomaa **(guitars/backing vocals), Axel Thesleff (keyboards/backing vocals), **Visa Kivisaari **(drums/backing vocals)

sounds like

Acquiring the taste for Gentle Giant all over again

current release

The Adventure Of Harry And Walrus Kane is out now on Khatru Music

website

www.facebook.com/octopieband