Since hearing their second official release (and their first for US label Clairecords) In Solarium, Estonian shoegaze popsters Pia Fraus have become a big part of my own personal music lexicon. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a huge personal thrill to see the band’s entire back catalog see the deluxe vinyl reissue treatment by Seksound, Pia Fraus’ in-house label, last year. Straight off the heels of that brilliant campaign, the band are set to release their stunner of a fifth album Field Ceremony on October 16th, their first full-length in nearly 10 years. I got the chance to speak to band founder/guitarist/principal songwriter Rein Fuks about guitar effects (or lack thereof) and touring Japan among other Pia things. Here’s what he had to say:
If I am correct, you started the band in 1998 at art school? Tell me more about that, what brought the core together and how did you guys decide you wanted to play music together?
Rein: I think it was in Summer 1998 when we first started to play with Reijo on bass and me on guitar in my sister’s flat. We recorded some weird songs with a tape recorder. Reijo just got his first bass from Margus Voolpriit who was a friend of Reijo’s sister. In Autumn when school started, Tõnis joined us and brought Joosep and then Kristel and Kärt. It all came very naturally. It was our first real band experience. I had some punk band when I was 12 years old but wasn’t something special.
What was your experience touring Japan in 2008, nearly ten years ago?
Rein: It was different 🙂 We had just released our fourth album “After Summer,” and the concerts were part of the album promotion. We had never played that far from home before 🙂 Japanese fans are very nice and quiet, nobody talks when the band is playing. It’s not very common here in Estonia. But after these Japanese concerts, we didn’t talk about Pia Fraus with each other for a few years. I think all the members were a bit tired of this.
But now we have some new energy, and we’re excited to play shows in Japan in February, and hopefully, some US shows in next spring.
I notice across various releases a constant popping up as a remixer, and that is Galaktlan. In fact, his remixes show up as early as on your first record, “Wonder What It’s Like.” How did you connect with him?
Rein: Galaktlan in an old friend of mine; he lived next to my house. I was a big fan of his band Uni (with Hendrik Luuk), and also his first solo project Von Suck. It’s a big honor to have such a talented friend, and I’m pleased about all his remixes. He has also done several remixes for Imandra Lake and other Seksound artists. We have also released few Galaktan’s albums under our label. Galaktlan also produced the Pia Fraus song “On You” from the album “In Solarium.”
Explain the process behind your writing, if possible. What influences you (music, other forms of art, other things in general), again if anything? What does the writing of a Pia Fraus song ‘look like’?
Rein: I mostly write my songs at home with an acoustic guitar. The more I play the more productive I am 🙂 That’s how it works for me. Estonian nature and my friends influence my music a lot. It’s always inspiring to see and feel the four seasons and stuff like that. Talk with your buddies, have a trip to the forest and hiking tracks. I think my music is not sound based. You can take off all the effects, distortions, reverbs and delays and there is still a song left.
What are your favorite effects pedals to use? What’s your favorite guitar effect used in the Pia Fraus canon, and which song is that effect on?
Rein: Of course, I have many of them. I really enjoy clear and clean guitar amp sound. And of course acoustic sound! Anyway, I think that one of my faves is good old classic ProCo RAT that I have owned for more than fifteen years already. It’s raw and dirty distortion that I have used in almost every single Pia Fraus and Imandra Lake song. I bought it from a second-hand shop, so I don’t know the age of this pedal. In these days I can’t imagine my life without Electro Harmonix “Deluxe Memory Man.” It’s the must-have analog delay in the studio and on stage. I’m also a big fan of my Electro Harmonix “Pulsar” tremolo. I think I have two of them. You can hear that tremolo sound at the beginning of “Mooie Island.”
I’m curious as to what brought about the ambient ‘backward’ track that concludes the “Mooie Island” EP.
Rein: There’s nothing too deep behind that track 🙂 We just had some fun in the studio with my good friend Hendrik Luuk who worked with us at that time. Maybe it’s because we listened to Stone Roses 🙂 I don’t remember where that idea came from.
What is the ‘indie’ music scene like in Tallinn today according to your ears, and how do you feel you fit into it? Any favorites?
Rein: We had a great indie scene in the middle of the nineties. There was Bizarre, Dallas, Borax, Dreamphish, Zahir and so on and so on. But these days the situation is not too optimistic. There are a few excellent indie bands that I may recommend, eg. Holy Motors, Picnic, She Bit Her Lip. But it’s not the best times in the Estonian indie scene.
What brought about the decision to start your label, Seksound?
Rein: In 2004 we found ourselves in the situation that our music was released in Japan and US, but we didn’t have a label in Europe. So we decided to start a label to release our music and also help to release our friend’s music. I never thought that it grow that “big” and last that long 🙂 Pia Fraus’ “Field Ceremony” is already Seksound’s 65th release. We still have ideas to release some fresh music and also re-release Estonian indie classics.
I’ve also noticed you have released a fair number of EPs over the years. Do you feel the EP format is easier to work with than a full LP format?
Rein: I like EPs 🙂 That’s why! I always think that “In Solarium” would be a perfect EP. Also, EPs and singles give you an opportunity to release some remixes and versions between your albums. It’s pure fun. Hope that people can find these EP’s 🙂
Finally, congratulations are in order on your massive vinyl reissue campaign. If you can, please explain some of the steps taken to achieve to these eyes some of the highest quality examples of the format. Both the art and the vinyl itself are perfectly pressed, and the remastering job on each is a benefit in all cases.
Rein: I’m glad and thankful to our mate and studio owner Lauri Liivak who helped us a lot. He had all the original tracks and backup files in his studio. It made things much easier. “Wonder What It’s Like” was originally released only on CD-R limited to 150 copies. Now our fans can have our very first album on LP. That’s great, I think 🙂 The best thing is that we re-mixed and mastered the whole “Nature Heart Software” album on the analog desk. I think the result is much much better. Finally, I’m happy with that album.
Field Ceremony is available from October 16th on via Seksound, Tonevendor, Darla and other fine shops and online stores.