Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band
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Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band

Helsinki | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

Helsinki | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Folk Fusion

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Esko Järvelä is a member of the famous fiddling family at the heart of high-flying Finnish folk band Frigg, who rocked the socks off Australian audiences at the WOMADelaide and Port Fairy festivals last year. Recently Järvelä, who bears a passing resemblance to REM’s Michael Stipe, realised he was already in his thirties and had never played in a rock band – as he says, “I wanted a reason to wear earplugs and to break more bow hairs.” And so he set about rectifying this apparent anomaly by assembling the Helsinki-based Epic Male Band. And an epic male band it undeniably is, even if the predominantly instrumental rock music produced by Esko and his four compatriots (acoustic and electric guitarists, a bassman and a drummer) for their eponymous debut album was created through a folk prism.
While it puts the focus squarely on the leader’s virtuosic, effects-driven violin playing, Epic Male Band benefits greatly from the contributions of special guest Calum MacCrimmon, from the popular Scottish folk band Breabach. His whistles and bagpipes lend varying degrees of Celtic feel to a handful of tracks. Featuring swirling rhythmic undercurrents and wonderful dynamics, the outstanding ‘Wunderbaumgartner’ brings to mind the cinematic orchestral arrangements of such as Lau and the Afro Celt Sound System. ‘Slice To Laura-Beth’ hints at Shooglenifty. The majestic ‘Blue Mountains Polska’, on the other hand, evokes the so-called “nordgrass” style of Frigg. The bluesy ‘What Is The Drink Of Kings?’ to a lesser extent. ‘Attention’ exhibits a playful gypsy swing influence before morphing into a sharply contrasting rock-heavy B-part. In the short and sharp ‘Limburger’, Esko’s amped up fiddle has a Jimi Hendrix meets Jean-Luc Ponty ring. Violin in tandem with pipes brings a hurdy-gurdy-like drone and distant echoes of Dutch art-rockers Focus to the jazz-rock curtain-closer, ‘Epic Theme’. Elsewhere, reflections of more contemporary rock bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Radiohead and Coldplay are discernible in EMB’s epic soundscapes.
By Tony Hillier - Tony Hillier - rhythms.com.au


This is a new five-piece thrash-folk-cum-folk-rock combo based in Helsinki and fronted by fiddler/composer Esko Järvelä (of the bands Frigg and Tsuumi Sound System); the disc is a vehicle for realising Esko’s ambition of playing in a rock band, writing and performing what he terms “the only kind of music (he’s) never been told to play”, with a “cool, noisy band”! It is an aural onslaught of full-on rock – electric and acoustic guitars, drums and bass – with the central implant of folk attitude firmly entrenched within, in the guise of Esko’s demonic hard-driving fiddle and augmented by whistle and Highland bagpipe from guest musician Calum MacCrimmon. It’s a mighty sound, immediately arresting and commanding in the nature of the beast and its sense of keen thrusting attack will prove irresistible to addicts of quality folk-rock of the purely instrumental variety.

All ten tracks are Esko’s own compositions and he derives plenty of mileage from placing traditionally-inspired fiddle tunes into a suitably grand setting that explodes from your speakers. Just when you might think it’s all becoming a mite too relentless, though, Esko cunningly pulls the guitars back from the front line, relaxes a touch and introduces rhythm and textural changes, unexpected nuances (there’s a surprising degree of light and shade too) and other incidental delights (such as a wordless choir on three tracks, a mini-string-section on Wunderbaumgartner, even a Pinball Wizard riff on What Is The Drink Of Kings?). And central track Limburger, a kind of interlude, comes in the form of a raunchily atmospheric fiddle solo. And then the clattering irregular beats that form the persistent motif of the finale Epic Theme get right into your head (you almost don’t want them to Finnish!)…

Although I wouldn’t exactly agree on the accuracy of the band’s website tag (“imagine if Bill Monroe took a trip to Scandinavia and met AC/DC”), there’s much exciting and diverting music to be had from the Epic Male Band. - David Kidman - The Living Tradition


Epic Male Band is a project led by Finnish fiddler extraordinaire Esko Järvelä. You know, he's written loads of tunes, he plays 5-string fiddle with Nordgrass outfit Frigg, and the marvellous Tsuumi Sound System, as well as semi-Celtic band Baltic Crossing and various other ensembles.
Epic Male Band is something a bit different:
ESKO JÄRVELÄ -
Epic Male Band Own Label EMB001, 10 tracks, 47 minutes
This Finnish fiddler with the fiddly name (I'll just call him Esko) is a widely respected tunesmith, traditional musician, and member of the massively entertaining band Frigg. Despite all this, Esko decided he wanted to play in a rock band! So this is Finnish fiddle with a rock band, and actually it works really well. Some tracks are close to the polskas and Nordgrass genre of Frigg, but most of this album is louder, brasher, faster, and more funked up than folk music ever was. It's still folk rock - Rush and Queen don't have to be worried about the competition yet - but there is an insistent beat and a throbbing bass line which mark this as something heavier than ceilidh music. The sleeve notes are helpfully in pucker English, but the translated track names are sometimes a little surprising. There's also some confusion over the CD title - it's perhaps the debut of Esko Järvelä and the Epic Male Band, and may someday be known simply as "The Red Album" when these guys are worldwide megastars.
There's plenty of humour on Epic Male Band. It starts with a little warm-up moment, introducing guitars, fiddle, drums and bass - the core line-up. Then the band launches into Bottom Fellows, inspired by the performance of "the coolest hockey club in the world" - ice hockey presumably. Wunderbaumgartner captures the story of that mad Austrian para-astronaut: the build-up to his space jump, the grace and beauty of his descent back to earth, and the jubilation afterwards when he didnlt end up as a patch of congealed ketchup at the bottom of a small crater. Blue Mountain Polska is one of the tracks which could come from the repertoire of Frigg, a relatively gentle melody with muted drums and bass behind a very Scandinavian fiddle. Then there's a bit of a dairy theme, with a tune dedicated to milk, and another one named after a Dutch cheese, both in the progressive rock style. Slice to Laura-Beth may be named for a certain Scottish-based mandolinist: it certainly has a state-side swamp-rock feel to it, buckwheat zydeco and all that.
Another Frigg-like track, and then comes a piece which is more swing than rock: Attention! This is one of my favourites, a real mishmash of music which reminds me of the late great Oliver Schroer, mixing in recorded speech and sound effects, a chance for the band to show off individually before their big finish. The final Epic Theme, well over eight minutes, brings in woodwind sounds including low whistle and bagpipes to create a mood similar to Red Hot Chilli Pipers or some of the modern Celtic film scores. Calum MacCrimmon provides mouth-blown input, and there's a small wordless choir and a cut-down string quartet, but mostly Epic Male Band is just the five core musicians. All the music on this CD was written by Esko, at odd moments over a long period, and this perhaps explains both the wide range of styles and the overall consistency. The result is an extremely enjoyable album, if you have any taste for folk rock fiddle: check it out at www.epicmaleband.com - Alex Monaghan - TradConnect


Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band was born to party. Their unstoppable, urgent playing, mixed with rock-style stage performances has earned them an enviable reputation with venues and festivals around the world. Coming from the Finnish folk music town - Kaustinen - fiddle player Esko Järvelä has traditional Finnish folk music coursing through his veins. His experiences working with top Finnish bands Frigg, JPP and Tsuumi Sound System have made him a true ambassador for the tradition - one who knows how to entertain and drive audiences wild.

The quintet of fiddle, guitars and drums (plus a few guests) draws on many influences on these tracks: a touch of Québec, American folk rock, Middle Eastern sultry harmonies, sweet Finnish folk and an unfathomable but endearing zaniness. They work hard and they play hard, and their sound is a testament to Järvelä’s fine production skills. There’s plenty of variety here, from the hard-hitting opener ’Whip’ to the slower folk style of ’Rose on the Wallpaper’; this is a band not short of talent or imagination. - Fiona Talkington, Songlines


The Finnish progressive/rock/folk group Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band is back with a follow up recording to their self-titled debut 2013 recording. Fierce and recklessly ferocious Rye Groove, released on their Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band label, is so good you might just have to beat it back with a stick.

Dazzling fans with their smart, slick brand of rocking progressive folk, the Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band cuts a swath wide and deep with Rye Groove. Their sound is potently polished and their skill is shrewdly precise.

Sometimes described as a progressive thrash folk band, which really doesn’t quite hit the mark given some of the band’s more melodic tracks, I would describe Epic Male Band’s sound something akin to squashing together rock and folk, sending it careening off on a rollercoaster before setting the whole thing alight.

Headed up by the prodigiously talented songwriter, producer and fiddler Esko Järvelä, the Epic Male Band’s sound is rounded out by the equally talented Juho Kivivouri on bass, Jani Kivelä on electric guitar, Janne Mathlin on drums and Anssi Salminen on acoustic guitar. Joined by guest artists Oskari “Leka” Lehtonen, Aili Järvelä, Alina Järvelä, Raisa Päivinen and Tommi Asplund, Rye Groove reels with keen edged coolness from the fiery opening strains of aptly named opening track “Whip” to the swinging groove of “Bo Diddley” and on to the lushly folksy “Rose on the Wallpaper.” Edged with darbuka by Mr. Lehtonen, electric guitar and strings, “Kabob Ostrobothnia” deliciously kick ass. Fans get a dose of the jaunty with “Sheriff,” a measure of easy folk fancy interspersed with vocals on “Five A.M.” and a dash of twisty rocking folk on title track “Rye Groove.” “Sweet Reel” is an addictively delicious ride to nowhere and anywhere that proves the ride is smooth, sweet and easy. Closing out Rye Groove, Epic Male Band soothes listeners with the sleekly silky “Inner Space.”

Ruthlessly savvy, intensely voracious and generously masterful, Rye Groove kicks the cane out from under mild-mannered folk. - T.J. Nelson, World Music Central.org


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band is an exuberant, crispy and powerful Folk Rock line-up based in Helsinki Finland. The band is formed and led by Esko Järvelä, an innovative fiddler and composer from Kaustinen, which is often considered as the home of Finnish folk music. Esko grew up surrounded by several top-class folk musicians and has developed a powerful and unique fiddle style of his own breaking the boundaries of sometimes clumsy image of folk fiddling. Besides Epic Male Band he’s been touring around the world with numerous Scandinavian top folk bands such as Frigg, JPP, Baltic Crossing, and Tsuumi Sound System.

In addition to Esko’s fat fiddle the band consists of an edgy and multifaceted guitar team by Anssi Salminen and Jani Kivelä, delicately groovy bass lines are delivered by Juho Kivivuori and all this is framed with punchy and sparkly drumming by Janne Mathlin.

The backgrounds of the musicians include a grand variety of music styles from Scandinavian and Trans-Atlantic folk traditions to Tango Nuevo, American country rock and Free Jazz, just to mention a few. All these diverse backgrounds together with Esko’s compositions are turned into a contemporary musical mixture that’s very difficult to be described with just a few words: in media the sound collision has been assimilated for example with Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention, Afro Celt Sound System, Jean-Luc Ponty, Bon Jovi, Jimi Hendrix, Lau and Led Zeppelin, when the band itself likes to talk simply about Progressive Hard Folk.

Epic Male Band’s explosive and cold-blooded live shows have already become a phenomenon among the audiences of major Finnish folk festivals and clubs. They want to entertain, they want to shake and move people, they want the music to drill right down to the bone. Every time they climb on stage they refuse to give no less than 110% to make the audience to return and experience the power and superfluous joy of Epic Folk Rock Twister again and again! 


"It does indeed rock, an exuberant set of Esko's characteristic intricately scampering, massively swung, ever-modulating tunes full of melodic corners and twists"
-Andrew Cronshaw, fRoots

"...this is a band not short of talent or imagination."
-Fiona Talkington, Songlines, UK

"Fierce and recklessly ferocious Rye Groove is so good you might just have to beat it back with a stick."
-TJ Nelson, World Music Central.org, USA

"It is fun, you can dance to, and there is a fantastic guy on the fiddle. Get the CD immediately, go and see him in concert, you wont regret it!"
-Folkworld.de

"...this album is louder, brasher, faster and more funked up than folk music ever was."
-Alex Monaghan, Tradconnect, UK

"Eskos amped up fiddle has a Jimi Hendrix meets Jean-Luc Ponty ring."
-Tony Hillier, Rhythms Magazine, AU

”Tight corners, virtuosic solos, folky roots, rock riffs bent for fiddle, irresistible groove… If you can listen to this without letting yourself go with the groove you must be deep frozen."

-Retrokki (retrokkiblog.wordpress.com, translated), FIN


Band Members