Lake Nyos sits unassumingly in the Northwest region of Cameroon, with not much apart from it’s rust colored water to help it differentiate from the surrounding foliage. However, the lake’s reflective ambience is countered with a deadly history: in 1986, a disturbance caused a cloud of Co2 to erupt forth, killing over 1,700 people. The lake is also part of an allegedly inactive volcano, where slowly leaking magma deposits beneath the water still manage to convert water into ghastly carbonic acid.
Despite this, the area has been seeing a small resurgence in population. What was once a deserted and tragic reminder of nature’s true power is now a symbol of strength and comfort in areas like Menchum and Boyo, whose residents cite ancestral longing and enriched soil as reasons for return.
Perhaps this larger-than-life dichotomy is what Finnish two-piece NYOS had in mind when they started in 2014. Based in Jyväskylä, the duo employs a dramatic soft/loud dynamic throughout their discography. Latest single “Curiosity” shepherds listeners through a glistening, hazy pad of introspection, only to ambush them halfway through with dark, stabbing towers of sound. Fresh off their tour with Zeal and Ardour, NYOS met us halfway via email exchange to answer some questions about the band’s upcoming projects, finding one’s inner ‘drum spirit,’ and the influence of the environment on art itself.
Right off the bat, it would be downright indecent of us if we didn’t ask, how was the tour with Z&A? What did you take away from that?
Tom: Tour was great, thanks for asking! It’s the second time we’ve toured with Zeal & Ardor now (as well as a show together in their hometown earlier in the year), so we’ve luckily become good friends, and honestly there couldn’t be a more awesome, down to earth, fun bunch of people to tour with, so much silliness. The shows were fantastic too, Zeal & Ardor kill it every time they hit the stage, and for us as a small, noisy band from the DIY world, the opportunity to play to huge crowds in lovely and often sold out venues is such a treat and we feel really lucky to have had the chance to do that! With regards to what we took away from it – I’d say just the encouragement to keep going, and doing what we do, having such a positive experience from our first tastes of (for want of a better way of putting it) ‘bigger’ shows, has been a really great thing and given us a lot of energy going forward!
Did touring with a band with such powerful vocals rub off on you at all?
Tom: Haha, can i just say no? I mean, other than being full of respect and admiration for Manu’s amazing skill, I don’t think you’ll be seeing either of us give it a go any time soon… pretty happy remaining instrumental, although never say never.
The drums in NYOS are almost little symphonies by themselves, there are so many subdivisions and rhythms within rhythms. But in all those patterns, you rarely them into a predictable place. How do you keep the drum sound so unique?
Tuomas: I like to take long walks in the woods to find my inner ‘drumspirit’. When I brush my hair with my sticks, a group of passed-away drummers show up the clouds (just like Mufasa in the Lion King) and show me the way… Joking aside – thanks so much for the nice words! Thats a hard question! I just listen to a lot of different music and find inspiration there. Love trying new things out and attempting to play them. I admire a lot of jazz drummers and as before NYOS I’ve mostly been playing in punk bands, it’s nice to try something that I haven’t done before.
The artwork for the new single is really interesting. Can you tell us anything about it? Does it tie in with the name of the single, “Curiosity,” at all?
Tom: Well the first thing would be just to give a huge shout to our friend Howie Hill who has allowed us to use his excellent photography for our last few releases! “Curiosity” was all about kinda playing around for us, trying out a few ideas without rules (which generally is the band concept anyway) – so for the art, we were just looking for something a bit playful too, with a bit of colour, and that one popped out as fitting the ‘vibe’ nicely.
In general, NYOS does seem to have a theme as far as artwork goes. Is it minimalism? Symmetry? Does the art for “Curiosity” establish a break from that trend or do I just need to look at it while standing on my head?
Tom: You should definitely only listen to our records and check out the covers whilst standing on your head… we totally endorse that! :D But yeah it’s a hard one to answer, as for sure there is to a certain extent a theme behind the art, but it’s more a case of us seeking out something that vaguely represents the ‘vibe’ of the records for us rather than anything particularly considered! That being said, for “Curiosity,” we did intentionally go for something a bit different, perhaps a sign of things to come?
Do the two of you share musical inspirations or is it a matter of both of you bringing your own influences to the table when writing new music?
Tom: For sure there is quite a bit of crossover between our tastes, although I don’t know if I’d say that is really a direct influence when writing stuff. Normally we just get together and jam and play whatever we feel like! Both of us are lucky enough to work music-based jobs (I run a recording studio and work with a few bands as their live sound engineer and our drummer Tuomas works in a record store) so we are both constantly surrounded by all kinds of different music/genres etc, so at least for me, it kinda feels there’s like a whole mish-mash of things influencing and quite hard to define or highlight anything specific.
I remember being so entranced the first time I heard your last record, Now. When I showed it to a couple friends at the office, one of them came back asking if you’d ever heard of a late 80’s band called Blind Idiot God. I said I doubt it, because an obscure band from Missouri reaching the ears of Finland would blow my mind, but I really enjoyed their music when I checked them out. Ever heard of them?
Tom: That’s cool! It’s always interesting to hear what bands people link us to (someone at a show recently told us we sound like Korn, which was fun…). Never heard of Blind Idiot God, but I suppose we better check them out too! :)
Speaking of, how are things in Finland these days? With every country’s news channels shouting over everyone else, sometimes it’s hard to get an accurate snapshot of what’s really going on in the world. When you’re touring, do you find yourself learning more about your own country, or do you just try to stay hunkered down in the van and survive?
Tom: Well, I mean Finland is generally pretty calm… only like 5.5million people here, so not a crazy amount of news generated! That being said, Finland did just get the world’s youngest prime minister, and a nearly all female cabinet… so that is pretty cool (despite the typical Europe-wide nationalist boom also occurring here). It’s pretty snowy at the moment, we had something around 20 cms fall here the other day, although not too cold yet (can get down to around -30 in January/February).
In NYOS we’re a 50/50 split: I’m actually from the UK,k but live in Finland and Tuomas (drummer) is from here… so of course when touring people always come to me and speak Finnish and talk about what they know of Finland (since Tuomas, as a shy Finn is most likely hiding somewhere…). The result of this is usually a lot of fun alternative facts floating around from us non-Finns (like did you know that Finnish & Hungarian are EXACTLY the same language? …and to get to Russia from Finland the only way is to take a boat?). So I don’t know how much we really learn… but it’s always nice to come back here to the calmness of the Finnish countryside after a few weeks of chaos on tour!
Does where you live factor in the music you make?
Tom: Honestly, not I’m so sure… I mean, I wouldn’t say we’re particularly influenced by like the Finnish dark gloomy winters in the way some metal bands are for example, but there is probably something subconscious going on! I guess experiences we have when touring probably have more influence on our mentality and vibe at the time of writing stuff (for example almost all of the ideas and concepts for Now. came from us chatting on night drive after a show in Geneva!).
What’s one thing the world should know about your hometown, Jyväskylä?
Tom: Jyväskylä (or it’s suburb, Vaajakoski to be precise) – is home to the sweet manufacturer ‘Panda’ which is one of the biggest licorice candy (amongst other tasty treats) producers in the world! Tuomas is a big fan of that stuff.
What’s next for NYOS?
Tom: In 2020 we’ll most likely get to work on writing album no.5… we’ll of course tour as much as we have the time to, but I think the writing will probably be the focus! We’ve got a couple of super exciting gigs (supporting one of our favourite bands) 99% confirmed at the time of writing in February, and will do a short European tour in May too! Hoping to get out of Europe at some point soon if we can trick anyone into helping us with that… But yeah, sure we’ll announce some stuff soon – don’t like to stay still for too long! :D
Listen to the latest NYOS single and their discography here.