Lithuania and Folklore
We had a nice chat with Vilius Garba, drummer of the Lithuanian Baltic folk band Ūkanose, these days. Here is the complete interview. A big thank to Vilius and to the rest of the band.
Hi guys, welcome on Folk-metal.nl, I’d like to start off by asking when and why you decided to create the band, why it’s called Ūkanose and what were your objectives when you created the band.
“Hey! Good to talk to you! The band was created back in 2012 when our guitarist Linas and our ex-Accordionist Tadas met up in a pub called “Eagle-Owl” and decided that Lithuania’s music scene needs more metal bands that incorporate our Lithuanian / Baltic Folklore into their music. That was only a natural conclusion for them to come to as they were both heavily interested in our History and Folklore. The main objective was to have fun of course and while doing so remind people about our history and traditions through music.”
How would you describe your music to the people who don’t listen to you?
“It’s a not your typical folk metal that you’re used to. We rely heavily on the traditional Lithuanian songs while creating our music and I doubt you have heard a lot of Baltic folklore which can be very distinctive. We can sound heavy, we can sound archaic, we can sound aggressive or we can sound jolly. Anyone can find a song that they will like in our discography.”
You came out with “Šiaurum Vėjum”, a full length that has nine tracks that are musically varied, in April and I really loved every minute of it when I was listening it for the review. What can you say about it?
“I’m glad you liked it. We’ve put a lot of work into this one, not cutting any corners regarding sound and visuals and we are quite happy with the way it turned out.
I must say that before this album our band was cursed with constant changes in line-up and that prevented us to define the vision of what the band and the music should be about and sound like. But the songs in this album were created mostly by the current line-up which seems to have settled down for now, so it is the best musical representation of each and everyone that are a part of “Ūkanose” at the current time.”
One of the things I love the most about your band is that you sing in Lithuanian, but I might ask what are your lyrics about in this album?
“The lyrics are varied in Šiaurum Vėjum. We like to look at it as a two-part album where the first half of it is very serious and almost existential. All of these texts are taken from very old Lithuanian folk songs that we put into a metal shell.
So, we have the song “Liūdna Liūdna” which talks about the sad and heavy hearts of the young men who are getting ready to die in battle in order to protect their country from the invaders. At the time that we recorded this song it was just another old Lithuanian song about the medieval battles and our fight against various intruders, but after 24th of February 2022 when the Russian pigs launched a full-scale war against our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, the song just started to hit differently which proves that our history is bound to repeat itself and that the old forgotten folk songs can once again be very relevant in a modern perspective.
“Ten Už Marių” is an old Lithuanian Polyphonic song (“Sutartinė”) which is a style of singing unique to the Baltic region. Even though there are not many lyrics in this one, the song has a deep meaning and talks about the wheel of life and the work and chores that we must succumb to everyday to go through life. It was a very fun experience to write this one and try to capture the unique nature of the polyphonic songs. Next time you listen to it try to distinguish between the three vocals that sing different lyric lines on top of each other.
“1236” is the date and the story of one of the most important battles in Lithuanian history. “Battle of the Sun” (“Saulės Mūšis”) was where Lithuanian warriors once and for all defeated Christian brothers of the Livonian Order who were harassing Baltic tribes for a very long time.
“Jievaru Žydėsiu” is a dialogue between a warrior who thinks he is riding into death and his horse, or in other words between man and nature. The warrior expresses his wishes to become part of nature after death.
“Iš Prūsų Žemės” tells a sad story of a girl longing for her man, a warlord, who went away to the Prussian lands to fight against the Teutonic Order which has enslaved and eradicated the Prussian tribe and was threatening to do the same thing to Lithuanians.
This is where we draw the line between the serious and the festive parts of the album, as the following songs talk about drinking, partying and having a good time. “Apynėlis” is a song about beer, “Samagonas” about the moonshine making processes, “Leliumoj” is a sort of a Christmas period song and “Plėšikėliai” is a story about a band of bandits who rob a priest in order to fund their nights in a tavern.
This is just a quick review about the lyrical themes of the album. We have released a CD-Book where all the lyrics are printed along with the contextual stories and explanations in both English and Lithuanian, for a deeper understanding of each song. Also, each song has its own artwork, so if anyone is interested into learning more about these songs and about a bit of history, we recommend that you go and order one of the CD-Books on our Bandcamp ;)”
Piece of Art
You come from Lithuania and folklore is very present in your music. How do you choose what you sing in your lyrics? How do you manage the instrumental part and the typical instruments?
“Up till now there wasn’t much of a process to choosing what to sing about. We take the folk songs that we like ourselves and think that we could make even better, take their themes, take their melodies and then reinvent them by rearranging the music and making it heavy.”
The cover art for the last full-length, as the one of your previous EP, is beautiful. Who did it? What was your initial idea? What does it represent?
“Thank you! Both these covers as well as the artwork of each song in “Šiaurum Vėjum” and the pictures in “Plėšikėliai” lyric video were drawn by our talented friend – Lina Andrijaitytė-Bieza. I must also give credit to our amazing graphic designer who put all these drawings into color and on the CD-book, LP and all the merchandise – Dominyka Juzakėnaitė. Alot of work went into all the visuals of this album.”
The name of the album “Šiaurum Vėjum” means “The Northern Wind”. Ancient Lithuanians believed Northern Wind to be a God who knew everything and would often guide the dead souls into afterlife. Hence the cover shows Northern Wind as a wise old man with his infinite beard.
These nine tracks were all the songs that you played live but wasn’t included in any of your records before. Why this need now? Do you have any tracks never included in any records before?
“Well, it just happened naturally that when we would create a song and think that it’s ready to be heard live, we would include it in our concert set list to see how people respond to it, soon our set list had more new songs that weren’t recorded yet than the old ones because those were the songs people liked the best. So, it was only logical to finally gather and release them for people to enjoy whenever and wherever they want. And no, currently we have no other finished songs that would be ready to add to our next set list. We are working on some though.”
Your previous EP was “…Kai Griaudėjo Miškai…”. I was positively surprised by “Sena Patranka”, the last track of the ep. It has a black metal riff that prepares the listener to something “blackish”, but then the song has very festive melodies. What’s the song really about?
“The whole EP was dedicated to the Lithuanian Guerilla War against soviets that took place in 1944 – 1953. The first three songs were some heartbreaking poems written by famous Lithuanian Partisans that we took the lyrics from. The last song is kind of a nonsense song that the Partisans would sing at those rare happy occasions when they had what to celebrate. A rough translation could be – “An old canon ain’t a gun / An old woman ain’t a miracle / So let’s go drink / Let’s go bluster / And let’s kill all the last stribas” (no translation for the word, it basically meant a pro soviet conscript of the local soviet authority).”
How do you describe the metal scene in Lithuania? Is there a connection between pagan/folk metal bands? Would you like to recommend us some good bands, even if they’re not (pagan/folk)?
“The scene here is not very big. Which is not surprising for a small country. I don’t know what you mean by connection between the pagan/folk bands, but there are not so many of those left that are active. We do have close friends in the metal scene that we tend to put up shows together, but they play different metal genres, not just pagan / folk. So, I guess the scene is somewhat connected, but the unity between bands could be better.
Even though we have a small scene, there are definitely some bands worth listening to. From the top of my head, go and have a listen to – “Juodvarnis” dark Lithuanian metal, “Obtest” pagan Lithuanian metal, “Ossastorium” death metal, “ORB” stoner metal, “Black Citrus” heavy bluesrock, “Phrenetix” wild thrash metal, “Erdve” if you’re into aggressive sound, “Au-Dessus” for black metal fans, “Awakening Sun” if you’re into more melodic sound. Don’t be afraid to explore and look up more bands on the internet. I’m sure you will find something unexpected that you’ll like.”
How is your tour situation? Do you have one planned?
“Not currently. For now, we have some dates in Lithuania and Poland in autumn. There are some talks about a bigger tour in the spring of 2024, but at the moment they are just that – talks, not confirmed yet. But stay tuned, follow us on Facebook and Instagram and you will definitely be the first to find out about our tours.”
Have you planned a tour in Italy?
“I’m sad to say so but no not yet. Hope to fix that soon though.”
I enjoyed talking to you.
It was my pleasure!