The Long Harvest

It’s been a long journey for Creek Road Eleven, but one worth taking after the release of debut album The Long Harvest.

It’s not often that you hear of authentic country rock stemming from the suburbs of Helsinki in Finland, but that is exactly what is happening when it comes to new outfit Creek Road Eleven.

Having performed in a number of bands before the parts were assembled to produce the Finnish five-piece Creek Road Eleven, lead singer and guitarist, Toni Ruuska, decided that the time had come to start this new project after a productive writing spell resulted in a series of original songs that were deemed too good to ignore. Therefore, rather than offering these songs to any of the past and present line-ups he was involved with, the chance to start all over again for Toni Ruuska presented itself and was too good an opportunity to turn down.

With country rock being the main source of inspiration and therefore driving influence for the new material, Toni Ruuska wasted no time in terms of recruiting musicians, despite the process taking some time having started back in 2013, the attention to detail and endeavour to recruit the right employees was essential in order to create the right atmosphere for Creek Road Eleven’s debut album ‘The Long Harvest’.

With the new band members in place and comprising of Jyrki Levä (guitar/vocals), Pete Christiansson (bass), Jani Miinala (drums) and Petri Frestadius (keys/vocals), Creek Road Eleven has constructed a sound that is more at home with traditional country rock influences of America’s south where cotton fields, long highways and vast murky swamps helped inspire the foundations of ‘The Long Harvest’.

Despite their northern location, Creek Road Eleven is a band proud of their roots, with the band’s moniker serving as one such example as Toni Ruuska explains:  “We were thinking of many names, but finally somebody got the idea from the street address of our rehearsal space; Little Creek Road 11. It sounded and looked good, so that’s how the Creek Road Eleven band name was born.” Additionally, the band is equally proud of the American influences underpinning ‘The Long Harvest’, which makes it a definite talking point considering the aforementioned comment regarding the chosen genre of country hardly being a main source of music when it comes to the general public’s listening habits in Helsinki, let alone Finland in general.

With news of this story concerning the foundations of Creek Road Eleven reaching Famous Last Words’ (FLW), a decision was made to delve a little deeper in order to establish more information. Lead vocalist Toni Ruuska was more than obliging in this regard by serving as spokesman for the group, and therefore adding more meat to the bones of the story surrounding this country rock outfit.

“It all started in 2013 when I found I had written so many new original songs that it was time to start a new band,” Toni Ruuska begins. “Nobody knew each other before this band. It took quite a long time to find the right musicians who could play together, especially in terms of how this music style should be played, but also to get along as well. Everyone in the band is very experienced when it comes to music, having played in many bands before Creek Road Eleven.”

The musical qualities of all concerned when it comes to Creek Road Eleven definitely played a major factor when deciding who would become a permanent member of this new outfit, and the fact that they could transform those northern influences into a genuine American southern sound as indicated by Toni Ruuska above. In fact, Creek Road Eleven describe their sound as “Southern-spiced country rock” with, surprisingly, British rock influences thrown in for good measure dating from the 60s and 70s when rock music was vastly popular.

“Well, basically, our music style is a mixture of Southern rock and country rock. We also have some influences of 1960s and 1970’s British rock,” says Toni Ruuska when explaining the band’s sound. “There are many influences when it comes to our music but, to name a few, I would suggest the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Georgia Satellites, Dan Baird, Dwight Yoakam, Gram Parsons, Tom Petty, Little Feat, Rolling Stones and Bad Company.”

With the conversation focusing on other bands as sources of inspiration, Creek Road Eleven admit to finding their own sources of inspiration when it comes to their song writing as deriving from, “Everyday life in terms of what we see, feel, hear and read. In addition to looking back on our personal history as well,” explains Toni Ruuska. Despite these influences having an impact on the song writing skills of Creek Road Eleven, the question remains of how exactly their style of music is received in a country that is not renowned for producing a long line of country music artists?

“Country rock is a very marginal form of music in Finland, but there are also people that like it very much,” admits Toni Ruuska. “There are some country festivals and clubs in Finland. Also, we’ve had a good response in many of the places where we have played.”

As mentioned, Creek Road Eleven describe their sound in the main as “Southern-spiced country rock” which really is an apt description when attempting to describe the contents of their debut album ‘The Long Harvest’. For example, it’s a record crammed full of rolling country rock tunes with large doses of (Stones-esque) blues rock that bounce off one another in quick succession with a real sense of purpose and verve. Look no further for such suggestions as ‘Long Straight Highway’, ‘Sunny Day’, ‘Don’t Call Back’ and ‘Bad Monday’ which possess some genuine moments of humour via its lyrics. There’s even a foray into hillbilly boogie during the stirring ‘Faded Photos’, which suggests the band would do well to pursue such musical avenues again when considering future recordings.

Influences aside however, it’s time to learn about the nuts and bolts of the album ‘The Long Harvest’ in terms of where it was recorded and the working processes of its overall construction.

“The debut album ‘The Long Harvest’ was produced with time and meticulous attention to detail,” responds Toni Ruuska. “It contains a hearty dose of melodic and catchy country rock spiced with Southern flavours – as the band describes its style as Southern-spiced country rock as I mentioned earlier.”

Where was ‘The Long Harvest’ recorded?

“It was recorded in D- Studio, Klaukkala Finland by Jarno Hänninen.”

How long did it take to write and record the album?

“All the music and lyrics were ready before we went to the studio. The album was recorded every now and then from August 2015 to November 2016.” Who was responsible for the song lyrics or are these shared by all band members?

“Seven of the songs found on the album in terms of music and lyrics are my own. The other three songs on the album were produced by Jyrki Levä, with one of the song’s lyrics with Jari Mononen.”

Did you experience any difficulties when writing and recording the album or was the whole experience pretty much straightforward?

“Some music & lyrics came out easily, but some needed more hard work. The recording process was long, but we were lucky to have a talented sound engineer, Jarno Hänninen, to help us. We wanted to get out the best of what we could do, and sometimes it wasn’t easy to say, ‘Is this the best result?’, so we had a little break and then listened to the music again, made the changes, and eventually we were very satisfied with the album.”

What can you tell FLW about the songs ‘Long Straight Highway’, ‘Bad Monday’ and ‘Sinking Ship’?

“‘Long Straight Highway’ was the first song we ever recorded. It’s a straight rocking song, which we thought was perfect for the start of the album. ‘Bad Monday’ is a laidback country rock song with a catchy chorus and great vocal harmonies. It’s easy to sing along to. Also, Finland’s biggest music magazine, Soundi, added it in their Spotify playlist last summer. ‘Sinking Ship’ is a song with a strong chorus and as the Finnish Blues News reviewer said, ‘There is a great guitar solo in the song’.”

Is there a Creek Road Eleven favourite when it comes to the songs on your debut album?

“There are different styles of songs on the album,” considers Toni Ruuska. “For example, ‘Rain Keeps Falling Down’ is a melancholic country rock song whereas ‘Under The Full Moon’ is kinda bluesy. Other than that ‘Homesick Girl’ includes Southern rock style double guitars whereas ‘Sunny Day’ is a happy rock and roll song.”

Who came up with the title for the album and is it referring to anything in particular?

“I came up with the title of the album,” replies Toni Ruuska. “It refers to the making of the album because it was a LONG project. From writing the songs, to getting the band together and then to the recording studio, it took a LONG time, but we got the good HARVEST!”

What are your hopes and expectations for the new album? How well has the album been received in Finland, and has there been any overseas interest?

“The feedback has been very good from the fans and media. We’ve had airplay in Finland, Spain and in the USA. Good reviews in Finnish music magazines. We hope that people all over the world that like country and southern rock can find our album. We work for that by promoting the album in every way we can.”

What three items can Creek Road Eleven never be without?

“Fender and Gibson instruments and the audience enjoying country rock!”

With recording on pause for the moment after a lengthy spell in the studio making ‘The Long Harvest’ has the band had a chance to perform any live dates during or after this period?

“We’ve had the chance to play at many great festivals in Finland including Puistoblues, Haltiala Hayride, Roots’n Boots, RootsEspa and Saarifest,” Toni Ruuska explains. “Good feedback from the live audiences has brought many smiles upon our faces! (He sounds like a man relived after the aforementioned lengthy writing and recording of the band’s album.) Also, one of the strangest things is that we eventually found five guys in the band that get along really well.”

What’s next for Creek Road Eleven?

“At the moment we are making a music video,” responds Toni Ruuska. “There are gigs coming in January, February and March in Finland. We are also going to the studio next spring to record some new material. We sure would like to tour other countries outside of Finland too. We are promoting the band to make it possible!”

Do you have a final few words of the day for FLW?

“Thank you so much for the interview and all the best to FLW! Hopefully we are touring someday in Norway!”

A tour on these very shores would be most welcome as would the opportunity to hear the rollin’ country rock tunes of Creek Road Eleven’s ‘The Long Harvest’ in a live setting considering the energy captured by the band in the recording studio. More notably however, it’s the authentic delivery of the songs making up the band’s debut album that really captures one’s attention, considering Creek Road Eleven’s roots being of northern heritage rather than the southern American variety their country music suggests. As founder and band vocalist of Creek Road Eleven, Toni Ruuska mentioned during this interview when referring to the entire components of the band and lengthy recording process, “We got the good HARVEST!”, then he couldn’t have explained it any better as they most certainly did when ‘The Long Harvest’ finally came to fruition.

(Photography courtesy of Hannu Hietarinne, Pasi Rytkönen and Saara Planting)

FLW - From the Tapes

In their own words, Creek Road Eleven explain how they formed the group.

“In 2013 Toni Ruuska (Flat Hats, Saltwater Jinx, One Dozen Berrys, The Woodfaces) discovered that he had so many new original songs that it was time to put a new band together. After a relatively long period of vigorous searching and test plays, Toni found a guitarist with a similar vision. An old school guitarist from Helsinki Jyrki Levä (Flatfoot Ballerina, Jussi Syren & The Groundbreakers, Wasel Arar & North State, High Tyme). Jyrki brought to the band not only guitar playing and harmony vocals, but also some original songs of his own. The band found its form when Jani Miinala, a hard hitting drummer with a steady beat, and Pete Christiansson, bass player with a killer groove and genius bass lines, joined the group. Creek Road Eleven was born. In the autumn of 2015 our line-up was strengthened when Petri Frestadius joined the band, bringing along his diverse keyboard playing skills, which are so essential to this style of music.”

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