As the music industry becomes a harder and harder place to “make it,” it’s always more than a bit surprising to hear about a bunch of 18-20 year old kids scoring a record deal. At such a young age and so early in their music careers, it would seem an impossible feat for a juvenile band to impress a bunch of record executives. But scoring a record deal is exactly what happened for the young guys in the Finnish hard rock band Santa Cruz.
When we spoke with vocalist/frontman Archie Kuosmanen about Santa Cruz’s beginnings and the band’s experiences while touring and seeking out success, he gave us a great visual description of his current clothing choice: he was hanging out in true rock star fashion, dressed, as he says it, in a “Tarzan kind of a thing.” Whether he was kidding or not, we’ll agree that’s pretty appropriate, kickass garb for an up and coming rock star.
This very young band was formed by Kuosmanen and guitarist Johnny Parkkonen in 2007 when they were both only 15 years old. Shortly after forming the band they added bassist Middy Toivonen and drummer Taz Fagerström (what a great name for a drummer!) to the mix.
They are inspired partially by bands like Skid Row and Guns ‘n’ Roses, and their sound and persona is often compared by others in the music industry to 80’s glam rock/hair bands. But please don’t pigeonhole these guys into one limited genre. “I think we are just rock metal,” says Kuosmanen. “Think about bigger bands that are considered rock or metal nowadays. Imagine Dragons? Five Finger Death Punch? Please, you know?…I don’t think that the long hair, tight jeans or fast guitar solos make us 80’s music. I just think it’s what rock n roll’s supposed to be.”
Kuosmanen found many of his personal music influences in movies, and those influences formed some of the basis when Santa Cruz was starting out as a band. “I found bands like Sex Pistols, WASP, The Clash, Van Halen, Black Sabbath and GnR from skateboarding films. I used to skate a lot as a kid before I picked up the guitar. Skate flicks have all the best music by the way. Playing in a rock band is quite similar as a lifestyle and as an attitude as skateboarding.”
And as far as success coming easy to these guys, Kuosmanen definitely wouldn’t say it came as easy as it may seem to some outsiders watching from a distance. “We did three demos/EP’s and did shitloads of shows before we got contacted by the label, so it definitely didn’t happen overnight,” says Kuosmanen. In fact, Kusomanen remembers performing at more than a few solo shows where he questioned, “why do I do this?” Those kind of nights where, as he says it, “the drunken audience couldn’t give a fuck there’s a dude playing, and their fucking talking’s been louder than my playing.”
But hard work and perseverance can pay off if you stick with what you set out to achieve. In 2011 the boys in Santa Cruz were hosting a club night twice a month at a club in Helsinki, Finland. They’d created quite a buzz amongst their little music scene after releasing a six song EP titled Anthems for the Young ‘n’ Restless. Because of the buzz they were creating an A&R representative from Finnish Spinefarm Records came to one of Santa Cruz’s shows and he was impressed enough to sign a record deal with them in 2012, when they were all only between the ages of 18 to 20 years old. Shortly after the signing Santa Cruz went to work to release their first studio album titled Screaming for Adrenaline, which came out in April 2013.
In the Spring of 2014 the guys packed up and took a trip to the Big Apple to hold a release party for their first single in North America, We Are The Ones To Fall. They held a small intimate acoustic performance in New York City at Spinefarm Records, where mainly various media and management individuals were in attendance. They performed their new single We Are The Ones To Fall, along with a song not yet recorded called Wasted and Wound, and the song Aiming High from their album Screaming for Adrenaline. Additionally, the last acoustic track they played at the event was a cover of Led Zeppelin’s song Thank You.
What veteran rocker doesn’t include Led Zeppelin’s Thank You somewhere on their list of favorite songs? The resounding appreciation for the Led Zeppelin track is exactly why Kuosmanen says Santa Cruz decided to cover it. “Well, Zeppelin probably is the greatest band in the history of rock’n’roll and that song has always been important to me. We just started playing it at some point.”
While in New York Santa Cruz took full advantage of their five days off, says Kuosmanen, checking out all the sights in New York City, which included lots of partying on the Lower East Side, and they even scored a photo session with legendary rock photographer Mark Weiss.
The acoustic performance held at Spinefarm also included a showing of their debut music video for the single We Are The Ones To Fall (you can check out the video below). Interestingly enough, American culture makes another appearance in the work of Santa Cruz. The video’s hardcore, graphic bloody fighting scenes are inspired by the movie Fight Club. “It’s a totally bad-ass movie by genius David Fincher, and it just came to my mind when we started thinking about the video. I think it fits the mood and the lyrics of the song well. Me and the boys have always been huge movie fans, so music videos offer a fantastic chance to pay tribute and mix those two worlds.”
These guys have already toured extensively throughout Finland, the UK and Sweden. In Finland they’ve mainly hopped on tours with the bands Lost Society and Reckless Love. While in the UK, their biggest tour was with the band Kobra and The Lotus. They’ve also opened for some US bands that most rock music fans know by name including Cinderella and Marty Friedman. And while there seem to be no immediate plans for Santa Cruz to tour the United States, hopefully their visit to New York City encourages a tour through the States!
They may be young, and only really have a few years of touring under their belts, but every touring band has a crazy story. “Stoned at Stonehenge, while Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge was playing,” is what Kuosmanen fondly remembers as his craziest touring story. While his memories of that moment may be a little fuzzy considering his state of mind, we’ll agree that was probably an epic experience.
Next up for Santa Cruz is a European tour with Skid Row and Buckcherry. Kuosmanen seems as though he couldn’t be more excited to go out with a band that is a personal favorite from when he was growing up. “I remember the first time I heard Youth Gone Wild and 18 and Life when I was in sixth grade, and it hit me hard man. I remember thinking ‘that’s what I wanna do.’ So it’s mindblowing to share the stage with them. Buckcherry is awesome as well!”
What does a typical day in the life of an up and coming rock star look like? For Kuosmanen it’s less about ego, and more about appreciating the life he’s living. “I like to chill out, hang with friends and just live life. I really dig my lifestyle right now. Writing songs, playing shows, going to shows, traveling, touring, recording in the studio, listening to music, partying, partying, watching movies, partying, good friends, good conversations, good times, lovely ladies and now that it’s summer, sunshine! I like to figure out something rad to do each day, so that whenever the day is done, I feel lucky to be alive.”
Watch a video of Santa Cruz performing Led Zeppelin’s Thank You
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