As many events have had to do, The Great Escape has been forced to transfer its activities online this year due to ongoing restrictions around the pandemic.
While we’ll miss being able to experience the weekend’s live music in person, we’re thrilled to announce that Ja Ja Ja will be hosting its very own online showcase as part of the event – so we hope that you’ll join us there on the 13/14 May!
We’ve invited JADA (DK), Hjaltalín (IS), Tomi Saario (FI), Sarah Klang (SE) and VEPs (NO) to take part in our Ja Ja Ja showcase, which can be viewed for free by those that sign up to The Great Escape’s mailing list.
We’ll share exact times and details closer to the date – in the meantime, get yourselves on the list, get to know the bands below, and we look forward to seeing you – online – in the very near future!
VEPS are a 17 year old all female band from Oslo, Norway, that includes Laura (guitar), June (bass), Maja (drums) and Helena (keys/piano) who have known each other since elementary school. The girls started playing together in middle school at the age of 14.The name VEPS means WASP in Norwegian, and came about in a slightly cosmic and random way.
One Day while in our rehearsal room, we were discussing what our band name should be when all of a sudden a wasp came flying through the window, and we just looked at each other and yelled «VEPS». The drummer Maja had to kill the big queen wasp before they continued their rehearsal.
While still in high school, the band has managed to, self release two singles on their own. Both «Do I Hear A Maybe?» and «Funny Things» showcase a songwriting sensibility far beyond their youthful years. With a seamless blend of 90’s indie aesthetic and classic pop hooks, VEPS already have their very own, fully formed sound.
In these early years, the band have been busy performing at local high school gymnasiums, house parties, and even at public beaches. Thus VEPS cementing a strong local following within their teen audience.
Their forthcoming release «Open The Door» consists of six tracks, and the band describes it like this:
«Open The Door» is a love letter to our teenage years. It’s a coming of age record, but as we’re still 17, maybe we can say that it’s more like coming of age in real time?
In the spring of 2021, VEPS will release their debut EP on New York-based label Kanine Records. The band will also be playing several showcase festivals across Europe in 2021 and 2022.
When you boil it down, Hjaltalín is essentially a group of talented friends. They were high-school students when they started playing together. Today they are professional composers, producers, songwriters, performers, players (and a pilot!) who have made the band their labour of love for nearly fifteen years.
They drew attention very early on with their catchy multi-part chamber-pop compositions and became a huge crossover success locally with the 2007 release of their debut album Sleepdrunk Seasons.
Still, Hjaltalín’s second album Terminal (2009) proved a much bigger hit, winning ‘album of the year’ at the Icelandic Music Awards, selling over 10,000 copies domestically, and its five singles spending a combined 44 weeks on the National Radio’s Top 20.
Over the next couple of years, while the band struggled to deal with the newly diagnosed bipolar disorder of frontman Högni Egilsson, the group recorded Enter 4 (2012) – a tense exploration on art, madness and friendship, and a sparer and darker album that marked the height of Hjaltalín’s critical acclaim. So far.
The songs on Hjaltalín’s latest, self-titled album (2020) have gone through so many versions, arrangements and mixes that they can be likened to small sculptures, slowly molded over the years. Each and every one is a small world unto itself, rich with detail, but they come together nicely like statues in a garden. The best of the batch sound like they’ve been around for ages; they are weathered – classic.
Tomi Saario [FIN]
What do you get when you mix a fighter pilot grandad, airline captain parents and an uncle who’s the most successful songwriter in Finland with a determined work ethic, tons of talent, and undeniable charisma? The answer is Finnish singer/songwriter Tomi Saario – one of pop’s most exciting new hopes taking off in 2021.
On his debut single ‘Just A Little’ and on his first EP ‘I Think We Need To Talk…’, Saario introduces himself as both a compelling storyteller and an artist with an innate knack for writing pop hooks. His are melodies and choruses that burrow into your heart and mind and take up residence there. Those traits are unsurprising when you learn that Tomi has been playing guitar since he was five years old, when his uncle and his father bought him an acoustic guitar and taught him to play rock and roll riffs.
At age seven, Saario discovered a genre that would be fundamental to his songwriting in later years. “I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan and that’s when I fell in love with blues music,” he says, listing John Mayer and D’Angelo as other important influences. “I love writing pop melodies and songs but having a backbone of something soulful and bluesy is where the real magic happens for me.”
After returning from the military, Saario left his home in the south of Finland and headed to one of the music capitals of the world – London. Once there, Saario didn’t expect things to just fall into his lap. He gigged relentlessly, playing over 1000 shows in four years, turning up at any Open Mic night that would have him. His mother helped him out by doing extensive research on places he could play in the city and handwriting a guidebook for him, including locations, times, and how to sign up to perform. “I would recommend Open Mics to everybody because it’s so freaking uncomfortable,” he says, explaining that the crowd is made up of people who really pay attention and aren’t afraid to share their brutally honest feedback once you’re finished. “It’s been a massive help and when I play bigger shows I definitely think it will be something to draw inspiration from. If you can create that conversational connection with everybody there, that’s the dream right?”
Saario’s debut EP ‘I Think We Need To Talk…’ feels like a conversation in itself, one in which the musician is entrusting you with stories from his own life. It maps the different chapters of relationships, from the giddy infatuation in the beginning (‘Just A Little’) to the post-mortem afterwards (‘Blame’). Each is defined by specific, evocative lyrics that make it easy to put yourself in Saario’s shoes or project your own experiences onto his canvases.
His debut single ‘Just A Little’ opens: “Draw something on me and I will guess/Feels like it’s a heart but it might be that I’m just that obsessed.” which is a great example of Saario’s lyrical writing, that plays out over jittery fingerpicked guitar feeling like the fluttery butterfly-filled rush of new love. “Writing from the whole spectrum or circle of life within love is too wide,” he explains. “I need to draw inspiration from a certain moment like laying in bed on a Sunday and having someone special just scribble something on your back with their finger.”
As debuts go, ‘I Think We Need To Talk…’ is a strong first body of work that sets out its creator as a bold new one to watch and someone with a lot of ambition. For Saario, music is just one way of expressing himself and he cites Donald Glover as someone who’s career he’d like to emulate. “I want to do acting and create stories,” he says. “I’ve gone through enough heartache and happiness to really have something to say and I feel comfortable creating stories for decades now.” This is just the beginning for the Finnish musician but already his future looks set to be one long, exhilarating adventure – buckle up now.
Sarah Klang [SWE]
Sarah Klang’s rise has been meteoric in her homeland of Sweden, her stunning 2018 debut album ‘Love In The Milky Way’ won ‘Best Album’ at the Swedish Grammys with 2019’s divine follow-up ‘Creamy Blue’ nominated also in the ‘Best Album’ and ‘Best Alternative Pop’ categories, as well as receiving an IMPALA Award nomination for ‘European Album of the Year’. Klang’s exuberant live performances saw her invited on First Aid Kit’s arena tour, sell out a headline show at London’s Lexington (2019), as well as headline tours throughout Scandinavia and mainland Europe.
Previously declaring herself the “saddest girl in Sweden” Klang’s music is dominated by her experiences of heartache, but ‘Virgo’ displays a flair and colour as it takes us through a spectrum of emotion – from the melancholy sad love songs such as ‘Love So Cruel’ and ‘Love Bliss’ to the defiant “galloping country-rock” (The Line of Best Fit) of previous single ‘Canyon’ which celebrates the exuberance of finding freedom post break-up.
Latest album ‘Virgo’ is indicative of Klang’s vintage-pop sound which is classic yet simultaneously fresh. Her most mosaic and immediate album to date, ‘Virgo’ pays homage to Klang’s love of 60s and 70s pop found in the lush Americana-tinged guitars, subtle country hues and piano melodies – recalling artists such as Alela Diane, Katy J Pearson and First Aid Kit – but delivered with a glittering sprinkle of 80s pop classics and 90s RnB influences, with nods to the vintage legacy of Swedish songwriters.
Jada has in a short time grown to be the most promising name on the Danish music scene and has captivated both Danish and foreign reviewers, media and fans with her personal and honest universe – a universe that breaks with the classic templates, and which can help push both borders, genres and trends. Jada has been on a long journey, where courage, trust and honesty have been among the crucial elements for the whole process.
In 2018 she released her critically acclaimed debut single ‘Keep Cool’ and in 2019 she won her first award: the P3 talent award at P3 Gold – the Danish equivalent to BBC Sound Of. Since then, Jada has won no less than 13 awards for her unique talent and music. Her latest wins count Main Award P3 Prisen, Track of the Year ‘Nudes’ at P3 Gold and Best Live Act at Danish Music Awards.
Jada has already proven her unique potential in her home-market and has become the absolute most promising name on the Danish music scene – an artist who truly has the potential to cross borders and become the next big Nordic artist in the footsteps of MØ and Lukas Graham. An artist with a raw natural talent where her authenticity and honesty already had made her a role model and an inspiration for a whole generation.