“I think it’s time for rock ’n’ roll!”
So pronounces 69 Eyes singer Jyrki 69 of the Finland rock quintet’s return to the United States for the first time in a decade for a nationwide tour. A band that’s equal parts the Ramones, the Cult, the Sisters of Mercy and Type O Negative, 69 Eyes recently announced that it’s putting the final touches on its twelfth studio album, to be released in September on Nuclear Blast. The first single (its name is to be determined) will arrive in May, just in time for the band’s 30th anniversary — a perfect time to revisit the States.
“There’s a new version of A Star Is Born, there’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and [soon] you will get The Dirt, the Mötley Crüe movie on Netflix,” enthuses Jyrki 69. “The young generation, like Greta van Fleet — and, in our country, young rockers Santa Cruz — are doing it right now … so yes, it is a good time for the Helsinki vampires to return.” He also observes that there are “some young American bands that are coming up, have been doing very well — Black Veil Brides, Motionless in White — and that is very exciting because there’s a lot of people, fans of our kind of music, that have heard of us but have never seen us, so that’s also very exciting for us.”
Guitarists Bazie and Timo-Timo, bassist Archzie and drummer Jussi 69 round out the band’s lineup, which has remained intact for three decades. They refer to their style of music as “goth ’n’ roll,” and the band members have swagger and a dark, cool charisma that’s at odds with the cordial good spirits of Jyrki 69 (pronounced “YURrrr-kee”) when he calls from his home in Helsinki. Asked how he’s doing, he replies enthusiastically in his rich baritone, “Great! Excited, like always. Like a vampire should be. It is night here, so it is a perfect time to call!”
The singer is effusive in explaining where the 69 Eyes have been for the last decade. “These past 10 years, you guys had EDM and celebrity DJs,” he says with a laugh. “I think the answer is simply that the music business changed. When we were first introduced to an American audience, we had already been playing over here for 10 years, and we got famous because of MTV. And in those days, they had Jackass and Viva la Bam and featured us on their shows, so when we first came over, we got quite a response and sold out a bunch of venues and had quite an audience when we came there. A few years later, all of a sudden, there was social media and Myspace happened — whoever remembers Myspace? — and we gained more popularity through that as well. But the last time we toured, everything had changed again.”
While the band has remained active overseas this whole time, Jyrki 69 also has had plenty to keep him busy outside of it. For one, he became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2005 after the organization approached him and he has traveled to Kenya, Nicaragua and Benin. “Kids around the world are all the same, and UNICEF is trying to save children, to provide a safe childhood for those kids, which every kid deserves. They’re the innocent ones.” The disconsonant nature of his twin lives does not escape him. “I do think it’s hilarious that I’m a Helsinki vampire and a UNICEF ambassador and I can talk in the same interview about gothic horror music and educating the world about saving the children. But it would be boring to be one-dimensional.”
He also has taken advantage of Finland’s free college education system, obtaining a master’s in analytical chemistry as well as one in business arts. “It took about 10 years to get the master’s in chemistry because I was doing the band thing at the time,” he says humbly. “But whatever I start, I finish. Then, later on, I got an MBA.” He traces his interest in chemistry back to some of the Marvel superheroes being chemists, like Spider-Man’s Peter Parker and Mr. Fantastic’s Reed Richards. “I was such a big fan of those guys, and they sort of showed me the way,” he recalls, laughing. “It’s not a joke! I was super excited because of that.”
Jyrki 69 applied his knowledge by teaching chemistry for a while and, having recently become vegan, publishing the coffee table book Rock’n’Roll Juicer that contains (of course) 69 recipes. “I started with a juicer, but there were no good recipes, so my friends sent me recipes, and I just decided, ‘Why not do a book of recipes?’ And so I used my chemistry degree and took trips to Miami, L.A. and Honolulu to learn about juicing. It was really cool.” (He also copes with touring a country where reindeer meat is widely available by hitting up Finnish fast-food hamburger chain HesBurger, which has vegan options.)
Now that his energy is more focused on touring the United States, Jyrki 69 can’t wait to return. “That’s like the ultimate dream because that’s where you learn what it’s like to be rock ’n’ roll and what that’s about. The most beautiful road in the world is in the U.S., and the best thing in my life is to be on the road: traveling, seeing different places, performing for different people and meeting different people from all over and being present in the world, in many places, in a very short time.”
The band won’t feature any new music on the upcoming tour, but Jyrki 69 shared some insight into what to expect. He calls it “very rocking, very gothic, with horror rock elements there as well. I think it’s fun to write about movies, like our old song ‘Lost Boys,’ which is a favorite of ours. So there are some movie songs and pretty much all of the elements, as always, with one ballad.” He teases that there also will be surprise appearances on the album that he describes as “really loud guests that are sharing the lead vocal duties with me. I won’t say anything right now. It will all be revealed when the time comes.”
When it came time to consider how to approach its 30th year as a band, Jyrki 69’s initial reaction was to keep quiet. “I thought it would be something embarrassing,” he admits. “But then someone said that it’s cool and we have to do it and acknowledge it because it’s a great statement. So then I thought about it and said, ‘Oh, OK. Let’s do it and see what happens.’ At least we have new music and it’s not like a reunion: We’ve been doing this 30 years nonstop with all the same guys, so we’re keeping it going.”
“We look at this tour of the States as the last chapter before the anniversary,” he continues. “When we release the new single, that will really begin our 30th year. We will probably release a couple of other singles over the summer, and then in September our new album will come out, and we will start to tour again and hopefully return to the States by Halloween.”
“But it’s nothing fancy,” he concludes. “We don’t have fireworks or special light shows. It’s not a dance party. It’s just playing old-school rock ’n’ roll. It’s just amps, leather jackets, sunglasses and guitars. It’s because of the music and because of the songs and,” he says with a laugh, “because we’re vampires!”
69 Eyes’ U.S. tour dates with MXMS and the Nocturnal Affair (except where noted):
April 17 – Pittsburgh @ Crafthouse Stage and Grill
April 18 – Joliet, Ill. @ The Forge
April 19 – Newport, Ky. @ Thompson House
April 20 – Memphis @ Growlers
April 22 – Kansas City, Mo. @ The Riot Room
April 23 – Denver @ The Oriental Theater
April 24 – Salt Lake City @ Soundwell?
April 26 – Seattle @ El Corazon?
April 27 – Portland, Ore. @ Hawthorne Theatre?
April 28 – Sacramento, Calif. @ Holy Diver
April 30 – San Francisco @ DNA Lounge
May 1 – Los Angeles @ The Regent Theater
May 2 – San Diego @ Brick by Brick
May 3 – Las Vegas @ Count’s Vamp’d?
May 4 – Mesa, Ariz. @ Club Red*
May 6 – Dallas @ Gas Monkey Live
May 7 – Austin @ Come and Take It Productions
May 8 – Houston @ Warehouse Live
May 10 – West Palm Beach, Fla. @ Respectable Street
May 11 – Tampa, Fla. @ The Orpheum?
May 12 – Atlanta @ The Masquerade
May 14 – Baltimore @ Ottobar?
May 15 – Amityville, N.Y. @ Revolution Bar & Music Hall
May 16 – Brooklyn @ Kingsland Bar & Grill
May 17 – Providence, R.I. @ Fete Music Hall
May 18 – Philadelphia @ The Trocadero Theatre**
**without MXMS and the Nocturnal Affair