Quit Your Day Job: Lau Nau

Quit Your Day Job: Lau Nau

I’m a big fan of Finnish free-folk — or whatever you want to call it — especially the work of Laura Naukkarinen, aka Lau Nau. I was lucky enough to catch her, along with some of her scene comrades, live in Greenpoint three Augusts ago, where the already naturalist, uncluttered (though swarming) sounds were stripped to a purer state. Surprisingly, the music remained otherworldly, even when you saw how they crafted it. Lau Nau’s 2005 full-length Kuutarha’s a true overlooked gem you should seek out if you don’t already own it. Same goes for her recent sophomore full-length Nukkuu. We posted the lopsided lullabies and bedroom psychedelics of Nukkuu opener “Lue Kartalta” at the beginning of last month. Following my discussion with Naukkarinen, you can find another standout — the dreamy, bell-gonging “Rubiinilasia.”

Laura’s featured in Quit Your Day Job because she works as desk clerk at a town library on Kemiö Island (“We’re on an island so the town is full of small fisher and farmer villages”), as a freelance translator of Spanish and Swedish, and organizes sound workshops for children with her “companion” Antti Tolvi, who I should add, makes his own great music in various guises.

STEREOGUM: What are you duties at the library? Do you have a specific title for your position?

LAURA NAUKKARINEN: I’m a desk clerk in the library, but actually I do quite a lot different things there. It’s a village library that’s open four days a week and there’s only post that has been divided between me and the librarian. So that means that I work two days a week and I’m mostly alone there. I try to do there everything I can … Helping the clients, organizing exhibitions, doing book reading for children and other groups, coating book covers with plastic, watering the flowers, putting books to shelves … As it is a village library, it’s socially important to the villagers, so I also talk quite a lot with the customers. What I haven’t been doing there is ordering books (even though I can give tips), taking care of the financial issues or the managing of the library.

STEREOGUM: What’s the place like?

LN: It’s a small library in a wooden house and the attic of the house is a room for exhibitions and meetings. It’s a really nice place and the collections are good — we have a bit more money than the libraries in general and people also loan more books from there than in a usual library. I’m really happy to work in a such place that offers so important, good, free things for the whole community.

STEREOGUM: How big is the town?

LN: There’s about 800 inhabitants in this town and it’s really sparsely inhabited. We’re on an island so the town is full of small fisher and farmer villages. It would be quite idyllic here if someone wouldn’t had the idea to build some cube houses here in the 60’s.

STEREOGUM: How long have you worked there?

LN: Only for a half a year … I’ve been working in a lot of different places during the last years. I guess that’s because I have been moving a lot.

STEREOGUM: You mentioned reading books to children. Can you tell me a bit about some of the children’s books? I’d be interested to know about some Finnish books for kids.

LN: Oh yes, there are many quite original Finnish children’s books, the most obvious ones I’d recommend are all Tove Janssons books. Most of them are translated into English, too. Particularly nice are her picture books The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My (1952) and Who will Comfort Toffle? (1960) as well as the original Moomin comics: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip. The customers in our library are mostly Swedish-speaking (a specialty of the West coast of Finland) and the book readings that I do for children are in Swedish, too. So I gotta recommend one wonderful Swedish author, Elsa Beskow and especially her book Children Of The Forest (1910). My son loves it.

STEREOGUM: Do you have any particularly beloved/favorite books? I mean, a specific volume or edition at the library that you might pull off the shelf time to time, etc. What books are most popular with the patrons?

LN: I don’t want to even start to think what are my favorite books. When I’m fortunate to pick such a book it sucks me into its world and makes me wonder how is it possible that someone has been able to write such magic. But it’s the poetry books and comics that I read again and again. And some beautiful fact books about world’s cultures … and about maintaining old houses and gardens as we are trying to struggle with such tasks. The customers love detective stories, thrillers, romance … And the younger ones love fantasy, it’s a boom right now. But we have also some wonderful customers who explore all kinds of books without fear.

STEREOGUM: What are you translating? Does this tie-in at all to the library work?

LN: I have been translating all kinds of stuff — a comic book, adoption letters, festival programs, home pages … mostly from Spanish and Swedish to Finnish. It doesn’t tie-in to the library work, really. But it’s quite OK job to do because I can do it anywhere I am.

STEREOGUM: What’s the comic book?

LN: It’s Kati Rapia’s El planeta de la señorita.

STEREOGUM: How do you pick up translating jobs?

LN: People contact me, that’s nice. They know me or hear about me from their friends. And that’s enough for me just now, I don’t need more work because I want to be also home spending time with my son and playing my music and taking care of the garden and so on. We live in the countryside and don’t need that much money.

STEREOGUM: Do you do any of your own prose/poetry writing? Outside of lyrics, I mean.

LN: Ouch, yes, some writing has been started but never finished … I’m not so proud of my poetry that I would start to work on it but prose yes, some day. Lately I have been thinking of writing a book about … no, it’s a secret!

STEREOGUM: Ah, any hints?

LN: No, absolutely not! Yet!

STEREOGUM: What are you reading now?

LN: Pablo Neruda’s Canto General.

STEREOGUM: That just made me think of Octavio Paz, which made me think of Savage Detectives. Have you read it?

LN: I have it waiting on my shelf at home. I bought it as well as some other really good books last time I was on tour in Spain. In Barcelona there’s a nice book shop called Taifa Llibres where I love to go, and last time I had a good book recommender with me so I flew back to Finland with a bag full of books.

STEREOGUM: Can you talk about the sound workshops you’ve been organizing? What are those exactly?

LN: I have been doing sound workshops for kids, usually with my companion Antti. It’s a lot of fun! But it needs a lot of preparing, too … All the workshops have been about improvising sounds together, using toys, voice, stuff … We have been improvising sounds to stories, music for films, imaginary weather symphonies, searching for the hidden instruments, playing in a dark tee pee … It’s important to let the kids play what their imagination tells them and not to teach music too strictly, putting a child’s creativity in a tight box. We have been doing these workshops in the Western Finland and in Estonia, but it would be nice to do them around the world…

STEREOGUM: How old are the children in the workshops? What’s the size of the class?

LN: The children have been around 0-7 year old and we have preferred to have the groups with max 15 children but there has been bigger groups, too.

STEREOGUM: Where do the children come from? Obviously their parents, but how do they sign up?

LN: All the workshops have been related to art festivals, children’s culture weeks or my reading sessions, so it has been either kindergarten groups that have come or then it’s just the parents who bring their kids during a festival or so.

STEREOGUM: Do you have any recorded samples of the improvisations? Or footage of the music for films? Regardless, I’d like to hear more about the “imaginary weather symphonies” and “searching for the hidden instruments.” Sounds amazing.

LN: I have some short recordings of the music at home. It would be nice to edit them some day and maybe do a release or put them in the web … Especially the film musics have been quite hectic sessions when the children have been so excited!

STEREOGUM: You should come do this in Brooklyn.

LN: We’d love to come to do it in Brooklyn some day, if someone just would invite us.

STEREOGUM: I’ll get working on that.


Lau Nau – “Rubiinilasia” (MP3)

Nukkuu is out now via Locust and Fonal. You can listen to and download more at Lau’s MySpace. She also has a website.

[Photo by Susanna Majuri]

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