I like the fact that I won’t have to tell my child all the fun stories when I’m in the rocking chair, but instead, she can now become a part of that story herself, – says Piret Järvis-Milder, who now, 15 years later, is rocking again as a part of Vanilla Ninja.
Last year, Vanilla Ninja announced they were coming back after a 15-year long pause. „We’ve been working on some new music together with David Brandes and a special surprise is that Triinu has rejoined the band.” wrote Piret in one of her social media posts. Vanilla Ninja’s new single „Gotta Get It Right”, recorded with their former manager David Brandes, was released just before Midsummer.
Vanilla Ninja was formed in 2002. It then consisted of Lenna Kuurmaa (35), Katrin Siska (37), Piret Järvis-Milder (37) and Maarja Kivi (35). Maarja left the band in 2004 due to pregnancy. Maarja’s place in Vanilla Ninja was filled by Triinu Kivilaan (32) from Viljandi. The comeback’s now being carried out by the band embodied by Lenna, Katrin, Piret and Triinu.
Piret says that their first appearance with the new material will take place at the beginning of August on German TV. However, it’s too early to state when the first full-length concert will happen.
We’ll see what else is corona planning to do with our lives. If we still have to dance to its tune before people are able to sing and dance to ours. But you can’t carry on without the concerts. We’re hoping that next summer, at the latest, we’ll be able to bring a live performance of our biggest hits to the audience in Estonia. – says Piret. According to her, coronavirus strongly affected their plans. In normal circumstances, we would’ve all recorded the album together in Germany but instead we had to do it remotely from various countries. It was really quite difficult because we were lacking live feedback and sometimes it led to the double amount of work – when it turned out that the recording made in Estonia still wasn’t right. Additionally, I felt we were really missing the possibility to sit in one place together, see each other and discuss the issues.
1) What does the reunion mean to you?
Lenna: We’ve had those thoughts over the years that maybe, at some point, we should start making music together again. A few years ago Piret and I visited David in Germany to discuss the details and record the demos. Since the pandemic happened in the meantime, the album-making process had taken 2,5 years.
Piret: The first thoughts of coming back together arose already 10 years ago. But the time just wasn’t right, because the plan kept being pushed aside. This time it succeeded. The will had grown so strong throughout all those years that there was simply no other way than to get ourselves together. At least I, after many years, started to feel the hunger to make music again. I missed this hunger for a very long time because it’s more fun to take action when you’re hungry for something and very excited, let’s say.
I believe that throughout the years we all had the chance to become more seasoned and see life from different angles, so there was no fear when taking a break from the everyday job. About 5 years ago it would’ve certainly taken me more time to consider whether I should leave my work on television to focus on the band instead. The break from TV had been made mostly due to the maternity leave but now the two things – the maternity leave and the release of the band’s new material – came together.
Katrin: Last year our cooperation got blocked by the world-famous coronavirus. Piret and Lenna gave birth to their babies that made it hard to plan everything. We’re inexpressibly glad that in the end, despite all the difficulties, we still managed to record several music videos in Tallinn and Berlin, and also finish the new album, which will hopefully be available in the autumn.
Triinu: As we’re scattered in different places around the world, we first had to come up with a solution for how to organize this whole thing.
2) What do you recall from Vanilla Ninja’s early days?
Lenna: I am fond of the memory of our first summer in Estonia filled with performances – we went through all kinds of bars and clubs. I remember the Tõru bar especially well. It was an experience in itself. Who has been there, knows exactly what I’m talking about. We were sipping energy drinks backstage. Back then, no one talked about how unhealthy they were and since our sponsor that summer was Starter, this is how it rolled. But there are so many of those memories, times were bright.
Piret: From the very beginning, when we operated only in Estonia, I remember for example our first concert summer, which was filled with performances so much that once we had to use a helicopter to get from one event to another. Although this adventure was quite glamorous, during our first tour we actually commuted across Estonia in Sven Lõhmus’ old white BMW. At one event in Tartu’s Town Hall Square, while in the BMW we got ourselves into such a big crowd of autograph hunters that when we finally got out and on the road again, it turned out the car wasn’t white anymore but drawn all over with markers and pens that the autograph collectors targeted us with.
Later, in Germany, we were able to try touring in a really big nightliner, where you live on the bus and move with it from one concert venue to another. Then you really get to experience a true rock’n’roll vibe. And we got on the helicopter again when we performed for the coalition forces in Iraq and Kuwait. The flight over war-torn Baghdad was seriously breathtaking.
Katrin: In 2004 we performed on Germany’s biggest TV shows with Lenny Kravitz, Gwen Stefani, Usher, Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias and other world-renowned artists. It was also a fun experience to share the stage with Pink. Eurovision 2005 in Kyiv was the top moment of our career, a very powerful experience. Lots of fun went on in Kyiv every evening after the shows, we danced the nights away.
Triinu: I remember very well when I just arrived in Vanilla Ninja… A few weeks later we were in Germany on training with mountain horses for the „When The Indians Cry” video shoot. It got printed in my memory because it was exceptionally hard to climb onto the horse multiple times with leg cramps.
3) What do family members think of your comeback?
Lenna: There would be no way to revive this international project had the partners not been by our side. Their help and support is a big thing and very needed. I’m thankful that we all have such understanding families. Fortunately also the kids like everything mom does. Everyone at home is singing along to the new Vanilla Ninja tunes.
Piret: Getting to experience once more, as a mother, what you experienced in your sweet youth is indescribably great. I admire the fact that I won’t have to tell my child all about those beautiful moments when I’m in the rocking chair, but instead, she can now become a part of that story herself and gets to do it all with me.
I can’t thank my husband enough because without him I wouldn’t have been able to be a part of the band at this stage of my life. Starting with the fact that, if needed, he’s a babysitter when I’m spending long hours on the video set, or ending with him helping us record the vocals for the songs.
Katrin: All the family members, especially my 7-year old son, are very excited and looking forward to when they can come to watch us perform. He’s a big rock music fan and likes our new fast-paced rock songs. I myself am also very happy that we can start playing concerts again.
Triinu: It certainly is a very exciting contrast. When we get together, it’s the same spark and feeling all over again. My partner often comes along whenever anything happens. He likes it a lot.
4) How much have you changed and how have you kept in touch in the meantime?
Lenna: We kept in touch, but somehow from a distance. Our different geographical locations make the meetings complicated. I believe that we have all grown up, found our place in life and can stand up for our beliefs.
Piret: I like the peace the life experience brought me. Now you know exactly why you’re doing something and how you can do it. Just go and enjoy the process! It’s great!
We’ve been in touch with Lenna and Katrin all those years because there was always something to do or discuss in terms of the band. A few years ago, after a long time, we contacted Triinu when the idea of the comeback came up again.
Katrin: Actually, the last time we were on stage together was in 2006, so 15 years is a really long break. A lot has changed. Most of us started families and have travelled around the world a lot.
Triinu: I’m older. Smarter. Calmer. We’ve kept in touch but not that close because there’s not much time for that when living a fast-paced lifestyle.
5) Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
Lenna: There are a lot of dreams, but if we’re talking about the band then I hope that Vanilla Ninja finds its audience and gets to make people happy even after ten years.
Piret: I would like to be happy with where I am and what I do. That would be the best that could happen.
Katrin: 10 years is a very long time. I would definitely like to continue this exciting journey that is currently underway, and make my dreams come to life. There’s no hurry, I enjoy the moments and I’m thankful for everything I already have today. How can it get much better?
Triinu: I’ll say that in 10 years time if the wish comes true.
6) What were your last big failures and successes?
Lenna: To me more important are small successes and failures that push us forward and develop, allow us to grow towards the bigger goals.
Piret: I fail almost every day while preparing purees for my child. They tend to come out in the wrong consistency over and over again and it can be terribly frustrating. It would be suitable to bring up our new album as a huge success here! I’m seriously so proud of our new material and I can’t wait for it to reach the listeners’ ears. Although in the recording process there were moments when I was worried whether we could still come up with something great, contemporary and unique, we worked hard and didn’t settle down for any compromises when it came to the quality, so the final result was really pleasing to me.
Katrin: I don’t believe in failures… I call them „experiences”. Every bad thing teaches us something important and pushes life forward. In my current work field, where I develop new international brands, there have been constant setbacks, however, they are priceless experiences that push the business on. My greatest successes are my 14-year long relationship with my dear partner Kristjan, our wonderful son Alexander and constant education on how to maintain a mental and physical balance between family, work, training and a healthy diet.
Triinu: The success is definitely our comeback. Failures don’t exist to me.
7) What are your bandmates’ favourite activities and flavours?
Piret: Katrin likes to surf. Lenna likes to work in the garden, I’m planning to gift her with some plants soon, so she gets to improve her garden even more. Triinu is a good cat mom, she has some really cute fosterlings at home.
Katrin: Triinu’s favourites: career woman, coffee, schnitzel, two nice British shorthair cats at home. Lenna’s favourites: Setumaa house and the activities there, chickens and other animals, eating shrimp and sushi. Piret’s favourites are travelling with her family, favourite dog breed is poodle, favourite artists – Backstreet Boys and Nick Carter.
8) What are your band members’ bad, weird or funny habits?
Piret: Lenna, for example, has a cute habit of seriously crying when she laughs. Katrin takes a lot of pictures. She has had this habit since a long time ago, before social media. And it’s still the case today. And that’s seriously really fun because the rest of us are horribly lazy documenters. Just thanks to Katrin we have a real photo archive. And Triinu’s thing is that she has an awful lot of designer dresses.
Triinu: I don’t really know the favourite foods but I certainly know they all cook very healthily.
Piret: In terms of favourite foods… Lately, when we went to Germany for the video shoot in May, I noticed that Lenna ate kebab every day! Kati ate a lot of sandwiches and tomatoes. And Triinu drank lots of coffee. It’s a different matter whether these are their favourite foods and drinks, but they certainly find them tasty.
9) Which features do you admire the most about each other?
Piret: For example, Lenna’s a real-life superwoman. I would also like to possess her magical powers to do much more in a day than all the other people. Her ability to run a farm next to the two daughters and half-year-old infant, constantly educating herself and learning new things, carrying on with the band and her solo career is simply unreal. Whenever I have a bad day, when I feel like everything’s on the brink of collapse, I think of Lenna and understand I have no reason to complain about anything. About Triinu, I would most like to highlight her singing voice – it’s so amazingly low and dimmed, like nothing I’ve ever heard. Moreover, I also admire Triinu’s entrepreneurship and diligence. She’s very committed to her work. Kati on the other hand is insanely well-organized and thorough. She picks up the details. Especially lately I’ve been really missing having more time to dig deeper.
Katrin: Triinu – beautiful singing voice, Piret – skilful lyricist, Lenna – self-confident artist on a big stage.
Triinu: I think everyone has qualities worth admiring.
10) Your big wish for this summer is…
Piret: A lot of warmth! Both in weather and people.
Katrin: To see my family after a long time and do sports in fairytale-like favourite places, surrounded by the beautiful nature of Estonia, where time stops and you get to recharge yourself with powerful energy!
Triinu: That we get to play many concerts with Vanilla Ninja.