Before the release of Vanilla Ninja’s new album „Encore”, Piret Järvis-Milder remembers the times when the band was formed. Piret, Katrin, Triin [Randloo] and her friend Mari met Sven Lõhmus at the nightclub Café Amigo. There was no casting, there were just the four of us at Amigo. – Piret clarifies the rumours that spread around as if there were a lot of participants and volunteers and a whole casting.
A year had passed since the band’s formation, but things had not moved forward and two girls – Triin and Mari – left. Then came the information from the TopTen record label that they wanted to do something with Maarja Kivi, who was already well-known [at the time], and then Maarja came to the meeting at the office together with Lenna. On the other side of the table, there were Katrin and I. We looked at each other, talked and thought: okay, let’s try. There was no „Vanilla Ninja” name yet, only an idea to start a band. – Piret recalls the beginnings of Vanilla Ninja at „Hirmocast” after almost 20 years, with the women now gaining a new momentum to act and create music.
So, could the girls even dream of and expect international success? I remember that the idea of meeting Sven Lõhmus and him having a plan already felt „wow” in itself. Lõhmus has been a big player since the early ‘90s. But at that moment, the only thing on our minds when meeting Sven was to hopefully make it work in Estonia. As a child and [later as] a teenager, I was a German culture follower myself – I was watching a lot of Viva, music shows, buying Bravo magazine and was acquainted with the German music scene. Deep down, I dreamed of being featured there and it seems it is worth dreaming – those dreams did come true.
But how did Vanilla Ninja get to Germany? Piret recalls that Maarja Kivi’s current husband, Renee Meriste, was their manager and the founder of their successful start. He went to Musikmesse (international music expo – i.e.) in Germany and met David Brandes there. He started convincing Brandes: I have those girls, [you have to] listen-meet-watch-get to know them. David still goes on about it and remembers how he finally succumbed to Meriste’s persuasion and agreed „Ok, bring them here.”. So yes, it was [the fruit of] Renee’s big labour. He deserves huge gratitude for taking it that far.
For more interesting and yet unrecognized stories listen to the full version of the podcast HERE.
A few other intriguing points made during the interview:
- Rights to the Vanilla Ninja ice cream brand were sold a few years ago to AS Balbiino, an Estonian ice cream company.
- The band used to sign thousands of autograph cards that were later sent to the fans all over the world. They also spent long hours signing autographs during specially organized “autograph tours” that took place in different music stores all over Germany.
- According to Piret, several fans moved to Estonia because of Vanilla Ninja…
- …also a lot of foreign fans learn Estonian because of the band.
- One of the reasons Vanilla Ninja parted ways with Bros Music was the fact that David Brandes was very stuck in his own ways and not open-minded.
- One December, whilst living in Germany, the girls faced the threat of not being able to fly home to Estonia for Christmas due to extremely expensive flight tickets.
- At the beginning of their career in Germany, the girls were not earning any money and were working in exchange for expenses’ coverage only.
- There are no hard feelings between the current Vanilla Ninja members, Maarja Kivi and her spouse, Renee Meriste, after they went their separate ways in 2004.
- Regarding the scandal from 2005, Piret believes David Brandes would not be physically capable of buying enough Vanilla Ninja CDs to manipulate the band’s chart positions, as it would have taken thousands of copies to change the album rankings in Germany. The rumour was likely spread by Brandes’ former employee, who was unhappy with the way they were fired.
- Vanilla Ninja trademark now belongs to Lenna Kuurmaa, Piret Järvis-Milder and Katrin Siska.
- David Brandes had come forward with the idea of the reunion already in 2011, but it took almost 10 more years to finally make this idea come to life.
- Piret received positive comments about Vanilla Ninja’s new songs from many different (sometimes unexpected) people, including even her family doctor.