You Win, Every Time: An Interview with Bear Mountain

Four years ago I met Ian Bevis at a charity event. He was raising money and I was throwing out my best moves in a dance circle. When I shake hands with him again he seems to recognize me and I shudder to think it’s because of my trademark Round-the-World move that I’ve been perfecting since high school. Since that night Bear Mountain has gone from relatively obscure musical peanut to being deemed Canada’s indie prodigies. It’s surreal. Perhaps it’s because I met him outside the context of his music that I’m having a hard time believing the person in front of me is human. Together with the rest of the band we are sitting on leather couches in the foyer of their record label and I scarcely believe what I’m experiencing. I am overcome with the feeling that I am interviewing a future version of him, an apparition. Like the entire band is the physical manifestation of the letter your tenth grade teacher asked you to write to yourself five years down the line; like I’m getting a privileged glimpse into Bear Mountain’s certain future. I have an eerie feeling that when I’m done they will disappear as puffs of smoke into triangular windows, and I will wonder if it was all just a dream; for me and for them.

Bear Mountain does not have a collective idea of how they met. When I asked after the band’s history I received muddled responses and even some alarm as to when Ian and Greg truly met Kenji. What did come through loud and clear was what Kenji remembered of meeting Kyle. “I fell in love with his guitar,” he says, and everyone turns their heads in mock amusement. “Seriously. He had this really awesome double sided guitar.”
Kyle nods as he remembers. “I built this little attachment to my guitar,” he says. “It’s like a kaossilator, like a chord synth unit. I hacked into the electronics and rewired it to a Guitar Hero neck. Then I built this thing, and got a metal plate, and all this; rewired it. I made it into a mini guitar that I could attached to my real guitar so I could drop down and do all these weird sound effects with it. Like a double neck guitar.” He raises his hands up and gives me a few spectacular seconds of air guitar. The piece itself, which I will boldly name The Kylossilator, is not on tour with them at the moment, but we can expect a 2.0 version to come out soon.
The band is experiencing what you might perceive to be a sling shot ride into the limelight. If you were to place their rise to fame on a life graph it would look like a vertical line; as proven by transitioning from the underground Vancouver scene to playing Governor’s Ball inside of a year. Talking with them you hardly notice that notoriety has touched them at all. They still sound amazed that this is happening to them, and talk humbly about the changes in their trajectory. “It’s been less than a year,” says Ian. “Playing NXNE last year, no one knew who we were. It was a fluke we got to play at all.”

So what was the spark? Bear Mountain’s story is of a contemporary design, one seen more and more nowadays. No one can deny that the industry experienced massive shifts with the invention of GarageBand and its equivalents. Expectations of both the artist and the label have undergone complete overhauls culminating in a discernable power shift; relationships are changing and what each needs the other for is no longer universal.

“It used to be that people thought that [labels] were the gatekeepers to the industry. A lot of bands still try to go through that gate; traditional ways, traditional press, traditional labels…getting a manager. So many bands are struggling by playing that game,” says Greg. “I think we saw a different opportunity, a different road. We produced, recorded, and released. We did everything ourselves. We put it on the internet and let people decide if it was any good or not, as opposed to whatever industry was there. The music speaks for itself, it got itself to that platform, without any help from industry.” He thinks for a moment then says plainly, “whatever tools you need to make your music, use them.”

“We uploaded some tracks onto Soundcloud, and it was nuts,” says Ian. “Some of them got 40 000 hits the first day. The record got a lot of blog love too.” And then the inevitable happened. “An A & R guy at a major label heard Congo on an underground radio station and started a relationship with us, flew us down to LA, hooked us up with managers, booked shows for us.” And just like that, Bear Mountain went from taxiing down the runway to liftoff.

I asked them how much bootleg stuff was still out there. “There’s a version of Two Step out there on the internet, like an original version. Some of the original Garage Band stuff too,” says Ian. “I bet if you looked on our MySpace there’s still some tracks on there, or LastFM. There’s song called River of the Goods, a song called A Song For the Kids. I was just making this stuff and posting it the same day.”
I asked them if it was true for everyone, if their path was available to the entire Canadian music landscape, that if you have the will you can find a way. Was Garage Band opening up the industry to kids in the prairies and Peggy’s Cove? “It’s free software,” says Kyle. “It’s giving everyone the chance to create. If you have a laptop, you’re good to go.”

“The recording thing is a little more tricky,” says Kenji. “What people don’t acquire is the skill to capture sound and then properly process that sound; cause that’s a totally different technique. People [using Garage Band] get packages of already made nice sounds. The art of capturing sound takes a lot more time and resources.”
Greg agrees. “A full studio is completely different. You see this more though, people make do with what they have, get a buzz from it, then get some money together, then go make a record in the studio and when they start playing with the sound engineering they do it in a really creative way because they’ve had to do it creatively the hole time because they had no resources. Daft Punk started that way.”
What do you think of Daft Punk’s new album? “Amazing,” says Ian, “I don’t even think we’re going to know how amazing it will be for a couple more years; see what comes from it.”

“You know they’re not touring with it,” I say.

“I didn’t expect them to,” he replies.

“Here’s the thing,” says Kenji. “They’re going to remix it.”

We are in the midst of NXNE 2013, and the scope of the festival doesn’t escape me. All week I’ve been wondering about the differences between concrete festivals, namely those in cities, and field festivals, which are self explanatory. Bear Mountain is one of few bands that played both NXNE and SXSW, and Sasquatch, and Governor’s Ball. I asked them if they had a preference between one or the other.

“The Gorge is amazing,” says Ian, and when asked about it compared to concrete festivals, “Sasquatch; there’s nowhere else to go when you’re there. There’s no going into a bar down the street for one, or over to a friend’s house for a nap. You’re just locked in this beautiful space and you’re all together.”

“Governor’s ball was muddy,” says Kyle. “But when you’re locked on a field and nobody cares, that kicks ass.”

“When were in Austin we saw so many bands, though,” Ian says.

Greg, “Every band was there. It was mayhem.”

“It was crazy to walk down the street; a parking lot, show going on; a little café, show going on. Show. Show. Rooftop show.” Said Kenji. “Across the street, rooftop show. It was pretty wild, actually.”

Many are torn, myself included. Each space brings with it its own set of good and bad, reasons to sit back in amazement, and hurdles you’d rather give to the next guy. When you’re out in the city with a wristband there’s this sense that anything could happen. It’s the expanse. Lots of stuff happens in field festivals, but the number will always be limited to what can be contained within the fairgrounds. In the city, avenues are infinite. With so many choices there is no paradigm with which to make any. Your night will be determined by the unpredictability of a red light. You’ll stumble into a bar with decent line and ask the bartender what you’re in store for. “You’re in luck,” she’ll say, and Bear Mountain will be the band powering up on stage. That band you discovered because of a random event, the perfection of which begs no explanation. They are chance, the belief that all things have purpose, if not for a road map.

Ian sings just as we want him to, calling to us from an early nineties iridescent dreamscape. Greg’s drums are hands inviting you onto the dance floor; Kyle your feeling of adventure, and Kenji is the assurance that everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to. This is the epitome of what youth feels like; visions through triangles hanging in the sky. Bear Mountain’s music pulls us places that we had forgotten could exist, places where deep relaxation and invigoration live in harmony. To places where every day is spent atop fresh cut grass, luscious yellow light moving in beams through the branches above; where every night culminates in a slow motion dance party with your best friends, heat from your skin vibrating against the cool summer breeze.

Lady Lamb The Beekeeper Interview

A small little girl from Brunswick, Maine by the name of Aly Spaltro had the dream and the desire to get her sound out to the world. In a surprisingly short period of time, she’s accomplished a rather incredible amount of hype, a number of EP’s, mixtapes, music videos, a newly released full-length studio album, and a now growing group of invested fans that hang off her every word. Not bad for a 23 year old in the world of indie rock (hers is more eerie at times and always more interesting than most, so it may not actually be that surprising to anyone, really). I thought, as I was new to her sound and her music that I’d start at the beginning. And that’s just what I did.

Back in Brunswick, Maine, your hometown, did you have musical chops as a child or was it more of a performance deal for young Lady Lamb?

Lady Lamb: I had musical leanings but never any desire to perform. It was basically just an obsession with music from an early age. Between the two of them, my parents listened to a very eclectic mix; my mother loved the 80’s or classical music pretty much exclusively and then my dad listened classic rock, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and all those guitar heroes.

And then…

… Oh! And then when I was five I lived in Arizona. My next door neighbour was my babysitter: she was 13 and kind of a weird kid and really into the Beatles, late Beatles, you know?

The more experimental Beatles…

Absolutely. White Album and all that. We hung out a lot and became good friends, which made me a very strange five year-old! So we would just sit around and listen to The White Album and Rubber Soul all the time and through that I started listening to “oldies radio” on my own. I started making mix-tapes cause I was really into The Supremes, Mamas and The Papas, Leslie Gore, Otis Redding… basically everything on oldies radio stations.

So it was just an obsession at that point?

For sure. I didn’t have any desire to really play it, I didn’t think of it that way. I was a shy kid to begin with so I never wanted to perform or be in talent shows or sing or take lessons or anything like that.

And your first recordings, kind of show that shyness. You recorded it all yourself, packaged them all yourself, brought them to your local record store; you did everything on your own. Was that more of an experiment or did it just get to a point where you needed to start sharing what you were creating?

It was both but it really started as a way for me to express myself in a way that was really focused and dedicated. I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and I wanted to do something, honestly, with my year, because I took a gap year between highschool and college, and I wanted to do something that was really involved before college. I taught myself how to play and started singing at that point and for the first few months I had no desire to share any of it. But then, after packaging it up and giving a bit away for free I really just sort of fell into [the industry] by accident. I started performing and really getting something out of that which I don’t think I expected.

Did you feel you really had any specific pushes to get more into the spotlight and stray from that shy girl you were as a kid?

I never felt any “pressure” from anyone I knew really. I worked at an independent DVD rental store for four years and they became my second family. My boss at that store was a huge film and music buff and after hearing my stuff he was the first to really encourage me to play a show. And then my dad told me to try but it was really up to me and it took me a long time to get up the courage to get on stage.

Typing your name into any search engine, a whole lot of videos come up and many from early on in your career. For someone self-admittedly shy, do you feel there’s something visually you need to present with your music as well as lyrically?

It has to do with a number of things. I know that “I” as a music fan want to see artist’s visuals. If I’m checking out a band for the first time I will most likely look up a music video. And it comes from that; it comes from being a fan and thinking that video is an integral part to the art. Also, as a kid I loved to draw, paint, collage, make movies, and all that so naturally the visual came ingrained, for me, in the music. It makes me feel really lucky that I’m doing something that I love that has room for other mediums as well.

In just about all of your videos, although serious at times depending on the subject of the lyrics, there seems to be an undercurrent of light heartedness. Is that and uncontrollable element of your personality just breaking through or is that something planned that you want in your music and your creative process?

Well, in the case of the videos, it’s probably just me coming through. I have this one video where it’s a one-take, pretty serious video called “Between Two Trees” where I’m just standing in front of a wall… I’m singing along (so that it doesn’t just look like I’m lip-synching), I’m singing in the room but then I mess up the lyrics. I got all flustered, laughed, but then kept singing. That happened, so why do the take again, you know? Just let it be, because I’m a little silly so just keep that in there.

Your album Mammoth Swoon, a 2010 release, received some well-deserved attention for being a pieced together album of demos and b-sides. Did that come together naturally for you?

That I put out myself and is just a mix of stuff. It wasn’t really meant to be released it was honestly meant as something I wanted to leave with Portland, Maine when I left for New York. But then when I moved I needed something to give to people so I kind of just kept making it and so any press it got wasn’t intentional. I mean I didn’t even have a publicist until this newest record.

Working so much on your own, do you find that knowing more about the business side of the industry; booking shows, handling publicity, etc. is something you’re pleased about or are you just happy to leave that up to others now?

I’m super pleased I learned that way! I don’t know if other artists really talk about this but for me, I’m first in line to hear about anything and everything that comes through about my music cause that’s the way I like it. I like answering e-mails and talking directly with promoters and publicists because that’s just part of my personality! I wouldn’t have it any other way, really.

Your newest and first studio album Ripely Pine (released May 2013) having dropped now, do you have expectations for the work?

I made sure to not have any expectations what-so-ever. I’ve learned in my life that it’s a pretty good rule to not have any expectations on anything you do, or people for that matter. You make these high expectations and then you’re disappointed. So I decided that if I went into the studio with that [expectation filled] attitude that I would end up making something that wasn’t entirely honest because I’d likely be too focused on what other people thought. Pleasing others, hoping to get good reviews, stuff like that I tried not to think about at all. In that way, I’ve made something that I’m ultra proud of and I worked for more than a year on this because, well, I had the luxury to work with my producer for that long, but also because I didn’t want to cap it until it was fully finished. I needed to work on it until I knew that I wouldn’t have a single regret about the way it was made and that’s what happened. This sounds so… I don’t know… but the feeling of finishing it and the fact that it took so long, so much hard work, sweat and tears and all that, and just the joy that it’s done and it’s real and it’s out and now the rest doesn’t matter, really. So to really answer your question, because I had no expectations I’m pleasantly, pleasantly surprised and I’m very happy that people seem to really like it and are responding to it.

Touring for this release seems pretty hectic by the looks of your schedule. You mentioned earlier that you’ve got a three week break coming up; do you feel that needs to be a “re-charge and relax” break or can you just not shut the creativity faucet off?

I haven’t written a song in a long time because I’ve just been in a different space: “Work this record. Tour. Go. Go. Go!” you know? So I’ve been feeling the urge to write again. I was on tour in Europe before this and the urge started there and when that happens generally the lyrics come first for me. I can’t just grab a guitar and go, I write a lot of poetry and then when I get home I put music to it. I’ve written a lot of lyrics in the last month that I’m really excited to use the three weeks coming up to get home and put music to. I’m also gonna eat a tonne of Brooklyn food. That’s number one [laughs].

On your website you have a section called “In The Books” where you can scroll through random pages of some of your notebooks. Is that just a fun outlet for you in posting that?

I can’t remember how that came about but I just thought that might be a really intimate thing that people might appreciate. As a music fan I know I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to see a musicians notebook or scribbles on song or the original lyrics to a song by the Beatles or something like that?” That’s so amazing to look at! There’s a lot of personality in the way a person writes and what they’re saying when they’re just writing in a notebook and not thinking about two years down the road when it gets posted on the internet or whatever. What I really like about it is that there are the “beginnings” to a lot of songs in there randomly. The beginnings of ideas from years ago are in there that ended up in this record and that’s pretty neat.

In terms of future dates, you’ve got Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, NC as your last posted date this year. Another break then or is that just as far into the future as the site has been updated?

That’s in early September, ya. I would like to have the month of September mostly off because I’m planning a tonne of stuff after that. It’s not up yet but I’ll be touring again in October, November, December at least!

Touring for this new album seems to be taking up all your time but is there something upcoming that you’re really excited about in terms of releasing a single, a new video, some more b-sides possibly?

I’m definitely getting to the point where I’m itching to make another video so I’m keeping my mind open in terms of thinking up concepts for another video. I’d also just love to go back into my studio where I made Ripely Pine and do a cover. Maybe a duet cover with a guy [quickly adds]… friend… in New York. I’ve been thinking a lot about doing a Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks cover. I think that’d be really fun to put out just for no reason other than just to do it. We could just nail it in a day then put it on the internet…

… Just let the creative muse fly, right?

Absolutely!

Pay attention, oh muses. This New Yorker may put you out of the business Lady Lamb The Beekeeper’s music continues to be creative, full of personality, charm, and, seemingly, there’s no end in sight.

Ripely Pine is available on iTunes and more than likely multiple physical copies can be found at that little record store in Portland, Maine along with a throng of happy fans!

Lenka Interview

Born and raised in the Australian “bush” (her words, “… it’s not the outback, it’s just known as the bush.”) Lenka Kripac, who goes simply by her first name in the music world, has recently seen her poppy, happy, and all around fun single Everything at Once the centre of quite a lot of attention thanks to it’s use by Microsoft 8’s newest commercial and tag-line for the product that states, ready for it, that Microsoft 8 is, “Everything at Once.” I know… original thinking in marketing has always been a staple at Microsoft, at least they’re fantastically gifted at choosing great music.

Lenka’s career in music started long ago and not specifically aimed at just one form of artistic impression: “I was running and dancing since the day I knew how and singing to the gumtrees…” she states over the phone just before heading on stage in L.A., “I began ballet when I was four but I remember always wanting the little solos or the sort of, spotlight parts, even that young.” As someone that clearly finds the arts all-encompassing, being creative seems to be a part of who she is as much as it is something she does for a living now. Curious about a first memory she might be able to recall in terms of really grabbing the spotlight, she laughed and then answered immediately, “There’s this picture of me wearing an elf-costume when I’m about five years old, I think, and, again, it’s just one of those plays where the teachers must have recognized the fact that I wasn’t afraid to step out on my own in front of an audience cause it’s just me in my elf costume!”

After her stint as one of Santa’s helpers, Lenka and her family left the “bush” and headed to Sydney where she studied acting at the Australian Theatre for Young People. She was quite inspired by one of the young instructors there and wasn’t afraid to let the world know, “… Cate (Blanchett) was a teacher, of sorts, for a bit when I was there. She was probably 20, or at least in her young 20s, when I was still a teen. She was wonderful though and is definitely one of the reasons I kept pursuing acting. She really was a terrific teacher.” From soaps to teen series, Lenka starred or guest starred in a number of Australian productions and feels that her music being tied to film and television isn’t so much of a mystery if you really think about it, “I’ve always been tied to that [film and television] world so I don’t think it’s a coincidence…” she states very matter-of-factly, “There’s something very visual about many of my lyrics that people seem to respond to and see a use for in their projects.” One such person was a young Kerris Dorsey, the American actress that is now best known for her role as Billy Beane’s (played by Brad Pitt) daughter. “It’s so fantastic that it was used in the film…” she laughingly states of her song The Show. “I really owe a lot to that young actress, Kerris. She was a fan of mine I guess and actually played that song in her audition. [The studio] decided they wanted her for the part and that song for the scene on the spot, or so I heard.” A touching scene between a father and his daughter in a guitar store, Lenka says that the lyrics weren’t meant for that sort of situation but that, “… the small part of the song that Kerris sings to her screen dad just worked so well. It was interesting to hear the song that way. I was really proud of that.”

Having music in advertising isn’t as easy of a decision as when your management calls and tells you that your song could possibly be in the next Brad Pitt money-maker. Stating that she usually does research on any companies asking for her work before hand, she’s also, at the same time, not concerned with the idea of selling out: “I want to make sure they’re not evil corporations or anything but really, most of my songs are used for really cute spots or happy ones and that’s the sort of music that I make. So of course!” She’s also not one to complain about her songs being used in other mediums such as television shows or YouTube compilations, “There are so many channels for musicians to get their work out to fans now and this is just one way that I feel very fortunate people are responding so positively towards.”

When asked about her music and its happy vibe she just laughs in a most delighted way. “I think people always need happy music!” Her newest album, however, is much softer… still happy, but the full length album Shadows has been described as a lullaby album for adults and she confirms that was her very intention, “I was pregnant during some and had just had my son for the rest so I intentionally made it as much of a lullaby album as possible. It’s very soft, very comforting I feel.” She pauses, I’m guessing to reflect on how to properly describe what she was feeling at the time of making the album, “My previous albums and music are absolutely wonderful but there’s plenty of full volume vocals, drum spikes, and a feeling of faster tempo pop music… which is great! But I love softer music you can put on to fall asleep to as well and this was my chance to make an album like that.” After a moment, she adds a final thought to that train, “I obviously want to please my fans but this was as much for me and my new family as for my fans.”

But as her success is tied to very happy and poppy music, I was curious if she was heading in a new direction? “I don’t ever want to make angry or moody, depressing music. I’m a very happy person and I enjoy listening to upbeat music so that’s what I strive to create!” I wonder if her happiness can now be directly correlated to having her husband and young child on tour with her and she’s quick to agree and yet set the record straight, “It’s difficult at times and so not always feasible. We choose ‘home bases’ where they can stay, like New York as I do an east coast tour or L.A. for a west coast one. It works for now because my boy is really into maps [laughs] so he loves travelling! I love having them around though and it’s so great to be able to see them in between shows!”

As for new projects, don’t you worry, you big fan of Lenka, you. She’s just about to release a new video for a song that her husband, visual artist James Gulliver Hancock, has wanted to do for a long time. “We turned my body into the landscape for the video so I had model makers, miniature specialists, and so many others around using little train sets and buildings on my body! It was a much larger endeavor that anything we’ve ever done before but it was absolutely worth it.” I can tell she’s smiling even over the phone, “It’s such an amazing video.”

Lenka played only a select few dates in a handful of major Canadian cities but I was there in Vancouver with a smile on my face as her “happy” music kept me in a great mood for the entirety of her set. And then the smile just wouldn’t go away as her catchy hooks kept rolling around in my head, and I hope they stay right where they are for as long as possible.

Lenka’s newest album, Shadows is available on iTunes now as are her previous two solo albums, the self-titled Lenka and her sophomore follow-up, aptly titled, Two.

The Damn Truth Interview

The Damn Truth’s debut album Dear in the Headlights has huge sound. So huge in fact, that as a listener you can actually feel the epicness of their vision and this in turn connects you to the legendary status classic rock n roll has always held in your heart; big drums, a guitar that rips through chords and drips gold, psychedelic bass that turns your vision kaleidoscopic, and a voice that literally opens your mind. You can actually see the spinning colours when you close your eyes. ..As a consequence you feel a tremendous amount of nostalgia; probably a little too much nostalgia for The Damn Truth’s liking. I asked them what they thought about being called a revival band.

“We mind,” says Tom Shemer simply, and he’s only half kidding.

The drummer, Dave Traina, agrees. “What are you going to do about it? People are going to label you no matter what. You are what you do. You could be the most innovative band and people will find a way to tell you that you sound like something they’ve already heard.”

For any band, being told you sound like Janis Joplin fronting Black Sabbath is never a bad thing. It’s not the comparisons that itch, their sound has been likened to the greats of classic rock; it’s about respecting an album that they poured their hearts and souls into, an album that demanded they delve into the darker parts of themselves. Dear in the Headlights is the sum of their individual experiences as humans. For them, defending themselves against the revival claims is more about honouring the process and what came from it, than denying that they sound one way or the other.

Their experience in the studio was enlightening, to say the least. I asked them if they cared to comment on the correlation between music and madness. “Oh, ya. The line is a thin one, man,” says Lee-La, the singer. “I think it’s not only music though, it’s artistry; to be able to put yourself in that place where, you know- you’re doing this- you’re naked in front of the world. I try not to think about it otherwise I’ll get lost in that part of it. For me, it’s my healing. Whenever I’ve been down, anxious, angry, in pain, I would sit and write. I feel like if I’m not writing, I’m screaming. I would break things.”

Do good artists need to touch madness? Downtown’s lyrics would suggest there’s some truth to the notion; I feel so grand, my friends, they all say I’m crazy. I’m not crazy. “I don’t think it’s direct; that to be a successful artist you have to have something off-putting about you,” says Tom. “But to be in a band, and maintain your relationships; to do this four way marriage, and family, and the rest of the stuff that comes with it. That’s where the madness would probably come from. If madness were to accompany being artistic, it would definitely come from everything being thrown together, but trying to focus on only one thing.”

You don’t seem insane to me, I say. David Masse smiles, “You put four people into a room with amplification, and anything can happen.” He continues. “We work in a collaborative way, so her madness affects everything, his madness is affecting everything. On a day to day basis I think everyone has to deal with madness. That’s the nature of the beast.”

In fact, their grassroots approach to recording is something undeniably classic about them. “We use a really old school tape,” says Lee-La. “There’s a lot of things we really like to capture. We just record the four of us in a studio. Then afterwards we re-record the harmonies and layer them on top. That’s the core of it. That’s how they used to do it in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s really important for us because that’s how we work best. I love looking into these guys’ eyes and feeding off of them.”

“It’s true,” agrees Tom. “We do draw a lot from the past in terms of the way we work as a band. We don’t go into the studio and do drums, and then bass, and then fix it all up. We just play in a room. We’re a live band.”

You can really hear this on the track, I Want You(He’s a Lightweight.) The recording session even captures the light static on their amps, and Lee-La as she inhales. If you listen closely, you can even hear them pulling energy out of one another, all the way to the climatic finish which I know culminated in a Technicolor-group-head-bang. I know this because I participated in their particular brand of gypsy-love-dance party when I danced my face off at The Horseshoe when they played there for NXNE. “We just like to play as if technology isn’t there to save our ass,” says David.

Fun fact about The Damn Truth, they were actually a backup band for someone else before they broke free and went out on their own. That was where they first fell for one another, where their onstage presence was first formed, and it is a powerful presence at that. “You never know what to expect when you go on stage,” says Lee-La. “ You never know what the people are going to give you, what the band is going to give you; what each and every one of us is going through that certain day. Every day is a surprise. We love it. I always find different things to tap into, and the more we play, the deeper it’s gonna get.”

I like that they’re looking into the future. Even though I looked into the past when I first heard them, I have high hopes that the rock movement coming out of Montreal will be the next big wave in the Canadian music tide pool. Tom nods, “There are a lot of really great bands coming out of Montreal all the time,” and about their sound specifically, Tom says, “The rock crowd there right now is thirsty for it.”
Lee-La nods. “The Besnard Lakes are definitely doing something interesting. I like them! They’ve got a psychedelic tip to them I like that a whole lot.”

Psychedelic folk is another label that has been applied to them. “If there were to be a rock revival coming out of Montreal, that would be a great thing,” says David. “Reading about the Beatles back in the day and The Stones and Hendrix, and knowing they hung out together. These epic musicians all at the same place at the same time, it’s a great thing. If we could be a part of something like that, that would be awesome.”

If that’s the case, they must be having a hell of the time on the bus, I say. “We don’t have a bus. I was projecting into the future,” says David, then points. “That’s the bus right there.”

Is that what you guys drove in? The one with the duct tape? That’s spectacular! …Well, that’s all. I don’t have any more questions.

“You can’t leave it at duct tape,” says David.

All too correct, sir.

The Damn Truth’s sound will raise questions in your mind, but isn’t that what the best bands do? Notions about the cyclical nature of art and of innovation may not escape you, but that to me is the icing on the cake. Rarely does a band with such strong ties to the golden age of rock present themselves as the exception to the rule. Rarely does sound come at you presented as a conundrum: How does this music take me back and push me into the future at the same time? The chords make me want to lie out in the sun picking petals off of wild flowers, makes me want to spin in an open field as the sun rises up in the East, makes me want to dust off that velvet top hat and descend into a cavernous pub so I can melt into the music calling out to me. I’ll settle for a leather fringe vest and the front porch of my two-storey walk-up; summer BBQ throwing smoke into the air, and me tipping my hat to every single person who walks by nodding in appreciation of Dear in the Headlights which is blaring through the screened window. I’ll yell “The Damn Truth!” at them, they will slow to a halt, and together we will share a moment of deep music appreciation, because the songs tell us the good times are just around the corner. No other message is more rock n roll. No other message is more The Damn Truth.

This Hisses Interview

Hard Luck Bar is located on one of the less glitzy streets of Toronto. It’s downtown, but it’s on Dundas St. W, in a undeveloped area of the city where random taped up storefronts abound and franchises are the only thing adding colour. Hard Luck Bar is everything the name suggests. A rose by any other name would still invoke feelings of latent anger and disenfranchisement. It is a haunt for punk music and the burgeoning post-punk scene. You can tell everyone has made a conscious choice to be there and that’s a powerful thing for a bar. I asked This Hisses what they thought of the venue; “As long as there’s a good PA and they can hear the vocals, then it’s good. We’re a loud band. We don’t like to play places where they tell us to turn it down.” Just hearing them say it makes me believe it. “We’re loud,” they say simply. “We need to play loud.” I nod emphatically.

Well sure, who wants to play to be merry when you can melt people’s faces off? “He’s the most beautiful dynamic drummer I have ever seen,” Julia says of JP Perron. “I saw him play in another band and when he came home from touring I plucked up the courage and I shyly asked him what he was up to. We didn’t know if was going to work but it did.” Julia and Patrick Short, lead guitar, had known each other for years. The two met when Patrick played with her brother. Afterwards she ‘cherry picked’ him for This Hisses.

I tell them that I’ve been listening to their album, that I was curious about the name Anhedonia. The title in the strictest sense describes a person who is unable to experience pleasure from normal things, but the song of the same name is specifically about a person whose warmth is unsung. I ask them if they feel that this can be said for punk music; it being inaccessible for most, but essentially having a message of courage and loyalty (louder and darker for some reason means seldom understood). “I think we’re drawn to hard music for different reasons,” says Julia. “It’s a little bit of a protective sphere. We let ourselves get honest, but there will always this wall of tough sound that protects us.”

Post-punk music, and I use the word traditionally lightly here, describes heavy guitar and drums akin to punk with an intrusive element of experimentation. For This Hisses, that translates to an insanely amazing guitar that sounds like it’s pouring out of the speaker, and drums that you literally have to shake out of your body; all that and Julia’s opera trained voice calling to you from somewhere out of the darkness. It’s intense and oddly languid at the same time, all in the best way possible. “This person is seeking pleasure and achieving disappointment. So it’s about the wonderment of ‘Wow, if you could be free of this path of pursuing pleasure, then maybe you could get on with things in life, and not risk that disappointment and that vulnerability’.”

Thank God someone is taking the time to take this message on, I think. We really should just be getting on with the doing of things. I asked JP if he always felt that way. “I started in Toronto playing music cause I wanted to be cool,” he says. “Then I realized I wasn’t cool, so I just focused on being a better songwriter.”
“You’ve got a Slater from Empire Records thing going on,” I respond.

He doesn’t flinch, just continues. “I got into punk rock because all my guitar heroes’ bands broke up and I was like, what now?” I can’t tell if he’s kidding or not, he says it stone cold. JP laughs.

They’re from Winnipeg , they say, which apparently isn’t so obscure after all, and they have no plans on moving to Toronto any time soon. “It would give us more access to the industry, but we’re still cultivating our artistic sensibilities. Winnipeg has a great art scene and it’s a great affordable city to live in. We want an audience that’s into a great product.” For them, the size of the market is not important, and they feel that taking on bigger markets is not something to be taken lightly. “We get the confidence and the support in Winnipeg to try to tackle the bigger markets. There’s nothing wrong with that. There is high quality music and high quality art in Winnipeg. It’s a bit of secret but it’s a good one.” I can’t imagine a better reason to be in Winnipeg than taking the time to respect the craft. Then Julia sips her tea, and says, “I don’t think people make a living in music anymore anyway.”

JP is nodding his head at Julia. He’s standing just to the side of her twirling his moustache and listening. He agrees with her. “We’ve all played in plenty of bands and done lots of different stuff. With this one, we trying to hone our sound to keep it distilled, compact and tight. As far as trying to get other people to hear it, I don’t know man.”

“Trim the fat,” says Patrick, and they both look at him. He catches Julia’s eye, “Just keep trimming the fat.” She smiles and shakes her at him. This is one of the things I really like about this band; you can tell that they’re really good friends who share a common goal of making beautiful music. I interrupt the moment and ask Patrick what the future holds for him. He answers me deadpan, ‘Try to be cool again.”

“I get such joy out of playing live shows that I won’t be able to stop,” says JP. “I’ll keep pushing myself to try things that I’m uncomfortable with, like making an electronic jump. I want to challenge myself to do different things.”

Julia is nodding in agreement to this too. This seemingly would open too many doors wouldn’t it? If people pursued every possible path in life we would get nowhere. Does this mean that they’ll be jumping mediums one day? “I find that everything I have to say I can say through music,” says Julia. “A lot of my powerful emotions… music is the way that I can most strongly present them. That’s how I deal. I want to write the songs and put the words to them.”

The Torontoist called their song ‘My Love He Shot a Sparrow’ The Best Song About Murder at NXNE, and for obvious reasons. The lyrical content of that song is so expansive yet precise at the same time that it literally focuses the mind into a calmness and oddly invigorates the soul that same time. This can be said about their entire album; incredible musicianship, heavy themes and notes, tremendous depth of character, and darkness that cloaks your world in a black glitterscape.

When I roll up to the Hard Luck Bar later that night, I step into its grimy splendor with immense anticipation. I walk over to the bar, do my best Clint Eastwood to the bartender, and order a bottle of 50. I take a seat in front of the sound booth and rest my legs across the bench. When Julia stands up the microphone, her sheer closeness to the mic, and the subtle breath that escapes her, starts the pull you feel when speakers power up. Everything that is nailed to the floor, which in Hard Luck Bar means everything, starts vibrating from the force of the sound coming from the speakers; the guitar pours from them, the hard sizzle of the drums jangles, Julia’s voice pushes from their great depths.

Brace yourself, I whisper.

Ell V Gore Interview

Ell V Gore has slowly but surely been creating rifts in the Toronto music scene. With the recent release of his debut EP, Sex Static, Ell V has enveloped the darkness and has been sending gothic chills of pure no-wave and punk-inspired darkwave bliss to anyone willing to lose themselves in the seedy, ethereal black world of Gore. With blood-curdling howls, scathing guitar, and frantic, paranoid percussion, Sex Static is a very well composed EP that could be filed along with a Joy Division that maybe spent a little too much time at that one industrial rave warehouse that you have always felt uncomfortable walking by. Having played a couple of showcases at NXNE, opening up for the likes of Iceage, I recently got a chance to sit down with the lead madman himself, Ell V. Seated on a eerily yet hysterically appropriate leopard print chair, I spoke to Elliot about his past, his influences, and he even gave a nod to my Sonic Youth shirt, which is a definite thumbs-up.

Ell V: Sorry about this leopard print chair, which was here, I didn’t put it here.

MV: No don’t worry about it, it looks awesome.

So how have you been liking the festival so far?

Well it’s only the second night, so I haven’t really checked anything out too much yet. I saw Merchandise the other night; there were a few songs that were good.

Yeah, that was the secret show right?

Yeah, well they were playing the same night as us so I wanted to catch them at least once. At first I wasn’t really into them, but then I found out that they have a full drummer now so I thought I would check it out. There were a couple good tunes.

Are there any acts that you are really looking forward to?

The next act going on after this band, Cellphone, they’re like one of my favourite Toronto bands. They’re crazy and need to get out there. Wild, spastic, punk shit. Really cool.

You probably know Iceage right? I really want to check them out.

Oh yeah, we’re playing with them! On Sunday at The Garrison.  They’re the “secret band”.

Oh wow, thanks for that! That’ll be awesome.

[Laughs] Totally. Iceage is cool but I haven’t seen them live. Their records are pretty good though,

I hear their shows get pretty wild. Congratulations on the EP, I’m a really big fan.

Cool, man, glad you dig it.

Can you tell me how Ell V Gore got started?

I was in a nosier, no-wave punk band a couple of years ago called Brides. We were recording a record but then broke up during that and I still wanted to do my own thing so I started doing some solo stuff. My middle name is Vincent so I kept the Ell-V and then just added ‘Gore’ on the end because why the fuck not, like it doesn’t really make any sense, but I just did it and kept it going. I got a band together and it took a while to get started and eventually release an EP but I had done other recordings, but I just was not happy with them. Now I have learned that when you record something, to just put it out and not to be a fucking diva.

Ell V Gore is a badass name though.

Is it? [Laughs] Nobody really knows what it is though yet but like it was hard getting shows or getting my record label to pass that name through, they thought I was a Spanish rocker or something.

What would you say inspires your sound, musically or otherwise?

I have always been into that really abrasive, jarring 80’s stuff like Swans but I wanted to put my own take on the aggressive punk sound. I have also been listening to a lot of synth stuff too, so I just blended the two together. And influences… I don’t really know. I guess when I started working at the strip club and seeing a certain side of Toronto like every day, going to work and not seeing the sun for 24 hours, and getting in a weird head space. It wasn’t angry, but I don’t know, I just sort of threw it out there.

Exactly, I wouldn’t call your music angry per se, but there is just a lot of energy behind it.

Yeah, there’s a lot of energy and is sort of like hyper ‘rock’, fuck, I don’t even know.

I would consider your sound dark right?

Sure.

And what would you say attracts people to the darker side of things?

I guess it’s just some sort of taboo, like it just may not be your average, everyday lifestyle but everyone has their own dark side. It’s good to get it out sometimes.

What sort of music were you into growing up?

My father was into jazz, so I grew up listening to a lot of jazz stuff and that led to me getting into more ‘out-there’ experimental jazz and avant-garde shit like certain Cole Train records and Sun Re and all that weird junk stuff. So I got into that and that led to me, well you’re wearing a Sonic Youth t-shirt, and Sonic Youth was one of those influences. I had an older brother who listened to them and I was terrified at first when I listened to them because I was a little kid. They’re one of the bands that altered a lot of things. I grew up listening to a lot of no-wave and all that crap.

I find that Sonic Youth is a great entry point for more abstract music. And so Pretty Pretty, that was a monthly party at first?

Yeah, at first.

How did it evolve into a label?

This friend just came in, my friend Cam who was recording a record, Kontravoid, I don’t know if you know him?

I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago. He’s a really cool guy.

Yeah, he’s a cool guy. And basically friend John was looking to put out a record and Kontravoid had finished his and then I was doing these parties and they I guess they wanted to bring me in and there was already this momentum behind it and we just decided to put the records out as Pretty Pretty Records.

I loved that video where Ell V Gore and Kontravoid played ‘Lobotomy’ together.

That was funny and a while ago actually. Yeah, that was a completely different version of the song.

I loved the cheesiness and the vibe from it. [laughs]

Oh yeah, it’s cheesy. You can’t take everything too seriously.

Did you always want to go into music?

Sure. I wasn’t really good at anything else. I got a guitar one day and started banging on it and experimented until I found something that I thought sounded good.

If it weren’t for music, where could you see yourself?

I don’t know how to answer that, man. Drug addict maybe? It keeps me busy during the day and at night.

Audiences Interview

The first time I heard Audiences was during a soundcheck at Schuba’s Tavern in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood in August of 2011. It was a sound that I couldn’t exactly put my finger on but it was something that I knew was going to bring them a lot of attention in the Chicago music scene. Nearly a year and a half, one EP, and a slew of shows in some of Chicago’s most well-known venues later, Audiences has brought attention to themselves in a scene where bands tend to piggyback on one another’s sounds and styles. I was able to sit down with Audiences at Chicago’s Double Door and discuss how the band got to where they are today, their future plans, and what it’s like to be a permanent fixture in the Chicago music scene.

MVRemix: How about you introduce yourselves…

Stephen Kraniotis: I’m Stephen, I play guitar

Brian Suarez: I’m Brian, I play bass.

Billy Jesus: Billy. Singing guitar.

Bobby Is: I’m Bob, I play the drums.

MVRemix: Where did you get the name audiences?

BI: We did a song called “Audiences.”

BJ: Actually I remember this really clearly. I was thinking about this the other day in a weird way, actually. Seriously, we had this song called “Audiences” and we’d been playing the shit out of it and we didn’t really know what we were going to do with it. We don’t play it anymore-

BS: We were called Bad Moon at the time.

BJ: But yeah, then Brian one day was like “Dude, you know what? We should be called Audiences.” Like, I remember. He screamed it from his bedroom.

BI: No, I’m pretty sure we were like “We should be called Audiences and the song should be called ‘Bad Moon.’”

BJ: Yeah, that’s right… And we did do that!

BS: So we would have a lot of house shows.

BI: And people would come and play.

BJ: We were named Audiences before our first show.

SK: There was a lot of people involved that inspired us a lot and we were just like, alright.

BS: And just like he (Billy) says on stage, is that, you know, “We’re all Audiences.”

SK: It’s like paying homage.

BS: You’re trying to connect with people, and musicians are always trying to connect with people, and it’s just so different saying “Oh, I’m going to the Audiences show!”

MVRemix: When did you start playing together as a band?

BI: What is 20-

BJ: July 2010.

BS: November 2010?

BJ: So me, Brian, and Stephen all grew up playing together in weird basements in the suburbs. The three of us grew up playing together and we went to high school together, and I learned how to sing, sort of. Maybe from the same entity. And Bob and I played in a little thing before this.

BI: I actually don’t even know these guys last names.

SK: And then, like, we were just kind of just kind of picking up instruments.

BJ: Something ended and then something bigger started.

SK: I used to play bass. On the song called “Audiences” I played bass.

BS: I never played bass before this band.

SK: And he learned.

BS: I learned how to play bass for this band because I wanted to be in a band.

SK: And we were just kind of dicking around in the apartment.

BS: Yeah, that’s the weirdest thing. It was a kind of an organic thing.

BJ: I kind of thought this was going to live in the living room and die in the living room and then we got a few shows.

BI: Big shows!

BJ: Yeah, bigger than us.

BI: It just escalated quickly.

BJ: Yeah, we just got to do some shit that was bigger than us.

MVRemix: What were your influences when you first started Audiences?

BS: Big Bird.

BJ: Do you hear the guy doing vocal warm ups in the next room? That was my biggest influence. The guy you could hear through my walls in my apartment.

SK: Probably the people we were just surrounded by made us want to start a band. Just the people hanging out in the apartment, it was very much a party house then. People were just picking up instruments.

BJ: Nothing positive or negative was happening. It was just noise.

BI: We all come from different backgrounds. It was interesting the first two songs. I come from a very heavy metal, death metal background. So somebody would be like “Hey, let’s play this bluesy riff.” And I’d just be like “Fuck yeah, let’s put some double bass with that!”

BJ: Double bass!

BI: Or something ridiculous. So I think just, going over the first few songs we learned each other better and learned how to write music to assist everyone’s strengths.

BS: I used to be in an emo band that opened for Fall Out Boy at Knights of Columbus on a six band bill. I guess 90’s stuff too?

SK: I’d say every one of us has different influences.

BJ: Tool was in the 90’s.

SK: Yeah, that’s why we sound so much like Tool.

BI: Not like 90’s pop.

SK: Okay. We all have very different influences which helps us have this spontaneously unique sound.

MVRemix: Would you say that everything you just threw at me continues to influence you and help you create music now?

BS: Actually, you’re always listening to new music and you’re always going to find new stuff that you like, or dislike or whatever. But I think that you hear stuff that you’re putting out and there’s this bar that you’ve set that at one point maybe you didn’t think you would reach but you did. Now you get to get set that bar even higher.

SK: It always keeps being different. It evolves.

BS: I think all of us could just play shit that we couldn’t play when we started. The songs that we’re writing right now or aren’t playing yet or aren’t recorded yet, are songs that we could have never come up with when we started. We just got better.

BI: When I first started hanging out with you dudes, I’d go to a party and I’d be like “Holy shit. What is this music?” Because I wouldn’t know, I had listened to death metal. And after a while after hanging with you, I started learning your catalogs and all that. So now we could say “Hey listen to this song!” And everyone is like “Oh. Okay!”

BJ: Everyone’s listening to crazy shit. Bob and I have been jamming bluegrass for the past two weeks, exclusively. Legitimately! Like, Doc Watson. Like, I can’t get it out of my head.

BS: Because we come from different backgrounds, we tend to inspire each other.

BI: It’s good because if we all listened to punk rock we’d be playing punk rock.

BS: There’s some bands that just have that one genre. I don’t know, like, The Strokes is a good example of a band who took that one thing and this album that’s coming out is like a breakthrough. We haven’t reached that. You still have to establish that stuff and it does keep influencing us.

SK: It goes along with the thing like, I wasn’t a lead guitarist, Brian wasn’t a bassist, Billy wasn’t a singer, really. Bob wasn’t an indie rock drummer.

BS: No one felt comfortable in the roles we were playing.

SK: So it’s basically been learning where we belong and we’re now kind of figuring out, so let’s take some things from there and there.

BJ: Except Bob because he just plays his drums like, all the time.

BS: But ultimately those are the things that continue to influence us. We’re not all just listening to one thing. There’s some bands we’re always going to agree on but everyone listens to their own shit.

BI: It’s better when we don’t agree on a band.

BJ: When has that ever really happened though?

BI: One time Brian was like “You should listen to this Creed song.”

BJ: But that never actually happened.

MVRemix: Since Audiences started playing, you haven’t really left Chicago but have made a pretty good name for yourselves out here. Did you ever expect that?

BS: No way.

BJ: Absolutely not. So many bands that we know because we’re playing with them are on the road and they ask us where we’re from and we’re just like, “We’re from here.” Because we have that pride.

BI: It’s most exciting because when we first started we were doing the Chicago thing and then we started talking about going on the road. Like, oh we can do this and that, but thinking about getting as big of a following in Milwaukee or Ohio or any other city. Like being that intimate to a crowd in a city we don’t belong in-

BS: We went and played in DeKalb and that was our first shirt outside of Chicago and that was 90 miles outside of the city.

BJ: I think we can make the name in Chicago and then it’ll just bleed.

SK: We never expected anything to come of this.

BJ: It’s really hard to make a name for yourself in the city because there are a thousand people making music and it’s really humbling, there’s no pride in it whatsoever. It’s just so humbling to get on stage and play at places like tonight. This is a really big deal for us. Like, the first time we ever played Double Door this was a huge issue. I said to Stephen when we walked in here earlier and got our fucking badges, “Do you remember the first time we played here? This was the first time we ever got a fucking badge.” It was insane and we felt nuts and now it’s like “Where do we get our little badges and things.”

SK: Not that we don’t appreciate it.

BS: No, not that we don’t appreciate it. It’s just like, it’s crazy.

BJ: And then we can learn more about the people who put these things on. Like, we love local venues. We learn about it because we play a venue so many times, whereas a touring band doesn’t do that. They know the production person the day of and they’ll never talk to them again. But we know the production guy from the last time we played here because he’s the house guy and he took care of us and he always does. So when you play in those venues, you’ve got that sense of-

BI: They ask you back. Like, they ask you back.

BJ: Yeah! Then it’s fun.

SK: You just gain a sense of community and obviously we need to grow here first. We’re not ready to spread our wings yet.

MVRemix: The part of the scene in Chicago that Audiences is a part of is a pretty tight knit group. Do you think that’s helped create the fan base that’s helped you get known throughout the city?

BS: Of course.

BI: Well, here’s a good story that’s about 17 minutes long, so sit down and relax. But when we first started playing those house shows people would come over.

BJ: And they didn’t have to pay.

BI: Right, and I didn’t know anyone but now they’re our good friends and they come here. Every show we go to we meet a new person and they come back.

BS: Fans become friends.

BI: I hate when people are like, “How many fans do you have, man?” And we don’t even really know. We just know the people that come.

BS: Don’t you think that’s more of the essence of Audiences? We love the people that come to the shows. That’s why we make the music, because of them.

BJ: Playing those crowds and playing in the niche that is this mock community, it’s kind of fun. Sometimes you get to play with some people who are really neat.

BI: It’s kind of culty in a way.

BJ: Sometimes you’re loading in and you’re loading in with people who you’ve seen a hundred times.

BS: That’s what I mean. This band that’s playing right now, they’re from California and they load in and are never going to see these people again. But like, we load in and get to see people we know and it’s comforting. I don’t think a lot of bands have that because they tour. You have to make that choice to give up and go out and do it right away.

BI: That’s why we’re never going to tour.

MVRemix: What’s your dream show to play then?

BS: The Vic.

BJ: Yes! That’s it! I want to be able to load the gear in from the house and walk it next door.

BS: But with who? A national touring act. It’s that easy. Because if we’re playing at the Vic would you guys even care who? Like, it’s a band we know, so would you even care?

SK: I wouldn’t care.

BJ: And because we live so close and I mean, once you’re on their radar.

BI: This is kind of negative in a way, but when you’re not responsible for the draw you get to play in front of new ears and it’s a lot of fun.

MVRemix: Future plans, dreams, and aspirations?

BI: We’re going to put out this album and try really really hard-

SK: At putting out the best album we can.

BJ: We want to tour. You know, in fall.

BI: In fall? Like, when the leaves are changing colors?

BJ: Just listen. People say we’d be good on the college scene.

BS: You know, we’re just going to try our best to put out the best album we can because we don’t really like the one we have out now.

BJ: That’s a great answer.

You can keep tabs on Audiences via their Facebook, Twitter, and website. They will be releasing a Split EP with fellow Chicagoans Apollo House through AEMMP Records on April 9th and will be releasing their first full length album later this year.

An Introduction to Charlie Leavy

I stumbled upon a Soundcloud account a while back. It belonged to a prolific songwriter from the United Kingdom. Her name is Charlie. She is sixteen. I suspect she have a bit of genius about her. When I was sixteen years old, I had trouble holding major seconds in vocal harmony. I could play four chords on guitar, and my fingers were still getting raw from practice. At sixteen, Charlie has written well over fifty songs, and shows no sign of slowing down. When I last checked in with her, she informed me that in a six day period, she wrote and recorded fourteen songs. Her music can be found here.

MVRemix: How many songs have you actually written?

Charlie Leavy: I have the lyrics to 55 of my songs on my computer but I have actually written quite a few more in the past that would bring the total up to about 65.

MVRemix: What inspired you to play music, and what inspired you to write your own music?

Charlie Leavy: I was inspired to play music when I was very little. I loved singing at home, then I tried out for school plays in primary school and ended up getting a main part in all of them. My love for music developed on from there. I got a small 3 octave keyboard when I was about 8 and started to teach myself, and then I got a larger 6 octave keyboard at about age 11/12 which I loved. I just had a huge passion for music which made me want to learn instruments and sing.

Then for the inspiration for writing songs: I always, from a very young age, made up little songs in my head which I loved doing. Then, I wrote my first song which I named ‘Blank Canvas’ when I was 12 for one of my best friends who was really upset over a boyfriend. Song writing just progressed from there. I loved writing my first song, and singing it after so I just kept writing and I haven’t stopped to this day!

MVRemix: You mentioned you’ve played in bands before. Tell me about them. Do you write songs for those bands as well?

Charlie Leavy: I’ve been in a few bands: The Last Laughs, The Alternatives and Atlas. In the Last Laughs I was just the lead singer and we stayed together for about half a year. We played a gig at a pub and a set for St. George’s Day in the middle of my town. We also did a few school concerts, it was a fun time while it lasted! We wrote one song called ‘That Love Song’, our guitarist wrote the chords and me and our keyboard player wrote the melody and I wrote the lyrics. Then The Alternatives didn’t get nearly as far, we didn’t play anywhere, just rehearsed. And finally, the last band I was in: Atlas. We were a four piece with a lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, drummer and I was the lead singer and bassist. This band lasted the longest out of all 3, we didn’t write any songs together but we did have 2 of mine in our set: ‘Be Mine’ and ‘Hello Hello’. We played a couple of pub gigs and a small charity festival too.

MVRemix: What is your set-up?

Charlie Leavy: My set up is in my bedroom. I have a laptop which has Avid Pro Tools software on. I use the Pro Tools Audio Interface plugged into both my laptop and a Studio V3 Tube MP pre-amp. I then plug my instrument/mic into the pre-amp. I have a mic stand which the mic sits in and I also have a pop filter which I use.

MVRemix: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Charlie Leavy: I draw my inspiration from just about everything. My experiences and feelings, friends’ experiences and feelings, nature, the way people are, sleeping habits seem to be a common occurrence too. I love to take things from different angles and write about what I see in the natural world, then link it to a feeling or an experience. I also am inspired by writing with a message. Quite a few of my songs, (e.g: Good Enough and Who Are You), convey a positive message about loving yourself because you’re you and that’s something I truly believe. I think that way too many people dislike themselves and hate their differences, and that needs to stop. Uniqueness is there for a reason.

MVRemix: Tell me about your songwriting process.

Charlie Leavy: My song writing process varies significantly with each song. For the most part though, I write in my bedroom with a wordpad document open on my laptop. There are exceptions though, for instance: ‘Player 2’ was written on the way up to school and ‘Picture Of You’ was written during Form time at school in my planner. I just try to retain the melody that I’ve thought up until I get home and I can work out which chords I should play. Sometimes I write because I’ve found an interesting melody or some gorgeous chords, other times it’s because I’ve experienced/seen someone experience something that I’m inspired to write about, other times it’s simply because I thought up a few lyrics that I feel like writing a song about.

MVRemix: You’ve done most of your recordings on your own. Do you prefer the do-it-yourself method, or do you hope to find a label one of these days?

Charlie Leavy: I love recording at home. It feels like a mini project and I feel so great when I finish. However, I would definitely like to find a label in the future. I feel like with more professional recordings I could do so much more – in my room I am limited. In a studio I could add drums if I wanted or strings, etc and the tracks could be mixed a lot better since I’m still a beginner at that sort of stuff.

MVRemix: Do you see yourself studying music at the university level, or would you prefer to hit the road and tour your own material?

Charlie Leavy: I actually see myself studying Economics at university, it’s another passion of mine. Music is my ultimate passion though, so, I may study Music at university if it looks like I’m going to make it somewhere. I feel like I need something to fall back on if nothing happens for me regarding Music in the future. However, I would love to tour. If there are ears which want to listen to my voice, my voice will get there. I think touring would be incredible and so fun to do, especially because performing is one of my favourite things ever.

MVRemix: What direction do you want to take your music in the next few years?

Charlie Leavy: In the next few years I’d love to have recorded an album of professional quality in a studio. I’d love to be doing gigs a few nights a week too. I’d also love to experiment with some more collaborations. I think my some of my music will stay I the acoustic genre, but I think that some of my tracks will be a full band because that would be amazing to work on! Also, I will definitely continue to write with all sorts of influences like pop, folk, country and rock.

MVRemix: Any thoughts, comments, questions, jokes or manifestos you’d like to leave us with? 

Charlie Leavy: Yes, I’d like to say thanks for this interview! It’s been really fun to do and something which is a great piece of advice…Two little words; be you.

Adventure Galley Interview

Adventure Galley is a Portland based band that found its origins in Eugene Oregon. They recently released a new single called “Semantics,” which can be found here:

George Schultz is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. Back in the day, we did our undergraduate work together at the University of Oregon. I caught up with George over the Internet a few days ago. 

MVRemix: What have you boys been up to these days?

George Schultz: Aside from the usual RV parties, house shows, and general debauchery, Adventure Galley has been writing new songs, which we plan on eventually making an EP out of. We’re also getting ready to release that album we recorded all that time ago. It’s been a long time coming, but we’re looking forward to getting that album out there and focusing on touring and writing more.

MVRemix: You just released the new single, “Semantics.” Is this a preview of things to come? 

George Schultz: Semantics isn’t necessarily a single, though many folks have been referring to it that way. Our intention with that release was to show another side to our music. Most people are familiar with our tracks Addict and Weekend Lovers, which are very in-your-face indie pop songs. Semantics is more laid back and experimental in sound. We wanted to show the folks at home that side of our sound. We enjoy non-standard chord formations and general weirdness in our music and you get a taste of that with Semantics.

MVRemix: I heard you guys were operating out of an old church, is that true? If so, how did that come about? How do you like the space?

George Schultz: For the first time in a couple years the band is all living in the same city. Since February half of us have taken up residence in a 19th century church in SE Portland, OR lovingly referred to as the Funky Church. We filmed our first music video (for Weekend Lovers, which you can see here) at the Funky Church last March and after meeting the residents we slowly started taking over rooms as they opened up. It’s a beautiful space and we have set up a home studio where we are able to demo new music and work out of. Every once in a while I wake up in the morning and get a very surreal feeling like “wow, I live in a church, this is strange, but I like it”.

MVRemix: Is there an Adventure Galley tour on the horizon?

George Schultz: We’ll be doing a bit of touring this summer and fall. We’ll travel around the west coast and hit up the usual spots. More on that later!

MVRemix: From what I understand, there are multiple songwriters in the band. Is Adventure Galley a democracy? How do you guys choose what songs to play?

George Schultz: The dynamic in our band seems to be fairly different from most of what I’ve seen of how other bands function. Whereas most groups have a primary singer-songwriter, we all contribute to songwriting, but when it comes down to it, David and Aaron are the primary creative directors. They each have very different styles that have amalgamated into the sound that is Adventure Galley. We are democratic but in that effort we end up moving in multiple directions every time we write a song together. It’s not simple, but nothing ever is with this band. We don’t want simplicity, we want innovation and beauty.

MVRemix: You wrote the song “Addict,” which won a Toyota music contest a few years ago. Is there a story behind the song?

George Schultz: Well once upon a time in 2009 we wrote Addict, a charming little four chord pop song that we loaded up with as many hooks as possible. In 2010 we decided to record the Right Place to Be EP, on which Addict is a track. One day I was on the internet and saw the Toyota Rock the Space competition and submitted Addict. It was really a fuck it, why not? kind of moment. I didn’t have the expectation that we would win and I didn’t even tell the rest of the band I submitted it until I got a call saying we had made it to the semifinals. After a few rounds of voting we won the contest, got a record deal with Myspace Records and the rest is history. When Myspace went under they gave us the masters to our album and we now get to own our own music. It gives us creative control, which we like, but it also puts a lot of responsibility in our hands to make it a great album before we release it without any additional financial backing. That seems to be the nature of most music today; unless you have somehow developed a lot of hype, you have to make your own way in the world of music. I have developed a great respect for artists who manage to make it through their hard work and creative initiative as opposed to having a good publicist that pushes them as a commodity. It’s a difficult business to be in, and we were very fortunate when we won that contest because we were given an opportunity that is practically impossible to come by in this industry: a no-strings-attached record contract. As far as the song goes, it’s a lot of fun at shows, it’s a good dance track and it’s undeniably catchy. The lyrics were written by myself, David and Aaron and I can’t really say what they’re about, though the themes seem to tie into psychological chaos and addiction. It’s funny, I’ve been asked about the meaning of the lyrics many times since that song was recorded 3 years ago and my answer always seems to change. A song can mean many different things to someone over the course of the years, it’s a matter of listening to it at the right place at the right time.

MVRemix: Any last thoughts, comments, jokes or rebuttals?

George Schultz: I don’t know if your readers are aware that you are a proficient Tuvan throat singer, but my new goal as a songwriter is to write a club-banger of a track featuring your majestic Siberian-style vocals. So they should keep an ear out for that when it happens.

Love The Lost Interview

Nathan Temple Vocals, Ben Evans Guitar, Cody Hilliker Guitar/vocals, Kyle Edwards Bass, Shane Rutledge Drums

Bands come and go, especially in Seattle. It’s a tough gig surviving the work that goes into getting a group together, practicing and trying to get club dates. It’s a lot easier if there is talent to back up all the idealism, such is the case with Love The Lost. A band of five musicians, young but very focused, their music resonates with metalheads as much for the energy and volume as the lyrics.

Formed in 2012, Love The Lost is a Seattle-area post hardcore/metalcore band who performed at Studio Seven’s Battle of the Bands In July 2012. Coming in second place to a more experienced band, the group graciously agreed to an interview after their set.

LTL:        This was our first show together and we’ve been practicing hard. We loved seeing the audience getting involved, especially all the bouncing up and down during ‘Monstrosity’.

What are your influences and who does the writing?

We do our own writing. Each person writes their past and then when we come together, we fine tune it and blend it. One of our influences is Armada; they have a lot of fun when they write and perform. We want to give our fans the same kind of satisfaction and we like the high energy we get back from them. We all come from metal backgrounds (Cody Hilliker: “I’m from a Christian metal band”), so we all bring in something a little different from the same genre.”

What’s your favorite song? And what about CD release dates?

Our favorite group song has to be “Arrogance”.  We have an EP recording session August 7th with the release later this year and then have about 9 more song ready to go for a CD. We are working on making a download available from the web site.

What’s the meaning behind the name?

We are not a death metal band. We want to reach out to people and love them through the music; we think we can reach a lot of people who otherwise don’t get enough love. We have a humble approach to what we do. We love to meet other musician and their fans, we appreciate those who come out to support the music and we’d meet and shake hands with every single fan if we could.”

Love The Lost has a variety of club gigs scheduled in and around Seattle/Tacoma. Expect to hear more from this group and watch for more music to be released later this year.