Last week I got the pleasure of speaking with Leah Fay of Toronto’s most dynamic indie rock band, July Talk. July Talk debuted with their self-titled album after only doing less than a dozen live shows and they have taken the Canadian music scene by storm. The group is notorious for crazy on-stage antics, providing one of the most memorable concert experiences to be had in this great nation.
Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis met in a dingy candlelit bar where Peter fell in love with Leah’s voice. Since then, the five-piece outfit consisting of Leah Fay, Peter Dreimanis, Ian Docherty, Josh Warburton and Danny Miles have been touring across Canada, spreading the July Talk seed. If you’re not familiar with their music, think of it as bull vs. delicate flower and that is the dynamic Peter and Leah deliver. They rereleased their first album with four new songs, introducing listeners to a more collaborative effort. The day before I spoke with Leah, the group got back from a writing excursion and I was told that we can expect to see a new album within the next year and a half. Until then, I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to pick up July Talk’s album and bask in that Canadian glory.
The story about how you and Peter met is like a story straight from a Hollywood basement. But what was it really like; was it awkward getting together the first few times?
Umm, not really. People always say that it sounds really romantic, but we were shocked the first time we heard that people thought of it like that. It was just two people meeting in a bar and people meet in a bar all the time. I guess under the circumstances of like being a candlelit bar in the middle of the night, and all those things make it seem like that, but it happens all the time. And it terms of the first couple times getting together, I had heard some of Peter’s recordings that he had done on Garageband or something like that and he posted them on a MySpace account. There’s this song, I’ve Rationed Well, which is on the album, that I heard and I just absolutely fell in love with. It was a perfect mix, kind of reminiscent of all these artists that I loved and it was like, “Ok, we can make music together.” It was maybe a little bit awkward, in the way that it would be starting a collaboration with someone you don’t really know very well, but it was the basis for our friendship.
All of your videos are in black and white, I’m assuming this is metaphorically you and Peter, both representing opposite sides of the spectrum. How do you maintain the black and whiteness at live shows?
When it first started, it was kind of the idea of having me represent a more lighter, higher pitched sound and energy and Peter kind of being this dark, groveling being. The album came out and we hadn’t really done any touring yet, so our punch and our essence all sort of came together from being on the road, and living in a very extreme sort of lifestyle — of no sleep and being really tired,and playing this super high energy show every night, getting on each others nerves and lashing out and freaking out.
We’ve been trying to figure out a way to do a show that’s actually black and white, I don’t know if it will work out, but maybe one day. But for now it’s about making the quiets as quiet as possible and the louds as loud as possible and just kind of constantly playing with opposing forces.
At Edgefest, you pushed the audience way out of their comfort zone and you wanted everyone to take their sunglasses off, can you tell me about that?
I think it’s partially that there’s such a thing about artists wearing sunglasses all the time and I understand it. Like being hungover in front of people, but it’s also a way of hiding and I really like looking people in the eyes. We normally play indoors and we normally play at night so there’s not many people wearing sunglasses, so you can connect and see them and there’s no barrier. Starting to play shows outside and realizing it’s harder to connect when you look out at a whole crowd of people that seem like they’re trying to be cool or something like that, even though it’s just a funny little pair of plastic things you wear on your face. It was just an experiment to see if I could get people to do it. It’s fun to have all eyes and all ears on you and being able to communicate. By being in a band and having that audience, you can push people in a different way. Rock and roll is such a great thing because it lends itself to so much exploration and so much creativity. you can be on stage and you can take the energy of the live show and take the energy of the audience and transform it into whatever you want it to be. There’s no limits to rock and roll. Why not get experimental with that?
I know of some quirky pre-show rituals, what kind of stuff do you guys do before you hit the stage?
I used to read Gord Downie poetry really religiously. There’s this one poem called Earth Diva that I really like that I would always read and I couldn’t go on stage unless I’d read it. But that was then, things are different now. I think everyone just kind of tries to relax in their own way, whether that’s having a beer or restringing their guitar. Peter always buys a new shirt and irons it. Everyone just kinda tries to take a moment… they wouldn’t call it meditative… but that’s what I think it is.
What influences your writing? You get artists like Adele or Taylor Swift who can seemingly only write after they break up with someone, what motivates you to put words on paper?
We are currently writing about a lot of things that are going on in our lives, in the music industry, thing we see happening with our peers, the big shots, or whatever. We’re constantly listening to other people’s music and other people’s lyrics, and we’re kind of in the midst of trying to figure out if it’s better to write about something so specifically that no one else can relate to it, or is it better to say things in a more all encompassing kind of way. I think it’s doesn’t really matter what you put out through your art, no matter the medium or how specific and personal you make it to yourself, what we do as human beings is try to read into things and personalize them and filter them through our experiences to what we want them to be. We really like Father John Misty lyrics, because he really seems to be hitting the nail on the head and talking about things that people don’t want to talk about. I don’t know if we’ll be able to achieve that, but it’s definitely something we’re being inspired by right now. Right now we’re most interested in having a conversation, being able to present two sides to a story, or two energies, or two different beats, or synth sounds, whatever.
Your album is rock in essence, but it has the sounds of a bunch of different genres. Is this something you’re going to keep doing?
That’s the first thing that we noticed that people were saying about [the album]. We didn’t really choose a genre. We were too young to, our band was too young, the sound was too young, everything we were doing was just these tiny little baby steps towards something that we didn’t know would grow to be as important as it has become to us. But now the way that it’s happening when we have these 5 people with different ideas about what music should be and their favourite music sounds like, and I guess until we’re forced to choose exactly what our sound is, we’re just going to be ok with being influenced by a bunch of different things.
Which other band or artist has been your favourite to tour or play a gig with?
They’ve all been so good, we’ve been so lucky to go out on the road with everyone we’ve been out with. Personally, I enjoyed the Besnard Lake shows the best. I just love their band and I think they’re all such special people.
July Talk is full of artistic people, Josh and Peter both involved in film as least at one point, you do everything from dance, to drawing and now as a leading member of July Talk. How do the artistic personalities in the group help you create and foster your brand?
Peter has his favourite font, it’s Futura, that will forever be the font of July Talk. Josh and Pete make amazing music videos for other bands. Josh directs all the videos for our band. In term of the brand, we see the importance of allowing for personalities and the relate-ability of being a clear image of someone. I don’t know how other bands brand themselves, maybe by using projections or images that have more to do with a theme than the people. We’re standing on stage and we’re really presenting ourselves and we’re trying to connect with people, we’re not the shoe-gazey type.
What is your opinion of Rob Ford?
Oh. Oh boy. Um, I mean. Yeah. I’m ready for him to not be our mayor anymore. I wish he’d conducted himself a little differently, of course. I think what it comes down to is that I wish the best for him, because I really think that he needs some help, so I hope he gets it. And also that he stops being our mayor.
That was a very polite answer.
Well, my dad is a political writer, so I’m trying to be diplomatic. But I did get a t-shirt made that says ‘Crack is Whack’. And I’ve been wearing it all over.