Articles posted under Interviews

The Tragically Hip – “Escape Is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man”

The Tragically Hip
As a kid, I hated the Tragically Hip. My dad had a copy of Trouble at the Henhouse that he played to death, to the point where I would yell in protest when I heard the intro of “Gift Shop.”

I eventually came around about four years ago. I was leaving Vancouver to spend a few weeks in the UK and, figuring that I might get homesick, I purchased the most Canadian album I could think of: the Hip’s best-of compilation Yer Favourites. It was somewhat ironic that I fell in love with this quintessential Canuck band while hanging out in a foreign country.

I’m a decidedly casual Hip fan; that greatest hits album is fantastic, but I’ve only bothered to listen to a few of the full-lengths. I’ve never seen the band live. My colleague Joshua Kloke, on the other hand, has been an obsessed fan for years, going so far as to follow the band on tour. He’s chronicled these experiences in his new book, Escape Is at Hand: Tales of a Boy and a Band, released last month through Eternal Cavalier Press.

It’s a fantastic read, full of humour and genuinely touching insight that illuminates just how far a fan will go to fuel his obsession. These days, Joshua isn’t quite so feverishly devoted to the Hip as once was, meaning that he’s able to offer reflection with some degree of detachment and level-headedness that will appeal to Hip-heads and non-fans alike.

I interviewed Joshua about his new book. See his answers below, and order Escape Is at Hand here.

CH: You finished writing the book before Now for Plan A came out. What do you think about it?
JK: I really enjoyed Now For Plan A, much more than their previous record. I enjoyed the record much more, though, after the interview Downie gave to Wendy Mesley, which detailed the reasoning behind the delay and the inspiration for many of the songs. (Downie’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer during the recording process.) That’s something that’s always gotten me about the band: the mystery within their songs, which at first can sound entirely simplistic, and the way they humanize those very songs. Powerful stuff that isn’t always emotionally overwhelming. Only when it needs to be, you know?

CH: What are your plans for Eternal Cavalier Press? Do you have any more books (either by you or others) lined up?
JK: I have another book on deck, but that’s only in the embryonic stages. For now, ECP is indeed looking for their next author/book. We’d like to release another title by the end of 2013. The only qualifications are that you’re a Canadian writer and your manuscript is music-related. We’re looking to tell the stories that often don’t get told. Consider this a formal call for submissions.

CH: What was your process for writing this book? How long did it take, and were there any particular inspirations outside of your love of the Hip?
JK: I didn’t want to do a typical, chronological story; there’s a certain “Code” when it comes to being a dedicated fan that I wanted to expose. Once I had the rules down, I started piecing it together using my own experiences and examining The Hip’s effect on the culture of fans they’ve created and Canadian culture as a whole.

I started putting memories together in 2006. I was driving to a show with my sister, and I had the dates of every Hip show I’d ever been to written down. She was randomly pointing to each show and I’d list off whatever important/memorable happened at that show. I guess I thought I had something then. I took the summer of 2010 off from work to put everything in order though.

As far as inspiration, nearly everything Dave Bidini has written has had a profound effect on me. Music and travel go hand in hand.

CH: What are your top five Hip songs?
JK: “Grace, Too,” “Escape Is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man,” “Three Pistols,” “The Lookahead,” “Thugs.” Those first three are locked in, but they final two change with the seasons.

CH: My final question is mostly rhetorical: I’ve never been to a Hip gig. If we happen to be in the same town at the same time as the Hip, want to go with me?
JK: They’re in Vancouver for 3 nights come September. I may very well be in town then. We should go. I love exposing new people to the band’s live show. I’ve toned it down a lot in recent years, don’t worry.


 
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An industry has failed us

Kickass but camera shy
It’s probably a good thing that Apollo Ghosts aren’t more famous, or else they would make all the other bands feel bad about themselves. They consistently put on some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, which they achieve with a simple three-piece lineup and a no-frills approach that relies on nothing other than high energy and good songs.

Last year, they released an album plus and EP, and are currently gearing up for their second LP, Mount Benson, due out April 10. In the meantime, they have a released a split 7″ with fellow Vancouver outfit Role Mach.

Apollo Ghosts’ contribution to the single is “Library Card Amulet,” a shimmering rocker that’s equal parts fuzz and jangle. Bassist Jay Oliver eschews his usual instrument in favour of a guitar, something that gives the song a more textured sound that the band usually attempts. Wrapping up in a countrified breakdown, it’s one of the highlights in the band’s already-impressive studio output, and bodes well for next month’s Mount Benson.

I recently caught up with frontman Adrian Teacher, who shed some light on how “Library Card Amulet” came together.

CH: Where was the song recorded?
AT: This song was recorded at JC/DC Studios in Vancouver with Dave Carswell. I can’t remember if John was there or not, although I remember him commenting on the final mix. We recorded it in a couple of hours before our Shonen Knife show on October 25th. Instruments recorded live off the floor to tape, vocals overdubbed right after that.

CH: Why did you decide to go bass-less on this song?
AT: In the initial demo, I didn’t have bass on the song, I had two guitar parts. Jay and I used to play a lot of guitar together, so we thought it would be a fun change. We might do more of that in the future.

CH: Will this song appear on your upcoming Mount Benson LP?
AT: No, it was a special 7″ project for Geographing so it won’t appear on the Mount Benson LP, which will come out in April. Rather than talk about our upcoming record, I’d like to share a quote about the actual mountain (located in Nanaimo, BC), written by Frank W. Teague for Victoria’s Daily Colonist Sunday Magazine in 1913:

An Expedition up Mt. Benson.

By Frank W. Teague.

The traveller when approaching a town or city, the surroundings of which are familiar to him, is almost invariably able to tell his whereabouts long before he reaches the place by some distinguishing landmark that comes to view as he proceeds on his way, for every community more or less the world over, has its well known crag or peak or glacier, its shaggy forest or rocky headland, its shining lake or ever rolling river.


MP3: “Library Card Amulet”
 
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Squishing pennies and kissing girls

The group therapy sessions were a failure
In December, Vancouver’s Said the Whale took home a Bucky Award in the category of Most Canadian Song for the tune “Emerad Lake, AB.” A joyous romp about lake hunting on a summer’s day, it begins with jazzy, syncopated verses and a pared-down chorus of “What a fine life we are living.” This refrain eventually explodes, with thundering drums and droning horns propelling it to a euphoric conclusion.

I recently caught up with songwriter Tyler Bancroft, who explained how the funk rock outfit Hey Ocean! inspired “Emerald Lake, AB.”

CH: Where and when was the song written?
TB: Written in my bedroom just a few days after getting home from a summer tour with our friends Hey Ocean in 2008.

CH: What inspired the lyrics?
TB: The aforementioned summer tour with friends Hey Ocean was the inspiration for the song—that and the overwhelming feeling of peace and happiness that comes along with travelling in a van with a group of amazing friends, playing music, and just enjoying life in general.

CH: The first verse mentions the names Jimmy and Dave. Who are they?
TB: Jimmy was the nickname given to Hey Ocean drummer at the time, Dan Klenner. Dave could be either the bass player [Dave Vertesi] or guitar player [David Beckingham] of Hey Ocean.

MP3: “Emerald Lake, AB”
 
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Q&A with the Zolas

The Zolas
Last week, the Zolas released their debut album Tic Toc Tic, a twelve-song collection of bouncy piano rock that’s equal parts catchy and heartbroken, ranging from apocalyptic love songs (“The Great Collapse”) to R&B-infused attacks on hipster culture (“You’re Too Cool”).

The Zolas are currently touring Canada in support of Tic Toc Tic with Immaculate Machine, and on December 18th will return home to Vancouver to play all-ages show at the Vogue Theatre with Hey Ocean!

I recently caught up with singer/guitarist Zachary Gray and pianist Tom Dobrzanski via e-mail to discuss the new album, the tour, and befouling the washrooms at an all-girls college dorm.

CH: Where are you as you answer these questions?
ZG: Between Waterloo and Windsor on the 401. Aaron is driving and Tom and I decided to sit in the back and be productive and then watch movies.
TD: We just dropped Aaron’s girlfriend Mary off at her all-girl residence at Wilfred Laurier where Zach and I snuck in and took shits in their bathroom. There was a piece of graffiti in the stall that read: “’I am really high, therefore I am.’ –Descartes”

CH: Why did you choose to rename yourselves the Zolas, rather than stick with the Lotus Child moniker?
TD: No. You don’t understand, it’s called The Zolas now.

CH: There are a couple of songs on Tic Toc Tic that criticize Vancouver’s hipster/Biltmore scene. As an indie band, do you have any concern about alienating your fan base?
TD: No, because I think even hipsters are beginning to realize how ridiculous they are.
ZG: Tom can say that pretty unhypocritically, but I’m about as much a hipster as anyone. A lot of this album is about being in your twenties and living in Vancouver, and being a part of what’s called a hipster scene is a part of that for me. These songs aren’t that critical of it either. I mean, yeah, what I want more than anything is for us to start behaving like politically motivated young people instead of just dressing like them. But when I was in high school it was cool to dress like a wigger and call girls bitches and not give a shit about anything. Now cool is to dress like a philosophy student who plays in a band and refuses to use plastic bags. It’s not enough, but it’s progress.

CH: There’s a lot of songs on the album that describe failing relationships. What inspired the lyrics?
ZG: It’s what you’d imagine, I guess. Over the last year and a half I lost a big love.

CH: Do you have any plans to expand the Zolas’ lineup beyond a two-piece?
TD & ZG: Yeah. Eventually there will be full-time bass and drums. It’s more about finding the right people. Like right now we’re on tour with Aaron Mariash, drummer of Will Currie and The Country French, who we met in the summer, and there’s talk of a civil union between us and Henry and the Nightcrawlers, whose album 100 Blows everyone should be waiting for. It’s like someone asked Elvis Costello to write the soundtrack to a Wes Anderson movie.

CH: You’ve toured Canada from Vancouver Island to St. John’s, Newfoundland. What’s your favourite place to pass through?
TD: To be totally accurate, we’ve never been to Newfoundland, and we still haven’t played at home in Vancouver or Vancouver Island, (ed: oops) but our favourite city to play is Montreal. Zach and I both have siblings living there, and they have two things I love: 1) excellent music stores, and 2) bring-your-own-wine restaurants. That’s all it takes for me. Plus we’re always well-received there.
ZG: My favourite place to pass through is any provincial border. I love traditions, and we started a tradition this tour of sharing a Cherry Blossom every time we cross a border. It began as a joke in a candy-laden laundromat about how nobody ever ever buys them, and how inappropriate it would be for three guys to share one. I wouldn’t call them our favourite, but they’ve grown on us.

CH: What music have you been listening to in the van?
TD: Mostly jazz today – Avishai Cohen, Brad Mehldau
ZG: Henry and the Nightcrawlers, Fiona Apple, Radiohead. But our jam this tour is “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus. We play that song at least twice a day. Tom just bought it on iTunes, actually, so that we can dispense with the MySpace version and fully appreciate the sonics. It’s playing right now as I type this. It’s perfect. The chorus hits so fucking hard.

CH: What’s your dream gig?
ZG: You know, we’ve still never played at home, so I’m going to say at the moment I think the dream gig would be an outdoor festival with all of the great bands we’re lucky to be friends with in Vancouver. Mother Mother, Dan Mangan, Said the Whale, We Are the City, Hannah Georgas, Henry and the Nightcrawlers, Hey Ocean!, Brasstronaut, and a lot more. As far as I’ve heard, our city has never really had a supportive, open-hearted music scene before, and suddenly here it is and we get to be a part of it.

CH: What’s the shittiest gig you’ve ever played?
TD: I think we played the worst by far in Halifax, but it only served to prove the mystifying truth about performing: people tend to like your worst show about as much as your best show.
ZG: Sudbury wasn’t great either. We’re on tour opening for our new friends Immaculate Machine, and they got super sick, and then we slept in the band room under the bar on naked mattresses and questionable comforters. We decided to sleep wrapped up, soft-taco-style, and personally it felt like having unprotected sex with my whole body all night.

CH: What’s next for the Zolas?
TD: Finish this tour and go home, play with Henry more, play our first show in Vancouver (an all-ages show with Hey Ocean! to be announced soon).
ZG: I have to practice piano for a musical I’m doing in February and March called Billy Bishop Goes To War. I also just moved into a special new house between whose walls I’m just excited to exist.
 
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Q&A with Immaculate Machine

Immaculate Machine
Since 2007′s Fables, Victoria pop rock outfit Immaculate Machine has undergone a major overhaul in personnel. The group lost one member and gained three more, with singer/guitarist Brooke Gallupe now handling nearly all of the frontman duties himself (a role he previously shared with part-time New Pornographer Kathryn Calder). The result of these changes is High on Jackson Hill, the riff-heavy new album that scales back the band’s signature guitar/keyboard interplay in favour of noisy classic rock throwbacks and sparse folk ballads.

After taking the summer off, the group will be hitting the road this month for a brief Western Canadian tour. The excursion began yesterday in Prince George, and will wrap up with a performance at the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver on September 12th. The group will then fly across the Atlantic for a series of shows in Western Europe.

I recently caught up with Gallupe about the group’s lineup changes, the new album and the joys (and pitfalls) of life on the road.

CH: This summer you’ve had a break from touring. What have you been doing with your time?
BG: We played a series of free shows around Victoria, which felt really good. We tubed down the river, and generally did some summer hangin’, but we are very excited to get back on the road.

CH: Since your last album, drummer Luke Kozlowski left the band and you’ve gained three new members. Also, Kathryn Calder is playing a much smaller role. How did all of these lineup changes come about?
BG: Kathryn and Luke have always been fantastic bandmates, but this was my chance to make the album I always wanted to make, without compromises. Neither Kathryn or Luke, who both play on the album, would be touring because of other commitments, so they offered me full command the recording process. The new touring band is exciting to play with. The change in lineup—change in general—has been very inspiring.

CH: What’s Kathryn’s current and future role in the band?
BG: Kathryn played on High On Jackson Hill. The two of us are already talking about our next recording project. Apart from a couple shows here and there, she will not be touring at all for the album. She spent a year dealing with a serious family illness so she is spending her time now relaxing and working on some other musical projects, including a solo album.

CH: With so many lineup changes, did you consider abandoning the Immaculate Machine name?
BG: It was considered, yes. But in the end, changing the name seemed like not giving much credit to our fans. All my favourite bands evolved over their careers, with changes in sound and often personnel. Some people will lose interest and others will catch on to the new stuff. High on Jackson Hill is our best album and I think it makes things interesting for music fans to accept twists in the road of a band’s journey.

CH: You recorded High on Jackson Hill at your parents’ house in Victoria. Why did you choose to record there, instead of in a studio?
BG: I was looking for a more relaxing atmosphere than a sterile studio. My parents abandoned their home—my childhood home—for a month while we transformed it into a recording studio. I was tired of trying to get things perfect in a recording, and wanted instead to get things sounding spontaneous and different.

CH: The new album has a lot of psychedelic rock influences. (Click here to check out the video for the wah-laden single “Sound the Alarms.”) Exactly how high did you get on Jackson Hill?
BG: We made sure we did a lot of relaxing while we made the album and we looked for recording inspiration in more unusual places. We set up mics in bathrooms and kitchens, recorded the playground next door at school recess and car engine noises.

CH: Immaculate Machine is about to embark upon yet another bout of touring. How do you stay sane on the road?
BG: I love touring. There is nothing so great. Staying sane is not necessarily a high priority.

CH: What’s the shittiest tour food you’ve ever eaten?
BG: I am vegan so I am more likely to not find anything than to find something shitty. The worst, though, was when KFC decided to make a vegan mock chicken burger. It got spat out inadvertantly all over the smelly KFC parking lot. Our drummer once ate a “mammoth burger” in Drumheller, AB. A mammoth burger is five pounds of meat in a bun, and to get it for free you have to eat it in record time—14 minutes. Needless to say, he had to pay for it and meat sweats ensued. He hallucinated through the whole day and our show.
 
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