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027 July Talk

July Talk's self titled debut is one of the most exciting albums we've heard in a while.  It was released last October, and we just caught on recently.  As vocalist/guitarist Peter Dreimanis says 'Sometimes that's how it is with a band's first album'.  They've just headed out on tour with Besnard Lakes and Grounders, and kicked off the tour with a mindblowing performance at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club in their home town of Toronto.  We were fortunate enough to be in attendance at the show, and to sit down with Peter just beforehand to learn a bit more about the band that's fast becoming the talk of the town, and the world.

Fingers on Blast: We've heard the band formed as a result of something of a chance encounter.  Can you tell us a bit of that story?

Peter Dreimanis: Yeah, there's two ways to answer that question.  The band formed from two sort of chance happenings.  I met Leah in a bar, walked in and quite quickly realized that this was a person I should work with or atleast know artistically.  
The other chance encounter is in fact probably more interesting.  I was playing in another band and Danny the drummer was also the drummer in this band.  We went through a hellish tour in Europe.  It was a crazy snow storm, we were partying way too hard and ended up getting stuck in Heathrow airport in London for 5 days.  The band had totally fallen apart at this point and in the back of my mind while this was happening I realized that I had all these songs and I had this person, Leah that I had met.  
The band formed in Heathrow airport, everything that was severed all of a sudden became connected.  We got back and practiced everyday for 2 weeks, and I taught them all these songs, Leah and I showed them what we had been working on in these little acoustic sessions we'd been doing every Wednesday morning.  I think Leah and I have, at least I have for her a certain infatuation that doesn't seem to want to go away; the way she can control a crowd and the way she always reacts to a space.
We have played a lot of shows, and she will never play the same show. 

F.O.B.: We've heard about the Leah's devotion to a truthful show.  That is a major focus?

P.D.: It's number one for her to be honest and it's hard to be honest every night for 35-40 shows in a row sometimes.  It's not that I've ever felt challenged by that in a realistic sense, cause by the time you're on stage I am always excited and I've never felt other than that.  But Leah will walk into a space and find things, like yesterday we played a show on a rooftop.  There's a youtube video that we saw and we were all laughing at where she grabbed a guys phone who was filming from the crowd, and kept filming.  There were these trees and she was shaking them to try to make it seem windy. She got the crowd to all shake these trees.  
It's just an amazing thing to watch her walk into a room and say 'What can we do with this?'.  It's gotten to the point where she doesn't want to wear the same thing or redo anything she's ever done.  So we are in a constant state of reinvention which is fun, I think especially for people in Toronto who don't want to see the same show many times.  

F.O.B.: One of the first things we noticed checking out the band is the dynamic contrast.  Is that something that came naturally?

P.D.: No, it's definitely calculated.  It came naturally in some cases.  It's an organic thing, but it's absolutely calculated.  The goal would be to have this project be all encompassing, cohesively about contrast.  So having it be black and white, and having the dynamics, everything has to be symmetrical.
It was always about having the quietest quiets we can muster, like the smallest things you can come up with and then the loudest, most incredible, big, hooky chorus.  My ideal goal would be having an all encompassing project about light, dark, loud, quiet, and the things in between.  Having that feeling where everything has a reaction and it's accountable.  Because if I want to write an angry song, I can't really because she's going to sing back.  She's going to sing the counterpart to that and sort of be pushing against that.  

F.O.B.: That's something you can see in the video for 'Guns + Ammunition'.  Especially if you're hearing the band for the first time when you see it.  We didn't expect Leah's voice, and we're probably not the only ones that's happened to.

P.D.: We knew that video was going to be introducing us to a lot of new people.  'Paper Girl' we had done a certain thing with, and we knew that we needed to put out that symbol video as an introduction, like a 'Hi, how are you?'. By doing that luckily we were able to access more people with the 'Guns + Ammunition' video. Adam Crosby directed 'Paper Girl' and Josh Warburton is our bass player, they directed this one.  It's so smart to be able to start with me, and then go through the whole band, and you think you get it and then it's like 'Oh!'.  To have this ever looping, never gonna end video was a really important step for us to take.  

F.O.B.: There have definitely been times where we've started to wonder if it's the second or third time we've watched it.  We're curious about the characters of the label guys.  Are they an inside joke with the band?

P.D.:  Kind of, but we had really want to have the era of (producer) Phil Spector.  We knew that we needed some reference to 'the Man'.  We thought it would be hilarious to put ourselves in that situation because we're not.  We don't have pressure.  We obviously, like every band deal with label dudes.  They've always been super nice to us, and very helpful.  It was more of trying to place ourselves in the era.  
We really wanted to have that early 60's look, so we built that whole room on a soundstage.  It was this kind of star shaped thing where we each had our own sort of world.  

F.O.B.: We read on twitter that Muneshine is remixing a July Talk song.  How did that come about?

P.D.: There's actually a whole bunch, there's going to be a remix EP.  One in particular I'm really into, but I'd like to keep it a secret until it's out.

F.O.B.: How do you feel surrendering your music to someone else like that?

P.D.: Terrified.  I am a terrible control freak, and I think that sometimes that can be a very positive thing.  I think it's really important to have control, especially when I'm going for such a branded thing.  
There's obviously negatives to that too.  Our manager is constantly telling me to let go of a bit of control.  That's part of what remixes are for, and to open ourselves up to new people.  It's an exciting thing, it's a new thing, and it's something I think I'll be more comfortable with on the next record. But it's definitely a bit scary.

F.O.B.: Along similar lines, there are some youtube covers of July Talk songs.  Have you listened to any of them?

P.D.: We listened to one of them, and we thought it was sort of a rite of passage.  You know, the first time somebody plays your song on youtube is a pretty big thing.  But we all listened to it, and thought it was awesome.  After I listened to it, I thought 'Oh my god' I got a bit scared.  Now everytime we play that song I'm always thinking I have to play it more like me.  To have someone actually listen to our song and decide to do that is mindblowing.   

F.O.B.: On the topic of covers, you did a version of Wilco's 'Venus Stopped the Train'.  Do you include many covers in your shows? Is that the only one?

P.D.: That's the only one.  We did a Replacements cover night at the Shoe once, which was really fun.  I am crazy about the Replacements.  I would never do it in our set, I think it's important when you're a young band to turn your songs into the ones that people sing along to before you start playing other peoples'. 
When Leah and I met, that was the song.  The same European tour, where we were stranded in Heathrow I got an email from her that was like 'The tiny hammers inside of that piano'.  That was all the email said.  How do you write that song and not put it on the record?  Not to say that it should have been on the record, but that's your outtake?  Are you kidding me? 

F.O.B.: We're big fans of Wilco, and the story of how 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' was made is pretty fascinating.  

P.D.: Have you seen that movie? (I Am Trying To Break Your Heart) Amazing.

F.O.B.: We're curious when your album was recorded.  It was released in October 2012?

P.D.: Most of it was recorded in February of last year, but that was when we started.  I probably didn't finalize most of it until August.  

F.O.B.: You've been on tour with some amazing artists, and you're about to head out on the road.  What does the summer schedule look like?  

P.D.: Besnard Lakes.  It's going to awesome.  I love their new record.  Then we go down to the States with Grounders, from Toronto.  We're playing a bunch of festivals.  We get to open for the Bare Naked Ladies.  If I had a million dollars I'd open for the Bare Naked Ladies.  We're playing Hillside, Edgefest, Sled Island, Port Renfrew.

F.O.B.: When you're out on the road what is absolutely essential?  

P.D.: We stop all the time at Value Village, and Lakes to swim.  We don't take much, gear, a pair of jeans, four t-shirts, a million of these.  (White shirts he wears onstage)

F.O.B.: Do you have a pre-show ritual?

P.D.: Hit myself in the face! Gotta wake up.  And I get a new shirt every show.  Superstition.  

F.O.B.: Do they usually survive?
P.D.: The show? No, they usually get covered in something.

F.O.B.: What has been the happiest/proudest moment as a band?

P.D.: I gotta throw this one to Halifax.  The show the last time we were in Halifax.  Everyone in that room was involved in something, and it was the best.  We all went through something together.  It was at a place called the Carlton, which we're going back to.

Thanks so much for Peter for speaking with us and the rest of July Talk. Check out more from them here. And make sure you see them on tour: