“The combination of mess and chaos has been one of the things I’ve been most interested in,” says Airick Woodhead, the primary songwriter and producer behind Doldrums. The freewheeling Montreal-based electronic pop group is freshly signed to the iconic rock label Sub Pop and has just released its new record, The Air Conditioned Nightmare, on April 7, 2015. “With psychedelic music, it’s often what you read into it rather than what it tells you. So even though there’s more information, it leaves more up to the listener.”
Named after the 1945 Henry Miller book, The Air Conditioned Nightmare brings to mind the image of a dystopian present where even temporary discomfort is an inconvenience to be avoided at all costs. But for all the technological conceits of the title, Woodhead’s lyrics revolve around human interactions, romantic entanglements and the uneasy dynamics of contemporary urban life.
We’re at this time where a lot of music is being really explicit about its themes. I still like the idea of the songwriter addressing issues thematically [but] still having a romanticism in whatever themes you’re addressing.
“We’re at this time where a lot of music is being really explicit about its themes. I still like the idea of the songwriter addressing issues thematically [but] still having a romanticism in whatever themes you’re addressing.”
Woodhead’s previous effort, 2013’s Lesser Evil, emerged from the backdrop of a burgeoning loft party scene in Montreal that found musicians of various genres playing mixed bills at all-night gatherings and drawing inspiration from club music, like a 21st century version of Manchester’s rave scene. Airick Woodhead lived in one such venue, the legendary Le Rideau déchiré (the Torn Curtain).
“I still jam at Torn [Curtain]. I definitely reminisce about that one summer that was fucking crazy every weekend, like 500 people,” says Woodhead. “Having a setting for your music is the most important thing. Having a venue especially makes for the most fertile ground for creativity because you have people [performing] and you have an audience. There gets to be some communication there. It sets the parameters for necessary creativity.”
A jumble of distorted samples, ethereal vocals and electronic noise that sounds like the damaged laptop it came from, Lesser Evil figured amongst the second wave of physical releases to come from Montreal’s Arbutus Records, a cadre of Mile End pop futurists with divergent sounds but a similar ethos and aesthetic. But since that time, the principal figures have been largely absent from the city, be it due to touring obligations or relocation.
“I don’t think I would’ve been able to make records at all if it hadn’t been for the support of people like Seb [Cowan, CEO of Arbutus Records] and Claire [Boucher, of Grimes]. I don’t think the music would’ve sounded the way it did if it wasn’t for Kyle [Jukka, from Pop Winds and Flow Child], Tim [Lafontaine, from Cop Car Bonfire] and Sami [Blanco].”
The Air Conditioned Nightmare is a deeper listen than Lesser Evil, a distinctively more mature and organic statement that draws from the considerable mixing talents of Damian Taylor (Björk, Arcade Fire) and Shawn Everett (Julian Casablancas, Weezer). The Air Conditioned Nightmare occasionally sounds like the soundtrack to the after-party at the end of the world. This shift has a lot to do with Woodhead moonlighting as a DJ in recent years.
“I have so much respect for having a honed, cohesive DJ set,” says Woodhead. “It’s more about learning about genre in general, in terms of electronic music… Getting into tools a bit more in that way, drum sounds and patterns, things like that. Deconstructing techno has been the most creative thing for me.”
Album opener “HOTFOOT” is the closest Woodhead gets to replicating the frenetic live energy of the afterhours events he arose from – a raging storm of digital screams, cymbal crashes and skittering techno rhythms.
“I would love for Doldrums to sound like the house band at the Montreal weird loft party. That’s all I care about.”
A few years ago, Danielle McTaggart was ready to throw in the towel on her music career. Now she and her husband, Drew, make up the powerhouse duo known as Dear Rouge and have two full-length albums and a Juno to their name. Known for their hook-driven tracks—and being “the nicest couple in Canadian music”—Dear Rouge just dropped their sophomore LP, Phases. The record recounts a season of emotional extremes for the couple, including winning the 2016 Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, and losing a loved one. We caught up with Danielle over the phone to talk about finding joy in music again, and the personal and public significance of Phases. G—On your website, you describe your style as “sinewy, hook-driven indie rock”. Where did that particular style evolve from? DM—I was always very into hook-y music with beautiful melodies. I grew up listening to The Carpenters and they have beautiful melodic parts, but I also always loved harder music and really rock-driven music. Bands like Metric or Yeah Yeah Yeahs or St. Vincent were hugely motivating for me, and I loved that these frontwomen were powerhouses. They’re very confident and trying to push the boundaries while
What do you get when you combine the start of a worldwide tour and the release of a highly-anticipated album on the same day? Ask Lord Huron’s founder and frontman, Ben Schneider, and he’ll say a pretty damn exciting journey ahead. The band’s third album, Vide Noir, released April 20, is already receiving accolades for its raw, lyrical storytelling from songs like “Wait by the River” and “When the Night is Over”. To engage fans at a deeper level, the band plans on creating immersive experiences that elevate the album’s narratives. Lord Huron’s tour includes a stop at Toronto’s Sony Centre on July 25, and at Osheaga in Montreal on August 4. Schneider spoke to us about his love of storytelling, Raymond Chandler influences, and what it was like working with Flaming Lips’ producer David Fridmann. G—You grew up in Michigan. Is that where your interest in music began? BS—There was always music on at our house, and I remember imagining the people the songs were about. The storytelling of songs is what’s always captured me most. As time went on, I was able to convince my parents to let me play bass in the orchestra, which led to me
Morgan Saint was born into a creative life. Upon growing up in Mattituck, NY with a family of musicians on her mother’s side and parents who worked in interior design, Saint graduated from Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, where she has lived for the past six years. With a major in illustration and a focus on photography and graphic design, Saint has executed a clear vision of her musical artistry. In 2017, at the age of 23, Saint released her debut EP, 17 Hero, on Epic Records. She is a storyteller at heart, combining all of her talents to reveal her narrative as truthfully as possible, one vignette at a time, as seen in all three of the EP’s videos, “Glass House”, “You”, and “Just Friends”. She co-produced each glossy, beautifully choreographed, and high-definition clip with Nathan Crooker, but the lyrics are all hers. They come from personal places yet are vague enough to be relatable. Her electronic pop is lo-fi, but you’ll most likely find yourself snapping your fingers to it. As Saint prepared for a sold-out show supporting Missio in Austin, Texas, Georgie connected with her to discuss coming into her own as a songwriter and