Last night, Saskatoon rockers Close Talker played NYC’s Pianos. Tomorrow, they’ll be in Switzerland. That just seems par for the course for the trio, who are releasing a new album in 2017. They just debuted their first track, “Afterthought” with NPR yesterday, to rave reviews. We got to chat with the band about the Canadian music scene, new music and their live show.
I always like to google “band name interview” as part of my research so I learn a little but also avoid questions that a band is asked a lot. It seems like you’ve been pretty silent for a little bit: what have you guys been up to?
Close Talker: On the surface we’ve been pretty quiet, but we’ve been pretty busy writing, recording, and scheming on how best to share everything, when the time comes. On a personal note; 2/3 of us just got married so our band family has grown significantly and that has been a true joy. Our wives are the best. Although it seems like we’ve been quiet, we plan to be anything but quiet soon. Promise.
So, the music scene in America is very much regionalized: you’re either from NYC, LA, maybe Phoenix or Seattle, etc… How does breaking out onto the Canadian scene work? Especially for a band from Saskatoon?
CT: Canada’s music scene is small as everyone knows everyone or there is a max of one degree of separation hah. There is still a mild sense that you’re either from Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal or “other”. With that, we feel very fortunate to be from Saskatoon for a number of reasons. We really love the music scene in Saskatoon as there is so much camaraderie and talent here. Everyone celebrates everyone’s victories and is really supportive of one another. With only a dozen or so cities with vibrant music scenes, it has been nice to be from the slightly barren prairies, as some of our favorite places to play are often smaller cities that bigger or international acts will skip. We love being from Saskatchewan and take great pride being from such a beautiful place filled with truly beautiful and genuine people.
What’s the best place to see a band in Canada?
CT: Oh man! This is a tricky question. While attending Bible School in British Columbia Will and I (Matt) would often spend all our money (which didn’t take much) and go into Vancouver to see our favorite touring bands play. The Orpheum is a pretty rad place to see a band and get lost in the moment. Amigos in Saskatoon is great because it is much smaller by comparison, but draws in great touring bands because it is the best place to play for 100’s of kilometers either way. There are literally tons of places to see great music in Canada – it is tricky to narrow it down.
From Spinto Q, you got a lot of early great compliments about your music, which is obviously a positive, but do you ever feel pressure to write songs a certain way?
CT: Yeah, to a degree. We all really hold one another accountable when it comes to writing and style and sticking to our guns artistically. When we write, we’re sort of selfish and want to exclusively cater to our needs and what is appealing to our ears. We never want to become a band that writes based on what we think people want to hear. I think that lacks sincerity and can be smelt from miles away from true music appreciators, not to mention lacks longevity for us. With that, pop music is great and popular for a reason, so maybe we should be more aware of what the masses want and crave. Thus far in our careers, we just write what we as a band are into and hope that people jump on board and also dig it. We’ve typically been more of an ‘album’ band than a ‘single’ band, but I do feel that we’ve grown in our pop sensibility and our new music reflects a lot of that growth. We still write for ourselves, but we hope it will reach a broader audience and musical palate.
CT: “Afterthought” sort of stems from this weird anxiety we were having as a young band being off cycle for the first time. We had just come back from an always great, always hectic SXSW experience and were struck with a new urgency to continue writing. We wanted to draw from a more vulnerable place and be more transparent with our writing, first and foremost for ourselves, but also because we know music appreciators can smell insincerity from miles away. As a band we were sort of in limbo with no concrete plans in place for the future. As individuals, two thirds of us had just locked in the most concrete plans a person can make – marriage. Afterthought simply marks a unique era for the band, but a healthy one nonetheless. We wrote and recorded the song in an old wooden house in the prairies on a frigid and desolate day. As a result, the song is more modest sonically than our others. The lyrics pay tribute to over thinking absolutely everything, yet the production and approach to the music itself was the exact opposite. Musically, we simply went with the flow and followed our instincts. Lyrically, the song talks about being uncomfortable with just going with the flow, and maintaining an unhealthy veneer while longing for affirmation, structure, stability, routine, validity etc.
You’re about to go out and play a few shows in Europe. What is most important for the band while putting on a live show?
CT: Good vibes and good sound! I think that feeling good and being in a good mental space can so often make a show great, whether you’re attending or performing. If you feel good, you play good. Our live show has quickly become maybe our strongest quality as a band. We try to give it everything we have and spend lots of time crafting the sounds we put through the PA and the arrangement of our sets. As a band, we always make sure we’re in an okay headspace before we play and check in with one another. We make sure there are no beefs with one another or crazy stress that is going to distract us from connecting with the music and the audience. We’ve played sick and hurt before lots, but we try to never play distracted.
What’s your favorite memory from any tour you’ve done?
CT: This is a loaded question! It is very difficult to narrow it down, but a couple memories come to mind. Our very first tour ever we nearly did everything wrong and it was awesome. We weren’t yet aware that lack of sleep and taxing schedules can make a person sick and frail… so we cliff jumped, drove through the night just to surf a few hours, and went to the casino and put everything on red etc etc. We’ve wised up a little bit since then, but not really. We still try to hike and explore when we can. My personal favorite memory was when we were on a European tour and we had several days off that we spent writing in a studio in northern UK and we spent the evenings in an old house with no power on the coast. We literally had nighties and lanterns to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. We had limited battery on our laptop but chose to use it watching The Big Lebowski in candlelight. Needless to say, it was pretty great!
Where does Close Talker go from here? What should we expect?
It is sort of the calm before the storm for us now. We have to iron out some details, but we have some pretty big plans for 2017 and with that, some pretty hefty touring aspirations. I think people can expect some new things and for us to come to a city nearby. Come say hi!