Mar. 20, 2013 - Issue #909: Water Crisis
You may recall a certain blackout that shut down Toronto (and large parts of the Northeast coast) back in 2003. Ten years on, there's a part of the city that still celebrates the blackout: out go all the lights and on go street parties and candlelit gatherings. But most importantly, at least for July Talk's inception, there's a bar called the Communist Daughter where they also pass around a guitar. And it was there that Peter Dreimanis first heard Leah Fay sing.
"I walked in and Leah was sitting there with a guitar, singing some Emmylou Harris-style harmonies with a friend, and she was covered in facepaint and was wearing a bike helmet and was clearly out of her goddamn mind," Dreimanis recalls. "It was definitely kind of a eureka moment, because I felt very intimidated, and threatened, and inspired, and in love and all of these things were kind of clashing. I was like, 'Oh, this could be so cool.'"
Dreimanis was fresh off a six-month european tour in Eamon McGrath's band. He was sleeping in the band's jam space, and he also lacked a phone, and didn't manage to get Fay's number that first night. But after tracking her down about a week later, and convincing her to try out a collaboration—"You don't want to freak someone out and go up to them and go, 'Ahh, come work with me,'" he says. "That's exactly what I did"—she began coming over once a week to write songs.
Now, July Talk's trainwreck rock 'n' roll is powered by the give-and-take of Dreimanis' monstrous growl and Fay's more pristine, more mischievous tones. Even the live show is based around that dynamic, he notes, two personalities playing off of each other while a band thunders on behind them.
The he said/she said dynamic is something that had been intriguing Dreimanis for some time before the band sprung up. The songs he'd been writing on tour with Eamon were ones he saw playing out as a conversation, rather than a single perspective.
"I started thinking about the idea of trying to come up with a band around two voices," he says. "I felt like my voice, where I feel comfortable singing, is loud and sandpapery. And I felt like I could really find a counterpart to that."
Now that Dreimanis has found just that, he notes that writing in duelling perspectives with another songwriter lends July Talk's music a certain accountability.
"I think you have to prove every decision to someone else," he says "And so there's no 'that sounds cool' factor where you can get away with something. Leah pushes me to be very accountable. And I think it's a little easier for your style, as a band and musically, to be a bit more schizophrenic: you can have a dance song next to a country song, and no one's asking any questions, because you've got these two voices, and you can sort of establish your style as those things."
Tue, Mar 26 (8 pm)
With Matt Mays
Starlite Room, $25
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