The Horseshoe Tavern is considered legendary; both for the bands who have played there and how many bands have played there. This said, they definitely aren’t legendary for their comfortable backroom seating – they suck! After a couple beers and cigarettes, I went down stairs into a small corner room with Dan from Bend Sinister and sat down on a chair which I thought looked comfy but turned out had a severe lack of padding. Though the chairs appearance had deceived me and sound check seemed to be louder where we were than upstairs, Dan and I talked Candian Music Week (CMW), touring and the story behind their latest album.
So to start off, you guys are doing three Toronto shows in a row, that’s not over doing it?
Dan: To be honest I, well the show tonight is like a free show and I wasn’t worried, necessarily, about promoting it ‘cause it’s just, it’s more like we drove out here, and it’s nice to get some practice and it’s a fun night and it’s you know, it’s great to play the Horseshoe and I’m promoting the show tomorrow at Sneaky Dee’s which is one that I actually, you know, I’m trying to get people to come out to, and I love Sneaky Dee’s so, it’s a fun place to play and Thursday night’s like a showcase so it’s basically, you know, I don’t have to really, it’s not so much about promoting the word as having our managers kinda bring their, you know publishing people and various people from the UK that are all here for Canadian Music Week so it’s more of a showcase so. We are playing three shows but each one’s kind of different you know? And it’s not like we’re this huge headlining act that’s kind of comin’ in and being like “Three nights in Toronto!” [both laugh] But yeah, Toronto is always like some of our best shows on the trip and we’re here anyway for a week so why not try to set up as many shows as you can?
Cool, cool. So you guys are gonna mix up your set a bunch for each night?
Dan: Um, for sure! Yeah, I mean, depending on how long we have we do a bit of a different set. We always like to kinda, well in any band you have your song that you like to open with and song that you love to close with and whatnot but we try to mix it up and do some different stuff but we do really like top play, our new album is Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers, and we love to kinda play as much of it in order as possible ‘cause it’s meant to have a bit of a flow to it.
Sweet! So it’s more of a concept thing, that album?
Dan: Yeah, I mean, each song can stand out and be its own thing. It’s not like they’re super interwoven but if I have my say when touring the album I’d play the entire thing from start to finish as it is on the album for you know, a 60 minute show and just do it straight and that’d be the ideal way to portray the album to people ‘cause it has a lot of kind of dynamics in where it starts, it’s two parts, the stories of brothers and tales of lovers. It’s just yeah, each part has its own arc and it kinda has a flow to it that we only recreated once at our CD release and I’d love to have the ability to do that every show but you know it’s hard to kinda if you’re, we’re opening for a couple other bands so you got about half an hour to play each night. You can’t be like “Alright we’re opening but we’re gonna play this hour-long album,” and bring our light show and video images and all that stuff as well.
Exactly. So have you guys ever played CMW before?
Dan: Um, yep we have, I’m trying to think we were here with, when we were touring with Pride Tiger in 2006 and we played a show with King Kong or Kane, I forget what his band name is, you know that guy? King Kong? It’s kind of an R&B guy but it was at the Silver Dollar, I think. You know?
I know what The Silver Dollar is but I don’t know…
Dan: Ok it wasn’t The Silver Dollar; it was the ghetto place that’s underneath that. It’s called something else but I forget now. Yeah, so yeah we have been out here and all that before.
So what’s it gonna be like this year, any different from previous years?
Dan: Uh, you know, I don’t know what to expect. We’re really, you know, just pumped to play the shows and if we get a chance to go check out some of the events that’s, you know, that’s great! You know it’s always good to kinda network a little bit and so on.
Always, always. Do you think this helps Canadian artists, and in what ways?
Dan: I think it does help Canadian artists but I find that industry people put too much importance into playing these sort of things because the problem with it is like we get so many bands in town that you’re splitting, there’s so much going on that if you’re a band that’s just trying to get exposure you’re not really gonna get as much exposure as you would if you played Friday night when you’re not, when a huge festival isn’t going on because they’ve brought in a lot of international talent and there’s big shows going on and it’s hard sometimes to compete. I’ll never understand the people that are gonna fly and pay upwards of 5,000 dollars to get their whole band out and rent gear and do everything just to play the one show just because it’s at… I don’t think that’s worth it but I think if you can be here and you can set up a tour to come out here it’s great to just be a part of it but I wouldn’t, you know, condone it as the be all and end all of becoming a major band or anything.
So in that sense it’s kind of like North by North East and Van’s Warped Tour, where a bunch of bands are playing at the same time, right? So…
Dan: Mhmm, well, you get the same thing with Sled Island which is a new festival out of Calgary that they’re starting and it’s really an all, similar to this, where they have all the venues in town are open early and they have earlier shows and lots of bands are paying through and they have one park called Sled Island that has a huge, you know, huge kind of festival main stage but, you know, we always, in Calgary for example, will usually sell out places like Broken City or the High Five and have packed rooms but with this festival, there’s so much going on that, you know, it was really our worst turnout of all time and it was just kind of, well it was strictly because we’re competing against television and these bands playing the main stage and if I was at a festival and I wasn’t playing would I go to a club when its light outside or there’s a huge festival going on outside? Or would I go to the outdoor festival and watch the main acts, you know what I mean?
I guess it depends on which band is playing in the club.
Dan: Of course. But, I mean, just that whole idea of… when you have all that going on at the same time and there’s one real big event that everyone can go to or they could go to the other things, it’s pretty hard to wanna be indoors because it was the middle of the summer and it was sunny out still and it was just, uh, yeah!
I guess it’s understandable in that on that sort of level. Anyways, your video for “The Same Things” is a featured video on MySpace Music. Do you think being a featured artist on a site such as MySpace is good for exposure?
Dan: I always say like every little bit helps for sure and it’s definitely exposure but it’s also, I kind of relate it to my own personal experience. If I’m on, like I don’t know where it is, like you know today when I went to try and log on I was like “Okay, where’s this featured video?” and you kind of have to like click [music] and you know for that, it’s not as central as it could be but it gets, it definitely, it definitely helps, you know? If other people utilize MySpace in a different way then I do and actually check out all the different things instead of just logging right into your profile and you know, messaging your friends or whatever then that’s great and I, you know, it’s awesome that they’re doing that for bands to you know? Like I say, every little bit helps!
Even if they don’t click on it they’ve seen your name and they’ll [subconsciously remember it].
[and] they’ll hear it later. Speaking of your video, where did the idea come from and can you give us a little bit of insight into its meaning?
Dan: Sure! Well it was all the brainchild of the director, Colin Mingham? I think his, I’ll have to double-check that but I’m pretty sure it’s Colin Mingham, well just by his last name, his first name is Colin. He wrote the treatment and he was really into the photo shoot that we did for the album so he e-mailed me and said “Where was that bookstore that you did that?” and I sent it back to him and then he just kind of developed this thing that happened, you know, just a video that all takes place around us in that bookstore and a kind of like actual stick man drawn on each frame that are coming to life and kinda running around the bookstore as a way to escape from the pages of a book. Like when you flip it through you know and you see the stickman running.
Yeah, so does this stickman represent anything or…?
Dan: The stickman in the video represents, there’s these, you know he probably took from the tales of lovers aspect of the name the album and put together this little thing where there’s a guy and a girl stickman running around and then they find each other and fall in love sorta thing so that’s how he tried to kind of tie in the album theme with the song. Yeah!
Okay, cool. So your sophomore release, just dropped on October 21st. Can you tell us a little bit about these “stories” and “tales”?
Dan: Sure! Well the album is our first full length since 2005 so it has been a long time coming and initially after [we] released our first record Through The Broken City I had this period, in 2005, where I watched that, there’s this like A-Z Beatles box set kinda thing where they go through their whole history and I just became insanely obsessed with the Beatles for a little while and I really got into the idea of how they would bring back characters in one song and reference other songs, you know, they always have that tying in of a song to another song so I wrote this whole 6 or 7 songs all tying in these two characters and that was what formed the tales of lovers. But then as time progressed and we didn’t release anything I wrote more and more songs and songs that have these other kind of themes about brothers and about just general human kind and that kind of theme of just talking about people as a whole and then it just seemed like a perfect idea to kinda combine the two and make them each their own part of the record you know? So you got the stories of brothers, tales of lovers and the hope was that it would be a double LP and each one would be, you know, one LP would be the stories of brothers and the other LP would be tales of lovers and they could be, kinda tie into each other but also kinda be their own kinda thing.
So why did you choose to make it just a single album?
Dan: Well I could’ve done two half an hour records for sure, but I think it just, it was funner to, I don’t know, we had all the songs, and we had the time at the studio and we had the money, it just seemed like suiting to put them together. I don’t think I would’ve been happy with either side just on its own but I wanna, you know, because it does work as a whole as well but I guess, I don’t know just, I think, I’ve kind of always obsessed over the double gate fold of vinyl from the like 70s of Genesis records or Yes records where you can like fold it out and have the two albums and kinda, just that real aesthetic and I really wanted to do that with this.
Cool, cool. So have you guys been contemplating the next album?
Dan: Yep! I’ve started to write new tracks, I’ve got about 6 or 7 songs down now and both Joseph and Henry, our guitar players, are both writers and they’re new to the band since Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers was recorded and when I was finding some new people to come in I wanted some song writers to be, so you could have that kind of more everyone involved aspect to it. So I’m kind of hoping to work with them and se how it goes, have them start writing some songs and kind of bring their ideas to the table and really work shopping things as a band a little more and just, ‘cause you know I love, I’m happy to write a whole record but I just really like working with other people and bringing their ideas to the table and so on and they’re both excellent at what they do so…
So after CMW you guys are touring across Canada for a little bit longer then is that it for the year?
Dan: No! That’s not it for the year at all, we’re gonna be , I mean we’ll get back, we’ll definitely have a month of or so but we’re gonna be playing hopefully and playing around western Canada, you know, we always keep playing shows but it might just not be a full Canadian trek and then I’m pushing our management to try and find, you know, to try and get, there’s a bunch of bands I’d really like to go out on tour with again and we’re looking for another kind of tour but basically I’m looking for a band to do the America thing and there’s people coming from the UK to our showcase on Thursday and I’m hoping to try and lock something down so that we can get over there within the new year but it just never stops right? There’s always something on the go.
For sure! Will you be recording the new album this year, do you think?
Dan: My fingers are crossed, I’d love to think that we could just go home and like, ‘cause I’ve written 7 songs but I haven’t put them to the band yet. They’ve heard like demos that I’ve thrown together but nothing that you know, we’ve started to jam. But once they do, do that and we kind of evolve and get enough material together then apply for some more factor money that helps with recording then I think, you know, I can see doing something in September but not now since we’re on the road.
So will this be their revelation to the songs or do they know that you’ve been writing?
Dan: Oh no, they know that I’ve been writing. I send everything you know, in mp3s to all the guys, ‘cause you want their input. You always want acceptance even though it’s from, jut your band you know, if they’re like “This is shit!” [Both laugh] then you know [in a sad tone] “Oh okay!”
Yeah so you don’t just show up, “Hey guys! I have these like 7 songs and just, uh, let me play them all for you!”
Dan: Exactly! But you know its never the same, when I write a demo I do use this program Logic and I always put in my fake like keyboard MIDI drums and MIDI bass its pretty like, pretty hokey but like it just get the idea of a song across so, you know, he listens to it, our drummer, and he just cringes and [disgusted sound] ‘cause all you hear is dut dut cht dut dut cht like MIDI drums verses him, which just takes it to a whole new level so..
Exactly! Well I look forward to it all man!
Dan: Thank you man!