‘Strange Habit’ is the second single release taken from July Talk’s upcoming sophomore LP ‘Touch’ which is to be released on September 9th.
Following the success of first single ‘Push + Pull’, which spent over a month at number one on the Canadian Alternative chart, ‘Strange Habit’ is a more somber track that promises diversity from this absolute gem of a new band. Combining the husky, guttural growling voice of Peter Dreimanais with the blissful pop vocals of Leah Fay ‘Strange Habit’ will no doubt go over well with British audiences well versed in alternative rock.
Having already made a big impression in Canada, the band will be embarking on a tour across North America, Europe and the UK (September), and will be supporting Nothing But Thieves on selected dates in the U.S.
We caught up with Peter and Leah from the band to talk about musical inspirations, the creative process of the group and discuss music that is personal to them.
First off, the single (Strange Habit) has a wonderful pace to it and is fantastically atmospheric, did you hear it this way initially? and furthermore who are the main creative forces behind the band?
Peter: We all write together as a five piece. Strange Habit was one of the first songs written for the record in a secluded cabin in the wilderness in the middle of the night. We started smoking hash late in the evening and experimenting with an idea that Josh came in with that we had been calling “The Virgin Suicides Idea”. He had this really creepy high piano line that sounded as if David Lynch was producing Air or something. We put up one ambient drum mic in the room and Danny started playing this vibey beat that sounded kind of like Portishead while Josh played the chord progression that he initially imagined under the piano line. We decided to go a bit out of our comfort zone (we usually write by repeatedly trying a new song live together) and looped the ambient drum beat into an arrangement. When we did this some of Josh’s bass lines were moved around with the looped beat accidentally and we found a new chord progression that worked even better. We soaked the chorus in Twin Peaksesque synths and shimmery guitars from Ian and left the verses as minimal as possible. The lyrics came to Leah and I quite quickly, because the song just immediately felt like hooking up with an ex-lover. Relationships never seem to end when you break up, you can always find yourself crawling back to the comfort and safety of familiar love even if you know it’s dead. The song seemed to speak to the haziness of a regrettable encounter musically, so we wrote the lyrics to match from our own personal experience.
I suppose then, the next question should regard your influences. Who would you say are your biggest influences musically?
Peter: I think the bands that we discuss most often while writing together from a musical perspective are Spoon, Nick Cave, Suuns, Wintersleep, Constantines, The Pixies, Portishead, Radiohead, By Divine Right and Michael Jackson. From a lyrical standpoint, Leah and I are obsessed with Leonard Cohen, Jenny Lewis, Bry Webb, Sharon Van Etten, Lucinda Williams, Jeff Tweedy, Father John Misty and Sandro Perri.
Leah: Some of the first albums I got into were Salt’N’Pepa’s “Very Neccessary”, Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous”, Jewel’s “Pieces of You” and Janet Jackson’s “Velvet Rope”. At the time it just happened to be what caught my attention but I realize now that it was probably because there was a sense of urgency – to change the world and love each other on a universal level – in their work. Those artists were out to open the eyes and hearts of their listeners and make the world a better place with their earnestness. Most of the music I love now still invokes that hopeful feeling but in a less obvious way. Learning to strum and sing most of Wilco & Billy Bragg’s album “Mermaid Avenue” was what inspired me to try songwriting. That and a sad breakup I guess. And finally, I am forever grateful that I had Broken Social Scene and all of the bands that exist within and around them (Feist, Amy Milan, Do Make Say Think, Stars, Metric, Apostle of Hustle, The Stills, Jason Collett, etc etc) for emotional support while I was trying to “figure out life” and leave home for the first time.
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Peter: I think the artist that most accurately nails the July Talk visual taste is David Bailey. Every time I’m feeling uninspired and don’t feel like I have a reason to create, I go back to his work from the 1960s and early 1970s and my brain explodes with ideas. He’s obviously the master of simplicity, rarely doing anything flashy, but instead relies on the intrigue within the human face. We committed very early on to not shying away from putting direct portrait style images forward when pitching our project. No hiding behind hazy projection, fog or distorted glass. No psychedelic images of mixed media. As a music lover, I want to be confronted with the artist’s face in a no bullshit way. I want to be able to look deeply into a portrait of Emmylou Harris as I listen to Wrecking Ball, you know? Study the lines on her face. As much as it has been a bit strange to continue to create these images of ourselves now that our band has grown, I feel we have to put ourselves out there to represent the music, even if it makes us feel vulnerable. That vulnerability might actually be what makes it interesting.
Leah: On personal level, I was lucky enough to have my stars align with Brooklyn-based artist Wolkoff (aka Joanie Wolkoff) when I was about 4 years old. Before she was making shimmery-infectiously-catchy-smart electronic music and writing for UK music blogs, she taught me to draw mermaids and dolphins and gave me my first pile of hand-me-down vintage clothing. She’s gifted me everything from Victorian-style polyester nightgowns to gold-gilded placemats to a neon blue cape. She’s kind of both my idol and my style icon.
Other than her, my most common Google-image searches when it comes to fashion have come in phases of Marilyn, Patti Smith, “Bianca Jagger suit”, Bowie incarnations, Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo, and I like looking at photos of Serge Gainsbourg because, of course I dream of perfectly tailored suits with unbuttoned shirts and having beautiful women draped all over me (Who doesn’t?). Laurel Nakadate, Alice Lancaster, Charles Bierk (who painted the cover of Touch), Monica Kim Garza, Laura Dawe, Curtis Tawlst Santiago, Sarah Buckley and Kathryn Macnaughton are some of my favourite artists.
Peter: July Talk is supposed to be a reference to a style of conversation. It felt interesting when we started the band to have it feel like the conversation between Leah and I is stuck in the beginning of summer. July is a strange month; you’re liable to fall in love, party your face off, get your heart broken, change your mind about who you are, meet a new love and regret your first all before September comes in to mop up the mess. We liked the idea of having the band feel like a conversation stuck within that chaos.
I suppose every band has a story of their origin and conception, but at what moment did you decide you wanted to become musicians in the first place?
Leah: I very clearly remember the moment I decided I was going to have to be an artist of some sort. I called my mom half-crying from the street in Montreal because the cathartic realization made me so happy and confused. I don’t think she was surprised because I was in my fourth year of art school majoring in contemporary dance but for some reason I’d always thought I was going to have to “get serious” and get a “real job” one day.
I wish I could say I actively chose to become a musician but I kinda just started writing songs because I liked how it felt as a means to express and communicate with no intention of it ever going anywhere. Life is funny like that. Ten years ago I would’ve thought I’d be a choreographer with a company or something by now, but this feels so good, and I think you just have to do what feels right until it doesn’t feel right anymore.
And then how did the group come about?
Leah: Peter and I met in a bar in Toronto one night. Music was the first language we spoke to each other and the basis for us wanting to get to know each other better. The Toronto scene is pretty unifying so I was pretty shocked I’d never seen or met him before. We got together to play some music and realized it would be way more fun if we had a real band so Peter’s best friend Eamon McGrath came in to lend a hand. I have a specific memory of Peter playing bass and drums at the same time while Eamon played keys and guitar simultaneously. In hindsight, it was a mess. Thankfully Danny Miles, who played drums in another band with Pete and Eamon, was quickly recruited for our purposes, then Peter asked Josh Warburton, who he ran a video production company with, if he’d play bass. They’d been pipe-dreaming of starting a band so they could make their own music videos anyway. Eventually Eamon had to leave us to pursue his own career and Ian Docherty came onboard after one try-out rehearsal where he blew everyone out of the water with his guitar playing.
To finish, and gain a deeper understanding of your personal musical experiences, what are your all time top five favorite singles?
1. Otis Redding – Try a Little Tenderness
2. The Replacements – Can’t Hardly Wait
3. Britney Spears – Toxic
4. Joni Mitchell – A Case of You
5. Wintersleep – Amerika
1. Donna Lewis – Always Forever
2. Chris Issak – Wicked Game
3. The Troggs – A Girl Like You
4. Talking Heads – This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
5. Stevie Nicks – Edge Of Seventeen
… And your all time top five favorite records?
1. Constantines – Shine a Light
2. Cat Power – The Greatest
3. Harry Nillson – Nillson Schmilsson
4. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
5. By Divine Right – Organized Accidents
6. Spoon – Kill the Moonlight (sorry I need at least six, this is too hard!)
1. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
2. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
3. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
4. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
5. French Kicks – Trial of the Century
This July Talk article was written by Jacob Atkins, a GIGsoup contributor