Backseat Driving: NXNE
Striving to give our readers the very best in festival coverage, Courtney and I set out to redefine “the interview.” Our goal was to give readers some insight as to what their favourite artists get up to during a festival like NXNE, so we handed those artists the reigns. Whether joining a band to catch a set, hanging at one of the many day parties or simply seeing an artist on a recommendation, this year we took a backseat.
We’re very pleased to present to you Backseat Driving. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Driver #1 JULY TALK
Our week-long series kicked-off in an exhilarating fashion as July Talk’s husky vocalist Peter Dreimanis invited us to join him at Dine Alone’s Carnival/BBQ. As a member of one of the city’s most unique live bands, Peter explained how the members feed off each others energy, “I think we’ve been really lucky as a band because you can walk away from a show and be like ‘that guy just bit that girl!’ and it’s not that the songs are better, I mean they have to be good, but it’s about the stage presence. It’s pretty easy to live the part. Leah…her blood’s not made of blood, so with her it’s really easy to explore it.” After Peter goaded us into believing The Flaming Lips had changed their venue to Lee’s, he shared some of the band’s aspirations to attain a similar stage experience as the masters of live performances: “We’d have to have so much more of a budget, but Leah and I talk about that shit all the time. I think Rich Aucoin has really stepped-up in Canada. I think his stuff is amazing and we share the same sort of ambitiousness, but just a bit darker.” Although we didn’t get to experience The Flaming Lips with July Talk, we got to enjoy Ryan Opar’s insane “Oparty” stunts such as hammering a 4” nail up his nose and shoving a meter sick down his throat into his stomach.
Driver #2 PHILOCERAPTOR
Philoceraptor originally wanted us to join them to see fellow Vancouverites Limblifter but were heartbroken when they realized they were scheduled to play at the exact same time. After ruling out The Men @ El Gordo’s because of a steep $10 cover, they brought us to Exclaim! and Jagermeister’s Boneyard BBQ for what Justin Penney referred to as a “rockin’ good sock-hop of a time.” In the “boneyard” of old cars, Phil Jette expanded on why they chose this particular party: “well you’ve got Sebastian Granger who’s going to be DJing later on, free booze, sunshine, beautiful people and girls on roller skates!” Steve Mann went on to add, “we come from Vancouver, the land where sunshine doesn’t exist, they do have beer there but it’s not nearly as cheap as it is here.” Since they were balancing a hefty playing schedule, Steve explained that they didn’t really have the luxury of making their own schedule of shows to see. Instead, they embraced the “accidents”. “We accidentally walked by the Horseshoe and saw Bran Van . We accidentally walked by The Silver Dollar and saw Bleached. Accidents are the name of the game,” Steve said.
Driver #3 DZ DEATHRAYS
The choice of Australia’s DZ Deathrays to see Bass Drum Of Death may have been made out of convenience since they followed DZ’s set at Wrongbar, but the guys agreed “we’d probably still be seeing Bass Drum or Death Set or The Men.” They’ll get to see a lot of Bass Drum over the course of their six-week long tour together, but they don’t mind because “if you’re on a tour with a support band and you don’t actually like the band, that’s a hard one. These guys are actually good and you get their songs stuck in your head.” If you’re wondering why DZ’s songs sound oddly familiar to those of Death From Above 1979, you can rest assured it’s intentional. “We started this band because of them. People would say you sound like The White Stripes or The Black Keys, but that’s just because we’re a two-piece. We’d say ‘we sound like Death From Above’ and then they started doing their reunion shows and we got that same reaction and we were like ‘we’ve been saying that for three years!’”
Driver #4 ZULU WINTER
We jumped at the opportunity to meet up with Zulu Winter while they recorded their Converse Rubber Tracks session and, let’s be honest, potentially snag new shoes. Based in Brooklyn, NY, Rubber Tracks began as a way to provide up-and-coming artists the opportunity to record with professionals at no personal cost, so it was clear to us why they selected these rising talents. Will Daunt and Iain Lock gave us Canadians a run for their money in terms of politeness, and placated our Toronto city pride by unanimously agreeing that as far as a a city goes, it’s their favourite that they’ve visited as a band. With their schedule as packed as it was, they weren’t able to check out much during the festival, though Iain spoke highly of Doldrums. “I’d never heard of them before but Guy [Henderson] dragged me down there and they were interesting, extremely camp, but quite a lot of fun. I don’t think they were actually playing half of it, but it was a great stage show and they were all over the place which was really exciting and quite fun,” he said.
Driver #5 DUSTED
Our most adorable backseat session “award” goes to Brian Borcherdt (of Holy Fuck) who was promoting his current side-project Dusted. While waiting for Ell V Gore on the patio of The Silver Dollar, Brian described how this project is different than the other solo material he’s worked on in the past decade or so. “This is the first time I’ve made a go at something that is my song writing, my voice, my guitar, but it has something behind it. It has momentum driving it. It’s cool; it’s like a fresh start,” he said. Curious as to why he chose to see a gore punk band given his personal background in music, Brian admitted, “well the easiest being my wife is in the band. Not that I needed that reason, it was like love at first listen, you know? I already think she’s the hottest, coolest girl in the world, but then when she brought me these demos she’d been doing with the guys, I was super excited.”
Driver #6 TRE MISSION
On Sunday, we sludged through the confetti roughage left behind by The Flaming Lips to hook up with Tre Mission at Yonge-Dundas Square. Before Tre shared the stage with rap OGs Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, we spoke about what it’s like to open for such juggernauts, although he joked he was was led to believe Method Man & Redman were on the bill. While he’s a bit too young to have had aspirations to open for the Clan members, the young rapper had a musical upbringing with a killer role model. “Luckily my mom put me onto everything, so I was aware, I knew. Everything I listened too was because of her,” he said. Between studio sessions and album prep for his early fall release, Tre didn’t have time to explore the festival, so we were pleasantly surprised to learn that his choice show of the week was also in our top 5. “The only thing I went to go see was Purity Ring. He had a cool set up, the guy who does the beats, with the drums and the lights. Really hot; hot as hell in there, but that was a good show.”
Words by Kate Masewich
All Photos © Courtney Lee Photography