Wed, Jul 10, 2013.
Which band is all the talk this July? It has to be July Talk. The Toronto group is thrilling audiences with their unique sound and stage show. The five-piece band is fronted by two lead singers, Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, and are unlike any group that's come before. They share each song, usually with back-and-forth vocals, Dreimanis a growly, gruff, acerbic presence, and Fay a playful, sly and dreamy singer.
The group were the talk of Canadian Music Week this spring, and then blew away the audience at Halifax's favourite club, The Carleton. Now they are returning for a string of East Coast shows, fittingly later in July. I reached Dreimanis at home in Toronto, just a few hours after the band had finally got back after a grueling 30-hour drive from Denver at the end of a long swing through the U.S. Live shows, he says, are where the group shines.
"It's definitely where we feel most comfortable," he agrees. "There's so many things you can hide behind in the studio, but live, the conversation between Leah and I can happen in real time. It's, for my part, more honest. It's where we can lay it all out. A few days ago, Leah was pouring candle wax on me. We try to surprise each other. We never play the same show twice. In Minneapolis, she duct-taped me, all this cool shit. I said, we should do that again, but she said, no we gotta keep it fresh. In Toronto once, we sort of set something up, we had a bed on stage, and she blind-sided me with a pillow, feathers flying everywhere. But we find it's better to see what happens each night."
The chemistry between the two singers is unlike anything that's come before. They play off each other constantly, and are perfectly cast in their opposite roles in the songs. On the surface it would seem that they must have planned the whole sound from the start, but it didn't happen like that at all. "We met at a small, tiny bar (in Toronto), I met her when I came in and she was wearing a bike helmet, and covered in face paint. She was playing with a friend, and I was floored. It was obvious she was something."
They talked, but didn't plan anything, and later Dreimanis realized he had to try to find Fay, to see if his vague idea might play out. He searched, and tracked her down a few days later. "It's not something that's easily explained, we kinda just got lucky. I knew that if I wanted to play my own songs, I needed a foil, my voice is kind of grating after awhile. On meeting Leah, I knew she was someone exciting. A force to be reckoned with. All you have to do is meet her, she's kind of intimidating. But as it went on, it became apparent that it wouldn't work if one of us was different. And everyday I appreciate that, I never take that for granted. At the centre of it, it's this strange artistic relationship that continues to evolve."
Dreimanis is also quick to point out this is a solid, five-piece rock band too, with equal excitement coming from the tight sound of guitarist Ian Docherty, Josh Warburton on bass and drummer Danny Miles. He can name a few musical influences, but can't think of an overall inspiration, it just happened. "There's some Queens of the Stone Age for sure," he acknowledges. "The songs come from bluesy, minimal, dance-y influences, maybe the Austin scene, Spoon or whatever. But the stage show, I'd be lying if I said i was taken from anything, it comes from us pushing each other. Leah comes from a performance background, theatre. So its how do we push the borders?"
July Talk will be pushing through the Maritimes next week, as they first hit the stage at the Evolve Festival in Antigonish on July 21, then back to The Carleton the 22nd and 23rd, and finally making their debut New Brunswick performance on the 24th at the Capitol Complex in Fredericton, then play the 25th in Moncton at Plan B.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).