Homo Duplex Interview

In Canada, Celebrate Your Scene, Features, Interviews on October 3, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Ron Bates and Kristina Parlee of Homo Duplex pose with a pack of 'Duplex' biscuits from St. Laurent institution ‘Segal’s Market’ just before their first ever show in Montréal.

Homo Duplex (who we previously covered here) is Kristina from the Maynards and Ron from the Memories Attack (who, somewhat unusually for a band mentioned on Midday Procrastination, have a wikipedia entry). They live in Nova Scotia and compose songs by drawing random musical descriptors (speed, mood, instruments, etc.) out of a hat, then sticking to ’em. Their name is Latin for double human. Midday Procrastination caught up with the band just before their second live show ever, and first in Montréal, for an exclusive first interview.

How did you guys meet? You’re married right?

Ron Bates: I think we met through CKDU, which is the Dalhousie University radio station. We weren’t studying there at the time, though we both had done.

Kristina Parlee: CKDU is good because it involves the community and the campus together, so a lot of the members are former grads, or people involved in the music scene around Halifax.

RB: It’s good to have music programmed by the community; apart from CKDU there are no really good radio stations in Halifax.

How is the music scene in Halifax?

RB: It’s really good.

KP: Yeah it’s been really good for a really long time. It’s small, but the scene is very supportive; all the artists support one another.

RB: There’s high turnover within the scene. A lot of the bands don’t have much longevity though, though the people within the scene do. So maybe ¾ of the bands that existed 2 years ago don’t anymore, but the people who played in those bands still make music in Halifax.

You’ve both played in other bands as well then?

RB: Yeah I’ve played in a band called The Memories Attack, which is sort of on a bit of a break right now. I also have another side project called Combat, which is a noise project really. Kristina also played in a band called The Maynards, who I thought were one of the best bands in Halifax.

I’m really interested in the way you write songs for Homo Duplex. In your own words ‘these songs were composed by drawing random musical descriptors (speed, mood, instruments, etc.) out of a hat, then sticking to ’em’. How did you decide to begin writing like that?

RB: We wanted to start a new project from scratch, but because both us listen to quite a range of different types music we didn’t really know what we wanted it to be. On top that we wanted to remove ourselves from our comfort zones and break our habits; if we drew seven-minute song with trumpet and piano it would be more of a challenge than just writing a more typical song.

How did you decide what to write on the slips?

RB: we just tried to think of every possible permutation

KP: One of the first things we did is go around the house and list every instrument we had. So if we didn’t already have it, or know how to play it, it wasn’t on the list. We also wrote down a bunch of time signatures, a few we later realised that we’d made up.

RB: We’d also have a hat with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ slips in. So we would end up asking, ‘will this song have a time signature change in it – yes or no’.

That’s interesting because many of your songs change quite noticeably in the middle.

RB: Of course, a few actually do sound like medleys of a few songs. With all the different musical permutations we had we found it easier to just completely shift in the middle of the song, and so make almost two songs.

Despite that though, many of your songs have quite a similar sonic feel. How would you describe the overall sound of the band?

RB: I’m not sure. What’s interesting is that from the original ‘hat pulling’ we had about 20 songs. Of course, because the rules produced random songs, some of them just weren’t good.

KP: So we ended up using songs that we thought sounded good, and if of course if a song isn’t working we can always throw away what we’ve written and go back to the original rules pulled from the hat.

RB: We should also acknowledge that we try to adhere to the rules we draw, but if we think that deviating somewhat from the instructions will produce a better result then we’ll do it; we’re not dogmatic about it.

Can you remember any of the rules you drew for specific songs? What did you draw for your song ‘Deadly Understudy’?

RB: I think it was something like ‘midtempo’, ‘melancholy’, ‘four minutes’, ‘4/4 time’, ‘organ’ and ‘drums’. We sort of cheated on the drums part because we used a drum machine; we make all the songs at home but only have one mic, which would make a drum kit sound pretty bad.

Something I’ve found interesting about Homo Duplex is that I find it difficult to separate the songs from the images you use as record covers. What kind of thought do you put into the artwork that goes with your music?

KP: Well our first EP came out in early spring, and the frosty photo sort of reflected the season in which we’d been working on the songs. The photo on the new EP is by a friend of ours, Francesca Tallone, which we’d seen before, but felt really suited the music of the new album; it’s warmer feeling, towards the end of summer. We definitely think about the seasons a lot when producing the music.

Men: We’re bummed out the EPs are only coming out digitally, because those photos would look really good on a 12 inch record cover.

About the releases, you put them out on as free downloads.  How do you feel about making music in an era when few people pay for music?

RB: Well for us, we recognise that we won’t be making a living, or any reasonable profit from it, and so it becomes kind of a pleasure to give it away and know that people are listening to your music. We wouldn’t presume to speak for bands who are trying to make money out of their music, and that must be incredible hard nowadays, but it’s not something that we’re trying to do anymore.

KP: And of course it’s definitely a way for small bands to get exposure. It does seem like the model for being a band is going to have to change, but as a small band it makes it much easier to get exposure.

RB: It’s a guarantee that no-one would have ever heard of us without bandcamp or twitter.

KP: It’ll be pretty interesting to see where bandcamp goes. I’ve only known about it for a year, and actually you could see its influence increase just within our scene as more and more bands started to use it.

RB: What was fascinating for us was that when we put the first EP up on bandcamp, we put it up as ‘pay what you want’, and about half the people paid somewhere between $3 and $5 for the three track EP. One person paid $10, and we were like ‘Why did you do that? Just take it!’ We actually made it completely free for the new EP in part because I always feel like a jerk clicking on zero when it’s pay what you can. I didn’t want to be the guy making people feel like a jerk!

Do you have any plans for future releases?

RB: Absolutely. We’ve done two EPs as digital downloads, and we think we’ll do one more in that format. After that we hope our fourth release will be a physical release of those three EPs with the new material that would have been the fourth EP.

Considering you make a lot of your music on computers, how do you play live?

RB: Well we’ve only played one show so far [two now, after their Pop Montreal show – Ed], and it went well. We try and do as much of it live as we can, but we use pre-programmed drum tracks to back us.

KP: We might one day down the road get a full band together to play a one off show together, who knows…

RB: I think it would definitely sound better sonically, and it’s more exciting to watch a real drummer live. Also, I probably shouldn’t say this as it’s one of the least cool things out there, but I’d quite like to have one of those electronic drum kits and have a drummer playing that, so we can get all the different kick drum sounds etc…

Finally, you’ve come here to play Pop Montreal. What do you think about the role these festivals play in the Canadian music scene?

KP:  Well, especially in Canada, where it’s quite hard to tour, having a single event where you can go and meet other bands and have people hear your music is a great thing. It also helps if you need to play shows out of your own locality; you can tell the bar manager in Vancouver or wherever that you’ve played Pop Montréal and then they have something to reference you by and to relate to. It’s also really fun!

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ethan Scholl, Steve Eldon Kerr. Steve Eldon Kerr said: Midday Procrastination interview Homo Duplex. […]

  2. Shoot I missed them at Pop Montreal!

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