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Interview with Silly Kissers

In Interviews, Montréal on January 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

The Silly Kissers are one of Montréal’s most exciting new bands. With one album under their belts, headline shows at Pop Montréal, and new material on the way, there couldn’t be a better time to chat with band members Jane Penny, Bob Lamont, David Carriere, Jeremy Freeze and Thom Gillies.

Tell us the story of the Silly Kissers; how did it start? How do you guys know each other?
Jane Penny: We don’t know! I think we’re still figuring that out. We played at a swimming pool about two years ago and we were all dressed as a rainbow army. It was quite silly.

Is that where the band name comes from?
Dave Carriere: No, it’s from a quote in a movie by Terry Gilliam, ‘Tidelands’ I think.

Describe your sound?
JP: Disingenuous love songs.

That feels more like an emotion than a sound to me!
JP: Yeah, it’s pretty emotional music. Vocal pop!
DC: It’s more difficult to describe music in terms of sound than it is in terms of feeling.

When I hear your sound, I hear 80s synth-pop, or at least a lot of those influences.
DC: I’d say that’s a pretty common response to our music. We’re not trying to do a nostalgia thing or anything, I think it just has more to do with the type of instrumentation we use – if we used banjos people would probably say we sounded like country music or whatever, and I think synths get the same response.

There is a lot of nostalgia coming back into music these days. Why do you think that is?
DC: I think people are kind of stressed out with the modern world and want to go back to some idea of how things were.
JP: But we’re trying to do something new. We’re actually trying to develop our skills as a band, and not just be a bunch of kids messing around. For example, I saw Ariel Pink recently and that really captured me, because as a band they are really skillful and have such a great relationship, and they’re making something great together…live!

Do you enjoy playing live?
Bob Lamont: Yeah that’s the best part of it. The best part of playing live in Montréal is the crowd.
DC: Bob doesn’t like to practice!
JP: Although people think we’re freaks.
DC: I think it’s the way Bob dances. Can I have another one of these?(Gestures to pack of Lady Fingers)

Sure.
DC: What are they?

I think they’re called Lady Fingers. I’ve never had them before.
DC: They’re good!

Montréal’s not bad for cheap food. Where do you like to go for cheap and quality eats?
DC: Elegant Hotdogs on Beaubien.

Are they actually elegant hotdogs?
DC: I don’t know I didn’t have a hot dog! I had the burger.  It wasn’t very elegant – good though!
JP: Van Horne Pizzeria – you get a BIG slice for two dollars. Or maybe Pho Thai Ho at the corner of St. Denis and Beaubien.
DC: Yeah Pho Thai Ho is the best Thai food out there.
BL: What are we telling him about Pho Thai Ho?
DC: Yeah it’s meant to be a secret! Actually, when we go out for band meetings we always have Asian food.

Back to the band…I notice that many of the same people attend the shows you play, and many of the Arbutus shows in general. Do you feel there is a good sense of community around your music? For instance, I know Sean Nicholas Savage (Arbutus label mate) wrote a few songs for you.
DC: Yeah, Sean used to be in the band…before Bob. Bob usurped his place.
JP: All the bands live within like two blocks of each other.
DC: Yeah, and oftentimes we might tour with some of the other bands, and we talk to each other about each others’ shows.
JP: Yeah, sometimes on tour we get opportunities to play with each other as well.

What kind of tours have you been on? Have you been cross Canada?
JP: No we haven’t, we want to though.
DC: We’ve been to the East coast a bit, but it’s hard because none of us are rich.

How do you find touring with a budget of zero dollars?
DC: Usually we put a rental van on our keyboard players’ credit card…!
JP: Actually covering costs during touring isn’t that hard, as long as you play a lot of shows. But making a profit, well that’s not really part of it at all.

How is making music during a time when it’s incredibly hard to make money out of it? How is to make music when most of the people who listen to your music don’t pay for it?
JP: That’s not a problem, though it’s a little bit annoying making music at a time when the music industry is going through this whole…restructuring.

Of course.  How do you see the role of record labels changing at the moment, now that it’s so easy to make and distribute music without that middle-man?  How does Arbutus help you?
JP: Well, Arbutus isn’t a monetary agreement; it’s a community thing. They help bring artists and audiences together.
DC: And it will still cost money to have your music distributed, even if it’s online. On balance, I think it’s better to have more people hear your music than to sell a lot of records.

Following on from that, do you think that there are fewer quality controls than there used to be now that labels have less power?
JP: Well, there are still quality controls; they’ve just changed from record labels to being things like Pitchfork, etc.  They’re still just as arbitrary and do as poor a job as ever.
DC: There definitely is a lot more music than there used to be. But I feel like any pursuit of the art is a good one, even if it’s not that great, which it often is; lots of people making music don’t know what they’re doing. There are definitely way fewer quality controls but on balance I think it’s better.
JP: I think that if you make music, you can appreciate other people’s music more.
DC: I think it’s cool that people are trying to make nice things, instead of just having jobs.

How do you feel about Montréal as a place to do that, to make art?
DC: It’s great, because it’s cheap.
JP: Yeah, there are also a lot of people making music.
DC: That’s really why I came here, to make music.

What do you think the role of things like Pop Montreal plays in that?
JP: Pop Montréal is really special because it is an international festival, but it manages to mix local and international artists. It’s also really genuine, because many festivals, like North by Northeast, have just become networking events. I think the more that people struggle to get their music played or get compensated for what they’re doing, the more corporate the whole process becomes.

Why is that bad?
JP: Because decisions get made that have absolutely no relation to the quality of the music whatsoever.
DC: That’s why Pop Montreal is really cool, because a small band like us can headline one of the biggest shows on the Thursday night.
JP: But if Pop Montreal was the only thing happening the city wouldn’t be that good, so I think what makes Montréal great are all the small communities and scenes.

What do you think the role of the government, particularly the Québec government, has in that is?
JP: Québec gives out lots of money to artists, even if you’re going to make the shittiest thing or make something good.
DC: Which is a great thing. Just to give anybody the chance to prove themselves. I’d rather pay for that with my tax dollars than the war in Afghanistan.

Silly Kissers will play Casa del Popolo w/ Wild Nothing on 16 February.

-By Steve Eldon Kerr


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