Earlier in the winter, at Toronto’s Cloak & Dagger, I sat down with Alex, Kirby, and Stefhan of Dead Projectionists. We talked about the relationship between wearing combat boots to a job interview and songwriting, donning tutus and basketball shoes on stage at Handlebar, the band’s plans for touring through the east coast of Canada, and future EP releases.
AMBY: I’m here with a handful of members from the Toronto based, alt-rock band Dead Projectionists. Rather than introducing yourselves, maybe you can go around and introduce the person to your left.
Alex: Left to me is Kirby Schiemann and he plays the synthesizer in our band, as well as some percussion instruments. He built a modular synthesizer that we’re going to start using soon, its pretty cool. He’s a nice fellow. He and I started the band together, essentially, when we were both here in Toronto.
Kirby: To my left here is Stefhan [Iwaskow]. He plays bass, and, uh, he’s good at it [laughs].
Stefhan: Cool, alright. To the left of me is Alex Goyetche. He’s been my cousin, since birth.
Alex: And remains to be.
Stefhan: Yup, yup, to this day. Really good guitarist. Uh, yeah, he’s good at it.
AMBY: On that note, how did you all meet? Obviously you two are family, but maybe you can talk a little bit about how your band came to be.
Alex: I’m from Halifax, and so are the other two guitar players in our band, Al and Skippy. I met Al when we were twelve years old in junior high, and we started a band then, so we’ve been playing and writing songs together for like ten years, which is crazy. But they were all pretty bad up until we were around seventeen. Skippy joined a couple of years ago, when we were moving on into high school, and then we sort of all moved over here at different periods in time; and then last year, it just worked out that we were all in Toronto again. Kirby and I had been playing together—I was playing alone, playing more kind of folk music, and then Kirby was playing whatever instrument we could find, to back me up. We started to record with our old drummer, record some songs, and then we realized that we needed a full band, so I asked a Stefhan to play bass because I knew that he did. We weren’t really friends or anything, but he fit in really well. That’s kind of how that all got rolling.
Stefhan: I remember when he asked me, too, hey you want to come play bass for a night, and before I knew it, I was in the band, and then we started playing shows.
Alex: He was already in a band, a Ska band, and they had been together forever, so I assumed he’d say no, but he didn’t.
Stefhan: It was a different kind of music, and that was good. I liked that.
AMBY: So you also just released your EP, Apocalyptic Nihilism & Blues, in the spring of 2013. Even though it’s pretty brief, as EPs often are, it comes across as a compact kind of concept album. Can you talk about your songwriting process and why you chose to focus on an apocalyptic theme?
Alex: For that EP I wanted—since it was going to be our first real statement as a full band—I wanted to sort of write pop songs that were, at least for me, like trying to go and do what the Beatles did: try and make a really catchy short song, but something that’s still interesting. But it has to be viewed through the lens of my life, which is a lot more downbeat, in terms of the stuff I want to write about. And that phrase [Apocalyptic Nihilism & Blues] I got from a film review show that I like, and he just said that the movie was ‘ripe with apocalyptic nihilism.’ And then I just thought that that sounded like rhythm and blues…the name for that song and it was kind of old school sounding, so that’s where that came from. But “Orchard Full of Bones” is a dreary name, too. I don’t know that we had anything in terms of having one kind of theme from the songwriting, but I know I was just really thinking of old rock and roll records, and trying to meet Radiohead. I don’t know, what do you guys think?
Stefhan: In terms of songwriting, I mean, a good chunk of it comes from you or from Al, in terms of like, chord progression and lyrics, but it’s all brought to everybody. And we all take our own influences and throw in our own shit. It’s amazing to see, when we start with a song—even like, we had a rehearsal last night, and we played songs, and I played stuff differently than the first time we ever played it, and it’s cool to see it progress from the bare bones that comes from you guys, and when you bring it to all of us it becomes this big thing. It’s awesome to see it change.
Kirby: And Apocalyptic Nihilism & Blues, the title track, its like our oldest song that we still play sometimes—
Stefhan: Sometimes [laughs]
Kirby: And it started with, Alex came over one day, he was like, yo, I got this really cool song, it’s really fast.
Alex: Coming from what I was writing before, that was like a big thing, because I was like, okay I can write rock songs, now that I have a band.
AMBY: Interestingly, the third song on the EP, the title track, seems to be the most upbeat. Is there an irony with the naming versus the actual musical quality of it?
Alex: Yeah, actually, I have an answer to that. I didn’t have a job that summer, it was like two years ago, and I went to this interview one morning for, I think it was a catering company, and all I had to wear was like big combat looking boots—it’s just the only shoes that I had—and the woman was really mad at me because I didn’t have sneakers or something I could wear in the kitchen that would be safe. So she didn’t give me the job and she wouldn’t let me be interviewed and I had to leave. I went home and wrote that song in like ten minutes, which it doesn’t usually happen that fast. I was just really pissed off, I guess, and that’s where it came out of. But it was really funny to me: [the song] is so happy sounding, and then the chorus is about—you know—the world ending.
AMBY: So, when working on your EP, who would you count as your influences. When I was listening to “Right Next to the Dynamite,” it reminded me a little of Arcade Fire circa The Suburbs.
Alex: I haven’t listened to that album too much. I like the first one. I don’t know, I can name some of the stuff I was listening to. Basically The Beatles and Radiohead are omnipresent on anything; I think that they write the best songs. So that was there. But I was getting really into just like, rock and roll stuff. The Kinks were a huge influence, and the Stones, too.
Kirby: A lot of Bob Dylan. Neil Young. BJM.
Alex: Yeah, the Brian Jonestown Massacre is great—fucking underrated band. And they really helped me, because I realized that we could just openly reference music that is iconic, or that kind of guitar sound that reminds you of the sixties, but then not have to worry about copying it. We just started stealing from everything. And it helps because, you know, you should. We like to put in a lot of genres. I don’t know where the Doo-wop thing came from; that just kind of happened naturally.
AMBY: So, you guys have played a number of shows in Toronto, like Parts & Labour and the Silver Dollar. Which venues are your favourite, and what would be your dream venue to play?
Stefhan: Favourite? The Silver Dollar has been good to us, that’s a fun venue.
Alex: Dan, who books The Silver Dollar, really has been the most kind to us, and he’s the one who gives us our Saturday night shows and headlining shows now. So, we really owe a lot to him, and we like playing there.
Stefhan: Yeah, it’s a cool venue. It’s got a good, solid crowd that comes out no matter what.
Alex: We also like playing at Rancho Relaxo.
Stefhan: Yeah, Rancho’s awesome, too.
Alex: I’d really like to start playing at The Horseshoe, soon, too, if we could. Bigger venues like that.
Kirby: We played at Lee’s.
Alex: We did play at Lee’s Palace. The place was so empty [laughs]. I’ve seen bands that I love play there, and there was no way we were going to fill the place up.
Kirby: And our guitarist played in every single band.
AMBY: Really? Wow. That’s a busy night.
Alex: Yeah, he was exhausted.
Stefhan: The Horseshoe would be up there. Lee’s again, full house.
AMBY: You guys are playing Canadian Music Week in May. What else is coming up next for the band? Is there a full-length album in the works?
Alex: Yeah, we’re going to start recording. Before we did this EP, we did another one that we don’t really like to talk about, because it didn’t really materialize. We did it ourselves, and we’re going to start doing that again, because I really like having the control. I’ve always thought that we should just keep banging out EPs, just to give people music. And then, when we can, we’ll make a full-length album. We’d like to tour, especially to the east coast, because a few of us are from there. So we’ve been filling out grants and trying to get the money together to do something like that.
Stephan: We want to do Ontario, start like in the west end—Chatham, Sudbury, kind of work our way across. London, Guelph, Toronto… maybe, like, Oshawa, Ottawa, Montreal. And then there’s pretty much nothing until Fredericton.
AMBY: Moving on to the less serious questions, what’s the funniest thing to happen to you while playing a show?
Alex: A couple of funny things happened one night [during a show at the Velvet Underground]. When we got in, the sound guy said, yeah, there was a hip hop show here last night, so the right front speaker, it’s blown. So the bass was just going fftfftfftfft all night. And there’s seven of us, and I always feel responsible that every little thing that will go wrong is going to be my fault. And our guitar player is always late, so that makes things interesting.
Stefhan: We played, what’s that venue in Kensington?
Alex & Kirby: Handlebar.
Stefhan: We played Handlebar, and that stage is probably the size of this table.
AMBY: It’s tiny.
Stefhan: It’s really tiny. It was enough for the drums; Skippy and Fiona were on the floor.
Alex: We were about to get on stage, and Kirby and Al—our lead guitar player—ran downstairs, and then they came back upstairs and they had tutus and basketball jerseys on. They didn’t tell anybody they were going to do that. The crowd just looked so angry, like who are these people and why are there so many of them and why are they dressed like that?
AMBY: If you were to curate a festival, what bands would be part of your line-up?
Stefhan: Are we doing like, dead or alive?
AMBY: Let’s go with alive, to make it possible.
Alex: Robert Johnson.
Alex: What do you think, Kirby? You throw in one or two.
Kirby: Well, in an ideal world, you’d have Bob Dylan, you’d have Neil Young, you’d have all these like living legends.
Alex: Aphex Twin, they could play, too.
AMBY: For our very last question, what’s something about Dead Projectionists that nobody knows yet?
Alex: I definitely feel like people need to see us live, for sure, because that’s when we’re at our best. What else don’t they know…
Stefhan: Maybe, like, where we all come from musically. Like, Al’s a classically trained jazz guitarist and most of my bass career, I play a lot of reggae, a lot of ska music.
Alex: I’d like them to know that we’re very genuine. We’re not trying to be cool or anything, we just enjoy playing music. I think, it’s hard, people are standoffish with musicians, but we’re really nice people.
Stefhan: We just want to play music.
AMBY: And that wraps up our interview; thank you guys very much!
Thank you Dead Projectionists, for giving us your answers!
Leah Edwards |