By Darcy Penner
On October 16 2012, Distances released their debut self-titled EP. The Winnipeg quartet tracked their melodic post-hardcore with Winnipeg’s Michael Petkau Falk at Volcano Recordings, and had them mastered by Stu McKillop at Rain City Recordings (Vancouver). Comprised of Florian Maier, Nic Herzog (Waster, Everyone Everywhere), DJ Sangalang (The All Night, Common Lives) and Chris Ferguson (The Afterbeat), the band has followed the release with a handful of packed shows in Winnipeg. Distances invited Stylus to their practice space, where they are hard at work on new tunes, for a beer and a chat about the release and the band. The following is an edited transcript.
Stylus: What were your goals for the EP and what are your plans now that you’ve got this released?
Florian Maier: When we started thinking about this EP, it was never supposed to be an EP. It was only supposed to be a demo for us to go and do in the studio. But then we heard the sound and it turned into something that was more of a release, so we decided how we wanted to do it and just figured that putting it up for free is the best way to spread it, and get it on every computer out there. That is the ultimate goal: every computer in this world. [laughter] Spread it as far as we can.
Nic Herzog: Yeah, for people just to torrent it and give it to a friend and to give back to the community. As much as we’re musicians we’re also listeners in a music community. We love hearing stuff, and everyone loves getting free stuff. Just to like, kind of create buzz and give people for free what we’ve kind of put ourselves into, I think people would like that.
Stylus: How has the reception been so far?
NH: It’s been pretty good so far. We came out of the studio with a product that we thought—you know, it was a little bit rushed with four days to put it together – four tracks in four days. We busted our asses but we felt that maybe it wasn’t our best effort as far as the production value of it. Mainly because A) we didn’t really have an understanding of our own sound yet. As well as B) we didn’t have much time, because we didn’t demo anything, to kind of tear apart and find out each thing that we wanted to change. We just kind of puked up a whole bunch of music onto a hard drive and all of a sudden we came out with a finished product. So as much as we for the most part like the finished product, we don’t feel that it was necessarily our—we didn’t get a ton of effort done in time.
FM: Yeah, what happened is that I think we started in late April, the four of us playing together. And they’re the first songs we wrote, and as we said before, we booked that studio time and we thought we were just demoing for us. And it just happened to be better than we expected it to be. And now it’s an EP.
Stylus: What is the writing process for the songs?
NH: It’s kind of give or take. Let’s say that.
FM: Actually the writing process for the two songs we wrote immediately after we put out the EP, they were different: they just happened.
NH: They fell out of us.
FM: We didn’t have a concept, because usually it’s the two of us [Herzog and Maier] having ideas, bouncing them off each other, writing together and then bringing it to the band and then they make it an actual song.
NH: And now it comes back that because we’re writing, because we’re going into pre-production soon, we have made ourselves the goal of writing a plethora of new songs. So we’re kind of into the whole, me and Flo put parts together, then DJ and Chris come in and just do their thing, and it comes together as a song. For the most part, and I would say the general sense of it, is it’s Flo and I write the parts, and we all come together and kind of, you know—
FM: Make it a real song. We come with a basic structure of the song, and they do their thing.
Stylus: Who writes the lyrics, and what are the themes on the EP?
NH: I write the lyrics.
FM: We know most of them, we think. [laughter]
NH: The content revolves very much around a lot of bull shit and heat that I had been coming out of personally from relationships either in bands, interpersonally, and lot of it was just really pissed off about where I was in life at that point. Me and my last band had a pretty rough falling out, and at that point I was really bummed about not being in that band anymore, even though it was my own choice. And the relationships that kind of frayed around that whole path, I mean, a lot of that spilled out onto paper.
I mean, since then, like things are really good. But for the most part, a lot of it comes from negativity and just the world around us in general. A lot of us, we’ve been around the block as people, as musicians, as people that have had relationships with people, and everybody has had shitty shit happen to them in their lives. The world is kind of a fucked up place, and no matter how old you are, if you’re a kid or if you’re a grown adult, you still have to deal with shitty people. You still have to deal with stuff that isn’t necessarily fair or that you’re not foreseeing happening, and life is just about dealing with that shit, and that’s exactly what most of these songs are all revolving around. Just, life’s fucked but deal with it and just get through it. That’s pretty much what everything is about that I write. That’s all I have to say about that pretty much, there isn’t much more to say.
Stylus: Thank you. You mentioned you are doing pre-production. What is that for?
FM: Potentially a full length. It is kind of a goal.
Stylus: Are you shopping the EP ahead of that?
FM: That is another thing. We aren’t actively shopping right now. Because we thought it was going to be a demo, and we like it as a free download for people, but it’s not our best. We’re picky about that. We’re doing pre-production now, or are about to go into the studio to do pre-production, and I think the goal is to demo a full length hopefully in the next, say six months, and shop that. I think that is kind of the goal, to really have a product where it’s like, “That’s what we are. This is the best we can do right now,” and we want to shop that.
Chris Ferguson: We have a better understanding of what we sound like and what our general sound is, now with that being said we can write songs that we feel comfortable with – shop that rather than something that we kind of, just threw out there.
NH: But we don’t really think about that, to be honest. I’m of the opinion, as I’m sure these guys are, that we’re not anything yet. Like, if somebody from a label decides that they like us and that they want to put it out, whether they’re an indie-rock label, a metal label, a rock n’ roll label, it doesn’t really matter. We’re not the judges of whether we should be signed to a label or not. That’s up to other people, and to be completely honest, I don’t think we’re even label-minded at this point. We’re not at that stage yet. We’re a young band, and for somebody to even consider signing us at this point is like, almost kind of silly if you think about it from a business stance. You want to see the long-term possibility.
Stylus: And commitment levels. Are you planning on touring this release?
NH: Maybe not this release, but we’re definitely planning on touring hopefully early in the new year – spring time. More so than anything to kind of see how we test on the road as people. We think that it’s responsible for you to figure out if your band can hack it, because sometimes bands just don’t get along on the road. We’re pretty good friends, and we’ve actually already been through quite a lot as people, as friends. And we’ve overcome some obstacles and I think for us to tour is taking the next logical step as to whether this band can actually function as a band.
FM: I think the fact that we’ve all been through different bands before, bands that weren’t ready to do what they did, and bands that just wanted too much too fast, I feel like we’re all open for whatever may come. I think if a label knocks on the door, we will for sure listen to what they say and not just turn them down. Like we’ve all been through that and we’re very careful about that stuff. And we know that we need to test out the waters before we go full on.
NH: We honestly came together as a band to play songs and have fun. That was the original goal. The fact that we’re actually a band now and we play shows and stuff, like that’s just bonus. [Laughs] Our main focus is just to write songs that we like. Yeah, we’re business minded in that we want to be professional, we want to make sure that have all our T’s crossed and our I’s dotted, but at the same time, we’re just worried about making good songs and being friends, first and foremost. Everything else is you know, neither here nor there at that point.
Stylus: Anything else you want to add?
NH: I think one thing to add is the fact that we’re actually all kind of surprised that the demographic of people that are listening to us are actually transcends Canada. We’re getting feedback from people in Europe, people in the States. We keep track of all our downloads, and people are actually paying money, surprisingly enough because our album is free, from Pennsylvania and people in Germany.
Another thing I should say is that the people at Manitoba Music are incredible people.
FH: Manitoba Music and Manitoba Film and Music.
NH: Honestly, if it wasn’t for Manitoba Music and Manitoba Film and Music, we probably actually wouldn’t be sitting here right now. They helped fund our EP. I shouldn’t say helped. They pretty much pulled all the weight they possibly could to help us get this out, and to help us make this happen. To go in there and sign the contracts five minutes before close on a Friday, they were the nicest most genuine people that I’ve ever met in the industry. A lot of the people that I have met in the industry are total dick heads. Sorry, I’m very jaded. But a lot of people working in their respective corners of the music industry are very much full of themselves that they kind of hold the power and they make the puppets dance, but the people at Manitoba Music and Manitoba Film and Music—awesome people. Very down to earth.
FH: Manitoba Music made us download of the week. The week before we released our EP, we already had one song for free download. It was super nice; both organizations helped us out a lot.
NH: That’s another reason that Manitoba’s scene is awesome for music.
Check out Distances tonight, October 31, 2012, at the Park Theatre with Brilliant Bastards, Dangercat, and Grand Beach. The show is $7 at 8 PM.