Stylus: How did it feel when Surf Noir became such a success in Winnipeg?
Pat Short: It’s kind of intangible. It didn’t make a huge difference to how we do anything.
Jean-Paul Perron: We just try to put on good shows… The album release was a big event but it wasn’t a lot of our regular fans… It’s nice because people come out of the woodwork and come to our shows that aren’t involved in the music scene… One thing that Surf Noir did is it got us a lot of good shows, like the WAG’s 100th anniversary and Nuit Blanche. A lot of those shows probably wouldn’t have come up without the success of the record…
PS: I don’t think we make music for anybody else. If you write music, you shouldn’t care what anyone who listens to it is going to think.Stylus: Julia, I heard that you were originally trained in opera singing; what made you decide to take a route like This Hisses?
PS: She was perverted by The Stooges.
JR: It’s a lot of things. My brother put a Patti Smith record in my hands and I couldn’t stop listening to it. My brothers were involved in the punk scene, playing with Pat in Under Pressure, doing things, and it had such a community, and the Winnipeg classical scene that I was familiar with it was music competitions, and you’d go and hear people at these competitions and you’d be stressed out and you’d have to pay an accompanist a lot of money to be able to perform at these competitions. You’d be tearing at your head mentally “oh well she did this really good.” It’s just a very stressful atmosphere. Even though the study of the music is joyful for me, the avenues for performance were not. I don’t like being directed. I enjoy projects where I’m involved in more than just one thing. I like to have creative control and creative collaboration. So, being able to do my own music was something that I felt in me… I tried thinking about going back into opera and doing things and I love the training; I have weekly lessons; I’m singing really difficult repertoire very well, but I love this collaboration and this control.
JPP: Sort of the freedom of being able to write.
JR: It’s sort of everything right? When we were doing our photo shoot for the album art it was like, “Wow, this is all the decadence of opera but cooler. I’m working with more interesting people, and it’s more relevant to my life and the things that I like.”Stylus: What were your influences when writing the new songs?
JPP: …I have a weekly radio show on CKUW, and we all went on to the radio show with the producer of the record Matt Peters, and brought in our influences.
PS: For me, I just kind of tried to look back to stuff that I liked when I was playing more aggressive music like Jesus Lizard and Killing Joke.
JR: We were getting pretty specific. Even down to what did I want the bass to sound like on this record.
JPP: Our personal influences [are] a lot different. I have a lot of novelty records, and I bring a lot of that into my drumming style because I like to keep it very animated and solid, but at the same time I like to have a lot of fun.
JR: There’s some interesting stories from different songs. There’s a song called “Winter’s Grip,” and when we went into the studio I didn’t have lyrics. I knew how I wanted to sing it and I knew what the song should be about… It was getting to [the point] where I actually had to record this vocal track, so JP and I sat down, and I was like “Ok. This song is about this, it’s a bit of a party song, it’s a bit of a rager. It’s about being stuck in winter and desperately needing summer.” And we sat there, and crunched out these lyrics in a high stress situation.
JPP: We were just pacing.
JR: Yeah it was really intense, and we were just eating these stupid Rold Gold chocolate pretzels and writing these lyrics…There’s another song, “Black Smith,” I came in there wanting to write a straight up punk song.
JPP: That one sort of has the influences on there, Black Flag and the Smiths put together.
JR: Yeah but it was a joke
PS: But she’s the Black Flag part this time.
JR: Yeah I came in with this straight up punk riff. I was like “Oh yeah, this will be like a Gorgon style punk song.” And then Pat made this beautiful twinkly guitar line that changed everything.
JPP: And I had this weird beat.
JR: And it had this Smithy guitar line.
PS: Yeah I had to go twinkly on you.
JR: They were joking that we’d call it “Black Smith.”
JPP: But then it worked lyrically after that.
JR: Influences come from weird places… There’s another song “Trappers Lake” on there, and the riff that I play on there sounds very Black Sabbath influenced, but really I was listening to the nostalgia radio station and I heard this horn line that sounded really cool, and I was like “Oh what would that sound like on bass?” So that came from there, and it built into this super creepy song.
PS: I kept trying to get you to play it slower and slower until it turned into a doom metal riff.
JR: And that one’s about a fucked up creepy camping trip that I went on.
PS: Most of our songs are about Rold Gold chocolate pretzels.
JR: In most of our song writing we play different roles. I might come with a riff, or Pat will come with almost a complete song… But we’re always messing around with it, and telling each other what to do, and fighting, and yelling… I remember getting in fights over tempo sometimes…
PS: A lot of our stuff to me sounds kind of early 80s, lots of bands were experimenting with just playing guitar in a way that was kind of inspired by punk but was more melodic. I don’t think it has to be power chords all the time, or blues hammer kind of dumbass riffs. It can be melodic stuff and can be just as powerful or more powerful.
JPP: Even in the jam space, we work hard, we practice a lot, and we never want to put on a bad show.
PS: It’s funny that you guys say that because this is the easiest band I’ve ever been in.
JR: But that’s because we’re not dysfunctional. There’s conflict for sure but we’re fine with it, we reach compromises, we have meetings. We have a lot of skills, and we’re older.
PS: That’s the best thing, we’re not young and dumb anymore.
Stylus: How come you decided to work with Matt Peters and John Paul Peters?
JR: This story starts when I was part of Record of the Week Club, which was a project done by Mike Petkau. He had this genius idea to bring together all of these Winnipeg musicians for one night and you had a few hours to write and record a song that he then released that night or the very next day. I was really engrained in the sort of punk Albert scene and when I was asked to be a part of it I thought it was the strangest thing ever, but he was paying musicians a small amount of money to do it so I did it. I ended up being partnered with Matt Peters and Lloyd Peterson. I went in there being pretty on guard, this punk rock musician way too cool for school, and Matt was this Warner artist with Waking Eyes. Pleasantly, all of my preconceived notions of him fell away because he was an incredibly awesome person to work with. I found out he recorded bands, and just getting to know him through that project I thought I’d really like to work more with this guy.
JPP: Matt and I were roommates.
JR: Oh yeah there’s that connection too. Pat was the stranger in the room.
PS: He’s super easy, if you have an idea he won’t force his on you.
JPP: He just pushed us in the right ways…
PS: He also demoed. Bands have to do that. If you’re going to make a record, you’d better have already made the record. You should already make it once.
JPP: Nowadays with technology and home recordings you can pretty much do that.
PS: No one has an excuse for not demoing songs anymore.
Stylus: The title track is called “Anhedonia,” meaning an inability to feel pleasure; why did you choose that name?
PS: Because we’re old and jaded. Nothing feels good anymore.
JR: That song is about having enough negative experiences that you’re longing to not be in the world where you’re subject to desire… So it’s more of a poetic use of the word, not really literal.
PS: It’s funny because you pretty much said that and I was like ‘Oh anhedonia!’
JPP: Julia puts together the lyrics and [says], “this is what it’s about!” and Pat will chime up with something, “We’ve been trying to think of a name for this song! We just put two band names together!”
Stylus: What are some of the key differences between Anhedonia and Surf Noir?
PS: It’s better.
JPP: I’d say it feels darker.
JR: It’s refined. It’s like when you’re making a balsamic reduction. You’re boiling away the vinegar until it becomes this really intense, crazy substance. And I feel like that’s sort of what happened.
PS: We boiled Matt until he made a record for us.
JR: We put ourselves in the hot pot.
JPP: You can tell that we’ve come a long way playing music together, because after three months Pat and I hardly knew each other playing in this band, and this is after we’ve toured and played a lot of shows.
PS: I think part of the reason the second album is different too is because I started using songs [from] this side project… that didn’t work out. “Anhedonia” is one of those songs, “Crawl” is one of those songs.
Stylus: “Blacksmith” is your first music video; do you think it’s something that you would do again?
All: Oh yeah!
JR: Already in the works!
PS: We just had to show up, we didn’t have to do that much
JR: Easy for you to say! I had to do a lot. A lot of meetings, a lot of negotiations.
PS: I was kind of out of the loop for a lot of it.
JR: But you provided the house
PS: Yeah it was my spooky ass house.
JPP: Yeah I really liked the experience of making a music video.
PS: It’s got some local celebrities in it.
JR: There is a story and there’s a visual and there’s all these different things combining for this ultimate art form in a way… The people we worked with for the video and the album art were very much on the same page, they understand where we’re coming from. To create these visuals to go with the sound is very exciting and I just think why would I want to ever do anything that would make me more segmented. I’m all in! I’m all in!
PS: The video’s got some Italian horror kind of cinematography. It’s an aesthetic that kind of looks like how we sound.Stylus: What can fans expect at the Anhedonia release party?
PS: We’re going to soak them in blood and cover them in glitter.
JR: We have Slow Dancers and Pop Crimes opening. Two excellent local bands we all agreed that we love.
JPP: Very aesthetically akin to us.
JR: It’s at the West End so it’s an early show. We’re in big talks with Big Fun right now who are going to put on the after party. Details and location TBA.
JPP: I don’t think there’s going to be any bands but it’s going to be a fun after party. We’re merching up. We’re going to be getting a lot of new stuff ready, like t-shirts, and buttons, and stickers, and patches, and the records obviously.Stylus: Are you planning on doing a Canadian tour after the release?
JPP: Right now. We’ll see how it goes. It’s been a goal of the band… to go to Europe… but we want to make sure that we have stuff in place so that we aren’t just in Europe backpacking. We have a couple of new songs in the works that are quite a bit different than even Anhedonia. So now it’s another shift… And then we’re going to be recording more videos for this album. We really excel in our live shows, so that’s why we like touring.