If you consider getting major radio play, selling out venues, and having their last album break the top 10 spot on the Canadian Album Chart a success, then yeah, this band’s hard work sure has paid off.
Arriving in a snowy Vancouver Wednesday night for the last show of their 2012 tour, Pop Counter//Culture got a chance to sit down with Ryan Guldemond and Ali Siadat. Both appeared calm, but expressed excitement about performing the night’s homecoming show. As articulate as ever, both shared some insightful thoughts about the notion of escape, love, accessibility and of course, their brand new album, The Sticks.
How does it feel returning back to Vancouver and performing in one of the city’s grandest venues?
Ryan: Feels really good. Momentous, I’d say.
The vision for an album as a whole is just as important as the individual songs that make it up. What was the big picture behind The Sticks?
Ryan: I think just that – make a record that is greater than the sum of its parts, that has a story, a contour that is comprised of singles. Dynamics was a big one too, which kind of falls into the same mentality as making a record as a whole. Just loud, quiet, hard, soft, angry, blissful – the poles of emotion in song texture, just so the listener can feel refreshed and like they’ve been on a journey.
The album opens with a soft piano melody, which differs from your previous three records. Why did you decide to set the album up in such a way?
Ryan: Same reason, I mean as we started recording and writing for this record, it became evident that it was more of a classic structure album. There were thematic undertones and reiterations. It was very eclectic and so, the idea of having this intro piece just seemed very romantic and appropriate.
The newest single ‘Bit By Bit’ refers to getting away. What’s your escape when you feel like getting “away from the people on the ground”?
Ali: I think I just do it within. There’s no real escape except what you can provide for yourself and even then I don’t know if too much of an escape is all that healthy. I believe in being as tuned in to reality as possible, so when it does come to needing to escape, it’s just a question of escaping my own demons. I try to do that within. It sounds cheesy, but I’ve never put it into words before.
You sound a bit disillusioned.
Ali: Not at all. Quite inspired. It’s a spiritual practice to be devoted to being tuned in, to know what’s going on around you and within yourself.
Ryan: I tend to agree with Ali. I’m only human. Food, substances, sex, music, things that suspend the moment and are pleasing. I come to understand that stuff isn’t true escape or maybe it is and that’s why Ali’s definition is very positive and inspiring – the idea of not escaping because people generally do so in fleeting and unhealthy ways. We all do in our own way. I think not escaping is a good mantra.
Musicians throughout history have attempted to capture this emotion called love. The new music video for ‘Let’s Fall In Love’ captures a more raw side of it. Is love all a game and if so, is it one worth playing?
Ryan: I don’t know what love all is, but I know that it’s a lot of games being played in the arena of love. Sometimes it’s worth it and sometimes you look back and feel like you didn’t’ need that. Regardless, it’s all supposed to go down the way it does.
Ali: Love is not all that important besides the meaning of the word getting twisted by people’s egos. I think to a lot of people love is solely defined as some kind of blissful escape you can have into another person…true love that people talk about a lot, I personally feel is a myth. I think that the song is one of the few tongue-and-cheek songs on the album that refers directly to that point of view and that people are often kidding themselves when they think that their life is going to be completed by another person. Life is completed by you.
Music is getting harder and harder to define. Is there such thing as genre anymore?
Ryan: The words we use to stamp on anything can be seen as fraudulent or lies. We invent these words because we need meaning. So yeah, I don’t believe in anything anyone says all that much really when you get down to it. It helps to communicate with people because we all come to use the same terminology and that helps.
Ali: Words are just guidelines that point in a direction. At the end of the day, you’re not going to know what music is unless you hear it.
Music is becoming very accessible too. What are the negatives and positives that you see with this increase in accessibility?
Ryan: I can regurgitate what other people see as pros and cons, but I don’t view it that way. It’s all kind of evolutionary. It’s all meant to be – the way it’s coming out. I feel pretty disconnected to the heated emotion and debate surrounding that. With such rampant accessibility, the competition gets stiff and also, the voices of these artists get clouded with all the murmurs of so-called artist – people that can fabricate a persona using Garage Band and the Internet. I think it gets a little diluted. I can empathize with that, but at the same time there are so many pros that can be born out of that. You might find a lot of brilliance out of the under-educated or under-experienced.
When you guys decided to become musicians, how did that image of being a musician in the mind of your younger self compare to your current musician self?
Ali: Exactly what I thought it would be. Blissful. Amazing. Lots of parties, lots of drugs, no, I’m lying. I don’t know if I ever pictured it as a kid. I feel like I lived in the present then and I live in the present now and it’s all happening in a very real way.