Pushing themselves forward
July Talk is back on Canadian soil, and could not be happier to be home. Since headlining McMaster’s Welcome Week concert in September, the band has toured Europe and the United States to promote their new album Touch.
The five-piece outfit began the Canadian leg of their tour in Kitchener on Oct. 25, and frontman and woman duo Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay shared their excitement about the Canadian rock scene, taking more risks in their songwriting and their relationship with their fans.
"The community here is very tight and sort of genre-bending," Dreimanis explained, referring to the collaborative dynamic of Canadian rock artists.
"I think we make a particularly subtle but intense artistic statement. I don't think we're… trying to get clicks or get headlines in the same way international music sometimes has to do to get noticed. We sort of all listen to each other and we make music together."
Both Fay and Dreimanis performed in multiple bands prior to July Talk, and combined elements from those experiences when they started playing together.
"There was sort of a confidence in knowing we both really wanted to push each other's buttons and interact as much as possible within the show," Dreimanis said, referring to the high-energy performances he and Fay give.
Although the sensual live shows that put July Talk on the map are still an integral part of the group’s identity, Touch highlights a side of the band not yet heard by fans.
"I guess with Touch, there's… four years of tour experience— and life experience, more importantly— to kind of influence the things we want to talk about and the way we want to make music and the way we wanted it to affect people's minds and people's bodies when they heard it," Fay said, describing the new approach the group was able to take with their second album.
"When we made the first album, we'd only played a few live shows together," she added. "That album was mostly made by the few rehearsals we'd had… and not really having any input about what it was like to record an album that people were going to actually listen to, because obviously we had no idea if anyone was going to hear it or not."
July Talk’s eponymous debut album was highly successful, perhaps best quantified by their incredibly varied fan base.
"When we first started the band, Peter was like, 'my dream is for us to have a cult following,'" Fay joked.
That following has received Touch with open arms, however Dreimanis admitted that parts of the album presented new challenges for the band. He listed the album’s finale, "Touch," as one of those challenges.
"When we started the band, we had a rule against songs longer than four minutes… I had played in a lot of bands, and played music with a lot of people that sometimes fell into that line of being masturbatory art, where you're doing it for yourself more than the audience," Dreimanis said.
"And so "Touch" was the first time where [our producer] Ian kept… saying to just let it build, slow it down, let it be gradual… I think it opened an entirely new door for the band moving forward."
While July Talk’s following has grown since they first broke onto the scene in 2012, both Fay and Dreimanis have maintained a close relationship with their listeners.
"We just really like being close with the people who enjoy and like experiencing our music with us and learning about us and themselves through listening to it. Because that's kind of all it is: just one big pool for everyone to jump into and get messy with," Fay said.
"As long as it's not absolutely insane I think we'll always try to figure out how to be present and stay connected and be out there with the people after the show."
Despite their constant interactions with audiences around the world, both Dreimanis and Fay have their own pre-show rituals to fully slip into the performance mindset.
"I've been dancing [to Nick Cave’s "Dig Lazarus Dig"] a lot, which just kind of gives me a confidence and swagger that's not necessarily gained by sitting in a sweaty van with a bunch of your best buds," said Dreimanis.
"And I'm really into finding the most reverb-y spot in a venue and just going in and singing Michael Jackson really loudly. Because there's no better friend for a self-conscious singer than a room full of reverb," Fay added.
As July Talk begins their tour across their home country, their excitement is palpable and there is no doubt that they will continue to touch the lives of their fans.