Interview: The Dying Arts
AS PREVIOUSLY SEEN ON ANCHOR SHOP-November 24, 2014
Things have really taken off for you guys since releasing your self-titled debut EP earlier this fall. The EP was produced by Jon Drew who has worked with everyone from Alexisonfire and Fucked Up to Tokyo Police Club. What can you tell me about putting this EP together and what Jon brought to the process?
Mike Portoghese: We were in a position where we had a full-length EP, but it didn’t work for us because we had grown and changed as a band. So, we wanted someone experienced who knew how to make stuff sound good, not only for radio, but to keep it raw live. I hate using those words [raw] because they sound overused, but that’s what it sounds like when an actual band plays in a room, which is what we wanted. But the big thing with working with Jon was that he kept a cool head and he knew when to step in and when not to. He knew when to be a contributor and give his input, but then he knew when to be a producer and say ‘Okay, I’m gonna record it’.
As you just mentioned, there is something really raw and arguably unapologetic about your guys’ sound. Where does that come from?
Portoghese: It’s tough to say. I guess I could say musically for me writing the songs, I love punk rock as much as I love indie rock, but I also have a lot of frustration and anger. I know that’s really “emo” to say, but it can be rough in your 20’s. I was a video director and it was frustrating because I wanted to be in a band. During that time I wrote a bunch of angry songs, so I guess it all came out eventually. Speaking for the band and not just myself, we like the energy of punk tunes and how the audience reacts to them versus the slower ones. There is one slow song on the EP, but then again there’s also an up-tempo poppy song. It doesn’t all fit as a whole, but it’s a small example of what we do.
For our live shows, people don’t expect a lot of screaming right off the bat, so we like to start off somber and slow and then we’ll break into the punk stuff. A lot of people are into the full out punk and full on screaming, but everyone in the band has an eclectic taste in music, so why not try to bring them all together?
It is becoming increasingly evident that the punk rock scene here in Toronto is very much alive and well. You guys seem to fit in nicely amidst that sound. What do you think sparked a revived interest in punk rock in this city and why is it that people find it so appealing right now?
Portoghese: It’s hard to say if we fit in with the punk scene because we’re more on the indie side. We’ve been doing this sound for a while and when we were hearing other great punk bands we went ‘Holy shit!’ we could totally play shows with these kind of bands; it’s familiar enough that we’re all in the same world. I’ve seen a lot of rock bands that have gone mainstream and become really cheesy. It’s like either cheesy radio rock or full on metal, so I think this scene makes things different.
Let’s talk a bit about touring because you guys have been out on the road for a little while now. I think it’s fair to say that finding your way onto a legitimate tour is one of the more difficult things that independent bands struggle with these days. You guys recently signed with The Agency Group. How has working with them changed things for you guys?
Portoghese: They have definitely had the biggest impact on us so far; they look after bands that aren’t signed. It came about from people telling them about us, and when our record came out, they were like ‘Fuck, these guys are good, let’s get them now before someone else does’. They took us under their wings, and as far as from a professional standpoint, we’re pretty green, so they gave us a lot of advice. They definitely opened a lot of doors we wouldn’t have been able to ourselves. The thing is I don’t think a lot of people took us seriously for a few years, and maybe it’s because our name sounds “goth-like”, but that’s not what we’re going for at all. It’s meant to be about the fact that the arts themselves are dying. I guess people associate [the word] death with being morbid, but that’s not the case here. Anyways, we were under the radar for so long, so when we joined The Agency Group, everything turned around. It’s sweet that people give a fuck now.
Let talk a bit about media. You guys were recently featured in NOW magazine’s 50:50 Issue, which looked at showcasing great Canadian talent. That’s a pretty big deal. How do you guys respond to your own press (good or bad)?
Portoghese: We do read everything we see. It’s been mostly positive reviews. I guess my only issue is getting misquoted. I don’t like when people quote me incorrectly, and yet it’s printed in quotes! But that’s my only problem. I think for the most part the press has been flattering and it’s only certain people that have cared up to this point. Once we joined The Agency Group we had people who had once brushed us off come up to us and say ‘Oh hey buddy, how’s it going?’. I mean, we’re really nice guys so we’re always nice to bands and people starting out small or young. I think that’s cause we think we’re still that band even though we’re not. Obviously we’re not young anymore, but it does still sometimes feel like it. We try to never think we’re better than anyone else.