Sounds About Write

Music. Theatre. Life. It's All Happening.

Filtering by Tag: Toronto

Interview: Tom West

1.You’ve been writing music since you were 15 years old. For most song writers it can either come at them really easily, or it’s incredibly difficult. What was the writing process like for you?

It took a long time, let’s put it that way. I guess some people can write amazing songs straight up, but i couldn’t. So over time it took lots of practice and years of writing terrible stuff just so it can develop over time. I still kinda cringe at the old stuff I dig up that I used to do. But it’s been one great big learning curve. As for the process, for me personally, the best way I can explain it is it generally starts from a simple concept or image and trying to build the song around it.

2.Your 2013 release, A Spark in the Dark was 2 years in the making. Was it a lot of perfecting that went into it in order to make sure everything you wanted on there was there? Or was it a lot more so int he writing process and you wanted to take your time?

It wasn't the writing.  Writing the songs tends to come out fairly quickly for me. Because I tend to write pretty quickly, it’s either done in one go or within a couple of days. I’ll mostly have the words and the main melody pretty much worked out in the general form of a song The real stretch of time is just organizing the logistics of it, which is actually really boring. I recorded the second album with my friend, who is notorious for, well, he’s not unreliable, but he likes to work on his schedule  so it was a struggle us so it was a struggle to get us to get together. But when we did have the time to spend, it was a lot of time spent experimenting and playing around with ideas. The beauty of it is that we weren’t on studio time, which just means that we’re to out any money. It was just basically working in a shed in my parents’  house. Anyway, the more time we spent, the more time we got to work. 

3.Your newest album is slated for 2015. What is the new album like in comparison to your previous? You’ve also released your new single “The Call”. Was there any particular reason you wanted it as the lead single? 

It’s pretty different because it’s much better. It’s a lot better audio wise. We tracked the old album using 2 cheap microphones and a laptop, but this one was done in a proper studio, so it has all the bells and whistles. Also, the producer of this album is a well known producer here in Australia, and he’s worked on several acts so he brought his own stamp to my music which ells to give it a different feel. I think people will still see common elements between the 2 when the new stuff comes out. Overall, I really feel like it’s still pretty much me deep down even through all of the shiny product. 

As for The Call, it was the first single because of the recording time of it. I did these new recordings in 2 chunks more or less. So I did some in May, and one of which was The Call because at the time we only did a few b-sides, you know, the non-single tracks. Then I got funding from the state government at home which meant I had extra funds to use on the projects. So I went back 3 months later and that was the majority of what wasn’t released yet, so that’s why it [The Call] was the first single. It came from the first session that was more or less complete before the rest of the stuff was finished. 

4.Lastly, it always seems to be a hit and miss with international artists trying to make their way to Canada or the US, but you’ve lucked out and done really well with these international audiences. Was it a struggle for you at first to get your music out there, or was it just an easy fit right away?

Actually, I think the struggle continues. It’s not easy, no. I’m still an independent act so it’s always been a bit harder. When it’s a lot of work, I think you always can’t sit back, you need to continue to work. There’s no letting up, I suppose. I wouldn’t want to sit back and be like ‘oh, that was so easy, I’ll just let it all come to me’, no. I don’t want that approach. It’s great to be here now, so I’ll just keep smashing it all out! That’s our approach. I think we know from what we’ve heard that the way things have been in Canada, everything has been well received. That being said, I’ve really only been to Toronto, but still [laughs]! But every time we come back here, it continues to be well received and it’s my belief that it’s a good market here for that kind of stuff. Overall though, it’s never easy. We always want to keep pushing and give it a good pop. 

Interview: Midday Swim

1. You guys have really only been together for a little under a year. Is it intimidating getting into this business, or has the scene been welcoming to you guys?

David: We've been really well received. We've actually been playing music together for quite a while. We had all been in different high school bands together and in different projects. We've been writing and rehearsing these songs and we've gained quite a bit of confidence by getting great feedback from the audience, friends and family, so we're really excited to keep playing and sharing the music with everyone. 



2. You music really hangs onto the summer vibe, and you spend a lot of time at the cottage where you guys basically formed. Is that a sort of staple sound that you want to hang onto? 

Definitely! We want our music to be a celebration of who we are and for people to get lost in a dreamy vibe in the sound of it. Having the songs finished at the cottage, we do some writing, quite a bit of writing in the city, so getting up at the cottage and having the environment influence us and feeling so relaxed up there, it really adds to the laid back sound of the tunes.  

3. With your early start, it’s really impressive to note that you guys have had two successful singles in under six months. That’s really great! Is it alarming to see such a sudden success, or do you feel it’s something that grows on you the more you see it?

Thanks, yea, we're really excited to see our music so well received and it makes us feel like we're onto something that people are responding well too and we just want to keep working hard at getting the next tune and the next tune and the next tune out. Our album comes out May 1st and we're really excited to be showing the people who come out to our live shows, that's where they really get to hear the album.

4. Your debut album is expected to come out this May. What was the recording process like? What was it like to actually be in the studio and properly recording your music?

It was really fun. Our drummer Max tracked a couple of songs and we'd go record guitars and vocals at the cottage and we recorded this album in two parts; the first in the summer and it was a really fun time up at the cottage and actually go swimming and have fires and hang out with friends. And then in the winter time we went up and it was freezing cold. It was actually the coldest weekend of the whole year. Luckily our friend Blair was bale to bring our gear down from the top of the hill to the cottage on his snow mobile. That was quite a different experience in comparison to what we did in the summer because there was no running water this time around. It was very fun though that we got to relax once again. It was so quiet up there and we really got to focus on the music and really experience what the music was like without hearing anything else. We really enjoyed taking our time because we didn't feel too much pressure to complete it quickly and to create a sonic escape backed with rock music. We enjoyed taking our time and not feeling rushed in the studio and we enjoyed doing it ourselves. 

5. This is also your first time playing CMW, is it nerve wracking playing festivals in front of crowds who may not be familiar with your music, or is it more so encouraging?

We're really looking forward to that cause it ties in with our CD coming out, and the national and international audiences that come as well as some industries, so we're excited to see them come out. From the response we've been getting with playing shows, it's been amazing. Sometimes before we finish playing a song the audience picks up on the words and they join along singing with us which is something we encourage and truly love. We're really looking forward to people celebrating with us and having a good time because this kind of music is made for people to enjoy themselves. 

Interview: Billy the Kid



Your new album was produced by famed UK singer-songwriter Frank Turner. What was it like working with him and can you tell me a bit about what he brought to the process?

It was really laid back and pretty normal. He made it more about us playing as musicians and less of a musician/producer thing. We were all kind of staying in a room playing together. As for what he brought to the process, well, he brought his bass guitar! [laughs] He wanted to start recording live off the floor and to kind of have us go back to our roots.

Your new album Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, explores a few different genres including alt-rock and even a bit of country. Did you draw upon any particular inspirations when writing this record?

Well, I think if you dig a bit back into my past, you’ll see that I grew up on punk rock and that the first few records I made were all punk rock inspired. Then I started doing more stuff that branched out. I like all kinds of music, and I want to write all kinds of music instead of sticking to just one format. Hopefully we can make a song, regardless of the genre or sub-genre and still let it be our style. But liking all kinds of music helps because it allows you to expand on different styles.

As you said, youve been in punk bands before. Whats the difference between playing with Billy and the Lost Boys in comparison to your solo music? How have you found the transition? 

I don’t know. I’m not trying to evade the question, but for some reason it’s been the same thing in my brain. Even with this thing that’s being called “Billy the Kid”, it’s like sometimes I have a band playing with me as a back up even though it’s under my name. But I guess the obvious difference is that it was louder and faster in the past. Whereas on my own musically, it can be more mellow with pianos and and acoustic guitarist. Regardless, it’s just about making songs for me. It makes me more limitless and it’s very freeing when you don’t try to be something just cause it’s what you’ve been in the past.

Youre currently touring in support of your new album. How do you go about taking the album from the studio to the stage? Do you typically change any elements to it to make it more exciting?

Yea! There are a couple of us these days so we can really do whatever we want up there and play to the room, so to speak. Like if it’s a Friday night and people are looking to hang out and party, then we can adapt to that setting. Or if it’s a quiet theatre, then we’re able to do that as well. It’s not ‘here’s the band, and we play the same songs’. It’s all in my creative brain, or at least I like to think I have a creative brain. [laughs] Anyways, it’s really about adaptability, and how important it is to switch it up with a combination of line ups so that it’s not the same thing every night. Sometimes people will come and see the same tour but at different shows, or they’ll see several shows in a row, and the need to switch it up is why they keep coming back. I’ve had a fan tell me, ‘you don’t make a setlist, you make a cheat sheet’, and it’s true I do! I write down the first few notes of the song, and then I go from there.

I just want to have a good, happy life and have fun every time we play a show. Not that it’s hard, but it’s easier to do when it’s exciting. You just gotta find ways to keep it from becoming stale month after month.

Youve done a lot of DIY work to get to where you are today. How has it helped you not only as an musician but as an individual?

It’s been really helpful. Sometimes you can play music, and the response isn’t what you wanted. I decided that if nobody was going to help me, then that’d be okay, and I’d figure out how to do this my own way, which involved staying up late and being innovative and thinking ‘okay, how can we get this music made, and how can we put it out in the world?’ Growing up in punk rock really helped as well because in that lifestyle you’re encouraged to be yourself, and it’s okay to do what you want to do and be what you are, whereas you’re limited in the pop radio format. The DIY style has been half my life, so in a weird way I don’t feel like I’ve learned half of what I’m supposed to and luckily it’s evolving and you pick up skills along the way. That came from wanting to put out music, and when I look back, I think ‘yea, you have to do a lot of crazy stuff, and we do a lot of what people don’t think of because it’s an underground thing’. But coming to terms with the fact that that isokay makes me still want to do it, and it’s why I’m still here after all these years.

Interview: Michael Bernard Fitzgerald


Your new album, YES explores genres as diverse as pop and rock all the way to Motown. Do you ever find it difficult to blend genres when writing? Also what draws you to those particular sounds and was it a conscious decision to include them?  

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald: I don’t find it particularly difficult to genre hop. We don’t particularly set out to have a record have a specific sound. I like different vocals sound, or horns, or drums; I love all of those instruments. So, I like to have it all make its way in there somehow.

I know that most artists typically try and brush off reviews, but being that YES also happens to be your debut album and your first step into the spotlight in a way, I imagine it can be kind of intimidating. Do you ever feel anxious about releasing new music into the world? How do you best respond to criticism (both good and bad)?

MBF: I’ve had my music put out before, which kind of helped to set the stage for when I could start to tour the country, so in that regard, I’ve dealt with reviews on and off. But I guess the best way to survive a review is to not let the good ones get to you because then you’ll just subject yourself to just that. I’m looking forward to making new music again, so I’ll get to go through that whole process again. The thing is, I put my heart out there with my music so I don’t get so nervous with it anymore. It’s actually a process I look forward to.

I understand that you travelled to Australia after high school to do some soul searching. Did traveling abroad impact your sound in any way? Were there any particular inspirations you drew?

MBF: I’m actually not really sure what “soul searching” even means [laughs]! I went there and it was fun. I was basically living on a boat and it was my first time writing with an acoustic guitar. I was 18 and on my own, so it was a great time to experience a lot of things, and luckily the guitar was one of them. So when I got back to Canada, I just jumped right back into the music making process again.

You’ve toured with some pretty incredible acts including K-OS, Third Eye Blind, and Lights. While on the road, did you ever ask or get any key pieces of advice from them that you still take with you?

MBF: Actually, out of all of those names you listed, Lights is one that really sticks in my mind. She is one of the nicest individuals I’ve worked with and is as low key and kind as it gets. So in doing a bunch of dates with her, there was a lot of learning along the way. Whether it was from the way she treats her crew, to how things get accomplished each night. And in having someone who I could see have great fun, and witness her humble fan base, she was certainly the kind of person you’d want to be in the world of entertainment. This business is very ‘monkey see monkey do’, so you want to learn off people in a good way. I mean, I didn’t sit down and have a Q&A session with her every night, but there were times I got to hang on her bus and be around the team. There’s a lot you can pick up on everyday from travelling with people like that.

You’re on tour currently. What is your live show like? When performing the new record, are there particular elements of your live show that you do differently than in the studio?

MBF: Our live shows are BORING [laughs]! No, I’m kidding. It’s funny you bring this up cause I was just playing on CTV and I was dressed in all black, and I faced the back wall and did kind of this booty-centric kind of dance and it was enchanting but entrancing, and they didn’t know what to make of it. Seriously though, it’s just a low-key night. This time around I have this wonderful band that has two drummers and a bass player so there’s a lot of room to dance to that.

In terms of live versus the record, we do some things from the record, for sure, but when you play the same songs so many times you like to hear them differently, so I like to add different instruments and stuff like that. Live shows are always evolving, and it’s the best time to experiment with stuff like that.

Interview: The Dying Arts



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.

Lets 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.

Interview: Birds of Bellwoods

You guys seem to have a firm base in the folk sound but you also do a wonderful job of stringing in pop, R&B and even harmony sections. Is it at all difficult to meld each of these genres into one cohesive sound? What has impacted the development of your sound as a band the most?

Adrian Morningstar: I would say it’s not very difficult actually. Simply because all of our influences vary so widely. Like we’re all bringing in influences from our own lives, and our own specific tastes in music.

Stevie Joffe: I would agree with Adrian that it’s not difficult only because I don’t think we’re consciously attempting to meld any of those sounds together. I don’t think we’re aiming at having anyone to describe us that way, and I think it’s something that happens naturally when you infuse all of the influences that we have. I think the way music is created nowadays is a combination of a lot of different influences from a lot of different genres and that’s just the reality of existing in a time where music is at our finger tips. How can you not be influenced by the people around you?

AM: Just to add on, I’d like to say that yes, we’re making folk music, but we’re not attempting to make folk music. I think our makeup of instruments and vocals sort of made us folk from the get go, rather than attempting to write folk songs.

SJ: What we’re primarily trying to do is tell stories, and different experiences and stories may end up sounding entirely different, but fundamentally what we’re trying to do is tell those stories in the best way possible.

You guys take your name from Trinity Bellwoods Park here in Toronto, which I understand you are quite fond of. What would you say was your favourite memory there?

AM: I would say one I always come back to for one reason or another, is this image I have of myself and a girl, a girl from time past sitting in, I guess it’s the dog park, but anyways in the middle of the day walking her dog. And it was just such a simple moment, but for some reason it had this lasting image in my mind. Summer, you know?

SJ: My favourite memory would have to be this rehearsal we had early on in our time together when we got together and drank more beer than we should have and did our first ever interview as a band with a company called We in the Pocket. But basically any of my Bellwoods memories blur together [laughs]. It’s a crazy thing cause it actually reminds me of the time I spent in Montreal and I get to keep a little pocket of that alive in this beautiful neighborhood of Toronto.

Some of your older existing online recordings were recorded all in one take. Do you think that contributes to the raw intensity of the music that you guys are after? 

SJ: Actually, all of the music we’ve released so far has been recorded all in one take. We’ve only every done live sessions, but we are right now working on our first studio album. So, to answer your question, I absolutely think it’s what we’re after. I think one of those things that we’re pursuing for most is exactly as you said: rawness, intensity, truth, honesty, both in the way we formulate these stories and in the way we record them. Right now as we’re putting out our music, we don’t want to show people what our producer can do, we want to show people what we can do and what is the closest to a true Birds of Bellwoods concert experience. We hope that when you hear the material that we’ve released so far, you’re getting a true sense of us as if we’re playing in your living room to you alone.

AM: I just want to say that on top of all that Stevie said, by performing live or by recording live not only are we trying to capture the sound, the meaning, everything that comes into writing the song, but we’re also trying to capture the moment of the sound.

SJ: That’s arguably the most important point. When you hear what we’ve recorded thus far, you’re hearing all of us play together. You’re hearing us singing to and for each other and soliciting an experience as a full band as opposed to something that’s been pieced together.

You’ve just recently released your latest EP, Livewires. How has the reception been thus far? Can you tell us a bit about the writing and recording process? 

AM: So far, yeah. It’s funny cause we basically needed something to bring with us when we went on tour. We went on tour and we needed something to bring with us to share. So we thought: ‘How the hell do we get an EP together? Oh right, let’s rent mics, and record straight to logic’.

SJ: It was all rugged and came together fast and dirty, but that’s the way we like it.

AM: But with that said, we only intended to press 200 copies and only sell it as such on the tour and since then people have been asking us for copies so we’re currently getting more copies pressed. We’re selling them off Bandcamp but we’ve gotten some good feedback!

SJ: We’ve been surprised and overwhelmed by the reception of the EP. We didn’t expect it be in such demand. We just figured it would be something to help tie us over until the full studio album is released. But what ended up happening was that the demand from our audience became so high that we’ve had to consider it a full EP. I’m still excited about the fact that our live EP is a step out cause it represents us well.

One really interesting aspect of your band is that there isn’t just the staple, guitar/vocal/bass/drum combo, but rather a much larger expansion. There’s banjos, stand up bass, mandolin, etc. Do you guys ever struggle when doing that live in contrast to the studio, or is it something that comes quite naturally for the group?

AM: I would say the fact that we have stuck with the shape and sound that our voices provide for us, and what they bring, we haven’t had much trouble with it yet. And I think it’s interesting not having percussion. We’ve only really performed live with a percussionist once and that was sort of out of our element.

SJ: It was something we tried, and it was fun, but we wanted our sound to come from a different place. Percussion is something we introduce to ourselves in correlation with our instruments. So what I would say is, we’ve talked about the raw sound and that our studio recordings have been live so far, so that’s really been a huge favour to ourselves in that our transition from the studio to our live performance has been pretty well seamless. We’re lucky enough right now to be playing with a pure enough set up, both in studio and out of studio, that it’s all been in motion.

AM: We really carry our sound on our backs in the sense that it’s all the same whether it’s plugged in or not amplified at all. Either in studio, out of studio, in Bellwoods Park or in our living room. It’s still going to be the same instrumentation, so it’s going to have a similar effect.

SJ: No matter the setting, you’re always going to get an intimate performance and an incendiary performance out of us.