Experimental Music Love

January 8, 2008

Dears Interview

Filed under: Features,Interviews — by Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 7:54 pm

Canada is now the dominant nation when it comes to inspiring and majestic indie rock. And EML managed to catch up with one of the bands who kickstarted it all, The Dears, just before an tremendous showing at Glasgow’s Oran Mor. Bassist Martin Pelland tells all of the bands live reputation, comparisons to Morrissey and how rubbish Bon Jovi are.


Experimental Music Lover – The band have built their reputation on giving incredible live performances. What is it that makes The Dears so special when playing to a crowd?

Martin (French Canadian bassist with a mouth on him)– I don’t know exactly what it is, but this band has a love for the stage, the live performance. Some bands don’t like to tour, but we do. I like to go out there and try and create something that makes me feel good. And I know when you feel good and there’s a crowd in front of you, usually there’s a good chance the vibe will go there way as well, and they’ll send it back to you in turn. You can get a pretty cool exchange some times.

It varies from city to city. It could be a crowd that’s very quiet – they try and analyse everything you do, which is kinda weird, but they’ll give you a really warm reception at the end of a song. Whilst on some other nights, it’s just crazy, with people screaming during the songs. I think it’s just fun, being on stage, for me it was part of the job when I joined this band. I know the element of that.

Some bands don’t give a shit when playing live. It’s what their record company will ask them to do – get on the road and play. And it doesn’t really matter if they play good or not, the album is still selling and people are coming to the concert, and that’s all they want. But, in our case, it’s different. We really try to give a show.

What really matters in the end, is that you’re there to translate something you feel through a bass line or a drum full or whatever and you might as well try and do it right. There are some people out there paying to see you play and they should have the best possible effort from the band.



EML – Have there been nights when it’s not gone right?

M – There are some nights, like for everyone in life, like when you go to school and some days you’re not as focused as you should be, but you try to make sure that doesn’t happen. I think it’s part of The Dears experience. If you like the band then you really have to see them live. I wouldn’t say that of all the bands I know. But there are bands that need people to know about them live, and I think we’re one of those bands, and I’m really proud of that. It’s a big achievement.



EML – Is there anywhere that you still really want to play?

M – On the moon. That’s for sure. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. It would be a good way to fulfill another dream. But, I don’t know. I’d like to go to South America and play places I’ve never been to before either as a tourist or a musician.

Definitely when I was kid, the dream of playing music in England was always up there. The first gig I did in London, I was like ‘wow’.



EML – It fulfilled your expectations?

M – Yes. I mean like, you’ve got to be careful with this. You’re a student, and I guess that most of the people reading this are students and you’re going to have dreams and you’ve got to be careful to not let those dreams get in the way of something bigger you could achieve in life. I know some people who got bitter cos they got their dreams, but it was at the wrong time to achieve it, and it makes me sad to see that.

I mean, I’d like to call them goals, objectives. But it doesn’t always have to be a success. You have to move on and create new goals, to be able to function as a human being…



EML – Learn from life’s experiences?

M – Yeah, like I was saying. I wanted to play music and play in Europe and England, and now I’ve done it, it’s easy to think ‘oh I said it and I did it’ but some people I know, it was there dream to travel the world and play music and now their 33 years old and they don’t have the lifestyle to be able to do that and they won’t be able to do it. But it’s not the end of the world. You should be able to decide to have other dreams.


EML – You’ve been lucky?

M – I was lucky enough. Cos there is a part of luck, and a lot of hard work. A lot of decisions that 99% of the population would go the other way, but you go ‘Nope, I have a feeling’. But this doesn’t work all the time.

I sound like an old man talking about philosophy and shit like that, but I dunno. I think it’s important to have perspective. I mean, like I say, I haven’t played in South America, but if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Life goes on.

There are so many things in life, and if you only have one goal, then you’re just going to be sad for your life. You’ve got to live for the moment and seek adventure in everything.



EML – Your new single, ‘Whites Only Party’, is going to attract a lot of attention with a title like that. What’s the message behind it?

M – I like to let people read the lyrics and figure out what it’s about. Obviously I didn’t write them, Murray did. It’s weird, because I never thought it would get that much attention. The title could be read in so many ways. The racism subject in there is obvious for many people. There are so many things in life that are totally unfair. Not just black and white people, but gay and straight. And there are so many things subject to confrontation, and I think a song like that has a positive message behind it. If you like a situation where one side is in control, and the other is in a minority, trying to find its own niche, yet when they do this the other side start freaking out.

It’s a subject that some people who are very into politics would find a lot of references in there, like religion or whatever. But I don’t think Murray wrote it like that. He wrote something that was honest and a vision of what he was seeing and what he went through. It could be a very personal song. He’s always been a black guy surrounded by a lot of white people, but native Americans could relate to this song as well, about how they’ve been oppressed and made to feel as if they don’t belong.



EML – There is a hopeful message behind it, a like the rest of your new album…

M – I’m glad that you see that. Some people thought with the title that we were all pessimists.



EML – There is an irony in it…

M – Exactly. Everybody’s been a loser once in their life. I hope so. It helps you believe that you’re a part of society. Cos if you’ve just been a winner, when you get those knocks later on, you’re going to take it pretty hard. The title pushes some people to think we’re full of darkness and drama, but if you read the lyrics, it’s more like looking at the world and asking questions. But not saying how everything sucks and we should have a revolution. It’s an observational record.



EML – This ironic humour has been one of the reasons why you get compared a lot to The Smiths. How do you handle such illustrious comparisons?

M – To be honest I never thought it would go that far – this Morrissey thing. Somebody once said that Murray’s voice and intonations were similar to Morrissey. I don’t think The Dears sound like The Smiths at all. We may have disappointed a lot of people, and that’s the sad part of it. It seems that people have to relate to other bands to sell a new band these days.

People are not stupid when it comes to music. They buy so much of it and they are aware of sounds, they can listen to whatever music they want. A lot of my friends like The Dears but don’t like The Smiths. When people turn up to the concert thinking we’re the new Smiths, they’re going to be pissed. They’re like “they’re nothing like The Smiths man. Their rhythm section was rocking. It was like Led Zeppelin,” and I’m going, well good, because as much as I like Rourke and Joyce, I think we have a drummer who sounds way more like John Bonham.



EML – You did open for Morrissey in America a couple of times. How did the fans take to you?

M – I think the fans did react pretty well. We got a lot of good comments on websites. Morrissey came to one of our gigs in LA actually. Which is great you know, but we have to carry on touring and not just sit and say ‘hey Morrissey likes us’.



EML – How disruptive have the many line up changes of the band been?

M – I don’t know really. We’ve had this line up for the past 3 years. A lot of bands don’t even last 3 years.

EML – What keeps you all together now?

M – To put things in perspective, it’s never really been people leaving the band in a bitter way or feeling sick of all this. It’s weird, things happen in a way that members have other goals, like they wanted to go back to school. Bridgette left band 4 years ago. She wanted to go back to teaching. That was just before a tour so it was a bit uneasy but Valerie picked up the songs real quickly and it was all okay.

John left the band cos he wanted to go to school and get a degree. He probably didn’t see us going on the road or anything, cos at that time we were just a small Canadian band. He’s happy for us though, and has his own project at school.

The first Dears line up consisted of just Murray and 3 of his friends, and they just didn’t want to do what they do now. It was his baby’s first birthday a couple of months ago and a few of them even came to the party.



EML – So there’s never been any bitterness?

M – Oh no. It’s weird cos I know we’ve changed line ups so many times. But John came to my wedding earlier this year. It’s never been that we hate other so much that people have just had to get out.



EML – Have you had a chance to take in Scotland much?

M – I know Edinburgh pretty well now. We’ve been there a few times as a band. Val and I are the tourists in the band and we just like to take in everywhere we go.



EML – How does it compare with Montreal?

M – We don’t have castles and stuff like that. There’s a similarity with the nature, and how beautiful it is. Like today I was jogging in the botanical gardens and I was like ‘Oh my god, it’s so beautiful’. I like Scotland a lot. I’d say Edinburgh would be in my top 3 places to move to in Europe.



EML – Now Canada has a lot going for it today in terms of music. There’s not only you guys, but the likes of New Pornographers, The Unicorns, Arcade Fire and A Silver Mt. Zion as well. Why is Canada producing all this great music at the moment?

M – Well, it’s a small country in terms of population. The way the industry is set in Canada – it’s unbelievable how sick it is, how bad it is. It’s set in a way that the industry has an opinion on music that the rest of the world doesn’t agree with. They always think we won’t be able to sell publicity on our radio station if we don’t play Britney Spears and so on. So what they do, is instead of pushing for Canadian bands who are having success everywhere else in the world, they push Canadian bands who have a secure bunch of pop songs and sound like Bon Jovi or whatever. That’s why you have a band like Nickelback. But they just sound like Bon Jovi or really, really bad Pearl Jam. And I’ve never against these guys, but I’m just saying that the industry is sick. Every radio station is thinking about their ratings, and a lot of the population is over 40 so they end up playing lots of Bryan Adams and Styx, stuff people grew up with.

And in Quebec, where we’re from there’s this stupid rule where 65% of the music has to be French and 50% from Quebec. I’m a French speaker and I know how important it is to protect the culture, but lyrics are not the most important part of music. I had to discover music on my own that had this impact on my life. And if I hadn’t been curious enough and find the right DJ that was hosting only one hour a week of the right music at 12 at night on some obscure radio station, I would maybe be playing Bon Jovi type music.

It’s sad that 50% of the content has to be from Quebec. It’s a small place Quebec, and in order for record companies to make money they have to invest in stuff that will be played on the radio. So they go with safe stuff that just sounds the same. There was never anything cool. Until the Internet came along and had this impact on music. We could listen to other music and record in our bedrooms. And alternative radio stations had more stuff to play. It encouraged people to try hard.

And in answer to your question, you’re either limited to playing what will become popular in Canada, or you become a ‘real’ artist and do what you want to do. And writing 6 minute songs with 4 parts is what a lot of these bands are doing. And other countries are taking notice of these bands.

In Quebec, Arcade Fire aren’t played outside Montreal, and nobody really knows them. But it’s only abroad that people pay attention.



EML – And finally, do you have a word of advice for any young bands out there?

M – Well…



EML – I said ‘a’ word.

M – Hard work.



EML – That’s two words.

M – Hyphenate it.


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