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Monday, 24 August 2015

Interview With Small Town Lungs


Seeing people you grew up with succeed is always a gratifying thing. While Small Town Lungs aren't a household name quite yet, these Whitby boys have all the talent and bravado to become one of the "next big things" in Canadian indie rock. I recently sat down with the band (and about 15 other drunken revelers) on the patio of Biermarket in Toronto to talk about the "Next Big Thing" experience, making a music video, and hearing themselves on the radio. Enjoy.

Introduce yourselves and say what you do in the band
Tom: I'm Tom, I'm lead vocals, guitar, and some keyboard.
Zach: I'm Zach, I play drums and do vocals.
Rowan: I'm Rowan, I play guitar, I do vocals, and I play synth.
Kory: I'm Kory, I play guitar and keys, and percussion.
Jason: I'm Jason, I play bass and synth, and I do vocals.

You've been played on the radio, you sold out a show in your home town, and you're about to play the Phoenix tomorrow to a capacity crowd. You've done a lot of things in a year and a half of being a band that most bands never get to do. How does it feel?

[Note: the band was set to play in the Edge's “Next Big Thing” concert the following day, at the Phoenix Concert Theatre]
Tom: I guess it's just that, we're all motivated to the point where those things feel like the next step for us. Like obviously this Phoenix Show and stuff, it's all crazy. But we're trying to put as much work into it as we can, and whatever comes along with that, we'll take it.
Rowan: Like, people keep saying “oh, aren't you excited for this, this is crazy right?” and it's like, of course, but I have bigger plans for us, you know? I want us to play a bunch of big shows. It's really cool that we're in this contest, but I want it to be a regular thing.
Jason: Even if we don't win, the amount of exposure we've gotten from this alone, and like the people we've met – we got to sit down with people from Dine Alone records – no matter what, it's been an incredible experience.

And you guys got to be on the radio.
Zach: It was funny; we were on our way to WayHome when they played “Scavenger”, and we ended up getting lost. They ran our segment right as we were in the part of the trip where you have to do a lot of turns and stuff, and as soon as it came on we were like, “forget directions, we're just gonna bask in this.” Right as the song ended, we're like “okay, we're waaay out of the way now.” (laughs)

Do you feel overwhelmed at all, being a newer band and having all this crazy stuff happen to you?
Kory: Absolutely...
Zach: But we do everything we can to like, not be overwhelmed. We put a lot of time in and do everything we can to be mentally prepared, but it's all going pretty quick.
Jason: It's probably the only time in our lives where all of us can say that we've been overwhelmed, but in the way that it's a positive experience.

How did you guys meet each other?
Tom: Zach and I knew each other for quite a while, we've been friends for a long time. We met Rowan in high school, and we knew of Jay and Kory though the Durham music scene. We were all in metal bands, except for Rowan.

Like, tech metal or like, throwing your fists around metal?
Kory: We were like, metalcore...
Tom: Yeah, you guys were throwing your fists, we were more a little bit more death metal.

Yeah, I seen you tapping on stage...
Tom: That's where it comes from, man (laughs).

So, you guys all go to Fanshawe College in London?
Rowan: Except for Zach.
Jason: We're all in different graduating classes of the same program.
Tom: We're taking music industry arts.
Kory: I think, like, music industry arts at Fanshawe is the place to be for aspiring musicians and engineers and such. We all kind of had that direction, so it was the best place to end up.
Tom: It helps a lot, because we all have the same knowledge base. I think that's why we're so technically oriented. Like, you saw it tonight; our set up on stage is pretty complicated, and I don't think we'd be able to do that if we all hadn't had the same experience, collectively. We can always look to each other for fixing technical problems which means we're able to take on those challenges.

[At this point my friend Tanner, who is also a friend of the band, and was with us that night, had a question he wanted to ask]
Tanner: What do you think your biggest challenge is as a band to overcome? Like, not in terms of arguing, but just like, challenges in terms of co-ordinating for the next big show, or recording, or whatever.
Kory: I think we're all like, pretty opinionated in terms of being songwriters. So if there's even just a single bar in a song that someone really enjoys and everyone else is like “naaah...”, it can be a bit of a fight to figure out what that fight is gonna be.
Rowan: We always end up figuring it out though. Like the first song, “Golden Thread”, I really wanted this one drumbeat, and Zach wanted this other drumbeat, so we went to eat food and we were all like, pissed at each other. But eventually we all just cooled down.

I saw from another interview that you guys approach songwriting like you're writing a movie almost. Is that something they taught you at Fanshawe, or did you get it from another band, or did you come up with it yourselves?
Zach: We're all just pretty big into film. It's sort of an unspoken thing, we don't ever talk about it when we're writing, it just sort of happens.
Tom: It's got a lot to do with trying to add the cinematic element to the live show. So when we write songs it's not really like “okay, we have a verse, let's add a chorus”, you know what I mean? When we're doing the live show, we want it to be an experience. Like how when you're watching a film, it takes you through different emotions and explores different areas of the human consciousness. With some bands, the live show is all about coming out to dance. That's a lot of fun, and there's a place for it, but as a band, our goal is to have people come out and take something from it.

I've noticed from watching you play a couple times that you're quite a technically proficient band. How hard is it to balance the progressive elements of your music with the actual songwriting?
Zach: I don't think we really think about that, actually.
Rowan: There's no real boundary to it. It's like, “why can't we use tapping here? Who's stopping us?” There aren't any rules, really.
Kory: As long as it serves the song. If you can do something crazy and it sounds good, it's all good.

I saw you put out a video the other day, wanna talk about that for a little bit?
Kory: That was a very fun experience, actually. Our buddies Kyle Marchen and Van Wickiam directed it.

What was your favourite part about doing it?
Rowan: It was so neat being around there. There were like 30 people in this place with ladders, doing a bunch of random stuff, and we were like “wow, this is for us?” It made me think about when [either Tom or Kory] started showing me Small Town Lungs stuff and said “we should make a band out of this,” and I was like, yeah that's kinda cool. Now there's like 30 people making a video of it. It's kinda messed up to think about how it far it's come.

So to close it out, is there anyone you guys wanna shout out?
(a whole bunch of indiscernible yelling and laughter)
Tom: Just generally, I wanna thank everybody who's been supportive through this whole thing. Even you guys [referring to the band's high school friends in attendance], I haven't seen you guys in so long, and for you guys to be so enthusiastic, it's really cool to see. All the support we've gotten has been fantastic.

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