Bodywash: The WL Interview

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Purveyors of: The sublime ebb and flow of dream pop tidal waves.

File next to: Braids, Slowdive, Beach House

Playing: WL821, Saturday Oct. 23 @ 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media & Education.

Montreal’s Bodywash invite you to dive deep into the layers, drinking in the nuanced detail of  each, expanding the spaces they reveal, feeling the presence of the ones they obscure. Rosie Long Decter and Chris Steward’s delightful blend of immersive, shoegaze-infused dream pop  demonstrates a masterful understanding of both melody and texture, a welcome wave to drift  away on. Wavelength’s Marko Cindric connected with Bodywash to talk escapism, emotional  world-building, and the pace of the creative process. 

Hi Bodywash! I like to think that sound is an excellent gateway to a band’s co-created  inner world. Could you describe your music as a physical space or a scene? Where are  you taking us?  

Chris Steward: It’s always been difficult for me to envision our music as a single physical  space. Perhaps that’s because I always perceived dream pop and shoegaze music to take  place in the liminal space between sleeping and waking. The imagery we use in our sound and  lyrics isn’t really supposed to evoke a particular space or time; rather a state of mind that you  can share with us if you have a pair of headphones and a desire for escapism.

Rosie Long Decter: Definitely agree, although I do think that escapism can also lead back to  the real world, too, because it gives you a sense of what’s missing. There’s a lot of vitality in  that liminal space. Our newer material also has more grounded storytelling than we’ve done  before, which I’m excited about.

Your songwriting does an excellent job of vacillating between clear, catchy melodies and  massive wall-of-sound moments. In your minds, what’s the magic of noise?  

RLD: For me, noise is something you can take refuge in, and it can bring you somewhere  totally new. I think shoegaze has a bit of a reputation for being an insular genre, but the wall of  sound doesn’t have to be a closed-off thing—closing off certain senses can open up others. To me that’s one of the most exciting things about sound in general: the alternative physical/ emotional worlds it creates for the listener. So I love that noise is both immersive and  expansive.

CS: To echo Rosie, I’ve always liked the idea of noise as being a warm cocoon you can nestle your ears in but I think we’re always exploring how multifaceted it can be. Noise can also be this incredibly abrasive force that can startle the senses, so I like how it can bridge the gap between comfort and discomfort, depending on how it’s deployed.

In your Exclaim! interview coinciding with the release of Comforter, it’s  mentioned that you took a while to finalize the album, that you only finished “when [you]  ran out of both money and time.” Especially considering your shoegaze propensities, I  was immediately reminded of My Bloody Valentine’s experiences recording Loveless.  Now that you’ve experimented with both (as the Exclaim! article also mentions that your  2016 EP was very much “a snapshot of one moment”), do you have a preference between one workflow over the other? What do you feel is the benefit to taking your time; or to  moving quickly?  

RLD: We’ve recently finished recording a new record, which was a mix of both approaches— we took a long time writing the material, but the recording and mixing is happening in a more condensed way. I think this has been our best experience so far, because it gave us the freedom we needed to create, but also forced us to be efficient and make definitive choices. We write by sending material back and forth and building on each other’s ideas separately, in our own work spaces, so we kind of need extended writing periods for that flow to develop. But for recording, it helps to have a third party — in this case, engineer Jace Lasek — who’s telling us: ok, we’ve wrapped that vocal, on to the next thing.

Also, for our first EP, we had to record everything between midnight and 6 am, because that  was when we had free studio time. So it helps to have studio access during daylight!

CS: A lot of the process of us maturing as artists (or indeed as people) has involved learning  when to let go. Rosie and I have very different creative processes, but we’ve been collaborating  long enough that we’ve figured out our individual strengths. This upcoming album is really the  sound of our processes complementing each other perfectly.

 

It goes without saying that COVID has been a super weird time for the music scene,  especially with live shows being off the table for a while. That said, are there any positive  lessons or surprises that emerged for you in the past year-and-a-half? How do you find  that your songwriting and musical processes have been affected by all of this?  

RLD: It definitely gave me much more time to write and create, especially during those initial  months when I wasn’t working, but it was a big privilege to not have to be on the frontline  during that time. I think the biggest positive lesson was the freedom and stability that CERB  gave so many artists, often for the first time in their lives. I would love to see governments  implement some kind of guaranteed income, and raise minimum wages, and protect  community arts spaces from predatory landlords, and make cities liveable for low-income  artists and low-income folks in general, instead of tearing down tent encampments… I don’t  think COVID-19 has had a huge impact on me musically, aside from trying not to write a million  songs about being stuck inside. But it certainly helped expose a lot of cracks in the music  industry, as well as life on the margins in Canada more generally.

What’s on the horizon for you, beyond performing at Wavelength 821 on October 23rd?  Anything you’re particularly stoked about, musically or otherwise?  

CS: Not too much planned in terms of live shows or touring at the minute but we’re happy to  say that our second album should be mixed by the end of October! Attendees at the  Wavelength show will be the first people to hear some of these tracks we’ve been sitting on for  three years. We never really sat down and thought about how to play a lot of these tracks live  when we were recording them, so it’s been really exciting figuring out how to stay true to these  ideas while interpreting them differently for the live set.

Bodywash will be performing Saturday, October 23rd at 918 Bathurst. 

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Marko Cindric is a music producer and digital artist in the New Media program at X University. He currently works as an archival assistant for Wavelength, and is one half of Toronto synth-pop duo Loji.

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