Future Peers: The WL Interview

Purveyor of: Pop/rock from the future

File next to: Ariel Pink, Atlas Sound

Playing: Wavelength Winter Festival, Saturday February 16, 2019 @ The Garrison. Get your tickets here!

Future Peers were hatched at the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity, and formed between a cold garage in Toronto and a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. They make music that sounds like it might be from the future… these Peers are from the future. Nicholas Cooper caught up with them to talk about what the band has been up to lately, and where they’re headed next.

You come to us as peers from the future… what sort of music do you bestow upon us from your sonic epoch?

To be honest, our brand of quirky avant-pop is pretty generic in the future. Akin to your “Coldplay” or “Nickelback” (who are hugely popular in the retro scene of the future). Much of the earth’s digital and analogue music equipment was damaged in the “Personal Power” wars of 2032 led by General Tony Robbins. What was salvaged has been re-tuned in order to produce the music of our present day. An unintentional freneticism and glam smashed “Mad Max” quality has risen out of the process.         

You fellas are quite a marvellous troupe. What are each of your distinguishing personality quirks and how do they blend cohesively into the band’s interactive chemistry?

Will (drums) is too chill to ever be cross with. He is a fun-loving, knowledge seeker who can engage anyone in a good conversation. The kind of guy who keeps close friends in small towns all across North America and certain areas of Poland. A Yoga enthusiast who doesn’t buy packs but will smoke a cigarette after the show if he is offered one. If the band were a traditional family, Will would be the uncle who lives over the garage. He also runs his reiki treatment centre out of the very same garage.

Antonio (bass and keys) is a kind soul with a positive energy and a delicate, yet skilled, knack for things. He will help you bury a body but, if you come to him just a few hours earlier, he will advise you against murder (without feeling too threatening). He is loyal and a generous collaborator. Sometimes he forgets how to spell his own name, but this is only if he is driving. He believes in us and his confidence makes us stronger. He is the child in this band family and we are so proud of our boy!  

Michael (synth and digital drums) is observant and insightful. He will regale you with the fascinating inner workings of things (whether you have asked him too or not). Michael is an excellent driver and loves the sport of debate. He is naturally talented in many areas and anything he pours his heart into tends to shine. He is the mother of this band. Sometimes Mom is a little nervous. Sometimes Mom would rather watch her family get eaten by bears than be eaten herself but often Mom sacrifices and works extra hard to provide for her family.  

Luke (vocals and guitar) is driven and uncompromising. He is a passionate person who has built his life around his love of art and creation. Luke doesn’t suffer fools lightly, he would rather drown with the ship than spend a week on a dinghy with puffed-up idiots. While he doesn’t like to back down, Luke knows that teamwork and collaboration are the secrets to success. He is the father of this Future Peers family. The type of father that, even after a double shift, will check on his sleeping children and sing to their sleeping figures. He is also the type of father that would deny it in the morning.   

Suffice to say we are a family and we go together like Chardonnay and lobster or lamb and anchovy.

You recently released a new EP, I’m Sorry, this past November, two years after your debut self-titled album. How did the EP come into fruition and how does it compare musically and lyrically to your first album?

I’m Sorry finds Future Peers a little more focused. Our debut album was kind of a journey for us. We actually recorded it before we ever played a live show as Future Peers. We were playing around with a lot of things and diving into some sonic territory that was new for us. We got our sea legs while making our first record and then we set sail. Future Peers have spent the last two years performing a lot and honing our live show. I’m Sorry comes from a more comfortable place for us. It also represents where our heads were at in the time of writing and recording. We were writing songs that were less aggressive and more weighted in arrangement. I definitely have an itch to put out new songs in the vein of “Craft” and “Too Reserved” but at this moment we were making music that was a little more involved in the orchestration and tone. Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, The Voidz, The War On Drugs), who produced our first record is one of the most talented and inspiring people we have ever worked with. It was his energy and positive reinforcement that really helped us form what the Future Peers sound is. Our record with Shawn has a lovely wild quality to it. We were throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick. I’m Sorry hangs a little more cohesively and has a sonic throughline. Tom McFall (R.E.M., Stars, Regina Spektor) heard a few tracks from our debut album on the radio over in the UK and contacted us. He expressed interest in working with us. We kind of thought it was a scam at first but after some research we realized he was a legit and very celebrated producer. Tom had a more disciplined approach to production and this made the recording sound very lush and polished. We have been so lucky to work with two incredible producers and we only hope to have the pleasure of working with them again. A real great thing about I’m Sorry is the fact that the vocals are more front-and-centre. We have been known for burying our vocals a little in the past so it was refreshing to have them up front for the listener. Lyrically Luke often plays with a lot of the same subjects such as aging, regret, love, toxic relationships and the pursuit of change. We aren’t young bucks anymore and it seems to bleed into the lyrical content. We may be older but we still bring the party.     

For I’m Sorry, you joined a small record label, Garment District Records, to release the new record. Can you tell us about this label and why you decided to go with them after independently releasing your debut full-length?

We had label interest for our first record but ultimately decided that we weren’t confident in the level of commitment any bigger label would give to our project. We were new, kinda weird and not a sure fit for radio. We decided to release the record ourselves because we thought that we could maybe make a go of it. To our surprise the debut album actually did pretty well and made enough money for us that we were able to pay for the new EP and the band expenses for the last few years. To make this marginal amount of success happen it took an incredible amount of work from all of us. By the time it came to releasing I’m Sorry, I think we were all exhausted and weren’t confident that we could put in the time needed to service the record.

Brendan McCarney is a really hard-working and driven dude. He has been an artist manager (not ours, mind you… we are lone wolves… until a cool manager approaches us) for many years and we had been in contact with him a lot over the last few years. He mentioned that he was opening a small label and invited Future Peers to join. We felt excited at the prospect of having such a go-getter as Brendan on our team and we knew that he would bring a lot of dedication and wisdom to the project. While signing to Garment District wouldn’t afford us a massive team or huge advances for recording or anything, we felt it would give us people that would actually see us and our work as a priority. We sacrificed larger infrastructure for a greater share of visibility in the label. So far, we are very happy with our partnership.

Is multimedia content important for the band’s image, especially performing live in particular?

Future Peers have always felt that going to a live show should be a spectacle. It is a primary tenant of our band ethos. We dress up, we dance, we get in the crowd and on top of the physical performance, we love working with amazing artists to create a visual experience as well. Our shows feature projection art from the visual art team Versa. They are a great duo who created really powerful visuals. It is a huge value add for the show and it engages the audience. We are even working with a playwright to create an even more engaging live show that would include scripted dialogue. Hopefully we can get this off the ground by the fall.

The latest batch of music videos that accompany “Madonna Trash,” “Didn’t I Deny” and “Lines” off I’m Sorry are quite remarkable and powerful in their distinct visual styles. How do the videos reflect each song respectively?

“Lines” is a song about perseverance in the face of adversity. Our bandmate Mike Lobel and his filmmaking collaborator Adrijan Assoufi, made this video and wanted to focus on a social issue in our community that mapped this idea of perseverance. They decided to tackle cyclist awareness and death, which is a very real problem facing commuters in the city.  All of us in the band grew up in downtown Toronto and have had the misfortune of having friends who’ve been involved in accidents and, in some serious cases, killed, riding their bikes. It’s something that hits real close to home and we thought this video was a great platform to raise awareness and start a conversation.

“Didn’t I Deny” is about the chameleon living in all of us. We are living in a culture of lip service. Just look at the state of our politics. People will say whatever they need to in order to get what they want. The idea of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Ryan Thompson, our director, had this crazy idea of making a video about killing the former version of yourself in order to become a more realized version of you. Becoming a better, FUTURE you. With the help of your peers, of course. Future Peers. …See what we did there?

“Madonna Trash” is a song about toxic masculinity and false idols. Co-director Bill Allison is a very talented stop-motion animation filmmaker and wanted to animate the bust of Lady Madonna that the band would then worship as an idol.  Andy Friesen came on board and added the trash.

Where can we find you all when not purveying the sweet tones of Future Peers?

If you live in Guelph, chances are you already know Will. Or just go look around different hot yoga studios… you’ll find him.

Mike is spending a lot of time rock climbing these days. If you’re scared of heights just leave out some toast with almond butter and sliced bananas… He will find you.

Antonio plays soccer on Sundays. Many of his teammates are too hungover to play… if you bring cleats you can likely sub in.

Luke really likes cooking and walking around in the countryside… He also just had a baby so you will likely not see him anywhere but on stage for a little while.

If you live in Europe, you can find Future Peers there in the spring (tour from April 7 – May 7, 2019). We will be bouncing around (mostly in Germany). Tell your friends!