Hush Pup: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyor of: Breezy and melancholic dream pop that evokes sad summers and late night sorrows but also emanates the comforting warmth of favorite memories.
File Next to: Cocteau Twins, Panda Bear, Slowdive, Beach House
Playing: Saturday May 23 @ Clay & Paper Theatre

Originally hailing from Victoria B.C., Hush Pup has since found a home in Toronto. 2013 found the band releasing the 3 track EP Darlene, whose rich and saccharine pop ideas were expanded on in 2014’s Waterwings. There’s something delightfully intimate and obscure about Waterwings, as if confessions are being whispered to you underwater. Drenched in reverb and echo, Ida Maidstone’s angelic vocals seem to swell out of your headphones like the Pacific tides of the band’s native Victoria. Lush and layered, Hush Pup’s watercolor rainbow seems to exist at a point where the sky and horizon meet.

What was your first musical memory, and how has that impacted the way you write and perform your music?

When about seven, I used to sing through this entire book of folk songs while my Mom played piano. Each song had a famous painting on the page next to it. I still associate the songs with the paintings. My favourite song in that book was “America The Beautiful.” I think I liked how dramatic it was. There was a Rocky Mountain painting next to it. I always have images in my mind while I’m playing or singing or listening to music. I also remember crazy interpretive dancing to all kinds of music… like crazy kid roll-on-the-floor dancing to all types of international grooves that my parents were into. We don’t really make the danciest tracks, but I do think dancing is the best way to enjoy music, and honestly you can pretty much dance to anything if you get inventive with it. Ha!

As Hush Puppies are either a comfortable Canadian shoe or a ball of battered fat, which one would you say is closer to describing your band?

I think ball of buttered fat. All three of us are really into food. It’s one of our main topics of conversation. I like shoes though too. Especially comfortable Canadian ones.

You’ve listed your hometown as Victoria/Toronto. What has been the most significant change you’ve found in moving from one side of the country to another?

I’ve moved back and forth between Victoria and Toronto many times now. They are kind of like the perfect balance to each other. They’re like having two super different friends who don’t know each other that you love equally. They bring out different things in you.

How would you describe your songwriting process?

I’ll usually start with some sort of image in my head or mood or story that maybe comes from something I’ve seen or heard or read or whatever and I’ll improvise a kind of soundtrack based on that idea for a long time. If I think it could work, I’ll show it to Steve and he’ll help me organize and arrange and expand the ideas, then Torrie orchestrates it and makes it all come together… I love working with those guys… I think in the future we’ll end up writing even more collaboratively because we keep getting more and more comfortable with each other creatively.

What drew you to the dreamy textures and sounds you create?

Probably wanting to create a visceral experience… to paint pictures with the music. I like when things are all meshing together and you’re carried along with the music. I like feeling transported without having to think about or know what’s going on at all times.

The cover art for the Darlene EP shows a girl painted into a corner; do you find that writing music is a way of overcoming frustration?

I definitely think making music is a way to overcome frustration. It allows you to escape, to fantasize, to connect. It can be spiritual and meditative. You aren’t confined to the outside world and it’s occasional madness. It’s a powerful healer and remedy.

Both “Magic Hour” and “Sign 11:11” seem to point to times, evoking a sense of wonder and specialness. What is it about time that interests you to write about it?

I think I’m into writing about time because it’s always felt like magic to me. It’s so cyclical. I’m into the way the light shifts and I like how time connects you to the past while it keeps you moving. There is lots pulse and energy in time. It’s life affirming.

There seems to be a connection between the song “Swimming” and the title of the Waterwings album. The waterwings suggest a certain innocence and naiveté, while swimming suggests a learned experience — can you elaborate on this connection?

Waterwings was written last year on the Island… I spent more time alone than I had in many years. I had lots of space to slow down and to create and think. It was a cool experience living in the place I had grown up at a totally different time in life. I felt like I was growing and connecting to my inner child at the same time. I spent so much time in and by the water, so it became the theme of the year.

There’s a lobster in space in the video for “Swimming.” Is this a cruel metaphor for us all?

Haha! You’ll have to ask Double D’s, who made the video. Once they showed me the vid, I started seeing lobsters everywhere! Like, everywhere. I actually just found a huge lobster necklace on display at a store in the Grange Food Court as I was on my way to Emma and Jameel’s (Double D’s) house a couple of days ago. Were lobsters always everywhere? There is something special about them, that’s for sure!

What’s next for Hush Pup?

We’ve been recording for a new release that we’re getting really excited about! We’re also hitting the road with Mystic Triangle at the end of June to play Sled Island and other shows across Canada. Then a couple of us are joining Victoria’s White Poppy to tour as her backing band for her West Coast album release tour. Other than that we’ll be kickin’ it in T.O.!

— Interview by Adam Bernhardt