Purveyor of: Shoegaze momentum confronting psychedelic langour
File next to: Beliefs, Milk Lines, Decades
Playing: Friday, November 28 at NICE II @ the Garrison (1197
Dundas St. W.)
Ever since reaching Toronto from the Niagara region, Kyle Connolly has been busy in several bands, including Beliefs and Milk Lines. He brought some friends from those projects together to a vehicle for his own songs, and Wish has quickly emerged as more than just a reshuffling of familiar faces. Their self-titled album (issued this past summer by Hand Drawn Dracula) has brought acclaim at home and abroad, and Connolly is already busy working on its follow-up. Joe Strutt sat down with Kyle over a couple pilsners for a chat. [this conversation has been edited for length and clarity.]
For Wish, did you have the songs already and you wanted to start a band to get them put there?
Basically, yeah, I had some songs — I was basically playing in all my friends’ bands and I knew I wanted to start my own. I guess it was just the right time. I met Peter [Gosling, of Decades] at a party, he was also looking to do something. I needed a drummer first and foremost, and he said, “Let’s jam,” and I was like, “Yeah, sure,” and a couple days later he was like, “Are we doing this? Let’s do this.” So he pushed me…
I was friends with Emily [Frances, also in Milk Lines] and brought her in to do bass. I knew we needed someone else to fill out the sound and it was just easy to ask Josh [Korody, also in Beliefs], ‘cuz I’ve known him for almost 10 years and we played together in like four or five other bands so it was kinda like a no-brainer to bring him in.
Did you always have the sense that you wanted your own thing, like these weren’t songs you’d take to another project you’re a part of?
No, no… I knew I wanted my own band. I like playing in friends’ bands… but I do like having that control and knowing where things are gonna go. Y’know — it’s all in my head, it’s all my ideas, which is nice, ‘cuz I never really had that before, that much freedom to do that. So that was a big thing. I knew I wanted my own band, I just never knew when it was going to happen. It wasn’t necessarily about the musicians… I wanted to play with my friends, first and foremost.
When you were thinking about putting this together, did you ever think about, “Oh, it’s kinda close, ‘cuz we’re overlapping in all these ways?” [Kyle plays with Josh in Beliefs and with Emily in Milk Lines.]
[Laughs] I dunno, I never planned any of that, it just kinda happened… we were all friends, we all play in bands, we all happen to have our own bands so it’s very easy to say, “Do you wanna come jam sometime?” Next thing you know, we’re a band. It just kinda happens that way. But it’s kinda weird, it’s like this weird kinda family…
That’s pretty awesome. It must be great to have that kind of support.
Oh, totally, I always know I can call someone and say, “Do you wanna play?” It’s never been annoying, nothing’s overlapped to the point where it’s “I can’t play the show,” “I can’t play the show either.” It’s fun and it’s easy and we’re all friends.
From writing on your own and going to the band, did the songs come out like you expected them to sound?
I didn’t think it was going to sound like that at all! Actually, when you take away Josh from the band, it’s not really like a shoegazer band at all, it’s totally a different thing. I write all the songs at home, on acoustic for the most part and I’ll just bring ’em to the band and we’ll start with drums and bass and we’ll bring Josh in after and he puts all that on top. It turns into something I wasn’t expecting…
When you think about the structure of songs, do you have the band arrangement in your head, or more just a framework?
I’ll usually come up with almost everything in my head… I’ll know how I want the drums to be — I want hi-hat in this part or ride at this part… I have an idea of how I want the bass to sound, just when I’m writing on acoustic I have a good imagination like that, like I know where everything’s gonna go. But for the most part, I mostly just give them freedom… I’ll have a song figured out, verse/chorus/bridge, all that and I’ll be, “play what you want.”
And do they ever take you by surprise?
Oh, totally! That whole first album’s like, “these aren’t the songs I wrote at all!” Which is kinda cool. I give them all freedom to do what they want, I think that’s important. I’ve been in bands before where it’s “I want you in my band, but I want you to play like this“, and that’s no fun. If you’re gonna play in someone else’s band you might as well have freedom to do what you want if you’re playing someone else’s songs.
And at the same time, they’re not gonna upset your vision…
No, they never have. I trust them.
But still, it’s someone else bringing something in that’s outside of yourself.
Yeah, totally. Which is, I think, important.
Every time I’ve seen you, every time I’ve written a blurb, I’ve always said, “Sounds like: David Kilgour, The Clean”. D’you know this stuff?
The Clean? Yeah, I know them, not too much.
Do you know David Kilgour’s solo stuff?
I’ll have to send you some… He has that sort of lightly-psychedelic, drifting thing that I was really excited by when I first heard the band.
I’ve heard a bunch of different things we’ve been compared to, and I was, like, “you got that?”
So what did you think people would compare you to?
I had this vision of a mix between Tom Petty and Sonic Youth if they were in a band together… ‘cuz underneath it all, they’re pretty simple pop-rock songs. They’re just chords, normal chords, but on top of it, when I add the band, there’s this jam vibe and the noise guitars kinda remind me of Sonic Youth. I had this vision of Sonic Youth and Tom Petty together… if they were a band, it’d sound like that. I don’t know if it did, but it kinda worked.
The first album was influenced, recording-wise, by… I was reading the Neil Young memoir at the time, and he said, when he was recording with Crazy Horse, it would be one or two takes every song. And if it’s not good after two takes, there’s no point. So I kinda had that mindset going in. So that whole album is just one or two takes —
It sounds a lot like the live show…
Yeah, totally. I really wanted to capture the live sound with that first album, so when you come see us, that’s what you’re seeing.
Are you pushing that a bit more with the newer stuff you’re recording now?
Not really… half the stuff, the other guys didn’t even play on, ‘cuz I did a lot of it at home, on a tape machine, over the course of the summer. So it’s like the opposite now, I have to go and teach them all the parts rather than us just going to the studio and making it up on the spot.
You’re recording to four-track?
Yeah, just a four-track Tascam, a 644… I love it, you can capture some really cool sounds with that. We got a big mixing board in the basement, too.
You can do stuff pretty much on the fly with that.
It’s great, I’ll write a song and I’ll just go downstairs to my basement and record it. Lay down guitars, whatever, overdub, around that. But it worked out pretty well, ‘cuz I brought all the tracks over to Josh’s studio after and we started mixing them there, and I was like, “Holy shit, they came to life!” I couldn’t believe it. Second album’s definitely a departure, in a good way. Need to change, y’know? Every time.
It’s pretty amazing to have people like Josh, who can take the recordings and make them into a record.
Absolutely. I can’t stress that enough — he’s the best. I’ve known him since… I think I was the second person he ever recorded, a hardcore band I was in when I was 16. I showed up to his house in my Catholic school uniform… so I’ve known him a long time. But it’s very easy going to the studio with him, just because we don’t have to say things, we just know what we’re thinking immediately.
Switching gears a bit, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about bands playing different types of shows. Most “regular” gigs, you play with your friends and your friends’ bands and it’s mutually supportive. Those shows are important — you’re getting support from friends, you’re working things out, you’re not trying to build a rep…
No, you’re just doing it for fun. I’ll never take it too seriously. You have to take it seriously to a certain extent, but you never wanna take it too seriously, it’ll stop being fun really quickly.
But because we have so many shows, it’s easy to stick with your circle…
Totally, super-easy, yeah… It gets boring, the same old shows with the same old bands, the same crowd. Toronto’s weird like that too…
Do you think Toronto’s a bit extra stick-to-your-own-stuff?
I think Toronto doesn’t want to be, but it is. In the great scheme of things, people say, “we’re not like that, we’re open-minded”, but people can get pretty close-minded in the long-run…
Is it kinda because, say I want to listen to shoegaze bands… I could go listen to these 18 shoegaze bands.
Yeah, totally… In the long run, I don’t wanna go see a show where it’s four shoegaze bands, I’ll be tired of it after the first band, I don’t wanna hear that again.
Toronto’s a weird place. Sometimes you play your best set ever and you know it’s so good, and everyone else knows it’s good and no one will ever say, “That was a good show!” And then when you play an awful show, everyone’s like, “That was awesome!” and you’re like, “No it wasn’t, you’re just saying that ’cause you’re feeling sorry”. That’s kinda how I judge Toronto shows, like “Fuck, we’ve really killed it tonight, no one told me I played a great set at all!”
When you’re getting out of town do you find it’s different?
Oh yeah, people are way more supportive —
Less jaded, and like, “Where can I buy your record? That was an amazing set. When are you coming back?”. I found when I went to Europe with Beliefs, the crowds there were amazing, they were so supportive, like “Come to my house, I’ll make you food, you can sleep over.” Like, not only did you play a good show, I want you to come to my house. It was really cool, really supportive… people just go to shows, for something to do, even if they don’t know your band.
Was that in bigger cities?
Everywhere I went I found it was really supportive… different vibe. I just find Toronto’s weird like that, a bit too pretentious in a way. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love this city, it’s the best…
There’s so much going on, it’s easy to take things for granted, and be narrow in what you’re doing…
Totally, and I’m sure I’m like that at some points too…
So what do you think about things like the NICE show, or like Long Winter, where you’re out of your element and you’re playing to people who don’t know you and you’re playing with bands who aren’t as much like you?
I love that. I saw the line-up [for the NICE show], I was like, “Whoa, that’s awesome!” Every band’s so different. Gonna be interesting to see how it works out. I don’t know if anyone’s gonna like us, but the others are probably wondering the same thing.
What does it feel like to play those shows?
It’s definitely different… I think it’s more fun. I don’t wanna say you play better, I think you put more into it, more energy, you kinda wanna impress these people. You’re like, “Maybe they’re not gonna like it, but let’s fucking kill it and see what happens.” But if you’re playing in front of your friends, it’s more like they know what this thing is. But playing a show like that, there’s a whole different vibe to it. It’s certainly more high-energy, I’d say, because you want to impress. People might not like this kind of music, might not listen to it, but you want them to think, “That was awesome!”
Do you have anything else cool going on?
I got asked to play the next Casual Drones… That’s a cool thing for Toronto. I’m really looking forward to it, it’s something different that I wouldn’t normally do at home. I wouldn’t normally sit around and make drones. I’m excited to fool around with things I’m not comfortable with, that’s what gets me excited. Usually I just go home and pick up an acoustic guitar. To try different things, that’s what gets my brain working. I’m excited to see what happens. Hope it doesn’t suck… maybe it will, but maybe that’s what’ll make it good.
Keeping things mixed up.
it’s important to have things like that. Or like Wavelength or Long Winter, ’cause that’s how you find out about artists. It always surprises me, this city, there’s always so much happening and sometimes you don’t know where to start.
– Interview by Joe Strutt.