Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Interview with Brooke Gallupe of Immaculate Machine

On May 19th, Immaculate Machine played their second to last date of their recent North American tour supporting their new album, High On Jackson Hill.  I met Brooke after sound check at the Biltmore Cabaret for a brief interview.  At one point he makes sounds to describe his early experiences with the guitar and I attempted to transcribe them onomatopoeia style, but don't miss watching the interview, just click on the post title.  

SW I'm here with Brooke Gallupe of Immaculate Machine, how are you doing Brooke?

BG  I'm great thanks!

SW  Thanks for chatting with me.

BG  Yeah, I'm a little exhausted after a bit of a tour so I may not make any sense, but I may!  So it'll be our surprise.

SW  We'll see what happens

BG  Yeah

SW  Your band name is taken from a Paul Simon lyric from "One Trick Pony".  Were you drawn to it thematically?

BG  Um, I mean the story of any band name is usually a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey kinda thing, you just never know what you're going to end up with and ours was a bit like that.   I'm a Paul Simon fan for sure, but it mostly just sounded nice, I have to say.  That's all you can hope for in a band name I think.  

SW  I agree, it's got a great ring to it.

BG Thank you.  Good, success!

SW  So your band mate Katherine Calder found out that she is the niece of A.C. Newman of The New Pornographers.  How did that discovery come about?

BG  Well her mother was adopted and found her birth family later when Katherine was in her late teens I guess, and her birth family included Carl Newman.  So that's basically the story, and then just because the music scene is so small here and in Victoria, we ended up playing a few shows with various members of The New Pornographers and then we went on tour with them and they had Katherine sing with them and then she became a part of that band, actually.

SW  And she wasn't on this tour because she was recording with them?

BG  No she's actually dealing with a family illness.  So yeah, it's sad... and we've missed her on tour for sure but the show must go on, right.

SW  I'm really sorry to hear that.

BG  Yeah, I know. It's a sad story for sure. She'll be with us tomorrow in Victoria, but she's stuck at home pretty much.

SW  Well I wish her all the best.

BG  I do too.

SW  Moving forward to your new album,  High On Jackson Hill, you record
ed it in your parents house.  Why did you choose that location and how did it impact the recording?

BG  Well I wanted a natural feeling sound, somewhere we could be relaxed and spontaneous about the whole recording process.  So I managed to convince my parents to take off to Mexico for a couple weeks while we turned their house into a recording studio.  So there ends up being a lot of personality in the recording, I think.  You can hear the kids at the elementary school screaming during recess in some of the songs.  We miked the bathrooms, the kitchens, you can hear the sound of my car outside revving, we miked that. There's a lot of character that you wouldn't get in a recording studio.

SW  Sounds like life?

BG  Yes.  We recorded life!

SW  Well you're very talented!

BG  Yeah I know, we finally got it!  We represented all of life in that one album.  It took a lot of work, but there it is.

SW And Colin Stewart from Hive Studios produced it, how was working with him?

BG  It was amazing.  He's really flexible I mean he had the same idea as me about wanting to make a natural sounding album, and not worrying about getting everything perfect.  We wanted to make something that was fun and spontaneous basically.  And when you find a good producer, it's someone that's good at coaxing your strengths out of you... he really did that with me, so I was happy to work with him.

SW Thanks fantastic.  Do you think you'll work with him again in the future?

BG Oh god, I hope so yeah! The scene being as incestuous as it is, he and Katherine Calder, my band mate, are dating.  So he's happy to have a chance to come to Victoria too!

SW  That's so funny!  It is a small world

BG  Yup!  Welcome to the music scene, where everyone is dating everyone else... or in a band with them.  

SW Tell us about the relatively recent line up change your band has seen.

BG  Because Katherine has been unavailable, we've added a couple people to take her place or to fill in for the times when she's not going to be able to be there.  And we also just wanted to be able to get a bigger sound.  We've been used to doing a hundred things at once.  You know, trying to play all the guitar parts at once while singing and playing four different things on the keyboards while singing and we wanted to loosen up a little.  It's sort of the same story as the album, we wanted to give ourselves more space to be creative, so we added a couple members.

SW  Flesh it out a bit.

BG  Yes.  I mean it's always rocky playing with new people at first but we're ten or fifteen shows in now and I think it's really coming together and I'm really excited about it!

SW  That's awesome!  I'm excited too.  Lets talk about your musical background, you joined for first band at age 11?

BG  Yeah, that's right.  One of my much cooler friends in grade six had an older sister that convinced him to start a band, so I joined the band to play our elementary school talent show and I didn't know anything about guitar so we had to write songs based on that.  So we wrote a song where everyone else plays "da na na na na" and I went "diooooo"(mimics sliding his hand down the strings) and that was my first show.  

SW  Hahaha, that's brilliant!

BG  Yeah, so from there I became hooked on performing and playing music in general so I did jazz guitar lessons for a couple of years, I did operatic vocal lessons oddly enough

SW  WOW!  And also punk and soul, is that correct?

BG  Yeah, that's right!  I covered a lot of genres in my time.

SW  You certainly did.  Do you have a tale from the road for us?

BG  Our most recent story is being robbed in New York City.  It's not as exciting as it sounds, there wasn't like a musical gang or switch blades or anything.  I had my bag stolen at the bar we were playing at and realized that it had my passport and ALL of our tour money in it.  So I was a bit dumbfounded for a couple of days and cancelled my passport and everything like that. And then, as it happens, they turned it all in!  So we got it all back, but before I found this out, I did a couple interviews, one with my hometown daily paper and they ran kind of a sob story for us about how we lost all our money.  So when I found out it had been recovered I was like "oh...uh oh!" 

SW  And everyone was feeling so sorry for you!

BG  I know!  I got used to the pity, I began to enjoy it.  And now what am I going to do, they're going to find out I'm a fraud!

SW  That's so ironic, and it's such a cliche-- you got robbed in New York!

BG  Yeah, I know! What country bumpkin I am.

SW  Well I'm the same kind of country bumpkin, I grew up in Victoria as well.  So you're based in Victoria and were born there, what is it about the West Coast that keeps you here, and could you see yourself working elsewhere?

BG  You know, I've actually thought about that a lot.  And there was a point where Immaculate machine moved to Toronto for a couple of months to get our feet wet in the big city and we didn't do anything. Or we did too much, possibly.  We didn't actually get any music playing done because we were too busy going to see all of the exciting things that are happening in Toronto.  And it's sort of a different pace, and it's about keeping up with the current trends and stuff like that.  That's something I really like about Victoria, actually, it's isolation.  You do what you do, and there's lots of time to do it because there's nothing else going on.  And this album, I never know when I'm recording it, but in retrospect I can see that this album was about exploring being at home.  Our previous album, Fables, was about themes like being on the road and the various hi-jinx and trouble you can get into being on tour-- that kinda thing.  This one is more about what it's like in Victoria.  Exploring the nuances of my immediate surroundings. So that progression has been kinda neat.

SW  That's really cool.  I'm interested to see how that plays out in your live set. I've never seen you guys live before, I'm really stoked!

BG Great, well I'm excited to play too!

SW One final question: You're well versed in the music scene here, do you feel that there is a particular sound evolving in the West Coast?

BG Yeah, I don't think anyone would claim to belong to it, I certainly wouldn't call myself a West Coast sounding band.  But when you put it all together, there is undeniably a certain sort of sound:  A bit more about hippy grooves and stuff like that ; Whether you're playing heavy rock or jam music, the tempos are a little slower, the rhythm's a little more fluid, that kind of thing.  But that's obviously a total generalization, but I was trying to embrace that on this album, actually.  I'm sure that anyone who's followed Immaculate Machine will notice that there's more mid tempo (songs) with more flowing structures less stop and start kind of stuff.  

SW Yeah, I could see that.  Kinda like the rolling ocean, to be honest.  

BG  So without deliberately doing it, we end up singing a lot about marine imagery and stuff like that.  We've got "Come On Sea Legs" and "Broken Ship" and all of these nautical themes.

SW  Well when you're meditating on Victoria, how can you not reflect on the ocean, you're surrounded by it.

BG  Yeah exactly!  It's part of us whether we like it or not.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Interview with METRIC

The Telus Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler BC has drawn high profile acts for many years and this year was no exception. So on Friday morning, I made my weekly pilgrimage up the Sea to Sky to Whistler to take in the last weekend of the festival and interview the Toronto based headliners, Metric.

Entering their "green" room at the Pan Pacific I immediately encountered Jimmy, Joules and Josh hanging out. In the few minutes we chatted pre-interview it became clear that their good nature is intact and unaltered by their growing success. This is not, however, some great stroke of luck. Metric's DIY approach to distribution and manufacturing has amounted to a hand picked network of individuals they choose to work with. Their involvement at the ground level with their music, the business and, as a result, their fans, has surely contributed to their strong sense of self and commitment to keeping it real.

We discussed David Lynch's Inland Empire as a muse for Haines on her songwriting for Fantasies, their "campfire test" for Fantasies (if you can't play the song with just vocals and guitar or piano, it didn't make the cut) which led to the radio partnered acoustic portion of their tour. As we discussed each person's potential for self realization and power for change, Haines said "People think they are looking at walls when they are looking at doors". BAM.

Opening their set a brief sound check melding seamlessly into Twilight Galaxy, Metric then launched into the inadvertent yet irrepressible single Help I'm Alive. They played to a colourful crowd of skiers and boarders, with more riding down into skiers plaza throughout the performance. Viewers crammed the edges of patios protecting their beer with one hand, shading the sun with the other for a glimpse of the irresistible Emily Haines.

Haines' delivered clear vocals with heart that soared above the quieted crowd, floating through the village and up the mountains. It wouldn't be a Metric show with out Haines grabbing the tambourine, and shake it she did. Compared to their performance at Pemberton Music Festival, this show was lower energy. Haines didn't jump, stomp or head bang as much as I have seen in the past. However, conviction, focus and intensity replaced frenzy. That cohesive quality is where Fantasies diverges, for me, in their discography. It's likely that their "campfire test" contributed to the flow of the album in their efforts to create songs that are less complex in chord progressions allowing them to build the sonics over a strong, yet simple foundation. My single criticism is that Joules' rhythm levels could have been higher, but when you're playing an open air show, it's difficult. Their signature synths pushed the rhythm and kept the crowd moving through a killer set. More highlights include Sick Muse and, my personal favorite, Satellite Mind.