July Talk Surprised By Sudden Success

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When July Talk’s Leah Fay called the Times & Transcript for her interview last week, she was late. We don’t say this to shame her, however. In fact, the somewhat dizzying success that she and her July Talk band mate Peter Dreimanis have found in the past year would probably make anybody’s head spin.

Performing at Plan B Lounge next Thursday night, Fay has a theory behind her lateness:

“My brain is somewhere between Denver and Toronto,” she says. “I’m sure it will be back soon. We feel so lucky but are also a little dumbfounded by how fast everything is happening. So far, our approach has been to not really believe anything is happening until it is actually happening. I think it is the safest way to deal with the attention.”

As the story behind the band’s formation goes, it sounds as though Fay and Dreimanis were destined to make music together. Having returned from a tour of Europe with another group, Dreimanis reportedly sat in a Toronto-area basement bar plotting his next musical move. By chance or fate, depending on how you want to look at it, Fay was at that same bar. When she began singing, Dreimanis couldn’t help but pay attention and also couldn’t help but think of the musical possibilities that could come from the two of them pairing up.

“When you write out the story of how we met, it definitely sounds romantic,” Fay laughs. “I was singing a song with a friend at a bar after last call. Peter heard me singing, came and sat down in front of me and hung out. We ended up talking until the wee hours of the morning and then as fate would have it, I ran into him at a different bar a few nights later. He was very complimentary and charming and told me that he couldn’t get my voice out of his head.

“We ended up exchanging phone numbers that night. He gave me a link to some of his songs on his Myspace page. When I heard his song ‘I Rationed Well,’ I realized that he was one of these brilliant, beautiful songwriters like Nick Drake and Tom Waits.”

Unlike most bands that cut their teeth live and then make a record, July Talk took the opposite approach. With less than 10 live shows under their belt, they entered the recording studio to make what would become their self-titled debut effort.

What is immediately notable about July Talk’s approach to making music and is evident throughout their record is how deliberately well Fay and Dreimanis play off each other in their songs. It lends an interesting dynamic to their music; Dreimanis’s voice lends a specific grittiness to their music while Fay’s voice balances the gruffness with a healthy dose of sweetness. Listening to how the two vocalists interact and play off each other is a big part of July Talk’s appeal.

While their record is a crucial part of their burgeoning success, July Talk’s live shows are proving to be a crucial piece of the band’s success as well. The group has embarked upon no less than four cross-Canada tours since September 2012 and has also dipped their toes into the United States for shows.

Acknowledging that people either have a taste for the band or they don’t, Fay says that performing live has been an experience unto itself as the group continues to refine their identity.

“What has become clear is that whatever it is we are doing, it seems to be a very potent thing,” she says. “While the album definitely plays up the sweet and sour aspects of the band, the live shows have become an entity of their own. The shows tend to be wild, spontaneous messes that feel as though the band could break into a million pieces at any given time.

“Interestingly though, the dynamics that we have on record tend to be reversed live. I quickly learned that trying to sweetly sing into a microphone with drums and guitars crashing all around me doesn’t necessarily work. I have to draw upon some grittiness of my own to make myself heard when we are playing live. Peter on the other hand pulls back a little more because he is so easily heard. It is a different dynamic when we play live compared to the record but we feel it is one that we make work.”

Article published in the July 19, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript