Photo by Kosta Prodanovic
This article originally appeared on Noisey Canada.
A bunch of longhairs who once told Noisey their recording process involved “smoking a lot of weed and plugging straight into the reel to reel,” in their six years as a band, Babysitter have broken stoner type and frequently proven themselves a remarkably industrious receptacle for loud and bendy jams. Originally based in Victoria, BC, the three-piece’s guitarist/singer and drummer Kristian North and Aden Collinge relocated to Montreal’s Mile End district in April of last year, where they’ve observed that neighbors play the worst music. After reconvening with bassist/sax player Andy Vanier, they’re now retaliating with a self-titled full-length that displays some of their noisiest, most experimental recordings yet alongside the gravel-throated anthems more typical of their studio releases. It's due September 4 via Montreal imprint Psychic Handshake. They’re premiering “Exploding Youth,” one of the latter, below. Established road warriors, they’ve also embarked on tour with Hag Face (dates below) in support of the album and a split seven-inch they released with the Calgary band in July.
When we contacted North, he wasn’t even sure if co-founding member Andy Vanier currently lives in Victoria or the more interior city of Vernon, but he also insists the band’s secret has always been to keep things “pretty loose.” Still working under that conviction, with two members in Montreal and one somewhere in BC, the new LP furthers Babysitter’s prolific output with its fourth release since the move. But as North explains, fans might have more time to soak this one in before the band lets forth another.
“Everything that’s coming out now… you know, vinyl takes forever. Everything that’s coming out now was made almost a year ago,” North says. “We haven’t really recorded anything new since [recording this LP in Montreal], but maybe soon.”
Babysitter’s no-frills floor-to-tape recording approach has produced an impressive stock of releases, but North says that, moving forward, the band will have to tighten up that process to be more productive with the time it does manage to pull together.
“Definitely currently with our living cross-country from each other, we have to be more concentrated in the way we do things,” North admits. “But who knows. Things change so much. In two years, I don’t know, maybe we’re just gonna be in the same city again. I have no idea.”
Noisey: All right, so you’ve got this self-titled album coming out in September, but it’s your second proper LP. Can you talk about the presentation of that?
Babysitter: It was more tied into the artwork that Marc Bell did. He had this idea of just having the a-side song titles on the front of the record and the b-side song titles on the back of the record, so that’s how it’s presented on the LP. So we hadn’t really thought of a name and when the artwork came through, it just didn’t seem necessary to name the record at that point, so it ended up being called Babysitter by Babysitter. So it’s not any sort of conceptual choice.
There’s a song on the record called “Neighbours Play the Worst Music.” Is that coming from experience?
It kind of goes both ways. The idea that I had was just that I have these neighbors that were playing awful music, but I thought that, you know, if I thought that they were playing awful music, then they must think that I’m playing awful music. I’m listening to my neighbors play whatever Miley Cyrus or some shit, and then they have to hear loud screeching noise rock coming from my apartment. It must be equally annoying for them. If they like Miley Cyrus they must hate the noise rock.
The noisier stuff’s sort of a newer direction for you guys, right?
In LP form that’s true, but we’ve done so many tapes in the past and pretty much since the beginning, Babysitter’s had this other improvisatory element to it. We’ve always been experimenting with noisy passages or genre-hopping instrumental music and things on different tapes. We were working with JLK a lot on this album, and our work with her is all very much in this more sort of free form, improvisatory direction, so it made sense to include that in the record. I guess what we wanted to do with this record was to condense and show all the different sides of the band, and that’s sort of why it hops around all over the place a little bit more. Before there’s been tapes that have been heavily experimental or something and then other tapes that have been 10 songs in a row that are more written and rehearsed punk songs or pop songs or whatever, so this is about having them in the same place.
What was the impulse behind the move to Montreal?
Well we had a lot of friends out here, we had music things going on out here, like Psychic Handshake is out of Montreal (except Graeme [Langdon, co-founder/manager] is about to move to Kingston), JLK who we’re collaborating with is out of here, and the cheap rent, to be honest.
Where in Montreal are we talking? Mile End?
I’m in Mile End, yeah. It’s a lot cheaper here. Victoria, Vancouver is crazy expensive now. It sort of got un-livable in the last little while in a way. You have to be working all the time. Here everyone sort of seems to work two days a week or something, which is kind of nice. It’s more comparable to some of the cooler American cities in a way. But I mean some of those are really expensive, too, obviously—New York, San Francisco—but you go to these places in America where it’s a big happening city, but it’s also sort of affordable to live there. The rest of Canada—Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria—they’re all expensive cities and there’s not really enough money in music or any sort of creative art to not have to work a full time job in those types of places.
You started this band with Andy in 2010. When did Aden get involved?
Aden got involved in 2012. We had Renny [McClure] and Kellen [Ross] before him for a couple years, but when Aden got involved was right around when we did Eye. When he first started playing with us we were working on Eye and then we started to do quite a bit of touring after that, so it was a really good fit. We were all sort of in the same place. Once he got in the band, the band was—is sort of, but was—pretty demanding, so it was hard to find that kind of group that wants to tour half the year. So we were lucky to gel up. And that was when we started taking it a bit more seriously.
You guys are pretty prolific. How are you keeping that up with the distance between you?
I definitely don’t think we’re as prolific now. In the early days everything happened pretty naturally, just out of circumstance. It wasn’t a conscious effort to be super prolific or something like this. Andy was just living in a house and we practiced in that house in Victoria. There was nothing to do in Victoria and we could practice there whenever we wanted, and there were no restrictions. Even before leaving Victoria, that changed. As we had to start finding studio spaces we couldn’t keep up with the tape output of the first couple years. It’s always been a mandate of ours to try and be releasing things as often as possible, but I dunno. We’ve done pretty good, considering the distance between us. But everything that’s coming out now… you know, vinyl takes forever. Everything that’s coming out now was made almost a year ago. We haven’t really recorded anything new since then, but maybe soon. We’re back together again in a couple of weeks here.
Are you writing and recording by correspondence? What’s going on?
No, we don’t do any of that. Babysitter writes things in a pretty loose way. Even formed songs like the “song” songs on the album aren’t necessarily set in a structure when we continue to play them. You’ll see a lot of rerecorded things on different albums. Some of the songs have been on five tapes or something and all of the versions are different, and when we play them live we sort of stick to this. So usually I’ll have something new that I bring that I’ve written, but then we hash it out together live in the moment. And usually, we try and record things quickly after learning them, and we just let things change and happen as they happen. It’s not like a beating a dead horse band. We keep it pretty loose. We keep the tape rolling usually when we’re practicing or in the same room.
How conscious are you of this distance you have between you when you’re recording? Do you have to adjust your process to be more productive with the time that you have together?
Definitely currently with our living cross-country from each other, we have to be more concentrated in the way we do things. We’re doing these eastern dates, but then we start talking about doing maybe western dates, and when we go there, we’ll probably have to think about, you know, “do we wanna record another album” or something. So yeah, we have to plan things out a little bit more and make time count a little bit more. But who knows. Things change so much. In two years, I don’t know, maybe we’re just gonna be in the same city again. I have no idea.
Catch Babysitter on tour with Hag Face:
Montreal @ Brasserie Beaubien Aug. 28*
London @ Vibrafusion Labs Aug. 30
Hamilton @ HAVN Aug. 31
Waterloo @ Raintree Café Sept. 1
Guelph @ ANAF Sept. 2
Toronto @ 8/11 Sept. 3 *^
Toronto @ Smiling Buddha Sept. 4 $
Montreal @ Drones Club Sept. 5 $+
St. John @ Callahan’s Sept. 9
Halifax @ Gus’ Pub Sept. 10 %
Halifax @ Radstorm Sept. 11 !
Sackville @ Thunder and Lightning Sept. 12
Charlottetown @ Babas Sept. 13
Fredricton @ Reneu Boutique Sept. 15
* = w Kappa Chow
^ = w Moon Hag
$ = w CROSSS
+ = w RUREAL
% = w Bad Vibrations & Negative Rage
! = w Pretty Nihilist & Night Bummerz
Tom Beedham is an arts and culture journalist living in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.