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Novel Concept: She-Devils Perform Shows Without Putting Music Online

The Montreal band cares a lot about first impressions, which is why you couldn't find their music online until now.

When they formed their band two years ago, Montreal’s She-Devils came up with the novel idea of performing shows without putting any music online for anyone to hear. By taking the path less travelled, the duo of vocalist Audrey Ann and sound sculptor Kyle Jukka chose to build buzz through the most natural way of experiencing music: by hearing it live. And it worked. They turned in strong performances at last year’s NXNE and Pop Montreal festivals, and impressed south of the border with a few choice shows in the U.S. And now She-Devils are set to open up a North American tour for their friends Majical Cloudz. So what better time to share their music with the masses?

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Their self-titled EP is an exotic patchwork of obscure samples and countless layers that recall the spellbinding sound collages of avant-pop forebears like Broadcast and Laika. The dreamy first single “Come” unfolds like they reworked the whole of Nancy & Lee, with Ann’s voice providing a pitch as warm and sultry as a ’60s siren like Sinatra. At only three songs (and a remix of “Come”), the EP is but a mere tease before a proper full-length in the near future.

Noisey Skyped with Audrey Ann and Kyle Jukka to discuss the band’s origins, the deep ties to the Montreal music scene, their unique approach to getting heard, and how they plan to release sample-based music without paying for it.

Noisey: What brought you two together?
Kyle Jukka: I had been living in this place called Torn Curtain, which was basically a jam space where a few friends and I were living. It was interesting, because one friend would go busk noise music on the street.
Audrey Ann: I moved in there, so that’s how we met.

Wait, your friend was busking noise on the street?
Kyle Jukka: Tim does it really well. He has this whole atmosphere that he takes wherever he goes. He has some kind of grandma basket that had a battery-powered amplifier in it, and he would just kneel down on the ground with some pedals and make earthy beats that were also abrasive. Sometimes when he was in a bad mood he would make it really abrasive and call it “noise terrorism.” It’s cool!
Audrey Ann: Seeing Tim busk in the street is how I discovered the Torn Curtain, where I moved in and met Kyle. He’s the centre of that whole world.

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What kind of response does a noise busker get? Strong ones I imagine.
Kyle Jukka: Oh yeah, for sure.
Audrey Ann: I think it was mostly negative, but some positive.
Kyle Jukka: I wouldn’t say mostly negative, it was more equal. I just think a lot of people were bewildered by it. What made you decide to make music together?
Audrey Ann: There was a lot of cross-pollination. Everyone would go into each other’s rooms and make music.
Kyle Jukka: It’s kind of hard to boil it down to tellable story because everything happened so slowly over a period of time.
Audrey Ann: We tried to play music together for a while, and a lot of things just failed. But we just persisted and somehow it just felt that it needed to happen. At some point we had a conversation and talked about what we wanted to do in a way that was more open. I guess that’s when the idea of sampling old music came from. And then we spent many hours trying to find material for that. We went from trying to jam to trying to write songs.

How much of the music is based on samples?
Kyle Jukka: It’s all samples.
Audrey Ann: And I think at this point we’re not selling our music so I don’t think there will be problems with that. But when it comes time to releasing music with a label, they’ll have to do that for us. It’s going to be very pricey.
Kyle Jukka: Well, maybe.
Audrey Ann: The way we’ve been working now is we’re trying to make everything less obvious and mash things together, where the original sound is completely deformed.

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So the EP will be free?
Audrey Ann: Yes, it’s free on Bandcamp, but also pay-what-you-can. If people want to donate money to us they can, but we just wanted to have it available to anybody that wants it.
Will you change the way you compose your music when it comes time to making music that you will sell to your listeners?
Audrey Ann: I don’t think so.
Kyle Jukka: No. I think it’s just what we can get away with. I think it all happens really naturally. We just loop a chunk of something that has the right texture and atmosphere, and then we collage some sounds together and write a song around it. But it happens organically, shifting towards getting into the headspace of using sample material but transforming it into some new creation. So you’ll manipulate it so the sample doesn’t seem so obvious?
Kyle Jukka: Yeah, but it’s not necessarily intentional, it’s just convenient because it will help us in the future when it comes to clearing the samples. I feel naturally inclined to see sounds transform as they get worked into other sounds. It’s like how with sewing machines you input the material, and the sewing machine has an algorithm and blends things together, and the output comes up with something totally new. I think the more things can transform, the more fun it gets for me. It’s not a premeditated decision.

Is it all completely sample-based or do you play any instruments?
Audrey Ann: Kyle has recorded guitar parts in certain songs, and some percussion.
Kyle Jukka: There is a little bit of stuff.

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I read a statement you gave about the video for “Come” where you expressed your love for cinema. Your music has a very cinematic texture to it. Are film scores a big influence on the type of music you make?
Audrey Ann: I think so. I personally have been obsessed with Quentin Tarantino soundtracks.
Kyle Jukka: Sometimes I come across them but I don’t seek out film scores.
Audrey Ann: I think by watching so many movies it just goes into your brain. You just absorb it like a sponge and it comes out in random ways.
Kyle Jukka: I think it is intentional, but also natural. It’s all a part of the dream, that music is an actualization of a vision. And that vision is based on listening to music but also watching movies.

Speaking of cinema, when I first heard the band’s name it made me think of the film She-Devil, starring Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr. Is there any connection to that film?
Audrey Ann: We actually just watched it a month ago. I think we both really enjoyed it. The name though came from a movie called She-Devils On Wheels, which we haven’t even watched. It’s just because we were brainstorming name, and I thought about girl gangs, and that movie was listed as one of Tarantino’s favourite movies.

There has been a lot written about She-Devils, but no music was available until last month. Normally artists put out music before they’re even ready to perform, but you guys did it the opposite way. Was there a reason why you waited to release music?
Audrey Ann: I remember just wanting to get out there and play shows was a reason. I think it kinda helps to understand what you’re doing. To write songs to play at the next show. I remember reading in the Doors biography that they played hundreds of shows before recording an album. And it just felt natural. Personally, I was not looking forward to recording. I don’t know, I guess I didn’t enjoy cementing things. But it’s definitely something I’ve learned to appreciate and at this point I’ve been enjoying the process.

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How much material do you have for an album?
Audrey Ann: We basically have a LP ready. We’ve recorded 12 songs in total, and three of them are going on the EP. At this point we’re talking to people, but we don’t really know when it will come out.

Photo via Facebook

Tell me about this “fine line between paying homage to music history and defacing it.”
Kyle Jukka: I guess to me it’s how I envision the band. I’ve used this metaphor before, but Audrey and me have these big crayons and we’re drawing over top of music history with crude lines. It obviously highlights things in history that we love, but it’s also in the nature we work, there’s something blunt or primitive about it. It kinda reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where Bart puts Grandpa’s dentures in his mouth and starts chomping on records. I definitely feel that energy in the music.

So, I know you’re touring with Majical Cloudz, but Kyle, you have a deeper connection with Devon and Matthew. Can you tell me a little about your history with them?
Kyle Jukka: Devon and I went to high school in a rural, farm town, this subdivision with a farm-y vibe. We met there and then became friends at the tail end of high school. He then moved to Montreal, and then I moved to Montreal shortly after he did. And we played in a band together a bit later on called Pop Winds. I was also doing Flow Child on my own during and a bit after.

What happed with Pop Winds and Flow Child?
Kyle Jukka: So Pop Winds felt like something that was insanely fun for us to do at the time, but we also realized that we each had artistic intentions that we weren’t able to execute properly within how that band operated. And Flow Child got completely derailed with life stuff.

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Audrey, what can you tell me about your musical past?
Audrey Ann: I just started writing music when Kyle and I started playing together. I guess I always liked singing, but I didn’t have much confidence. I was a late bloomer.

I noticed that Matthew Otto helped you with the EP. What can you tell me about that contribution?
Audrey Ann: After the first show we played Matthew said he wanted to produce our album, but he didn’t end up producing or recording it. I recorded all of my vocals at home with a microphone and interface he leant me. So I did all of them at home, and Kyle did all of his instrumentals. But Matt really mixed and mastered, but helped guide the process.

Pop Winds and Flow Child worked with Arbutus, and you’ve also played gigs with, bands on that label like Braids, Tops and Doldrums. How important has it been for She-Devils to have that kind of support from your peers?
Kyle Jukka: I think any artist would find it relatively important to have that support. Without it I think it’s hard to inject yourself into a scene. Audrey Ann: It’s been nice because at the beginning it was nice to play with our friends. It was very encouraging and felt good.

Make sure to check the band out on tour from the list below:

Jan 15th | Toronto ON | The Garrison * TICKETS
Jan 16th | Detroit MI | UFO Factory * TICKETS
Jan 18th | Chicago IL | Schubas * TICKETS
Jan 19th | Brooklyn NY | Music Hall of Williamsburg * TICKETS
Jan 20th | Brooklyn NY | Baby's All Right
Jan 22nd | Vancouver BC | Cobalt * TICKETS
Jan 23rd | Seattle WA | Barboza * TICKETS
Jan 24th | Portland OR | Mississippi Studios * TICKETS
Jan 26th | San Francisco CA | The Chapel * TICKETS
Jan 29th | Los Angeles CA | Masonic Lodge * TICKETS
Feb 14th | Toronto ON | The Garrison
* shows with Majical Cloudz Cam Lindsay is a writer from Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.