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Catching Up With Slim Twig

The warped pop whiz kid keeps on cranking out the hits.
October 8, 2012, 10:00pm

Slim Twig is one of the busiest bodies in subterranean show biz. Nine months after our last interview, he’s not only popped out his latest album Sof’ Sike, but also shares a four-way split with U.S. Girls, Dirty Beaches and Ela Orleans. From there, the future holds another full-length called Hound at the Hem co-issued by Pleasence and his own imprint Calico Corp. (plus even more goodies coming down the pipeline). We caught up for a chat about this avalanche of activity, sonic obsessions, and a quick history lesson.

Noisey: Here in Toronto, there’s a kind of East End familia made up of people like yourself, Ben Cook, Actual Water, Huckleberry Friends, and Danielle Nemet. Do you guys take pride in being the underdog side of the city?
Slim Twig: I guess so. That’s definitely something I’ve noticed as well, but I don’t think I’ve propagated it that much myself. I like living in the East End personally, because I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing people I know every time I walk out the door. I feel like I need to live a bit more hermetically than that. I like living outside of the center, and I think my music shares that quality as well.

The other scene you straddle is the psychedelic pop world of Zacht Automaat, Onakabazien, and their related entities. How did you first catch wind of that crew?
Carl Didur is someone I’ve admired since I was in high school. His old band, No Dynamic, was one of the very first that I made an effort to follow outside of people covering in Spin Magazine or other things I was into at the time. That band was great, and I started noticing he was doing stuff outside of it with The Battleship, Ethel. I fantasized about making music with him and didn’t think it was really possible, but my introduction was through meeting Mark, or Louis Percival, Onakabazien. We just struck up a friendship through the rap thing, because I was making lots of sample-based music at the time, and he was tight with Didur.

One really seminal experience was the first band I was in with those guys called Plastic Factory. It was a psychedelic cover band with Anthony [Actual Water] as well. I started listening almost exclusively to ’60s music to get into that mind frame, and it inspired me to put down the sample-based stuff and pursue pop music from a skewed angle. I feel that in the last few years I’ve matured exponentially in my own music making, and a lot of it has to do with like-minded people who help dictate your listening habits. It’s made my process take off in a whole different direction.

Here’s the video for “Altered Ego”:

Well, it seems to be working! How did you manage to amass so much material?
The truth is that I haven’t been playing live very much in the last couple of years. Only a handful of shows in Toronto and I haven’t been able to tour much, so I’ve just been recording and mixing. There are the three records coming out, but also in the same span, the new U.S. Girls record that I produced and mixed is coming out in the fall. Plus, there’s a Tropics record I’ve been working on as well.

How does Hound at the Hem differ from Sof’ Sike?
Sof’ Sike is supposed to be a kind of pop platter with a mix of treats that isn’t themed in any way. It really takes its cue from those ’60s psychedelic records like Revolver—dipping its toes into a lot of types of sounds while remaining open-minded, vaguely experimental, but really pop-driven. Hound at the Hem is a narrative work, I guess. The corny term is concept record. It’s a story album, and the sound is a lot denser. Owen Pallett did strings for it, and my band worked on it a lot as well.

I’ve heard it described as a funky take on Odessey and Oracle.
Yeah! What it shares with Sof’ Sike is an emphasis on production, and a lot of that ’60s production from people like The Zombies is something I’m pretty obsessed with. I try to get things to sound like that baroque quality, and have to admit to being somewhat of a maximalist in trying to create a wall of sound.

You’re like Phil Spector with less hair.
[Laughs] You could say that. It’s a lot darker, as well. As much as I love that Spector stuff, it’s more in the warped Joe Meek reality.

Here’s the video for “Gun Shy”:

You and Meg (U.S. Girls) also run Calico Corp. and just released an Eric Copeland seven-inch that I really dig. Where do you see you see the label going from here?
We’re pretty ambitious about the projects we’d like to take on, but also adamant about doing things in a way that we’re pleased with. That includes the look of releases as well as the quality of music. It’s not going to be the kind of thing where we have stuff coming out every month, but we are doing my upcoming LP with Pleasence and a double LP comp of the best of Zacht Automaat sometime next year.

It’s that classic thing of art for art’s sake, and music that is deserving of recognition.

Okay man, last question: The full band version of U.S. Girls has recently been unveiled. How has that changed things up?
It’s been a really interesting experiment. We’re gearing up for a tour of Europe this fall where she and I share the same band, so that was the impetus behind her adopting us. It’s a neat process to see if we’re able to change the mindset of the music and create a different live experience using the same people. The ideas behind Meg’s music are really different from my own. Hers is a bit looser, and I hate to say it, but maybe even more psychedelic than my own at times. She wants to be free, whereas my music is psychedelic in the context of being baroquely constructed. Les Rallizes Denude is one of her favorite bands, and she likes to make psychedelia coming from the left brain rather than the right. It’s fun for me, because I get to play guitar, and just bought a wah pedal. I’m gonna become a guitar god.