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Taylor Knox is Stepping Out From Behind the Curtain

After years as a sideman, Taylor Knox is ready to fly solo with his new EP, 'Lines'.

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Taylor Knox is a fixture in the Canadian indie music scene. Chances are you’ll see the towering human before you hear him, but you've definitley heard him. The Toronto songwriter and musician has worked with, been part of, and toured with bands like The Golden Dogs, Sloan, Rich Aucoin, and Owen Pallett, to name a few. Knox is set to move out from behind these established acts and go out on his own with his debut EP, Lines. Over very delicate bites of a beet salad in a west end Toronto café, back from a month long tour with Hayden, Knox spoke of his initiation into this Toronto music community and how those experiences informed a new period in his career. Knox came to Toronto from the suburbs for school and found himself falling hard for the band The Golden Dogs, who were still relatively new at the time, after they played at a frosh week show. A chance phone call for a replacement guitarist for a Golden Dogs show led Knox down a path of playing with the band once in a while, which led to him completely dropping out of his business program to become part of the band full-time for the better part of six years.

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This EP, and largely Knox’s approach and sound, have been described with Pete Townsend’s coined term of “power pop.” Lines is absolutely that: full of crunchy guitars and smooth, melodic “oohs” and “ahhs.” The music Knox has been exposed to while touring and playing with local musicians is peppered all over the EP, but the most notable influence is Sloan. It’s like Sloan-lite, almost. This is perhaps apt and obvious because Sloan’s drummer, Andrew Scott, did some work on a few tracks for Knox. As much as he can cite any earlier Beatle or Who or Sloan record as influential on the melodic, universally accessible power pop sound on this EP, Knox told me he looks to Outkast’s The Love Below in the exact same vein of The White Album for inspiration: it is the adventurousness of an artist or band that he would be like emulate within his own work.

Though Knox is stepping out for the first time on his own, it looks like he’ll easily sit solo among his musical peers. This effort has been a long time coming after years of collaborating with the community he’s curated for himself. It is perhaps because of his extensive background with numerous bands, Knox says, that he feels comfortable enough to be going out on his own now; that years of seeing the processes of his established, hard-working musician pals has influenced him in such a way to be much more thoughtful and calculated in his own work.

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Noisey: Do you want to talk a little bit about this release? I noticed the singles “My Backyard” and “Fire” were released in 2013—was there a bit of a delay for this EP?
Taylor Knox: There wasn’t really a delay – I was just excited. Like all people who make any kind of art, I just wanted it to be finished and out into the world. So I just released the first song, “Fire”, myself and made a 7”. I started playing some shows and selling those at the shows. In the meantime, I was looking around to try and find someone to put it out for me – to find a label.

Your sound is described as this kind of Power Pop – likening it to the Beatles, The Who, etc. What makes you want to create this particular sound? Out of all the different genres and styles available to you, what draws you to this one?
I guess the most honest answer, is it’s the music I fell in love with first when [I] was at the formative age. Music isn’t what music is to me now. Music to me then was this thing that takes over your universe for even half of a song. For me, the first band that did that was Sloan and I just thought, “This is awesome!” It kind of sounds like the music that my parents introduced me to – ‘60s, psychedelic – but it doesn’t sound exactly like that. It’s a little more exciting to me. I just found something about it that I absolutely fell in love with and ever since then I’ve wanted to make music like that. It wasn’t until I moved to the city that I was exposed to anything else. When I was growing up in Aurora it was either commercial radio or MuchMusic.

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How do you make this sound your own?
I guess the answer would be by not being afraid. I’m excited to add influences from other things outside of that kind of specific area to things that I do. It’s funny to think about music that way, because I enjoy thinking about it or talking about other people’s music, but when I’m actually working on music I’m not thinking about it that way at all. I’m more thinking about what I want to hear next to make it sound the way that I pictured it, which is a product of all the things I’ve ever heard.

You’ve been part of numerous bands in the city. This is your first big venture with your own band.
I can’t believe it took this long, but it’s only because I’ve been kind of chipping away at songs and making demos, and then go off on a tour for a year and think I’ll work on it when I get back. But to actually have it coming out now is very exciting. I think it’s better that it’s coming out now after having all of these experiences, than if I had just done it when I moved to Toronto. I was still wide-eyed and completely naïve to how hard you do have to work. You can’t just make something and go, “I think it’s really good and I hope everyone will hear it.” You really have to be willing to play shows and not know if people are going to be there or not; go out and play places the third and fourth time to build up your name. I mean, I’m excited to do it for me, after doing it with all of these other people so many times.

How do you feel about forging your own identity as a songwriter apart from all of the other musical ventures you’ve done in the past?
I feel the identity people attribute to songwriters has a lot more to do with their songs, than actually them as a person. You listen to the song so many times before you meet or before you get a sense of what the person is actually like. I feel like I’m proud and really happy with how the six songs turned out. If that’s people’s first impression of me, then that’s a pretty good first impression.

How do you think being part of the music community you’ve chosen to be part of — with The Golden Dogs, Hayden, Rich Aucoin, the members of Sloan, and more — has informed your songwriting process?
Well, it’s definitely you learn little tricks and techniques from people along the way when you get to watch their process. I don’t think I can think of an example. But even just someone saying to you, “if there’s a bridge you don’t like, don’t worry about it. Just cut it and decide it’s out of the song, so that’ll make room so eventually you can stick something else in there.” There’s nothing like watching people work through the beginning of a song, to the very end of the recording to get a sense of how they work and the kind of decisions they make along the way. I definitely know that seeing people do it has helped me learn the kind of things I want to do.

Sarah MacDonald is a writer living in Toronto, she is on Twitter