The fact that Strongboy are a band from Canada who play relaxed indie pop means that the Mac DeMarco references are basically inevitable. But the four friends, originally from Cape Breton and who now call Halifax home, don't seem too perturbed by comparisons to the gap-toothed one.
With Brett Jerrett on guitar and vocals, Tyler Popwell on lead guitar, Alex Sheppard on Bass, and Seamus O'Neill on drums, the band's first album, Steady, is about to be released on Atlanta label Human Sounds Records and features plenty of melody and sweet harmony.
We spoke to Jerrett about the record, anxieties, and growing up in Cape Breton.
You are from Canada and play relaxed pop. Mac DeMarco reference and comparisons are very likely. How do you feel about that?
Yeah, they are definitely inevitable. It can be a little weird for us sometimes. We all listen to Mac and like his records, but I wouldn't say any of us are superfans or anything. There are a lot of other artists that I'd say we try and lift from more than Mac. It's not a reference point for us when we write. It's pointless for us to think too much about that stuff, you know? We just make a thing. Mac made some records that have really defined a certain aesthetic or something, and I can see how people would suggest we are part of that aesthetic. We don't really think about it. But for sure it can be weird to hear so often when really, there are a lot of other influences we think are maybe more apparent.
You guys are all from Cape Breton. What's it like growing up there?
Cape Breton is kind of a bizarre place to grow up I think. We all grew up separately and didn't really find each other until high school, and I think as a result everyone in the band has a different relationship with the place. I think they would agree it can a difficult place to grow up. It has definitely has not been a prosperous area in any of our lifetimes, and that leaves it with some rough edges for sure. As we get older though, I think it becomes more apparent how many great people are working incredibly hard to turn the place around. When we eventually did meet each other though, it was clear it's an amazing place to grow up making music. Most people know it for its folk and trad music, but there were always just a silly amount of bands around when I was kid. There'd be like, 15 people but somehow they'd have 10 bands between them. Some of us were playing in bars at 15, 16 and were made to feel so welcome. I think we are all grateful that Sydney was our first introduction to a scene.
Halifax has a strong pop culture. Sloan! Have you played the Halifax Pop Explosion?
Yeah, Halifax can be a pretty exciting place to be creating. It seems like everyone here is working on something interesting. So many buds. We have all been to Pop Explosion plenty of times. Some of us used to make the 5-hour trip up from Cape Breton for Pop X every year when we were in high school, even though we could only see a handful a shows because we were underage. Alex actually tried to sneak into the Marquee to see Sloan one year but his babyface betrayed him. We haven't played it yet, we were really just a lil toddler of a band when applications rolled around last year. We would love to do it this year. Fingers crossed! How did you hook up with Atlanta-based label Human Sounds Records?
Josh at Human Sounds put out a tape for SWEAT, from Montreal. We were (we thought) almost done recording Steady when we came across their tape, and hoped Josh might be into our stuff. We sent him a few songs off the record and I guess he was. It actually wasn't until after we made contact that we realised Josh has actually put out tapes for Halifax bands before, which was a weird coincidence for an Atlanta label. Josh is the best, he just loves music and wants to help out people making music he likes. We came out of nowhere without much in the way of content, but he was into the few tunes he'd heard and told us he'd put out the tape. It took us a long time to finish getting it together, but he was so patient. It is truly awesome knowing that someone is gonna back you like that.
Do you have a favourite track the album?
For me, it's "Then Again". It's one of the more upbeat, poppy ones on the album, but it comes from a place of anxiety. Is leaving the house enough to make you feel okay? Maybe, maybe not. It comes from a big struggle I experienced while we were recording, and it means a lot to me. It was one of the hardest songs for us to record, but also just super fun. We spent a ton of time in Alex's bedroom drunkenly adding any noise we could into it. We kind of let ourselves go over the top on that one. There are a bunch of versions that didn't end up getting used. That one will always stick out for me.
Listen to the Noisey exclusive album stream of Steady below.
"Steady" is available June 30 on Human Sound records.