A Near Conversation With Close Talker
Meet the Saskatchewan-bred band who successfully created their new album during Christmas break.
Close Talker is the latest band from the Canadian Prairies to inject a heavy dose of big, dense and hooky atmospheric indie-pop that challenges the popular notion that nothing musically interesting comes from the large region. Not surprisingly, their sophomore effort Flux, released Nov. 4 via Nevado Music, is full of dramatic, sweeping songs that sail through life's emotional seas. Recording it in Montreal’s Breakglass Studio with Jace Lasek, whose previous work includes albums by Land of Talk and Young Galaxy, the band has come a long way from playing cover tunes at wedding parties, and they’ll be going a lot further very soon: they’re setting out on a North American tour for November and December starting Nov. 12 in New York at Piano’s. The band is made up of Will Quiring and Matthew Kopperud on guitar and vocals, Chris Morien on drums, and Jeremy “Jerms” Olson, noted Montreal Canadiens fan and bassist, who at 33 is at least a decade older than everyone else in the band. We spoke to Jerms over the phone from his basement in Saskatoon, during the city’s first snowfall.
Noisey: So how did Flux happen?
Jeremy Olson: We basically wrote all of the songs in a week during December. At the time, Will and Matt were going to school out in B.C., and they came home for Christmas break. We knew we were heading out to Montreal in May and they were going back to school in January, so we had about eight days to write most of the songs. So we hunkered down in Matt's garage and spent 12-hour days or more trying to write all these songs. Then we convened at the end of April, played a few shows on the way out to Montreal, did CMW, and stopped in at Breakglass with Jace and had three weeks in the studio there.
So all the songs were written in that short span over Christmas break?
There were a couple we did in the studio, that we had a framework or skeleton for that we sort of pieced together. We actually stayed in the studio, so we would record until 10 or 11 at night, and Jace would go home and we would crash in the studio. It gave us a chance to work on tones or try and write the rest.
Did Montreal or that Habs playoff run influence the record at all?
Montreal, for me anyway, is a special place. I'm a Habs fan, so even being in that city, it's just amazing. So I think it did a little bit. One story that always sort of sticks out in my mind is when we first got there, we were all a little nervous going to a big studio with a legit producer. It's the first time we've really worked with someone like that. So we’re setting up the first day, talking about the schedule, like, "okay, we'll start at noon and go to 10 every day" or something like that, and me and Will had tickets to game six of the Habs versus the Bruins. So Will says, "ah, Jace, I just gotta tell you one thing, me and Jerms have tickets to game six tonight, y'know, Habs vs. Bruins, is it okay if we go?" and Jace just lost it like, "are you kidding me?! You have tickets?! That's fucking amazing, you have to go, we'll make it up, we'll figure it out."
So no need to be nervous then?
It sort of set the tone because after that it was like, "okay this is gonna be fun, he's super stoked we're going and flexible about it." So after that we kind of took a deep breath just thought, "this is gonna be awesome." And being in Montreal during that playoff run was pretty cool for sure.
The subject matter on the record seems pretty heavy. Is there a unifying theme throughout?
I think there is. We tried to write an album as opposed to saying, "well, here's a song, let's record it," which we sort of did with our first album. We were pretty intentional about the songwriting, and I think the theme would be trying to ... not cope, but deal with change, and how things in life change. The other guys are finishing up school, Will and Matt's girlfriends are out in B.C., so moving away from them, trying to keep everything on track and keep busy with band stuff. It's been a season of change for all of us. Flux sort of seemed like a natural fit.
You’ve got the unenviable job of touring Canada in the winter coming up. What do you guys usually listen to on the road?
We play a lot of The National, Bombay, Royal Canoe. People always say we sound a bit like Local Natives, and that definitely gets played in there. Greg MacPherson, the Bros. Landreth. Those are some of the ones that get airtime in the van."
What do musicians in Saskatchewan do when they’re not making music?
I definitely personally play hockey and drink beer, the other dudes in the band don't. I think they can maybe skate. We were talking the other day about how we should play some shinny. We just got our first snowfall. When I woke up there was tons of snow out, so when we get back from this tour we'll have to get some shinny in.
Saskatchewan’s music scene sometimes seems like Canada’s best-kept cultural secret. What makes it such a huge resource for great music?
It's such a cool place to be right now as far as music and the arts. I think that one thing that helps it out a lot is stuff like SaskMusic, who are really good with grants and advice. But there's also a good community, and good venues with open stages. That's where we got our start. We showed up on a Tuesday night, plugged in and played four songs. Now there are tons of great bands coming out of Saskatoon and the province, and they sort of build off each other. You go watch some friends play and you get stoked on that, and you push each other a little bit. But it's not an unhealthy competitiveness, it's super friendly and everyone's stoked on what everybody else is doing, willing to help out and spread the word. There's definitely some cool stuff happening in Saskatchewan these days.
Matt Williams is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He is on Twitter.