New band, Young Galaxy, yet another from Canada. Here is one of their members, Stephen Ramsey to tell us about the Canadian music scene, touring with The Frames and that music video.
Shane: Apparently Ireland has the largest European fanbase for Arcade Fire, what do you think has been behind this massive surge in Canadian bands (the Dears, BSS, Besnard Lakes, Stars, etc) in the last five to seven years?
Stephen Ramsey: From my perspective, the reason is an economic one more than anything. Here in Montreal you have a lot of big city resources coupled with a low cost of living. People can scrape by working part time which allows them to focus more time on their creative projects. We wrote a lot of the first record in Vancouver where I went to school in the morning, worked in the evening and wrote music til 4-5 in the morning. It was very taxing. The other big factor is the Canadian government supports the Arts financially. There are a lot of grants designed to help artists like us get their projects off the ground. Plus the water is tainted with a magical potion designed by gnomes. Hmmm. Come to think of it - it might just be because of the gnome water.
Shane: You toured with out very own The Frames. Glen has become somewhat of a film star back here (and just won an Oscar) ('Once'), what was the experience with his band like?
Stephen Ramsey: We only played a couple of shows with them, but we got the impression he was a real prima donna. I peeked into their dressing room to find it decorated completely white with only the finest champagnes and sweet breads on hand. There was a bengal tiger in a cage too. Disgusting. Haha. They were great lads, very kind, down-to-earth types really. Very welcoming. It was Glen's birthday for one of the shows, so we had our friend Reema who owns a cake shop bring him a birthday cake. He seemed tickled. The bengal tiger ate most of it.
Shane: What was it like working with Jace Lasek (Besnard Lakes) on your aponymously-titled debut album?
Stephen Ramsey: Lasek and I are like twins separated at birth, only he's from the prairies so he lacks my oceanic sophistication. He's a bit vulgar. I put up with it only because he's easy to manipulate.
Shane: So, who guested on the album?
Stephen Ramsey: It was mostly just Catherine, me, Jace and Olga. The rest of the cast included Kevin Lang of the Besnards on drums, Patty and Chris from Stars for a couple tracks, Murray Lightburn and Roberto Arquilla of the Dears on a track each, Patrick Watson on a track. Lasek is the cock of the walk, so people are always coming by to kiss his rings and pay their respects. That's where the manipulation comes in - I took advantage of his popularity to get some hot performances from some big names!
Shane: You guys have been compared to many different bands, everyone from Galaxie 500 to Spiritualized to Miracle Fortress, is there a particular sound you were aiming for when you started off? (drop in your influences here if you wish)
Stephen Ramsey: We talked a lot about the epic sound of Spiritualized for sure. But I don't like to compare us to anything really, especially shoegaze - it has such negative connotations. We aren't uber-serious wallflowers. We love to party! It's not really our place to say what we sound like, so I usually say something like "like warm silver flames shooting out of your speakers and gently cupping your nether-regions". Haha. The studio was blast, we listened to a lot of weird music from the 60's and 70's, like Aphrodite's Child (Vangelis' first band), J.K.&Co., Skip Spence, Can, Suicide, David Crosby, etc. We wanted to make a fucked up sounding record - a drug record, if you will. But because of our pop sensibilities and the fact that we aren't drug addicts, we only half succeeded.
Shane: With many of the bands over here in Ireland and the UK, most seem to fit into one of two categories; the ones that surfaces out from nowhere full of originality(people say FRANZ FERDINAND but that was based on GANG OF FOUR, people also say ARCTIC MONKEYS but that was based in THE JAM, so maybe there is no real originality left), leading the way in a new sub-genre and after one or two albums (due to all the media hype) self-destructs and disappears leaving many copy-cat spawns around (nu-rave era for example) or the other type; that just creates a slightly varied sound from an already existing and much saturated market so as to jump on the band-wagon and pray that they can float by without anyone noticing their lack of talent. Which, in your opinion, is better? Is music slowly dying on us?(sorry such a long, long question)
Stephen Ramsey: Originality is obviously better - but let's face it - the current musical climate doesn't allow us to cultivate great, original bands before they are plucked from obscurity too soon. The industry is watching every corner of the world, ferretting out supposed talent as soon as they can, without even realizing that they have found fool's gold instead of real gold. But it doesn't matter, because they give them a short term deal and if it doesn't take off immediately and become the hottest property in the blogosphere they drop them like a hot potato. It's pathetic. That's why bands should not panic and take their time to try to develop behind the scenes as much as possible. The less people are watching or caring the more you can take creative risks and call your own shots. But it's hard not to panic when you see everyone around you starting bands and getting deals. People are afraid of being left behind so they take on this really careerist attitude too soon. What about the attitude, the us-against-the-world bands? It's as if the Jesus and Mary Chain never happened. It makes me want to barf! Death of music? Not yet. We are in the midst of the most fertile time for music ever, but not in a good way. So so so much medocrity out there. Boy, now you really have me going... haha!
Shane: Tell me about your 'Out of the City' video; where was it filmed, what is the idea behind it? It is beautiful, the children running across the landscape...
Stephen Ramsey: Ah cool, no one asks us about the video, but we're really proud of it! It's our idea originally, it's based on Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows, one of my favourite movies. We loved the idea of shooting it on film, with really long landscape shots and lots of detail from the children's face to make it very filmic. We even shot it on 35mm! We shot it in Montreal on the coldest day of the year and in the Quebec countryside. The kids were great - the conditions were truly harsh. Minus 30. We wanted to end it with them coming up to a summer beach but we would have had to travel 1500 miles to get out of the winter to find one! That's the East Coast winter for you. None of it would have been possible without the involvement of a local French production company called NuFilms and a director named Ivan Grbovic who waived all his fees to do it. It was all him in the end...
Shane: So what is next for Young Glaxy? tour, releases here.....
Stephen Ramsey: We are in the studio making our sophomore magnum opus provisionally titled "Sex Hospital". It's an 8-sided concept record. The longest track is 23 minutes long. Haha. We really are making our second album, hopefully to be released by the Fall, and hopefully we will be coming out to Ireland and the rest of Europe by the Spring. We loved Ireland, it's the best place to play in Europe...