July Talk

July Talk

Mona, Little Junior

Sat · February 18, 2017

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

The Grog Shop

$12.00 - $14.00

Off Sale

This event is all ages

+$2 At Door If Under 21 

July Talk
July Talk
In October of 2012, July Talk celebrated the release of their self-titled, independently released debut album before a couple hundred bodies crammed into the claustrophobic, low-ceilinged confines of Toronto's legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Three years later and roughly 20 tours later, they were playing a homecoming date at Ontario's WayHome Festival for tens of thousands of ecstatic souls shouting the words of their songs back at them. Sure, a lot had changed in the interim: Their debut record had become a staple on modern-rock radio, earning the band a gold record in Canada and a Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year, while worldwide deals with Island, Polydor and Universal had spread the good word overseas. But one fundamental quality of July Talk's performances had remained unchanged: the jugular-seizing power of their confrontational, sensuous rock + roll. Whether you're experiencing it in the dingiest basement dive or the biggest festival field, a July Talk show makes you feel like you're part of some secret-society congregation. It's a gathering of kindred spirits united by a desire to escape the institutional pressures and LED distractions of our daily lives to reconnect with something real—a primal, fiercely physical remedy for mind-numbing, glassy-eyed smartphone addiction.

When it came time to draft the action plan for album number two, July Talk turned to the only focus group that mattered: those sweat-soaked fans slithering up against one another to lose their minds and morals at the band's electrifying concerts. That's the space where the blinding contrasts in July Talk's music—Leah Fay's crystalline communiqués vs. Peter Dreimanis' three-cartons-a-day bark; greasy southern blues vs. urbane new-wave cool; sexual tension vs. cathartic release—collide with thundercloud force, and their new record, Touch, represents its perfect, lightning-in-a-bottle distillation.

"It was easy to create a vibe and sound direction for the new record," says Dreimanis, "because we literally just looked at our live show and what was fun about it, what kind of people came, and what sense of community you felt in the room. We've never been about drawing the stage line—that was our mandate from the beginning, and with our live show, we're really about breaking that down so that we're in the room as much as our audience. We wanted songs where we can grab people by throat and show them something unique—the kind of songs that feel incredible in a sweaty room."

"Thematically, Touch has been inspired by our human experience over the past few years, just as much as our time spent as a band on the road." Fay adds. "Touring constantly provides a strange view of the world because you're in transit more often than you're still. We became sensitive to the varying reactions we'd get from any given audience depending on the cultural norms and politics of a place. Because humans love to categorize in an effort to understand, Peter and I were often perceived as these opposing forces, representing "light vs. darkness", "female vs. male", "sweet vs. scary" blah blah blah, with each of us just dying to get a word in edgewise. These types of assumptions had a massive influence on the way we wrote the lyrics for this album because we knew we didn't want to feed into that sort of boring archetype. We became drawn to the idea of what it actually means to be a living breathing human. It's messy and visceral and unpredictable."

"It seems to get easier every day to disconnect from the people around you," Dreimanis observes. "Leah and I started to see human touch as this pure thing—this antidote to a world that had become obsessed with mirrors and screens. We became fascinated with that moment where two bodies can actually touch and experience each other honestly. There are so many substitutes for that now, there are so many ways you can get a lesser version of that feeling elsewhere. And that's terrifying. You're always able to keep that slight amount of distance from actually having a face-to-face, eye-to-eye conversation with somebody."

"When you're touring, you have very fleeting and sometimes vacuous relationships with people outside of the band," adds bassist Josh Warburton. "It puts you in a perfect mindset to start looking at the various technological interactions we have and see them in a different, potentially dehumanizing way."

On Touch, human connection becomes a full-contact sport: Dreimanis and fellow guitarist Ian Docherty power songs like "Ask You" and "Johnny + Mary" (not a cover of the namesake Robert Palmer classic) with punked-up aggression, while the glam-rock stomp of "Beck + Call" (featuring guest growls from throat-singing phenom Tanya Tagaq) showcases the wrecking-ball swing of Warburton and drummer Danny Miles. And throughout it all, Fay holds court in the fray with a switchblade-wielding swagger she only hinted at on the first album. If that record channeled the blues, this one's all about the bruise. And that in-your-face immediacy was further encouraged by the album's producer, Ian Davenport, tapped for his work with kindred spirits Band of Skulls.

"There was a real warmth to the records he had made," Warburton explains. "You could identify the personality of the performers in the songs. Sometimes, you can get fairly automated when recording on computers. Ian encouraged us to not use any click tracks, and we did very limited overdubbing. Generally, we would just track a song until he was up in the control room dancing. He had this little captain's hat on, and if he was up actually physically moving and dancing, you knew you were onto something."

For July Talk, that collaborative spirit goes beyond recording—it's crucial to the very way the band presents itself to the world. Warburton and Dreimanis come from a filmmaking background, while Fay boasts a contemporary-dance and performance-art pedigree; together, those multi-disciplinary skills have yielded a visual aesthetic every bit as striking as the band's music. "Because our experience extends outside of music, we're always working as a collective," Dreimanis says. "We want everything created under the July Talk moniker to come from the same place."

That philosophy extends from the stark, black-and-white videos, to the mugshot-style photos, to the brutalizing ballet of Fay and Dreimanis' onstage interactions, all of which serve to reinforce the fuck-or-fight showdown at the core of July Talk's signature songs. Touch continues to play up that dynamic, as the lascivious "Lola + Joseph," the dirty-disco grind "Push + Pull," and the bittersweet, smoke-ringed serenade "Strange Habit" revisit the sort of dialogue-driven, pop-noir narratives that drove first-album favourites like "Guns + Ammunition" and "Summer Dress." But true to the album's communal intent, Fay and Dreimanis' relationship here isn't so much "he said"/"she said" as "we said," whether the two singers are taking the piss out of macho misogyny over the "Passenger"-styled shuffle of "Like a Man", or skewering coked-up, self-absorbed hipsters on the searing "Johnny + Mary."

"The easiest thing to write about is heartbreak and exes and failed love," Fay explains, "and I feel like we covered that on the first album. Time passes and your worldview expands, and suddenly injustices are pissing you off more than the thought of your ex-lover. You notice one messed up thing about the way society functions and suddenly realize how deep-seated close-mindedness and a lack of communication are at fault for almost everything wrong with the world. It's like, we can only do so much and get so far by staring at each other, engaging in a two-way yelling match and letting our egos duke it out on stage every night. We can shed more light, and connect with more people while facing outwards standing side by side, listening just as much as we speak… or sing, in this case."

"It all comes back to that community we feel in the room when we play," Dreimanis adds. "I'm constantly drawing on the moments I've seen in rock 'n' roll that changed my life forever. Like, I remember walking into the Starlite Room in Edmonton when I was underage, and the door guy let me in to see the Constantines play, and it was the same way people talk about going to church for the first time. It was the most powerful thing I had ever seen. I felt the same way the first time I saw Iggy Pop. When I step out on stage, I want to make people feel alive and like they're in a very special place and provide them with a little hope and faith in rock + roll and its power as a borderline religion."

And you'll find no more persuasive sermon than Touch's closing title track. As the song steadily builds from desolate dissonance into a raging, piano-pounded anthem, Dreimanis and Fay reassert the album's key mantra in no uncertain terms. "We get so tired and lonely," they declare with gospelized gusto. "We all need a human touch." It's a reminder that no Snapchat selfie is a substitute for an intimate conversation, that no emoji provides the warmth of an embrace, that no YouTube concert video can instill that exhilarating feeling of leaping off the stage to crowd surf. Touch is music of the flesh—the product of hoarse-throat howls, bloodied fingers slashed on the fretboard, and sticky bodies pressed against the barricades.

"With the name of the band, the word 'talk' refers to the whole idea of our songs being a conversation, and 'July' is about that thing that happens in the summertime when you're young—how you can meet someone and fall in love and party your face off and then fall out of love and have the happiest and saddest time in your life, all in about three months," explains Dreimanis, who founded July Talk in 2012 with Fay and fellow guitarist Ian Docherty, bassist Josh Warburton, and drummer Danny Miles. And while Dreimanis's initial vision for the project centered on that tag-team vocal exchange, Fay notes that July Talk's emotionally intricate, contradiction-driven dynamic results largely from the band's raw authenticity. "I think it comes naturally from us living out our intention of being an honest rock band, whether it's quiet-loud or male-female, or whatever else comes up as we're expressing what we need to express," she says.

Even July Talk's two lead voices are constantly clashing forces, with Dreimanis's raspy growl scraping up against Fay's graceful sing-song. On Guns + Ammunition July Talk use those vocals to channel their pure and brutal emotionalism into wickedly sharp and sardonic lyrics. On "Paper Girl," for instance, Dreimanis attempts to destroy an ex-love with jabs like "You don't look pretty when you smile/So don't smile at all" before Fay steps in and serenades him with the sweetly devastating chorus ("And if you want money in your coffee/If you want secrets in your tea/Keep your paper heart away from me"). With its swinging rhythm and sludgy guitar, "Summer Dress" touches on the possible futility of looking for love in the city ("The girls are young, a little dumb/And they're going it alone"), while the twangy, tough-talking "Garden" is a close-up glimpse at mental unraveling ("I've got thoughts that ain't my own/I'm talking black souls dressed in red/And things that I never shoulda known"). And on the quietly brooding "I've Rationed Well" (a song about "creating an idealized version of someone and being nostalgic when they're gone—basically missing someone who doesn't exist," according to Dreimanis), Fay's hushed vocals entwine with Dreimanis's stark spoken-word to deliver lines like "We'll survive by telling lies/We've rationed well" to haunting effect.

True to their name, July Talk was born in the summertime, at a Toronto bar lit solely by candlelight in recognition of the anniversary of the 2003 blackout. "There was an acoustic guitar getting passed around and Leah was playing and singing as I came in, and I was just blown away by her," recalls Dreimanis, who'd recently parted ways with his former band and written a batch of songs intended for dual vocalists. Though the two didn't connect that night, Dreimanis soon tracked Fay down and sent her a handful of songs he'd recorded in his bedroom. "We were from such different places and going through such different things, it almost felt like it shouldn't have worked," says Fay, who previously played in a band/performance-art project called Mothers of Brides (who, as she explains, "tried to distract from the sincerity of our songs by doing things like banging on books with hammers and having people play Jenga onstage during our sets"). Rounding out the lineup with Docherty, Warburton, and Miles (all of whom were former bandmates of Dreimanis), July Talk soon began playing together and expanding the songs Dreimanis had newly developed. "The bands I'd played in before had a Replacements-y sort of influence, very loud and high-energy rock & roll mixed with intoxication, so I wanted to take the manic chaos of that and turn it into something more intimate," Dreimanis points out.

After finding a manager and setting to work on their debut (a self-titled album released in Canada in autumn 2012), July Talk quickly threw themselves into a frantic touring schedule that's gone a long way in shaping the sound and soul of the band. "Starting right from when the record came out we were on the road about 90 percent of the time, which we really love," says Dreimanis. "The stage is where this band lives, and we've written our songs in a way that they can change every night and turn into something completely different when we play them live." When it comes to writing, July Talk tend to retreat to remote and quiet spaces (such as a friend's house in the woods, where they set up camp last January) and dedicate entire days to working on songs. "All five of us get together and bring ideas to the table and deconstruct them and fight over them and eventually love them, and then Leah and I will work on the lyrics," says Dreimanis. In that lyric-writing, July Talk aim first and foremost for a certain frankness and uncompromising honesty. "It's really important to us that we fully illustrate the subject we're trying to get at in the song, which a lot of the time has to do with what it's like to be 25 and confused or pissed off or whatever it is that we are," says Dreimanis. "We try to have the guts to say the kinds of things that most people would hold themselves back from saying."

Also intensely devoted to the visual element of the band, July Talk have put out a series of self-produced videos directed by Warburton and shot in black and white to mimic their music's spirit of contrast. According to Fay, that what-you-see-is-what-you-get aesthetic has much to do with "trying to make something people can connect with in a real and direct way." With recent outings including a spring tour of Europe and stops at summer festivals like the Isle of Wight, connection through live performance is also paramount to the band. "It's an amazing thing to experience people through rock & roll," says Fay. "I feel like I'm learning so much by being onstage and getting to look hundreds of different people in the eyes." And in making those connections, the band members endlessly play off the give-and-take dynamic that stands at the heart of July Talk. "We always see how far we can push each other past our boundaries, figuratively and literally," says Dreimanis. "Quite early on we realized the audience was totally on board with that, so now how we measure a show is whether we're able to lose all touch with reality, and create something special that goes way past what anyone's expectations of us might be."
Mona
Mona
Upon leaving the Midwest for Nashville, MONA quickly captured the attention of audiences and critics with driving, post-indie rock delivered with a rebellious energy. Looking back, singer and songwriter Nick Brown describes the band's vibe with a string of adjectives and nouns: fist pumping, white t-shirts, Marlon Brando, James Dean, sex and God. It all led to a major-label overtures and eventually a deal with Island Def Jam.

As Brown tells it, he and his bandmates were more than happy to embrace the narrative as they were swept along through green rooms, VIP tents, label offices, television studios and the world's largest festivals. But in the end, major-label life wasn't the right fit for a band that had approached songwriting, recording and live performance in their own way from day one.

"As much fun as it all was most of the time, we wanted to be more than a trend," says Brown. "We're in this to connect with other humans."

For Brown and his bandmates, it had always been about connection. The son of a Pentecostal preacher, Brown snuck in rock riffs and built up swagger between Sunday services, well aware of the faith tradition he shared with greats like Johnny Cash, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. In fact, he named the band after this grandmother Mona, a nod to heritage and a bygone era.

"I came from a background of seeing music matter to people," he says. "I learned early that where people came together for music, there was power."

Mona got a taste of that power when their self-titled debut was nominated for the BBC Sound of 2011 award and won MTV's Brand New for 2011. They found themselves playing Later With Jools Holland, Conan and Leno, as well as being named to NME's Best New Bands. Supporting gigs for Noel Gallagher, Kings Of Leon and other large acts followed, as did appearances at some of the world's biggest festivals, including Glastonbury, Reading/Leeds, Coachella, Lollapalooza, Splendour in the Grass and more.

They built on that momentum with a second album, "Torches & Pitchforks", which showcased the band's seemingly endless reserve of creative energy, and brought focus to their signature sound. The sophomore effort again earned praise from fans and critics worldwide.

Today, on the eve of their third album, the Nashville rockers find themselves brimming with energy and confidence. They're also now a five-piece, with Zach Lindsay on bass, his brother Alex on guitar, Jordan Young on guitar, and Justin Wilson on drums. They've seen a lot in just a few years and have emerged with a renewed sense of purpose and a fresh and vibrant set of newly penned songs that may well be the best of their career. Brown and his bandmates joke about creating a new genre: romantic ambient grunge alt.

With a new label, a new team and an extraordinary new batch of songs, Brown says he's more proud than ever of the band and the work they are doing. "We have always been a tight knit group, but the vibe is the best's it's been and we are looking forward to bringing these songs to the public. Very few things matter in this world, and we think music is one of them."
Little Junior
Little Junior are a punk band that can't help but write pop songs. They met in middle school and still haven't outgrown their teenage angst. Their music is sarcastic and self-deprecating; Little Junior often sound like brats but at least they know it.
Venue Information:
The Grog Shop
2785 Euclid Heights Blvd
Cleveland, OH, 44106
http://grogshop.gs/