By Elliot Martin
Canadian trio Close Talker have 3 albums already under their belt, and have announced a 4th which is set to be released on later this year. The band embarks in this new chapter of their musical careers with a record full of honesty and truth. Their indie rock style music has began to crack the ice of the public eye and now it’s gaining traction from their latest single release ‘Half Past Nine’ earlier this year. The single sets the tone of easy listening and a context of living in the moment, which adhere to the band’s ethos. They say they’re not here to force their music down your throat, but to just enjoy what they have to offer. We got the chance to have a chat about all things music; from where lie their influences, to what to expect from their fourth studio release.
Elliot: To start off, a bit of background into how you got into music Who influenced you to make music growing up?
Matt: Music was always a big part of our lives growing up. Our families always had instruments around. Will and I (Matt) started out on piano, as most kids do. Later on we picked up guitars because it was “cool” and hardly set them down for the first few years. Chris started out on drums. His parents were more patient and gracious about noise. I grew up singing in church and learning about music in that context. Trying my best to follow the black dots in the hymnal with my mom. When I would sing with my siblings at church, we would get bored sometimes and alternate words back and forth. When we got good at that, we tried to alternate syllables, but that was much harder as some hymns were pretty quick.
We all had sort of unique influences early on as we learned our main instruments. Chris definitely went through a jazz phase in his teens. I remember going to see Dave Brubeck live with Chris and watching him watch the drummer was pretty special. Will studied some of the great classic rock blues players like Clapton and Steely Dan and played primarily electric guitar growing up. I got pretty into acoustic guitar for a bit there and learned a lot of fingerstyle techniques from some YouTube heroes like Nady Mckee, Don Ross etc.
Elliot: How did you three meet and decide that music making was the way forward?
Matt: Chris and I met in Kindergarten (5 years old) and grew up going to school together. We lived a block away from one another. We would meet at the corner and bike up the hill to school together. We started a pre-pubescent band in elementary school. I’m told we were adorable. We met Will around grade 7 or 8. His older sister was pals with my brother and they sort of set up a playdate. Initially I didn’t like Will because he threw a football kind of strange, but then we played our guitars and became fast friends. Will and I played guitar together in church. Chris and Will actually started a band in high school that was pretty rad. It was during the rise of indie rock, so there were some sweet gang vocals and some hand claps. I was a huge fan.
“I didn’t like Will because he threw a football kind of strange, but then we played our guitars and became fast friends”Matt
It wasn’t until after high school that we all started what is now called Close Talker. A mutual friend of ours was getting married and wanted us to throw together a wedding band. Naturally, we said yes and got together to prep a few covers for the wedding dance/party. We had about 45 minutes prepared, but we stretched it to 2 hours and played a bunch of songs that we hadn’t practiced at all like: ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ‘Taking Care Of Business’. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun and we decided to get together afterwards and write a few tunes and play an open mic. The first few years of the band, we were all scattered geographically because of school, but afterwards we all finally landed in Saskatoon, SK which is homebase for the band now. The rest is sort of history.
Elliot: Your new album that’s being released later this year, what makes this album particularly different than your previous studio records?
Matt: This album is a really sincere picture of us as a band. There was really no outside influence. We decided to hold everything quite close to our chest and self produce the whole album. I think because of that, there are some elements of a quiet confidence that has simply come with time. Our earlier efforts there was always a tendency to please the masses or make sure we ‘get to the chorus’. This album, is more raw instincts and settling into and committing to a vibe. We flushed out every idea internally, the three of us, and we were all involved with every avenue of the record.
Listen to ‘Half Past Nine’ here:
Elliot: Tell us more about your songwriting process?
Matt: We typically start with music, and follow with lyrics later on, when the song has sort of already evoked a vibe or some inspiration. We write with all three of us in the room and it is very instinctual. We don’t really talk about it or rationalize anything, it is all very ‘call and response’. Someone will start a riff or a chord progression, and the other two will follow with whatever comes to their mind, or their fingers. Sometimes we will chase things for a while until it feels right, but other times, or first draft usually has some value to stand the test of time. When we write, there are no rigid roles. We all trust each other a lot and understand that we all have the songs best interest at heart, so with that, we can really get into one another’s space and voice opinions without feeling like we’re hindering someone’s creativity. We all know when the song has arrived, and there is no ego involved in how exactly we get there. Our engineer Robby Daze had this idea to put down some notes or philosophies to follow as we ironed out the songs in the studio. We wrote ten commandments on a whiteboard that stayed up in the studio for the entirety of the recording process. We sort of filtered every decision, be it big or small, through these commandments. An example of a commandment was ‘protect the pleasant’ which meant we wanted to ensure everything sonically was pleasing, nothing too shrill or that wouldn’t stand the test of time. Another commandment was ‘no ego’ which simply meant we needed to be humble and not too attached to anything that we were invested in. If I wrote a guitar part that I was excited about, but the other two guys didn’t feel was a right fit, I have to skip the whole being bummed out phase and simply move onward to a new part. Music and especially music making can be a really emotional and special thing, but can also be crippling in a band context if you’re unwilling to let go of your ego. Chris, Will, and I know each other so well at this point, that this wasn’t a major issue, but it was good to have accountability with the ten commandments and have something to refer to if we felt stuck or unsettled in anyway.
“We write with all three of us in the room and it is very instinctual”Matt
Elliot: You mention on your website that your live performance as iconic and leaving all inhibitions behind. Why do you say this, and how do you think you can improve the performance for future tours?
Matt: Historically, we seem to win people over by our live show, more than other mediums. The production on our records is good, and the songs are there, we put a lot of effort into our videos, but overall we’ve found that our live show is what seals the deal. I am not sure why this is the case exactly, but I can say that we put everything we have into every show, with the hope that our sincerity is contagious and allows people to feel liberated to let go, even for a moment. That is always the goal and we try to lead by example. Music is a powerful and special thing, ad we try to tap into that when we play live.
Because there are only three of us, we have to be creative in how we bring the songs to life. We all only have so many limbs. We refuse to play to tracks or go that route, in part because we feel it is sort of cheaping out, or perhaps even more so, we just love playing our instruments. For the keen listeners at our shows, they’ll see that we’re all doing double duty in order to pull of a rather big sound for a three piece. For example we play bass pedals, keyboards, and guitars all at the same time to accurately recreate the record. Hitting space bar would be way easier, but we feel there is some beauty in the challenge.
We are always striving to improve. We have a lot of energy when we play, but we’re also slave to our gear and the dense arrangements of the songs, so although we want to let loose more, we always have to keep an eye on what is around the corner musically. Sometimes I wish we could just rock out for an hour straight, but a lot of the instrumentation is pretty intricate, which causes us to remain focussed on the music. Sometimes I think we could hone in on our inner punk rock more, and just go for it!
Elliot: You’ve been on the road and making music since 2013, do you ever feel like making music is becoming monotonous?
Matt: I know it may sound redundant, but I truly do believe that we are now just finding our stride. We started out as a four piece which was a blast, but later became a three piece, and have now sort of leaned into a confidence within that. Music is easily as exciting now, as it ever has been for us as a band and as individuals. That is part of the beauty of music, it is a never ending pursuit. The more I learn and progress, the more I realize how little I know. This can be a daunting thought, but we use it as motivation and inspiration. Making music is still very much a worthy endeavour for us, and something that we don’t take for granted.
“That is part of the beauty of music, it is a never ending pursuit”Matt
Elliot: How would you describe your music to someone else?
Matt: I usually say we’re “indie rock”, and I quickly follow it up with: “whatever that means.” The very genre is pretty elusive, and I think that is why we subscribe to such a title. There is a lot of wiggle room. We definitely have some ambient moments in the live show, and we are definitely a rock band, but we try to protect the melodies and keep the songs focussed. Even though we’ve been a band for a few years now, I still struggle answering this question.
Elliot: What can we expect from the new record?
Matt: The new record is more confident in nature. By that I mean it isn’t trying so hard to be something, it has a quiet confidence and it settles into a headspace both sonically and musically. More than our past efforts, it is definitely an album – start to finish. We composed it with a sequence in mind and it is truly meant to be listened to in a linear fashion. We hope that it rewards those who dig in with keen ears. Our hope is that it has a depth that will last.
Elliot: Are you playing any upcoming festivals and venues that people should know about?
Matt: Yeah we have a few dates lined up!
May 11 – Saskatoon, SK – Capitol Music Club 5th Anniversary
May 25 – Amsterdam, NL – London Calling Festival
June 27 – Saskatoon, SK – Sask Jazz Festival
July 5 – Prince Albert, SK – Chester Fest
July 6 – Rabbit Creek, SK – Napatak Ramble Festival
August 7-8 – Regina, SK – Regina Folk Festival