Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Flirting with Danger: A Conversation with July Talk

PHOTO BY RACHEL WATERS


Written by Elisa Regulski

It’s Saturday. It’s SATURDAY.

If you repeat anything long enough, it starts to feel true.

This hypnotizing mantra is how July Talk geared up for an 11:30 AM Sunday set at this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. Well, that, and a shot or two of whiskey.

Leaving bite marks on the microphone cables and puddles of sweat on the stage, July Talk turned that languid Sunday morning into a surreal, surging nightclub. Touring extensively with their latest album, Touch, this Canadian alt-rock band rides on pure adrenaline. Comprised of singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, bassist Josh Warburton, guitarist Ian Docherty, and drummer Danny Miles, July Talk shot to critical acclaim in 2015 with their Juno award for Alternative Album of the Year.

July Talk’s latest single “Push and Pull” will definitely wedge itself into your brain, but it’s ultimately their live shows that have catapulted them into the public’s eye. Their impulsive decisions flirt with danger and dance with seduction. Often stealing hats, shoes, and sparkly things, Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis spiral into a frenzied abandon. But don’t shudder over their kleptomaniac tendencies. They always give everything back.

Well, most of the time.

While chatting in the abrasive Texas heat on the second Sunday of ACL, Leah and Peter shared some of the band’s most outrageous stories.

“I had this idea that I wanted all of the bras on stage.” Leah said. “Listen--I know how hard it is to find a good bra. I promise I will give these all back to you.”

While Leah had the best intentions, it became pretty clear that the horde of people watching their show didn’t. Reaching a maddening state of mob-mentality, the revved up concertgoers snatched the bras in sheer bliss. Even Leah lost her favorite bra that night (I hurt for you, girl).

At least underwire doesn’t cost $300. During a show in Vancouver, smart phones became the object of desire.

“Leah just goes and snatches all these phones.” Peter remembered, “She ended up with four phones.”

As the selfies and videos rolled, a crowd surfer floated to the edge of the stage and lost a shoe on the ride down. Ready to return everything at the end of the set, Leah put all of the phones inside the shoe and placed it on top of an amp.

In a whirlwind of erratic energy, the crowd surfer saw his shoe, grabbed it, and bolted off.

“[He] probably puts the shoe on, realizes there’s phones in it, and then goes ‘I’m a fuckin’ millionaire man!’” Peter Dreimanis’ arms were waving, reliving the scene.

Stomachs sank and the energy dropped. July Talk owed a lot of people a bunch of money.

Without missing a beat, their tour manager jumped on the “Find My iPhone” app and tracked the drunken reveler down. Using elements of persuasion (and maybe a few vague threats) the phones returned to their respected pockets and purses.

Just like their live shows, the band’s songwriting seems to be a no-holds-barred kind of setting. Impulses fly, ideas spark, and, ultimately, songs are made. Even genre barriers can’t hold back July Talk’s songwriting style. Their first songs ranched from boot-stompin’ country to swirly psychedelic tunes.

“We kind of just allowed ourselves to do what we wanted.” Peter said, “Which was super liberating, and when we look back at it, it’s kind of naive”

No matter what they write, though, you’ll always be able to pinpoint their sound. Peter Dreimanis’ gritty, raw voice has the same unaltered, sandpaper-like quality of a Leonard Cohen ballad while Leah Fay’s floating pop soprano would melt effortlessly into a Jenny Lewis/Angel Olsen duet. When you combine those two voices, there’s a distinctly unique series of vibrations that can only be called “July Talk.”

“I don’t think any of us could write a July Talk song by ourselves.” Leah said, “The whole point is that everyone gets their fingers wet in it.”

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