(Cross-posted from FFWD Weekly)
Calgary art-rockers Women burn through a year’s worth of buzz
Published January 15, 2009 by Patrick Boyle in Music Previews
A year ago, the members of a long-dormant spaz-thrash band called Veritas were gearing up for a new project, a brash, ramshackle pastiche of melodic psych-rock and cacophonous noise. It would be called Women. The band’s self-titled debut was handled in Canada by Flemish Eye records, home to Chad VanGaalen, and soon afterwards the band was picked up internationally by Jagjaguwar. The album was released to a litany of praise from all the right places.
With their band-du-jour status, they have garnered reviews across the entire media spectrum, most praising the band. The sheer volume of media comes as a bit of a shock for four cynical, self-deprecating dudes who, not long ago, were jamming in their parents’ basements.
This week, Women return to their hometown stage as savvy veterans, having played over 100 shows across Europe and North America. As a welcome home gift, Fast Forwardscoured the music press for a range of comments on Women. We then sat the band down for breakfast and had them read the quotes at random, without knowing who wrote them, to see what has been said about their year in the sun. It seems pretty clear that success hasn’t gone to their heads.
“Calgary shoots and scores with the self-titled debut album from Women” — Pop Matters
Matthew Flegel (bass, vocals): Iginla wrote this, actually.
Christopher Reimer (guitar, samples, vocals): A hockey analogy is a good analogy, always.
Fast Forward: If you could make a better hockey analogy about Women, what would it be?
Patrick Flegel (guitar, vox): It’s like we’re on a breakaway, but there’s no net.
So how do you score?
CR: Exactly. Think about that.
“They sound like what the Beatles would have been up to in 1967 had they been packed to live and play in Hamburg again with hammers instead of picks and drumsticks” — comment on No Ripcord’s website
MF: Actually, I’m pretty sure their Hamburg days were filled with them playing instruments with hammers. It was before Ringo came in and was like, “you can’t play with hammers, guys.”
CR: He really calmed things down.
“Finally a band that doesn’t feed you any bullshit about ‘seamlessly integrating genres’ or have a press photo of themselves pissing on an amp in their plaid hunting caps” — Tiny Mix Tapes
PF: What? Finally? It’s like there are two separate piles, one with all bands like that.
MF: We Cobained our amps one show. We made a pile and sort of trashed everything.
CR: It wasn’t cool at all.
PF: It was also like… unlimited Southern Comfort at that bar.
MF: I actually pissed on the amp, but instead of piss it was just Southern Comfort. My piss is like syrup.
“Women do spend a tad too much time flexing their way through their instrumentals — a shame since, when they bother with songcraft, they rarely miss: concise, nuanced statements with idiosyncratic arrangements” — Pitchfork Media
CR: Anytime someone uses the word idiosyncratic to describe music, I die inside. A lot.
MF: These guys just want to hear the pop songs. They don’t want to hear us going off on our instruments.
PF: They don’t want to hear the Cloud City rock.
MF: This has its advantages, though, because it gives us room to move on the next record, we could go whatever way we wanted. It’s going to be the mediocre sophomore record that brings us fully under the radar and out of the Internet spotlight. Get ready!
PF: Brace yourself.
CR: Tie your shoes. We’re ready to destroy our career.
“Everybody’s like freakin’ out about that record because Women fuckin’ rule, man. They’re like… if they wanted to be, they could be the fuckin’ biggest band in the world, but I think they’re just too busy suckin’ cock all the time” — Chad VanGaalen, in an unpublished portion of an interview with Fast Forward.
MF: I think I said that, actually. I think I was doing a fake review of the record.
That was from an interview I did with Chad. I think you guys were in the van.
Michael Wallace (drums): Oh yeah! That day I saved a grandma. Her head broke open on the concrete and I was sitting beside Chad with my sweater covered in grandma blood, and he’s on the phone saying “cocksuckers!” and looking over at me.
MF: Yeah, Chad’s trustworthy. That’s all true.
CR: Every time he speaks, somebody somewhere writes something onto a tablet. And it’s in Aramaic.
“In a digital age where computers replace personal interaction, entertainment desires are neatly compiled on iPhones, and ProTools is a recording status quo, Calgary-bred quartet Women (all boys; friends since high school) are fighting the grain, serving up a vintage, lo-fi, arty sound that — despite pretentious notions — appeals to the pop devout. And sans technological aid, the extra mile pays off….” — Spin
MF: I’ve got two words for that: holy doodle!
CR: Actually, all that lo-fi shit is a crock. It was all midi guitars recorded directly into Garage Band [music recording software].
But how’d you get that tape hiss sound?
CR: We paid some immigrants to blow into a microphone.
“Women’s set last night at Cake Shop [in New York] failed to connect, despite the fact that the band’s just-released self-titled record is awesome. The lo-fi warbles, instrumental freakiness and overall artistic urgency of the record was a little lost in translation….” — Spin
PF: Yeah, fair enough.
CR: Three of the shows at the Cake Shop were pretty good, one was really bad and that was the one. They totally hit the mark.
PF: Which one was that?
MF: It was the one where everything was lost in translation.
CR: Remember that time where we failed to connect? It was that show.
MF: I think our shows have gotten a lot better since then.
PF: Even from the start, I think that’s why we didn’t really play in Calgary very much, because we wanted to not suck. So we went and ate shit on our entire first tour of Canada, like we were pretty bad. But now… doing the same thing 118 times doesn’t hurt.
MF: But considering that, we’re still not very good.
“They hit me as precisely the sort of band you want to see after a few drinks on a CMJ [music festival] afternoon, churning occasionally airy and generally beautiful harmonies through a roughed up, throbbing, rattling rhythm section, starting purty and ending noisy” —Stereogum
MF: That was probably the same show where the other guy thought we failed to translate. Except these guys had had a few drinks.
MW: No, we translated a little too much and failed to connect.
PF: All this attention has made us realize that people really don’t have any standards.
CR: That’s the lead quote. That’s going to be on the picture: No standards.
“Women’s self-titled debut is unabashedly lo-fi and yet, this aural esthetic is not reminiscent of quirky bedroom recordings but instead an assertion to its brash, capricious amalgamation of ideas” — No Ripcord
MF: Holy shit.
CR: Can we light that one on fire?
MF: So where to start on capricious amalgamation, guys?
You guys are basically a magnet for this kind of gushy quote. What do you make of it?
CR: We really wanted people to say “lo-fi” in reviews.
MF: So far, we are a success. In that respect.
CR: We just went to see who got 9.7s on Pitchfork, then ripped them off.
“Knowing that what makes it so endlessly enjoyable in no way requires charts and/or graphs” — Cokemachineglow
MF: Because usually, when you’re listening to music, you need those.
CR: I’m usually charting my enjoyment on the wall. Nope. Yup. Nope. Nope. Yup.
“This is very much an album at heart, a carefully crafted experience meant to be taken as a whole. Suppress that MP3 mentality for the time it’d take you to watch, I dunno, The Colbert Report, if you absolutely need to; indulge that inner album geek” — Cokemachineglow
CR: It was kind of our goal to make it a solid album.
PF: And for it to fit on a record. Half an hour is the ideal time as far as fidelity goes for vinyl. So we made decisions, cut stuff and added stuff, so that it would work optimally as a record.
MF: I think we cover enough ground in that time — it’s not like we’re playing the same song over and over à la [Brooklyn lo-fi rockers] Vivian Girls, where every single song sounds the same and you get one idea out of the whole record.
“If you get hard from Terry Riley drones, absorb ‘Woodbine,’ a perfect palate-cleanser” —Tiny Mix Tapes
CR: That song was originally supposed to be 15 minutes long, but we cut it down to three. That’s all I have to say about that.
MW: It went from double-hard to medium-hard.
MF: If you get hard from that kind of thing, just imagine how hard you could’ve been.
“The ensuing noisy jangle straddles the 1960s’ divide between the Warhol crowd’s speed-addled New York cynicism and the echoes of psychedelic San Francisco that bubbled up across the pond in the fey, catchy pop of U.K. groups like the Zombies” —Pitchfork Media
MW: We’re actually more into downers than uppers.
PF: I was pretty happy to read that, just because I like music that sounds really slutty. So that was a score. I like bands that sound trashy and gross. We like it dirty, we like it hard.
“Women initially sound like most Beach Boys- or Kinks-influenced bedroom pop: while Pat Flegel coos like a hung over Mike Love… the rest of the band lumber along beneath handclaps, bells, xylophones and a chugging floor-tom rhythm” — The Boston Phoenix
Would you ever consider drinking and then singing the next day?
CR: We were actually just talking about that in the car. How when we do the next one, when we do the vocals, we need to get really fucked up the night before then just wake up and keep drinking and do vocals.
PF: That’s actually what happened with this album. I don’t think I was sober for anything. It’s like, OK, it’s 11:30 a.m., let’s do this. Let’s do some street rock. You’ve got to watch four hours of Blue Planet and then smoke a… and then think about how small you are and then watch just the part of The Shining with the subliminal girl death and then just suffocate your brain and then….
So what you’re saying is that there’s a process.
PF: I didn’t really think about it at the time, but looking back, it was something we did pretty much every day. For awhile. Kubrick, odd documentaries, Blade Runner.
Which one of you guys is actually a replicant?
MF: Best interview question of all time?
[All three other band members point at Mike then spend several minutes quoting the movie.]
MF: I like the part where he rapes the replicant, basically.
PF: No one ever really talks about that, how hard he pushes his face into a woman’s face. Robot or not.
CR: He does that in every movie, though. He’s a hard face kisser. He’s trying to kiss the back of their neck through the front of their face.
PF: It’s like a Bruce Lee punch, man.
“Your search — “flemish eye” site:rollingstone.com — did not match any documents” — Google
CR: You know, it blows my mind that we’re getting this level of press.
MF: And it’s not like we listen to the mainstream music or want to be associated with any of those bands anyways. Although it seems to be a little different in Europe and the U.K., where we’re getting crazy press.
So the first time you hear one of your songs at the Saddledome during a hockey game, what’s your reaction?
PF: If they substitute one of our songs for House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” we’ll be getting played four times a game. That’s a lot of exposure. Four times a game.
Well, they can’t play Gary Glitter now [since he was arrested on underage sex charges in Vietnam].
PF: They do, though! They do! They stopped playing him for like three weeks, then they just slid it back into the rotation. They can’t help themselves.
“Every track on Women serves a purpose to the overall stereo image” — Tiny Mix Tapes
CR: Is this from Japan?
MF: I think it’s comparable to the visual sound of things.
CR: It’s a paisley amalgamation of wallpaper LSD faucet.
MW: It’s a redhead.
PF: That’s a replicant answer.
“This is not to say that Women lack character — their tones are colder, their beats have more stutter, and their compositions go on more frequent digressions, generally avoiding Sonic Youth’s penchant for neatly symmetrical forms” — Fluxblog
PF: Jesus, that’s pretty flattering.
CR: Sonic Youth is awesome.
MF: There’s going to be a lot of Sonic Youth comparisons on the next record.
PF: I just want to say… I just bought a Jazzmaster [guitar]. Yeah, dude. Seriously.
What do you think about all the positive press you’ve been getting?
MF: We’re not extremely confidant people, we’re very self-deprecating, generally. And even reading [all these positive quotes], it’s kind of crazy. It makes me feel weird.
PF: We’re just really grateful. We basically did whatever we wanted and happened to get lucky. We had no control over that.
MW: It’s funny. We’ve been doing this since we were in Grade 7, running home at lunch to just rock in our basements. And we’re still basically doing that.
CR: We haven’t changed, the world around us has.