Uncharted is our showcase of independent artists we think you should hear. This week, Toronto's weirdo future pop stars Weaves talk acting, pushing off in two opposite directions, and how to stay interesting as a guitar band.
In the ecology of Canadian indie music, Weaves are chameleons. They're often quite pretty, given to brilliant flashes of melody. Sometimes they're menacing, all teeth and claws. No matter what, they're always at home, as comfortable bogeying through surf-rock riffs or low fidelity sandblasting as they are buoying on R&B bass runs and gospel organ.
Weaves is the new project of Jasmyn Burke and Morgan Waters, rounded out onstage by Zach Bines and Spencer Cole in the rhythm section. Burke comes to us from RatTail, the acclaimed, but short-lived slack-pop trio; Waters, from the aptly named mid-aughts pop act Sweet Thing.
The whole idea of saying “I’m punk,” and listening to one genre of music is so outdated. The more you can steal from everywhere, the more interesting your music’s going to be.
On the burst of buzzy singles they've released, Weaves calls to mind pop eclectics like Beck, tUnE-yArDs, or Pepe Deluxé's Queen of the Wave. Micachu probably cuts closest to what they do: an act that isn't afraid to run as far in one direction - towards sugary hooks - as they do the other - crusty guitars and gauzy recordings. Waters, who's pretty mild-mannered for a comedian (his other job), plays the sugar to Burke's spice in this weird-pop combo.
In the run-up to Wavelength FOURTEEN (Weaves are playing Friday, Feb. 14 at Adelaide Hall), we caught up with Waters to talk Canadian show biz, the end of genres, and ripping off Aaliyah.
Weaves self-titled debut EP will be released April 1, 2014 on Buzz Records.
I heard that the first time you met Jasmyn she was playing solo at a party. What made you want to work with her?
MORGAN WATERS: A cool sounding voice. The songs were noisy and interesting, but at the same time there were still hooks and pop sensibilities within them. So it was kind of a nice blend between in-your-face abrasiveness and pop.
What made you think you’d be a good team?
She came over and we did some demoing at my place, and there was a good give and take. She was willing to indulge my more pop side and I was interested in getting into the craziness that she had. It was a really easy collaboration right up front because... we complete each other.
Toronto has a pretty eclectic scene and I think that’s something Weaves embodies. It’s not unusual for a single bill to have a punk band, a funk group, and some guy on the floor twiddling knobs and making noise. Do you think that’s something that’s unique to this city or is that more a sign of the times?
I think it’s a sign of the times. I think genres are going away because everyone can go on the Internet. Everything is at your fingertips. The whole idea of saying "I’m punk," and listening to one genre of music is so outdated, and it’s also so boring for people to be so compartmentalized. The more you can steal from everywhere, the more interesting your music’s going to be. And especially if you’re just following your bliss, following sounds that you like regardless of genre, that’s how you can really make something interesting.
Do you think these broad, showcase style platforms — I’m thinking of things like this upcoming Wavelength fest or the Long Winter series — have been particularly good at demolishing those borders in city’s music scene?
Yeah, especially Long Winter. It’s basically like sitting at the computer. You can walk from one room to another, you can sample all different styles. When you get bored of one thing, you can go to another room — from a free-improv noise group to an R&B group in two minutes. And that’s basically what everyone experiences on the Internet. You’re not judging things based on genre or scene, but "is this entertaining?"
I know you’ve done a bunch of work in television [Waters was in the CBC television program The X and later, The Morgan Waters Show]. Do you think being involved in show business has specially equipped you to make making art a livelihood? Any lessons that cross over?
Yeah, it’s all the same thing. It’s sitting in your room, basically staring at a computer or staring at a guitar, just staring at an empty page and then working away and whittling it down and editing until it’s good. Whether you’re making a video or you’re making music, that’s all the same process for me. My experience with TV and all that has been where I was writing and directing and producing. The acting was less of a focus, it was more just making stuff. And that’s the way it is with music, too. I never set out to be a musician, but it’s just the act of creating something. And at the end of the day being able to look back and be proud of what you’ve done, I think that’s the thing that ties those two worlds together for me.
You had a show called Cock’d Gunns, I saw an episode, about a delinquent upstart trying desperately to, I don’t know, become the biggest band in the world.
Yeah, a terrible band trying to get a record deal.
Did any of that come from your long history in bands? I mean, for parody to work there’s gotta be some kernel of truth?
Yeah, it’s based on some truths. There’s something funny about a group of guys ganging together with the goal of conquering the world, but clearly, not everything is that easy, especially when you have no talent. The web series I’m working on now is about a guy who works at the home shopping channel selling women’s clothing. I play that guy. In all those cases, the whole goal with the comedy I like is just to take the worst parts of yourself and exaggerate them and put them on screen. All that stuff is exposing different dark, depressing things about myself, and then celebrating it and laughing at it. It’s like therapy, basically.
Weaves have released a number of digital singles instead of holding out for an EP or a full-length. What’s the thinking behind that?
We’ll be releasing an EP very shortly [editor's note: April 1 on Buzz Records]. But people aren’t sitting down to listen to full records. You’re fighting for people’s attention. If you can put out one quality thing over a period of time and really get it out there, it’s exciting for the listener, but it’s also exciting for us. As we finish a song we can just put it out rather than having to wait for the promo of a traditional album.
If we can push forward and do something new instead of aping styles from 20 years ago, then yeah, fuck that, let’s try to make guitar music exciting and new without being elitist or snobby.
I mean, Jasmyn and I have some ideas: yeah, the Aaliyah thing, getting poppier and getting noisier, doing both, exaggerating both things, exaggerating what Weaves means and not trying to pull it together, in a way, to push further in both directions.
Do you think there are two songs or bands that you can think of that represent those poles, your ideals? If one is Aaliyah, what would the opposite side be?
Like, Zeppelin. In my mind I’m always trying to balance between Zeppelin, Prince, and The B-52s… and Pixies and all that. If you have guitars and drums, you can’t help but be influenced by the great bands. But you've got to do something new. Guitar music — I don’t know, I’m sick of it, everyone’s sick of it. If you can bring the inventiveness that’s in hip-hop and we can have that same revamp, if we can push forward and do something new instead of aping styles from 20 years ago, then yeah, fuck that, let’s try to make guitar music exciting and new without being elitist or snobby. We don’t want it to be about "look how cool our record collection is, look how difficult this is to listen to." It’s like, I don’t know, I just want to entertain.