Chains Of Love: ‘If You Call Yourself A Musician, You Better Have Ideas’Interview
We find out how growing up as an anglophile in Canada influenced Chains Of Love's 'Strange Grey Days'.
The notion of recording your songs in a traditional style isn't anything new; ever since Jack and Meg White headed off to their analogue recording studio, bands have been working their little cotton socks of to pull off the new old blues, or Wall Of Sound soundscapes. And that's if you choose to ignore Jesus And Mary Chain, all those years ago. But Vancouver's Chains Of Love take channelling Ronnie Spector to a whole new level, in the very best sense of the words. Having taken South by Southwest by storm last year, and a debut album, 'Strange Grey Days', recorded in guitarist Felix Fung's own studio, already under their belts, we interrupted Felix during the German leg of their tour, to find out all about growing up in Canada, recording their album and what's next for Chains Of Love.
For the uninitiated, tell us a little bit about how Chains Of Love got together?
I record a lot of bands in Vancouver, and Natalia, our fabulous lead singer, we'd known each other loosely for about three years. And every time we bumped into each other, she was asking to do something, I just didn't know what. But I got really sick of recording boys, I got really tired of that. And I got really tired of everyone wanting some kind of accidental career, I mean, I'm generalising here, so I was like, if you're going to do garage or sixties type influence, I thought we should do it the way people did it back then, you know, full on. Big unapologetic female vocalists, like Shirely Bassey or any of the female Motown artists, really be very expansive that way. Very Northern Soul. It was organic, but I have a studio, I do this for a living, and I had a string of Tuesdays that were free. So I just asked some friends, the unlikely kids. So we just got two or three people together at first, and then the next Tuesday a couple more people showed up, and the Tuesday after that... and before you know it, we had a collective of six people there, basically all the unemployed people because we were working days. Enough of romanticising it, it was all my unemployed friends who could show up on a Tuesday.
And you released 'Strange Grey Days' here earlier this year?
Yeah, the band got together so quickly, we wrote and recorded the album in about ten days. It was very old school, we just wanted that experience where you walk in and say, here's the song, or some rough chords, and we'd just write it very quickly. The girls would get some melody together, and some harmonies, and then we'd record and mix that evening.
Was there a reason why it had to be done so quickly?
In the speed of it all, I wanted it to be very old style studio, where the band would show up and they'd have to perform. Like before when people didn't have home studios, I didn't want it to drag on, it was like, if you call yourself a musician, you better have ideas right now, you better be able to play it. No pro tools, no fiddling about, you just have to do it. So the whole thing was done in 10 days, and we threw some songs on to the internet as we made it, and we were lucky enough to get some attention. We had to get it together pretty quickly, everything was just sort of, back to front, it didn't happen like a normal band, you had to get your act together pretty quickly.
Do you think that growing up in Canada influenced you as an artist?
I guess it does, whether one's aware of it or not. I lived in a place called Richmond, which is very villagey, so now I can understand why they call it that – there was a drive to get out. It sounds trite and everything, but you hate your surroundings, you hate the school system, you hate everything and you want to experience city life, and the world at large. I think that was a big strive for me, because everything else seemed so exciting, not understanding that a lot of these English bands were living in a similar situation to mine. I thought they were all in swinging London, everybody doing something every day. And having nothing to do meant that you just stayed at home, stayed in the garage and played music. For me, anyway. A lot of my friends were musicians as well.
A lot of Canadian artists keep referencing how the expanse of nature really influences their music. Was that not the case for you, then?
I was never attracted to hiking or kayaking. That was one of the things that I always hated, the after school programmes where they were always like, “hey, do you want to go mountain climbing?” and I was pretty much, not really. At all. It gave me something to push against. It gave us all something to push against, trying to find tight jeans or whatever it is.
One thing that we've been really impressed by is how Canada supports their artists, in a financial sense. Is that something you've seen the benefit from?
We haven't received any funding, although I have before in the past, for recording other bands though, and that was great. It's actually the best record deal you'll ever get. I mean, they want it paid back, of course, but the thing of it is like, if you don't, you just can't move up on the scale. Basically at the end of it, you produce receipts and nobody says a word about whether it should be this way or that way. At the other end, and I don't know whether it's sour grapes, we constantly see the same types of bands getting them; very top forty types of bands. But then I understand that as well, because they'd like to get their money back and it is representative of a side of Canada. We sort of have this feeling that we don't want to be ...beholden.
You're a self confessed Anglophile, and you've cited The Smiths as influences before. How was it touring the UK? Did you find any differences between the Canadian and British audiences?
I think the audiences in general, there's dance music and then there's live bands, and sometimes people don't know how to take it. For some reason in the UK, and Europe, people stand ten feet away from the front of the stage? It's like, you can't get any further back, they're stood at the back of the club! We showered this morning, we're totally clean, why wouldn't you stand at the front? The other thing is, everyone plays quite early over here, everything's done by about 10 o'clock. For us, we've just had dinner and we're jumping around on stage. It gets a bit burpy.
But it was fun walking around Manchester and picking out Morrissey lyrics. I didn't try to get my hopes up too high, things change, and they'll change again, but it was a real thrill.
Chains Of Love's album 'Strange Grey Days' is out now via Manimal Vinyl.