By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Toronto band Boys Who Say No continues to hone its sound on its debut full-length album, "Contingencies."
The album, which is garnering rave reviews, was produced by Dave Newfeld, known for his work with Broken Social Scene and Los Campesinos!
Boys Who Say No, www.myspace.com/boyswhosaynois bound to play songs from the new album when it plays April 15 at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. Japanther, Sleepovers, and Little Dave Merriman of the band The Arrivals also are on the bill. ,
The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at www.ticketweb.com.
I had the chance to talk to Boys Who Say No bassist Antonio Naranjo about the new album and the band's other activities.
Q - How's the new tour van? Have you been able to sell the old one yet?
The new van is great. We’re very happy to travel in an insulated vehicle that doesn’t look like that van your elementary school teachers warned you never to approach.
We’ve sacrificed some cargo space for comfort. THERE’S A DVD PLAYER AND SCREEN THAT FLIPS DOWN FROM THE ROOF!
We’re still in the process of selling our old van, so if you have any friends who are in the market for a creepy looking van with lots of character that runs great, send them our way!
Q - Your new CD has been earning rave reviews already. What goals did you have for the album? How do you think the band's sound has evolved since releasing your EP?
When we made our EP, the approach was to really capture the raw energy of our live show. It felt like a documentation of where we were at both as a band and as musicians.
With "Contingencies," we set out to create something more realized. To create an album that would push the boundaries of our own musicianship, take us out of our comfort zone a bit.
We wanted to go somewhere to do everything ourselves. Somewhere we could really take our time and have complete control and freedom to create something we could be proud of.
I think we exceeded that goal. The band’s confidence and sound has evolved to the point now that we are starting to make the music that we have always been striving to make.
Q - Dave Newfeld, well known for his work with Broken Social Scene and Super Furry Animals, produced the album. How did you hook up with him and what do you think you brought to the table?
We tracked the record ourselves in Luke - our lead singer’s - family cabin over the course of a month. When it came time to mix everything, we had been sitting on these songs for so long that we were beginning to lose sight of what we were creating.
We thought it would be best to bring in someone with fresh ears and a fresh perspective on the material to mix the record. We made a sort of wish list of producers we wanted to work with and were lucky enough that Dave (who was tied for first on our list) wanted to take on the project.
Dave is a real talent - a kind of musical savant. Just having a conversation with him, you can get an idea of the kind of musical genius that is floating around in his head all the time.
Wed initially hired him on just to mix the record, but his take on our songs were so drastically different than anything we could have imagined for them; he really put his stamp on the album and took on the role of a producer just through the mixes he’d done.
"Contingencies" wouldn’t be what it is without him.
Q - Three of the four members went to high school together. How do you think that helps the band's chemistry?
Growing up together and being so close and familiar with each other as friends has definitely afforded us an advantage for working together in a creative capacity.
Nobody is afraid to be vulnerable in front of the rest of the band. None of us are afraid to share an idea that the rest of the guys, regardless of whether they love it or tell you it’s total shit.
We learn to check our egos and bullshit at the door when we get into a room together. Great art is vulnerable and honest, and if you’re going to make great art with other people, you need to all be honest with one another and you need to be comfortable enough with one another to be vulnerable.
Q - You all have very diverse musical backgrounds. Has it been hard meshing those backgrounds?
Individually, each of us in the band comes from a different world of influence and background, be it the straight-up rock and roll of The Clash and the folk music of Julie Doiron, to the industrial sound of Nine Inch Nails or synth indie of Wolf Parade.
We find a middle ground in our shared enthusiasm for bands like Wilco or The Walkmen, whose sound is more country-rock influenced, or the great pop music created by Elvis Costello and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.
It’s fascinating to see every member contribute something to a song that is completely contrary to the rest of the band’s musical intuition. All of us are quite strong headed and we fight hard for our ideas until we arrive at a compromise that works for everyone.
We refuse to play something we don’t like. At the end of the day, the band’s greatest asset is our members’ diverse range of musical influence and background, and the recipe that’s created when we combine them.
Q - Explain the story behind the band's name.
The name was taken from a Joan Baez poster, which was made during the time that the U.S. military was drafting young soldiers into the Vietnam War in 1968. It doesn’t have much to do with the message we put forward now, because we aren’t a radically political band.
Basically, the story is that Frank, our drummer, had this poster up on the wall in his room and when we were trying to think of names, the name Boys Who Say No quite literally stood out at us.
Q - You guys show off your dancing skills on the video for "Ms. Lee." Was it hard making that video? Do you think the band might become as well known for that video as the band OK Go did in showing off their moves on treadmills in the video "Here It Goes Again?"
The hardest part about making the “Ms. Lee” video was learning to dance.To dance well, actually.
We spent about two weeks learning choreography and rehearsing for the video shoot, but when it came time to actually perform the dance when shooting, we weren’t nearly as polished as we thought we were.
That’s the charm of the video though; that we’re not trying to make something that’s polished. We’re not trying to fool anyone into believing we’re good dancers. We are just four guys who decided to dance to our song in a restaurant.
I don’t know if our video will find the same viral success that OK Go’s did. I hope so, but how can we compete with treadmills!?
There is something so genuinely entertaining about that video and they continue to push the boundaries of what a music video is and should be.
Q - How do you think U.S. audiences differ from those in Canada? Of course, plenty of Canadian bands have found success in the U.S., but do you think it's harder for a Canadian band to get attention in the U.S.?
I feel that it has been harder for bands north of the boarder to find mainstream success in the U.S., mostly because the American market is already so over saturated with musicians trying to make it that there hasn’t been much of a need to look to Canada.
That being said however, Canada and the town we’re from, Toronto, is basking in what is being called “our Seattle moment." The editor of the New York Times I believe recently wrote an article about Toronto, dubbing it the best music city in the world right now.
Bands like Austra, Fucked Up and obviously Drake are finding enormous success in the U.S., so we feel very lucky and excited to be a part of the Toronto boom.
That being said, every show we’ve played anywhere in the U.S. has been great! American audiences are so openly enthusiastic about discovering new music and supporting independent artists.
Canadian audiences tend to be a little more standoffish.It can sometimes feel as though the crowd want you to prove that you’re worth their attention.
They stand at the back of the room arms folded, anticipating disappointment. This isn’t every Canadian crowd though! Don’t be deterred to play north of the border. Most Canadian crowds are amazing!
Q - What are the band's short term and long term goals?
In the short term, we are headed on tour through the U.S. and Canada with our friends Japanther. We’ll be heading out through the Mid-West all the way to Southern California. After that, we plan to release a 7-inch in the fall.
In the long term: tour more and more all the time, continue to grow as musicians and share our music with more people, crack your mainstream U.S. market and take some dance classes.