The ordinary festival visitor might get the impression that these summer open airs are always a holiday for all involved parties – all the artists, media and press people are chilling in the sun, grabbing free drinks and catering. With the bands staying the whole weekend. But of course like a lot of things in showbusiness it’s most likely less glamorous as you might picture it. Most acts rush from festival to festival, struggling with traffic and logistic problems only got short time for the festival itself, their performance, a propper soundcheck or even the chance to get a good impression of the whole event. But it’s still fun playing them especially when to location is as beautiful as the habour of Hamburgs DOCKVILLE FESTIVAL
Canadian dreampop duo MEMORYHOUSE arrived at the area too late but just in time as the sun was slowly settling in front of the stage they were supposed to play. There couldn’t have been a better environment for the floating and beautiful songs by Denise Nouvion and Evan Abeele. A lot happened for these two musicians from Toronto during the past months – after the great success of their debut EP The Years they signed to Sub Pop records and released their first full length longplayer entitled The Slideshow Effect this spring. A wonderful record full of beautiful moments driven by Abeeles piano play, epic soundscapes and the magnificant voice of Nouvion. After a lot of touring all around the world the trio – including new live drummer Daniel Gray – has already stretched the boundaries of their own origins, presenting old songs in a new style and fresh songs with a lot of energy. A new album is definitely planned in the future – right after their lovely performance we had the chance to grab the two newcomers in their dressing rooms where we talked a bout the recent record, the upcoming one and the concept of their music.
So, how exactly did you guys end up together?
Denise: Back in the older days I wasn’t really musician. Evan was, I was just a photographer. So, we wanted to work together but we couldn’t really figure out how. Then we paired my photographs with his more classical compositions and as time passes on he forced me to sing on his tracks (laughs). And that’s the way MEMORYHOUSE started and we always carried this photograph thing on.
Evan: It’s a nostalgic tool to ground our influences.
Denise, since you mentioned Evan ‘forcing’ you to sing. You have truly beauiful voice but you never really sung before?
Denise: Yeah, I mean I didn’t sing in public before. I was more a shower singer or in the car.
Evan: She used to sing in punk bands.
Denise: (laughs) That’s not true. But I was influenced by a lot of the harder bands like ALEXISONFIRE. But I’ve been practicing my singing over the past years.
So your origins in photography might also explain the album title, do they?
Denise: Yes, The Slideshow Effect kind of references how someone percieves his own memories. You always remember them differently, they are not really…
Evan: … pure. Your memory is always coloured and has an internal bias to your own perceptions and your own life. So, no memory can ever be truly pure since you always remember it through your visual self. It’s just an interesting way to narrate our own lifes through our own perspective.
The whole debut record marks a clear difference from your earlier work which was more reduced and somehow spheric. Now you have a new drummer, a more expanded band sound that makes the album sounds fuller and more mature. Was this the intention?
Evan: Yeah, we’re definitely in a better position at the moment. First thing is, we’re really comfortable with ourselves right now which means we don’t need to hide and we can improvise more, even on stage. When we did our first EP The Years in 2010 we have never really played live before, it was all a studio production. As we went in the studio for The Slideshow Effect we wanted to take what we learned from playing live and put it on a record. We were touring almost two years with this EP and songs from the album. In that time we learned how much fun it is to play fast and energetic songs to get the crowd wild – the track Lately for example was originally a ballad, but we played it live always a bit faster and now with our drummer Daniel we’re abled to put a disco beat underneath it. We’re experimenting a lot here, but we wanna keep it natural and still want to sound like we’re playing in your living room.
So is this a future musical direction?
Evan: We don’t know yet. The second reason why we’re happy at the moment is the fact that we’re almost done promoting the record in a touring sense. These are the last shows before we kind of wrap up. So we got an eye on the future, looking forward to it and you can sense some of this stuff also during our recent live shows. Probably a bit more brighter and more confident – all the things you learn on your first big tour.
Is there a certain key topic for the record or your music in general? You already mentioned the photographs and their influences on our own memory. And there’s clearly a certain sense of bittersweet melancholia in your songs.
Evan: Yeah, especially in the early days around the EP there was definitely this sense of bittersweetnes – taking something casual and see what impact it has on your life. It was about how little breakups help shaping your character and your sense for relationships. It’s different on the LP – we were just in a blessed position since we signed to our favourite label Sub Pop Records and were abled to record it. We couldn’t help but being happy about that fact which we wanted to show on the album.
Denise: It’s not all happy all over but always with an emotional sense on what’s going on.
Evan: I think we showed that there can be a mix of positive and negative things. Perhaps some pure victories beat the bittersweet ones and stuff like this.
What meaning do the words ‘hope’ and ‘passion’ have for you?
Denise: Puh, tough question (laughs). I think especially when you’re communicating through art – like we do – it’s always great how it changes your perspective on things. Like when you’re having a bad day and you’re listening to a song you really like for example or a photograph that takes you somewhere. This emotion is sort of passionate for me.
Evan: Looking at the grand scheme and hope and passion in general I think we’re living in a very exciting time where there are more younger voices than ever in society. And these voices are accessable all around the world – from Yemen to Iran and even here. I think we really need to grasp that in a more effective way – instead of just updating Twitter or Instagram with what you had for lunch. We can really do a lot of positive things with that – and I don’t wanna sound to preachy on this but we could really help each other with this. Even on regular daily things. So this is basicly my hope that we really use these wonderful tools to connect with people from all around and use them as benefit for our society.
dreampop / indie
from Toronto, Canada