Having just recently announced that they are supporting Catfish and the Bottlemen on their US tour, I had the opportunity to catch up with Peter, Leah and Josh from July Talk prior to their gig at Manchester’s Night and Day.
Was there one particular moment or event that made you realise you had started to make an impact on the music scene as July Talk?
LEAH: I remember when we played The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Which is the kind of place where you would see, not stadium bands, but any sort of really talented bands coming through Toronto. I’ve seen a few of my favourite acts there. I don’t know when it opened, maybe like sometime in the 50’s or something, it’s been around forever. Anyway it’s called The Horseshow Tavern and that night it was packed! I’d been to a few sold out shows there but I didn’t realise what it looked like with that many people in there until that night. Toronto is our home town and being able to play that show was amazing. It was mostly friends and family that we packed it out with but we texted and emailed every single person that we knew to get them to come out and it really worked. I remember getting on stage and feeling so overwhelmed that I had to huddle in a ball on the concrete floor in the back alley that went into the venue. That kind of makes it sound like my first realisation of something working was kind of traumatising. But it was like a weird, happy kind of mixed strange feeling and I think that those realisations often happen in that kind of way. Where you’re just like completely out of your body and out of your mind and have no idea what’s happening.
PETER: I remember that. For the first time it was bigger than just our friends coming out to see us. When we were in the dressing room, someone came and told us “It’s lined up around the block and its pouring rain!” I was like “What the hell?” And it was like this “Oh my god” feeling. It felt like this thing is growing beyond us as individuals.
Are you ever tempted to revisit one of your songs or is it more like once it’s done, it’s done? Let’s move on to the next thing.
PETER: We get requests a lot on the road of songs we don’t really play from the first record. Ones that don’t really feel right to play. They no longer feel like us anymore. And I often think that maybe we should find a way to arrange them differently but so that people can still sing along. It should be an exciting experience for a crowd because it’s one of their favourite songs, but we’re also able to play it in a way that’s exciting to us.
JOSH: We do that more often. I feel that with the second record it’s easier for us to have the excuse to play the songs as they are. The first record lasted so long and now we could add stuff we hadn’t thought of at the time. We would retool and rework it. It was an exercise. It’s really fun and we all really enjoy it.
There were four years between your debut album and the latest, Touch?
PETER: It was a huge gap but we kept having to release it with new songs so it ended up being almost twenty songs. But you release it somewhere like the UK, then in the States, which takes time. We had new material so in another way we could have probably put out another record. I’m kind of glad we did it the way we did. With Touch, we had the time to write it and there wasn’t as much pressure on us, as the first album was relatively new and the US and the UK are where it matters as you know. So we didn’t feel a pressure in terms of time. We had a lot of pressure just wanting it to be great.
From the songs you’ve produced and written, are any them based on old ideas that you have had individually and brought them to July Talk.
PETER: Yeah Absolutely. There’s tons of riffs or just starting ideas of songs that you could have been tinkering with for years and finally there’s a platform for them and it feels right. There’s a eureka moment. I remember Josh had a band back in the day. He played with one of our friends from Toronto. I remember him when we dropped the new record, he was like, “I heard a line that Josh brought from the old band.” I forget what it was.
JOSH: For me writing when you’re working on a vocal idea or maybe it’s a guitar riff it’s amazing how long, especially if it’s melody related they stick with you. I feel like it’s almost a sense a smell sometimes, like what kind of memory does it evoke. I think we all do it. I think we all feel comfortable as writers with each other at this point. There’s never that worry about will this work, will it not work?
PETER: There’s a song we’re working on right now. I remember coming home in high school and lying on my bed with my acoustic guitar, and that was what I was playing. It never materialised into anything but now it is. Sometimes it just takes that long for something to become real.
Pete, you covered Bad Moon Rising. Is covering another performers songs ever going to happen on a July Talk album or tour?
JOSH: Stay tuned!
PETER: We kind of made a rule early on, no covers, because we felt if you’re in a band playing covers then people won’t really learn your songs and the cover will be their favourite song. But now that I think we’ve established ourselves more we have a few projects on the go.
LEAH: We covered Heart Shaped Box once by Nirvana. But it was like a one-time thing for a charity event.
Last year you supported Catfish and the Bottlemen on their UK tour. What was that experience like as it seems like the crowd was different from what you would attract on your own tours?
LEAH: In terms of the demographic of the crowds and stuff like that, I have a hard time putting my finger on a July Talk fan. Because the people we meet, everyone is just so different. Everyone has really crazy and interesting things about them and stuff like that but I would never be able to say, July Talk fan! In terms of our exposure over here, the people who know about us are the ones that follow indie music and who listen to obscure playlists created by someone like Radiohead. They’re people that have a love for music and a love for live shows. It’s a really great feeling to be at our shows here, if there’s 60 people or 30 people or whatever, they’re all super passionate about the music that we’re making and music in general. Catfish, this is their home, they have a different crowd to us because they have greater exposure over here, and some of the best music fans, as we know because we’ve all been there as teenagers. Teens who cry and freak out and stand out. It’s like they’re totally into that band and Catfish have so many of those people. They’re amazing music fans. For us to be in front of them is such a pleasure and honour.
JOSH: We’ve played to that type of crowd before back home and they didn’t know who we were. The weirdest thing initially on the Catfish tour was coming out and us being like we’ve done this before, we’ve done this multiple times. But they have no idea who you are. What was interesting about show one with Catfish to the last show was how many of those people were the same in the front row.
LEAH: There were a lot of crazy people. And by the end of the tour they were singing our songs as well. It was great!
PETER: It was wild. The reason I felt I connected with Catfish originally, was to them as music fans and them as human beings. Because the way they consume music is so inspiring and so exciting. I would talk to them about music and it’s all they only really wanted to talk about. I think that it just felt very pure because they’re very concerned with what you’ve been listening to and the conversation is just so exciting. So going on tour with them was this exciting opportunity to just try and contribute to a very rich, long history in this country of rock and roll. It felt like we were part of a moment that we wouldn’t have had access to and because we were seeing it through this lens of almost our own fandom. But the talking about the bands that inspire us and that one song that changed the course of your life? That felt like the focus for me because with them the focus is always about those moments that their heroes gave to them or will give.