Montreal’s The Dears defy any simple comparisons. Their beautiful third album, Gang Of Losers, is a tapestry of emotive indie rock; and yet somehow I still manage to ask them the same tiring questions that – ironically – seem to make me the loser…
There’s a lot of great bands from Montreal at the moment, Arcade Fire, The Unicorns, you guys. Do you think you have a sound distinct to your city?
Martin: No, Montreal doesn’t have a sound. That’s the thing. People were talking about this scene. But in Seattle you had bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, bands that kinda sounded the same. But in Montreal you go from The Stills, to Arcade Fire, to the Unicorns, all with different styles and that’s the same for bands you’ve never heard of that are doing great. Like Priestess is metal almost. I wonder if the guys from Seattle felt the same way though.
Patrick: It’s the nature of the city [Montreal] though. People are different there.
Valerie: It’s very multicultural.
Patrick: You walk up St Laurent and you go through Italian, Portuguese and China town all in a 20-minute walk.
Valerie: And of course French and English.
Martin: And way too many hot girls.
Patrick: Yeah, they’re all hot, all of them.
Do you find that with all of these bands you’re getting a lot more attention?
Patrick: Oh God yeah.
Martin: I remember touring through the States before and people were like “Montreal, what?” and now you get people coming to the show just because we’re from Montreal. It’s weird, ‘cos when I heard Montreal was going to have a “scene” it was by a guy from Seattle.
I recently interviewed the guy from Seattle-based Presidents of the United States. He said back in the day a lot of half-assed bands moved to his city.
Martin: That’s totally happening in Montreal. You’ve got everyone coming over from Toronto, even people from Vancouver.
Valerie: And people who left Montreal for New York and are now coming back.
Patrick: ‘Cos it was cool to be from New York, and now they’re all like, “Wait, wait, I’m from Montreal.”
Martin: You’ve got solo artists coming just to join a band. People think we all know each other and party together but it’s not true.
Does Losers differ from No Cities Left?
Martin: For sure. The way it was made to start with. We recorded on tape, trying to do one take. No Cities was stupid, it was a pro-tools record.
Valerie: This record was so much more old-fashioned. It was done quickly, with very few takes. These two [Martin – bass, George – drums] played together. It was much more spontaneous. It’s to the point.
Patrick: The songs are completely different. They’re shorter, the arrangements are more stripped down, the melody is more the focal point of the songs.
George: Listening back on it, I feel this is the perfect record for this time in The Dears.
Valerie: We’ve also been told that No Cities Left is completely different to the dynamics and energy in our live performance. It’s the energy that comes through in this album.
Martin: We wanted to make a record we could play live and we’re coming back from two years on the road, so you want that [live] feeling on the recording.
In the past you’ve been compared to Blur and Morrissey a lot…
Martin: I read once we were the cross between The Cure and Led Zeppelin. But if someone honestly says we sound like Blur on this album I’m going to sit down with them and say “show me where”. It’s like one little thing and they generalise it for the album. It’s the same with Morrissey.
Valerie: But reviews are such bullshit because they like to catch people’s attention with names. The Morrissey comparison might make sense for the first album, you know, 10 years ago.
Patrick: Maybe on song on No Cities Left, but on Gang Of Losers I don’t see it at all.
At this stage the interview gets lost in conversations around the room. I pick up random quotes from the band, like – “Oh man, Shakira’s hips”, “Beck ripped off Serge Gainsbourg,” “How fucking amazing is Britney Spears’ Toxic”, “I’m going to be the drunk guy at Martin and Valerie’s wedding”, “Me and George are the third couple in the band” and “The moral of the story is don’t eat oysters in England” – before it quietens down for one last question.
So Valerie, what’s it like touring with a bunch of guys?
Valerie: It’s very entertaining.
George: I’m sure it’s better than with a bunch of girls.
Patrick: It’s great to have girls in the band because then other girls feel safer coming back to the tour bus.
Martin: Val has opened a lot of doors over the years for these guys.
George: We’re one big happy family, come join us. I don’t think we’re what the fans expect us to be. They think we’re miserable human beings that drink wine and bitch about politics.
Patrick: The only political thing is cock-blocking. Seriously they should write a law.
George: You should be murdered for cock-blocking.
– Gang Of Losers is out now on Speak n Spell.