Thank a new years eve pact for giving Still Life Still the motivation to begin taking their band seriously. Ever since the angsty, Canadian outfit have been on a promising trajectory. Here, we sit down with Brendan Saarinen and Eric Young in an exclusive interview when the band stopped by the Guest Apartment during a CMJ swing through NYC. - David Pitz
Still Life Still have a credo. Never make a Plan B, laughs drummer Aaron Romaniuk. It just gets in the way of Plan A. We're strong believers that if you put out your good vibes into the universe, the universe will give you something back.
On December 31, 2007, the five members of Still Life Still made a pact. At the ripe old age of 21, they had been a band for eight years already. Through various stages, sounds, and a rotating cast of auxiliary players, the core members had stuck together with a willful determination and a belief that their personal bond and a lot of hard work would see them through. This is our year, they said, on that fateful, drunken winter night in the East York neighbourhood of Toronto. This is the year it's going to happen.
Cut to December 31, 2008, at Toronto's Phoenix club, where Still Life Still are partying at a DJ dance party hosted by Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew who had just signed Still Life Still to his Arts and Crafts label, and had agreed to record their debut album the following month.
STILL LIFE STILLActually, what Drew had agreed to was only a three-song demo. Still Life Still sent him five CDs worth of material they were thinking of recording. When tape finally started rolling, they laid down 11 songs in two days. As a group of 22-year-olds who practiced five nights a week and gigged on weekends, they were more than ready for their close-up. By that point they already shed band members, songwriter Brendan Saarinen had been focusing almost entirely on new material, keyboardist/percussionist Josh Romaniuk had quit and re-joined, and they had discarded a full album that they trashed as pure studio bullshit. This time they were determined to get it right.
Still Life Still have always known what they want, ever since they dropped out of high school to focus on music. We didn't want the regular life, and we realized that we have something here, says Aaron, who with bassist Derek Paulin provides the anchor for the band's driving rhythm section. Brendan writes special songs, and we all have a wicked connection. We feed off each other all the time; we developed that growing up in East York.
In January 2008, Still Life Still shifted their home base from East York to a rehearsal space in the heart of Toronto at Queen and Bathurst, which hurled them into an exciting new network of musicians. Once we moved downtown, says singer/guitarist Eric Young, we'd meet one person who would introduce us to five more, and it kept snowballing.
Someone suggested they book a gig at Elvis Monday; Still Life Still had never heard of the longrunning Toronto institution by offering a no-cover-charge showcase for emerging artists. Scene staple William New has been booking Elvis Mondays for over 25 years. But for a man who's seen it all he says, I was blown away the first time I saw Still Life Stillcompletely gobsmacked. The constructs of the songs are pretty, but they're still rock'n'roll. Basically, it's everything I like about modern music.
Descriptors come up short with Still Life Still. This is a band whose primary musical influence is each other; before their parents bought them instruments at age 13, they were beating on tin cans and making guitar noises with their mouths. By their own admission, they were raised on mainstream rock videosany of their indie rock/ambient/experimental aspects they arrived at entirely on their own.
STILL LIFE STILLBoth inside the band and in their newly discovered group of peers at Elvis Mondays (Spiral Beach, Boxes and Bags, Dinosaur Bones, La Casa Muerte, The Miles, Donlands and Mortimer), music is a social element. For a group of friends who first met as soccer rivals in 1st Grade, their musical bond is an extension of the brotherly camaraderie they share in everything they do. For a group of musicians in Canada's most competitive music industry town, William New says, They're always out at their friends' shows. They're not being cool standing at the bar; they're right up as close as they can get to the stage and jumping around having a good timeand everybody puts on a better performance because of it.
It's that energy and sense of discovery that fuels Girls Come Too, and Still Life Still are ready to tour the ends of the earth to share that enthusiasm. These guys are lifers. And after 11 years as a band together, this is all only the beginning.
So do they have any plans for this New Year's Eve?
Eric: I want to be in Mexico.
Aaron: I want to be in Iceland. We're just excited to see where we go, and try not to have any big expectations.
Eric: We were never in it to get famous. I just want to make enough money so that we can buy a farm off the map, grow our own food. Because we're kind of assuming that with the way the world is going, that's going to have to happen."