On the eve of their show at Rock the Shores 2016, Towers and Trees Adrian Chalifour sits down with Tyson Elder to talk music, 7 mile social, and catching Porno’s by mistake.
Tyson Elder: With the Seven Mile Social it’s really cool to see all local acts on the first night of Rock the Shores. A lot of those bands have worked really hard to get to where they are now. Is there anyone you are excited to share the stage with on Friday?
Adrian Chalifour: I’m actually pretty excited to watch the full Current Swell set. They’re kind of the horizon we always looked towards when we started this project. I think that they . . . I wouldn’t say created the wave, but are part of that first big wave and represent the pinnacle of that wave of that talent that came from Vancouver Island. That sound, the vibe, and the feel of everything. So we’ve always had a great deal of admiration for them. I don’t think I’ve ever really been able to just fully take in their show.
TE: They were a band that I kind of dismissed early on because of west coast surf music. But when I saw their live show I was like “holy shit, they are a fucking rock band.”
AC: I think they also have the benefit of holding the title for credibility that has worked consistently and diligently. Their show is that good because they’ve played that many shows and they’ve pounded the pavement so much. There’s the ability to tour consistently and to get as far as they have is one of the biggest challenges of being based in Victoria.
TE: It’s hard to get off this island.
AC: And considering they’ve gotten into other markets like Alberta and even out east, they’re drawing comparable numbers to indie Cancon stars on the radio. I don’t know the specifics of the radio play they get, but they have gotten some. You really get the sense that they didn’t build what they’ve built on radio play. They got it by showing up, playing the shows, getting sweaty, and talking to fans after.
TE: I saw lots of photos of them when they were in Amsterdam last year playing a packed show and that says a lot.
TE: Before the interview, you mentioned that you’re excited to see the Arkells on Sunday, because last time, you had to miss their set to play another show at Rifflandia. Arkells was this Canadian radio indie darling and now they’re headlining festivals.
AC: That’s kind of this whole Rock The Shores lineup. These Canadian indie darlings that shot to the top.
TE: Yeah, Dallas Green was in Alexisonfire.
AC: The thing is that, with most festivals lineups in previous years — I think this is hoity-toity thing a lot of musicians have, but — you never get excited about the headliners. It’s always these midday acts I want to see. It’s cool when Jane’s Addiction or The Black Keys come to town, but they’re not the acts I’m waiting for. This year it feels like the headliners are the acts I’m most excited to see.
TE: I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Metric. I’ve had a crush on Emily Haines since I was a teenager so I’m really excited to see them. I totally agree with you about being excited to see the middle of the day acts like you. Like last year getting to see PPL MVR.
AC: I don’t know if we’re on the same page for that particular one. (both start laughing)
TE: TV on the Radio and Father John Misty were both in the middle of the day and now they headlining festivals. Well, Father John Misty is. It’s cool to see that Arkells are billed above Eagles of Death Metal.
AC: My top three would have to be Metric, Arkells, and Current Swell. If I manage to see all three I’ll be very happy. There is no reason I won’t.
TE: Based on past performances, I think The New Pornos are going to be great on Saturday evening.
AC: I caught them by mistake last summer, because they were playing at the PNE and we just happened to be over there. We wandered through this concert area and they were putting on this show. I was like “This is the New Pornographers! We are staying and sitting down for the whole show.” I got to scratch them off my bucket list, but I guess I’ll get to see them again.
TE: That’s a band that’s been around for a long time. They play Victoria so rarely, it’s pretty exciting. Rock The Shores is a big festival, man. It’s great to see lots of locals on it and Canadian acts. I think people seem to forget that Canadians put out a lot of great music. This year you don’t even think about it, but there is on two international acts on the lineup. There have been years similar, but it was very apparent. It was all music my dad listens to. (laughs)
AC: We all know what year you are talking about. (laughs)
TE: It was still fun, because you knew all the words to all those songs, but this year feels different. It feels like contemporary Canadian music. It’s actually taking over it’s an interesting shift. I don’t know how Eagles of Death Metal are going to fare. That guy is a bit of an… asshole from what I’ve gathered over the last few months.
AC: I’ve caught bits and pieces, but that’s a tricky situation.
TE: Blaming the security guards for what happened in France and being a big Trump supporter it just terrifies me.
AC: Yeah. I remember seeing an interview where he started sharing his perspective on gun control post that event and I just think there is a reaction to trauma plus a soapbox and an ability to reach a wide audience. On some level you can’t presume what makes someone tick. It’s a bit of a vulnerable and tricky thing and I could see how those lines could get very blurry. Being involved in a very traumatic experience is going to evoke certain reactions and gives you license and perspective to share.
TE: It’s hard to say those thing about another country though. I don’t know anything about France’s policies, but I know a shocking amount about Americas. That’s because I live in Canada and I’m afraid to go down there.
TE: Let’s get back to Towers and Trees though. Are you excited for the big show on Friday?
AC: I think is going to be a special performance for us. We don’t have any live or touring plans after this summer. Our drummer Jesse (Boland) is relocating to Toronto in September so we kind of made this decision a few months ago to stop trying to the current album we currently have especially with any kind of live performance channel. Which is hard because live performance has been such a big part of our identity. We are only going to have a handful maybe two or three and maybe just pull together one last show for ourselves before he takes off. Rock The Shores is going to be the big one.
TE: You’re going to be playing in front of a lot of people. That has to be pretty fulfilling before you take a break, to end on such a high note.
AC: I think the fan community here in Victoria has almost become part of the DNA of the project. The fact that we’re playing as part of the 7 Mile Social is pretty special. We’re going to lean into it and make a lot of noise on stage. It’s sort of an act of gratitude for us to say “we get to stand on this stage because the people standing out there in the audience helped us get there.” It’s just going to be a great moment for us to share. There hasn’t really been a voice inside the team that says “this is it.” We all have this unshakable sense that we want keep playing around creatively, to lean into the creative process and see what we can find, and some music we’re all excited about. Even if that happens, that’s the first step in creating a new context for playing live. This is still just a conclusion to a chapter, and even then, there’s a certain flavour, a certain something about our live show now that is very declarative, big, and interactive.
TE: I think a lot of people are familiar with your record, especially the single Bad Heart, but who haven’t seen you guys live are going to be blown away.
AC: I hope so. I hope we don’t shit the bed. (laughs)
TE: Seriously, the first time I saw you play that song live it was amazing, and every time after, I hate to use the word epic, but it definitely bigger than the album.
AC: For sure, and that’s been a big part of our live identity. We challenge ourselves to up the game and make it bigger and bigger. In many ways this will represent the pinnacle of that. That’s the biggest stage we are going to play. That’s the biggest event that we are playing. We just want to be that big sound one last time in front of the community that brought us there. It’s going to be pretty special and we’re all pretty excited about it.
TE: Later this summer I know you are playing Butchart Gardens on August 19th. That’s your third year playing there?
AC: Yeah, it should been fourth. Should have been an annual event but we just missed each other last year.
TE: I think the first year you played there might have been one of the first times I saw you perform with a full band other than just some acoustic shows here and there. It’s hard to describe a show there. It’s way bigger than you’d expect and more intimate. You guys have a certain chemistry that works really well together.
AC: What’s cool about Butchart is it feels pretty intimate because there is no obvious demographic. You’ve got people showing up because they are on cruise ships, you’ve got people with white hair, you’ve got little babies with no hair, and everyone in between. I always feel what’s cool about the Butchart shows are the songs and the stories get to step into the spotlight and you feel like you are very shared experience with the audience.
TE: At that first show you threw in some covers of K-OS and Van Morrison which were great, because you didn’t have two albums worth of material. Will this show be different?
AC: We had six songs on an EP, two of which we didn’t play live (laughs). You also get to play for a while which was always intimidating the first and second year we were playing. We were like “*Holy crap, we need 90 minutes of music*” where as this year we are like “*sweet, we can play ALL our music.*” That’s probably what we will do this year is play all our music plus some covers. We have more than enough.
AC: I think I’ve come to the conclusion Jesse is the best drummer in at least Western Canada…
TE: Here’s his problem. He’s moving to Toronto. Neil Peart’s there and he’s going to have to go to drum-offs every weekend to claim the national title. (laugh)
AC: I mean he is a huge fish in this small pond. It’s an easy thing to not quite appreciate unless you are really consciously not appreciating it. For anyone going to Rock The Shores or any of our shows even that alone is worth it. Just the musicianship that I feel like I get to benefit from on stage.
TE: Towers and Trees feels like a very collaborative project. I feel there is a huge difference between listening to West Coast and the Broken EP.
AC: Because I did the drumming on the EP (laughs). There’s that. There is one symbol crash on the whole album, because the kit we were using was just kick, snare, and hat. We recorded that one symbol hit separately and inserted in.
TE: I’d say the big difference is my name in the liner notes.
AC: That too.
TE: No, it feels like you guys really worked those things out together, playing off each others’ strengths and creating something truly special and personal for every member of the band, which doesn’t always come across when people make and listen to records.
AC: With all the guys, there’s a tremendous amount of musicality on stage. It’s a comment Dave Zelinsky always makes about Jesse “is that (Jesse) is the most musical drummer he has ever played with.” If you unpack that statement a little bit it totally makes sense, because Jesse plays the drums, plus he sings, so that already makes him pretty musical, but he plays the drums as if he is playing the whole band. Dave’s the same way on guitar. Dave also has a strong songwriting and creative sensibility and that’s what sets him apart. He’s not just an axeman. He’s got this ability to know where the song is going and what it wants. That’s why there always seems like there is a little bit of room for play, because you can let these things breathe and grow over time.
TE: You certainly get that feeling of it being organic on stage and that’s huge.
AC: That’s something we also like to do. The bigger the venue and stage, we always want to fill whatever space we have. That’s what’s fun about these big festival shows like Rifflandia at the park last year and now Rock The Shores, is we get to try and be as big as we can.
TE: Friday of Rock the Shores is such a cool day for local music. It’s really a way to showcase how great it is. To see you guys up there with a bunch of friends is going to be pretty darn special.
Catch Towers and Trees at Rock The Shores on Friday July 22nd, 2016 at 4:25 pmand again later this summer at Butchart Gardens on Friday August 19th, 2016.