Interview: Hot Times for July Talk
It’s hard not to be immediately fascinated by the voice of July Talk co-frontperson Peter Dreimanis. Sounding like Tom Waits after a hard night of drinking whiskey and a pint of parking lot rocks, he has this grumbling howl that takes time to get a grip on. Throughout that process, however, you remain intrigued. There’s just something really engaging about it.
“I knew I had a low voice when I was younger,” responds Dreimanis when Riffyou.com asks him about when he first discovered his tone.
Acting primarily as a player in other bands – with the odd backing vocal contribution – Dreimanis was the guy that wouldn’t attempt to get front and centre until a show was done, and the after party was in full-swing. It was here that he’d find a piano and play his favourite Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, and Waits songs. During these nights, he’d occasionally throw in some originals: “The more you drink, the more you’ll play what you’ve written,” he adds with a laugh.
It was a similar occasion that led Dreimanis to Leah Fay. One night, as the story goes, Fay took hold of a guitar being passed around a dark bar and immediately gained Dreimanis’ fascination. Their connection would eventually lead to the formation of July Talk, a band that feels like Stars, with a hearty edge of blues rock darkness and grit. It’s pretty, ugly, charming, and energetic at the same time.
“When I met Leah, that just gave me so much more confidence. [It was great] to work with someone else who provides a counterpunch when I feel like my voice is a little bit one-sided,” relays Dreimanis. “She has allowed me to push myself so far down that road…down that one-way street. As soon as she comes in, she allows a [song’s] perspective to shift. All-of-a-sudden, what I’m doing is not cliché, or closed-minded. And you’re able to completely change the direction of a song in one second.”
That confidence – which can only be added to by the wicked presence of Ian Docherty (guitarist), Josh Warburton (bass) and Danny Miles (drums) – resulted in a Self-Titled album that first emerged in 2012, before being re-released in 2013 with added tracks. The group has since been added to too many festival bills to list; become a new-rock radio station mainstay (thanks to “The Garden” and “Guns + Ammunition); and was nominated for Breakthrough Group of the Year at the 2014 JUNO Awards. Not too shabby.
During our conversation, Dreimanis sounds fearless about the upward swing of July Talk. If anything, it’s making him a better man. He admits that the band has made him a far more focused individual, as they’re now at a level that requires 100% of his dedication all of the time. He no longer has to live with constant Post-It note reminders of other stuff to do. The goal now is simple: get to the gig, then play great.
“I’m able to be the most potent version of myself…rather than force myself to do a million things pretty well, I want to do one thing really well,” he explains.
This new version of himself is, of course, aided by the band – especially Leah. When asked about how their on-stage dynamic works as co-frontpeople, he says that it’s all a result of zero conversation and a large level of trust. Like that fateful night in the darkened bar, he’s trusting his instincts and going for it.
“It’s about trusting each other and allowing each other to push the other person’s boundaries really far,” he says of their on-stage bond. “Like, what would it sound like if I sang my entire verse with Leah’s hand in my mouth? That kind of thing happens, and I have to decide in that moment whether or not I take her hand and throw it out of my mouth and show that I’m not committed to doing that, or I commit to it; go to the mic and do my best; and hope that the audience knows what we’re getting at.
There are those decisions that you have to make, and we’ve never made them through conversations. When it goes badly, sometimes it’s more interesting for the audience.”