Some bands just deserve to be heard as they are.
Rachel Levine (RL): Tell me a little bit about yourselves and how you got started with No Aloha?
Ben Griffiths (BG): The year, was 2013. Stephen Harper was Prime Minister, cigarettes in Montreal cost half as much as they do today, and stealing wifi from your middle-aged neighbours was still something you could get away with without them changing the password on you. I had been living in Montreal for a few years before the band started. Andrew [Bates], Fraser [Roodbol] and I all met in Victoria, B.C, shortly before Fraser and Andrew moved to Montreal. The rehearsal space I’d been using in Saint Henri was taken over by Marshall [Vaillancourt] and his partner Mich, and he joined the band soon afterwards. We all love garage and psychedelic music, and ’80s and ’90s American power pop bands like The Nerves, Guided By Voices and The Breeders. When it came time to decide on a band name we took a song title from The Breeders’ 1993 album Last Splash. Andrew got himself an adult job teaching at a university last year, so we got our friend Patrick McDowall, who helped record and mix both of our albums, to take his place on bass. Andrew is dead to us. jk (kind of).
RL: I love the pop sound, seriously. It’s such a joyous, Canadian sound yet there’s so much Montreal to this band. You even have a song Montreality! I’d love it if you could tell me specifically about this song. Can you tell me how you go about making music? What about the lyrics? What overall affect would you like to create with your music?
BG: Thanks! There definitely is a large amount of humour and self-deprecation involved in our songwriting. That, and an almost careless disregard for personal well-being and good taste. The album cover is gross, I’m the first to admit it. But it has a kind of gross charm. The picture was taken after a show we played in Trois Rivieres last fall. Worst pizza I’ve ever had in my life.
There are three songwriters in the band but we all work out the songs together. I think we’ve embraced the Motown style of upbeat music and sad subject matter. The “this song is the happiest sad song I’ve ever heard” school of songwriting.
Montreality came out of a few conversations I had with a friend about how much easier it is live and work as an artist in Montreal compared to other cities, but how there’s still a set of very nihilistic values within our social group. It’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek kind of acceptance of the contradictory nature of snobbery, or hipsterdom, or counter-culturalism or whatever you want to call it. Countercultural conditioning is what we called it. Kind of admitting, “You’re right. I’m a snob. I think money and consumerism are absurd. I don’t like going to work everyday just because I have to. I have been given every opportunity as a white cis-gendered man in the cheapest, coolest, city in Canada, but everyone I know believes with only varying degrees of certainty that the world is doomed and that nothing means anything. And I don’t care how dumb that sounds, it’s how I feel man.” Hiding wealth, downplaying privilege, embracing duality and the inevitability of catastrophy… it’s a barrel of laughs!
RL: Are there any local bands that you would consider to be part of your milieu? Is collaboration a regular part of your music making?
BG: We’re all fans of our friend Ian Davies’ band Holding Hands in Montreal. We also love L’escogriffe! There was a year that we played there pretty much every month. Karine, the booker and manager there has been really good to us and has booked us a lot. We also really dig Analogue Addiction. They put on great shows and put on our release show at Casa earlier in the summer. We’re all loners though. We have an unwritten rule in the band that you’re allowed to have one friend outside of the band and have a significant other/partner. If you have more friends than that you’re just showing off.
RL: What should an audience expect if they check out No Aloha at POP Montreal?
BG: They can expect a lot of nervous energy, more cheeseball dueling guitar solos than any audience should be asked to put up with, terrible stage banter, a couple of slow burners, and then a 9 minute think piece about weed and the inherent hopelessness of existence. My kind of night out!
RL: Any thoughts on playing POP Montreal?
BG: We don’t like POP Montreal, we love it.
Catch No Aloha with Drones Club, Nightwitches, and Morthouse at the L’Esco on Sept 24th as part of POP Montreal. $10. Tickets at door.