Interview with Slim Twig: Knowing the Artist Through Art

Slim Twig. Photo Vivika Ballard Slim Twig and Megan Remy. Bar Le Ritz. January 2015 Photo Vivika Ballard

Toronto artist Slim Twig graced Montréal with a profound and highly entertaining performance. Opening for him were Montréal’s Nancy Pants and Toronto’s US Girls, which is the unique creative vision of Meghan Remy. Slim stopped by on his North American tour promoting his latest album A Hound at the Hem, re-released on the New York label DFA records.

The album is totally refreshing and challenging to the ear in a seductive way. It is a natural progression of Slim’s distinct and listenable music. “A lot of my albums have been accused of changing directions a lot, each album having a different kind of sound,” said Slim.

 

What makes this album stand apart from his previous stand-apart records? Well, that it’s indefinable in a new way, in Slim’s eyes a much grander way. “The ambition was in a much higher dimension consciously and it was to the point where I didn’t know if I’d be able to achieve my goals. Whether I got there I’m not entirely certain but I was pretty pleased with it by the end.”

Slim Twig. Photo Vivika Ballard

Slim Twig. Bar le Ritz. January 2015 Photo Vivika Ballard

 

The read from the moderate but attentive audience was in accordance with his words. The audience was allured by a bold psychedelic rock-and-roll sound nuanced by great musicianship.

Meg Remy warmed up the stage with a supporting synth player and backup vocalist as US Girls. Remy’s voice was sweetly reminiscent of ‘60s girl pop but sophisticated in delivery. The duo proved captivating in their simplicity, conveying groovy, danceable tracks with Remy’s voice cutting through and shimmering over top. Remy remained on stage on the synth and backup vocals for Slim Twig’s set.

Slim Twig’s band did a good job of bringing his quirky sound into the live space. Especially for A Hound at the Hem, Slim pushed his boundaries in the studio on many different planes to bring us the complex and beautifully woven record. Slim Twig shared the scale of his experience. “I stayed out on Toronto Island at a studio by myself living there for a month and a half and engineering, and recording, and producing, and performing my own record. And having orchestral arrangements made for it was just a huge eye-opener as far as what I learned I was capable of as a producer of music.”

He elaborated on the process of constructing the album. “I haven’t worked in that dimension of really considering arrangements in a huge way. Where do the saxophones fit? Where do the strings fit? And composing a song in that really structured classical sense of arranging a tune. That was an experience that was entirely new to me and it is something I’ve been really interested in since.”

Slim’s lyrics are as striking as his arrangements. Remy and Slim both seem to share something in making music that’s challenging and yet palatable. It’s refreshing. Slim’s music doesn’t compromise and neither does his taste. He reflected this when I asked him a more personal question: “Would you feel someone really knew you if they had never seen your art?” He responded, “Definitely not. I think that the artifact and the artist are two completely different things, separate at birth. But the artist is a conduit for the artifact and it’s their imagination that grafts the thing together. I’m admiring of a lot of artists who would be considered assholes or even criminals like Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and Phil Spector. These are people who’ve made amazing artifacts that shouldn’t be denied or censored just because the creator is an asshole. A creation isn’t a human being. A creation is like a guiltless animal, so to speak, unless the message is hateful which is a different circumstance, but I have no problem enjoying great works by jerks.”

Slim Twig. Photo Vivika Ballard

Slim Twig. Bar le Ritz. January 2015. Photo Vivika Ballard

When I asked about his other band Darlene Shrugg, Slim gave me the scoop. “I think of Slim Twig, the new stuff anyways (I have another record coming out this year) as sort of a solo album off-shoot of Darlene Shrugg. Darlene Shrugg is a really straight-ahead rock-and-roll band with a lot of attitude. Slim Twig is a little more cerebral so it’s coming from the same place but maybe a little more indulgent, a little bit stranger or whatever. I also collaborate with my wife Meghan who plays with Slim Twig and helps write the songs for Darlene Shrugg. I play guitar in her US Girls band when she’s doing a band arrangement. She does mostly shows solo, mostly voice and tracks but when it’s a band I play guitar in that.”

Slim Twig and US Girls both are unique, intelligent groups well worth your time.

Slim Twig with US Girls and Nancy Pants played at Le Bar Ritz (179 Rue Jean-Talon-Ouest) on January 21.

 

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