11 May 2012
With so many up-and-coming bands racing to sign with a label and moving faster than the speed of light, it is refreshing to see a local band thrive as well as they have while taking it easy and enjoying the journey. Toronto’s Octobre’s Ending is certainly a well-polished gem, having been in the biz for quite some time. Close your eyes while listening to one of their tracks and you might think you’re listening to a classic rock, greatest hits album. Thankfully, their sound is just as refreshing as when they first assembled on their journey towards the rock and roll lifestyle. Their sound is certainly enough to get your mind off of the hundreds of pop-rock indie bands taking over the scene at the moment, and might even give you a headache from all of the epic head banging you will likely become accustom to. Luckily, the band (Elaine Shields, Gerald, Markus Zero, Johnny Jailbait) took a break from their avid jam sessions to talk a bit about the music.
Describe your sound.
Elaine: Our sound is forever evolving rock n’roll!
Johnny: Rock with a pinch of indie, a dash of old school, mixed in with a lot of feeling.
Markus: Pick your favourite musicians that died too young… now imagine they didn’t die and kept going…. that’s what we sound like. But seriously, after various incarnations of the band, we are now a classic power trio of guitar, bass and drums, with a great singer out front. We’re carrying on with the tradition of a power trio and vocalist for the 21st century, like a modern Led Zeppelin or a Black Sabbath.
Gerald: What we sound like has progressed over the past few years, where the music and performances thereof were very much rooted in classic rock. With the second album, there is a sudden insurgence of power and intimacy to the music that demands your attention. What has stayed consistent throughout is the presence of poppy hooks and soaring melodies that you can still hear echoing somewhere in your head after you finish listening.
How did you guys meet? Where did Octobre’s Ending begin?
Gerald: The band had been around for a few years before I came on in 2009. I was innocently hired as a second guitar player and then I slowly and subtly poisoned the well with my terrorist musical approach. I’m surprised I haven’t gotten the boot! Helps to be a really nice guy, I guess.
Johnny: It began a lifetime ago with members changing on the fly. We were driven. We never gave up the quest fot that elusive stardom and today we’re left with the crème de la crème … The Octobre’s Ending Family.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Gerald: That’s all across the map. I love well-crafted pop and well-crafted punk, from Burt Bacharach to Todd Rundgren to the Smashing Pumpkins to Black Flag. My favourite bands right now are Fitz and the Tantrums and OFF! It has to be genuine and have the kind of depth that moves or stirs you into action mentally or physically.
Elaine: Mother Goose, Foster the People, Phoenix, Tokyo Police Club.
Johnny: T-Rex … virtually any music before the ’70s.
From your first album Check Your Ego at the Door, which song is definitive of your sound and sums you up as a band?
Elaine: Somewhere in-between “Little Ordeals” and “Missing Girl” you’ll find a resemblance of our evolving sound. It’s hard for me to sum us up into one sound because comparing Check Your Ego at the Door and album two (currently in the mixing stage) is like black and white, and now were starting to play with colour. It’s hard to put a label on it, I guess I’m not ready to be defined or commit to one sound – it feels too limiting.
Gerald: As great as that album is, and as proud as I am to have been part of its creation, I don’t think it really sums us up as a band. Check your Ego was recorded during a marathon studio session in one weekend. That incarnation of the band had only been together for six months at that time. Much like the music, we were still very much getting to know each other. Since then, our relationships and our playing and performing skills have developed dramatically. All this manifests itself in the quality of stuff we’re generating now with the new albums – which we’re all really, really excited about.
Markus: I wasn’t around when that one came out. I’m the new guy. I would say, for that album, Octobre’s Ending was still a caterpillar. There’s a metamorphosis going on right now … it’s a bit like a Franz Kafka novel around here. The steel-plated turbocharged butterfly is about to emerge from the cocoon. Yeah, it’s pretty, but be careful if you try to touch it, ’cause those wings are razor sharp!
Johnny: I don’t think that album really sums us up. It was a launching pad to our second album, which is a springboard to our third album, which will enable us to dive into the fourth.
With the release of your second album coming up, what can fans expect? What’s different about this album?
Gerald: It’s got a certain something special that grabs people. I think of it as secret sauce. To me, this one comes closest to being like that wicked pressing you can’t leave the record store without. It’s powerful and fun to listen to, but the songs are also very intertwined with who we are and the dynamics between us. It’s not a conscious effort, but I believe it taps into the essence of the “here and now” and how we interact with the world around us in a philosophical and existential way. Yeah – It’s just rock and roll, but it means something to us in 2012 and we’re here to express whatever that is.
Who writes your songs?
Gerald: For Check your Ego, our very talented Queen Chaos (Elaine) wrote the bulk of everything you hear on her trusty acoustic guitar. Songs were mostly pre-written and then we would work through them as a band each, developing our unique parts based on the original progressions. Nowadays it’s more of a family effort where if we’re doing some improvising, I frequently come up with a lot of the song parts on the fly … everyone else joins in to add some serious mojo, and then if the recorder is on and something really special happens, we come back to it later with the whole band working out the arrangements, until it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard! Well, we think so, anyway. Elaine does all the magic melodies and the bulk of the lyrics.
Johnny: Sometimes it starts with a jam. Sometimes one of the band members offers up a newly created idea that morphs into a song which we quickly record to conjure up at a later date.
Walk me through the song writing process. What comes first? The music or the lyrics? Or is the process one giant spontaneous jam session?!
Johnny: The music comes first with Queen Chaos droning some imaginary words which she methodically translates into genuine full blown lyrics.
Elaine: These days our process is much more spontaneous. We have tons of recordings of jam sessions and there seems to always be this unanimous love affair for the same sessions. We get excited and play it over again till it acquires its structure.
Gerald: As mentioned, our writing is very free-form now where everything is developed as an interaction between us. That doesn’t mean that pre-formed ideas are never brought in, but I believe that our collaborative approach has generated something that makes us special, both as friends and musicians. I think people really pick up on that.
What is it like working with an established label rather than on your own (with regards to thing such as publicity, management, promotion?)
Johnny: I don’t know. We have our own label which we call Rat’s Ass Records. We do all the promotion and publicity and are always looking for new ways to attract fans.
Gerald: Our own label was formed for releasing our material and we do much of the PR and networking ourselves. However, we’re at the point now where we’re discussing the idea handing over the reins and hiring people or agencies to take it to the next level. That’s something I would like to see happen for us this year, since doing all the networking, PR and other tasks involved in running a band effectively gets to a point where it becomes overwhelming and detracts from us being able to concentrate on being musicians!
Do you feel like you ever have to compensate your creativity for the preferences of the label? Or are you allotted complete control over your sound.
Gerald: This is the very reason labels scare me. We already have a healthy dose of recording engineers and other industry people trying to influence what we do and sound like! No need to add another layer. Keep it pure Octobre’s Ending!
Johnny: We’ve been true to our creativity. Each time we record we learn something new. It may not always be a good thing, but it’s our music. We do take suggestions from engineers on possibly enhancing our music but in the end we decide what sound we’d like to have.
What do you find more thrilling. Playing shows or hitting the recording studio?
Johnny: For me it’s playing live. Recoding is fun but it’s a lot of work … fun work though. But playing live is such a rush!
Gerald: I think both can be equally thrilling depending on the situation. I love to perform and put on a great show, but I’ve always been a studio guy for the fundamental reason that it’s an achievement that lasts … kind of like a photo album that can be then shared over and over again. I like going through the process of painting with audio and having people around me collaborating to create a historical entity that documents an original vision or idea we shared at a given point in time. Nothing beats coming out of the studio with a bunch of tracks that make people’s jaws drop when they hear them!
Markus: Actually, I wonder if “thrilling” is the right word. Playing live, it’s a bit like going to war … long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.
Elaine: I enjoy the live shows for its impulsiveness and raw sound. The studio is more pressure when you’re under time restraints, which is great for being efficient. I would love a little more studio time to experiment with doing an album that had more layering and harmonizing.
What is your favorite place to play a show?
Elaine: I always love playing this great little bar on Queen Street West called Not My Dog. Sometimes our sound is a little too loud for the space but the people are great and really supportive.
Gerald: Any outdoor festival where there are people all over the place. I love it when people just wandering around, who would maybe never come to club to see you specifically, stop to check you out and then hang out because they’re enjoying themselves.
Markus: Outside! It eliminates a lot of acoustical problems. If we can’t hear each other, we will suck, and then it’s gonna suck for the audience. This band … we listen to each other! Also, I like to get close to nature. OK, outside and naked.
What is your audience like? Would you say adults or younger people (teens), or mixed crowds?
Gerald: We get all kinds. A lot of people really seem to relate to what we’re doing artistically, and anymore rock fans seem to span all generations. For a while last year, we had a bit of a house party thing going where we would see a lot of familiar faces from show to show.
Johnny: Generally we play to adults, but have played a few mixed venues for all. Rock and roll seems to transcend all age groups. Just as the 100 drunk seniors that loved our music.
Markus: Our appeal is becoming more selective. We attract people that like good music.
With so many young bands coming onto the scene, do you think it’s been difficult for older or more seasoned musicians to push their brand or their music on younger audiences?
Gerald: The scene has definitely changed over the years. Assisted by cheap technology, rags to riches media portrayal and household phenomenon’s such as Guitar Hero, the percentage of people who are musicians and who are actively involved in trying to be in the business has gone up exponentially in the last couple of decades. The scene used to be hungry for new talent and so were club goers. Now there is an over-saturation of mediocrity that is overwhelming for most people. However, there are lots of resources and technologies that can now be leveraged to create limitless opportunity for musicians to connect with fans all over the world. So every musician or act can effectively find their niche or audience like never before. The world is at your fingertips if you know how to find and interact with the people that have the most potential to connect with your art.
Johnny: Not really. Rock and roll is rock and roll, although it’s very important to find your niche. We have such a vast array of music that there’s always a song that appeals to someone somewhere, no matter the age.
What’s next for Octobre’s Ending!?
Johnny: You never know. A music video would be nice!
Elaine: Currently we are developing songs for our third album. Mark, our new bass player has a different music style than Jeff did which is definitely contributing to reshaping our sound. Mark plays with a pick so the bass offers more punch. Gerald has been switching up his guitar riffs and experimenting with different sounds … even singing backgrounds which helps fill out our sound.
Gerald: Yeah, we’re in the process of moving forward with the third album. We have most of the material written and are already performing tracks live. So we’ll probably be back in the studio later this year making a sweet, sticky mess of audio candy! We’ve also been talking about shooting our first produced video. I’m hoping we can start working on some of our ideas in the next couple of months. I’m still patiently holding the torch with regard to fulfilling my long standing goal of printing some fancy coloured vinyl records!
Octobre’s Ending is:
Elaine Shields – vocals
Gerald – guitar
Markus Zero – bass
Johnny Jailbait – drums/ percussion