This summer, the Neigh-bourhood Council met Deerhunter. The former are a four-piece band of youngsters from Calgary, Alberta, three-quarters of them McGill freshmen; the latter are a five-piece from Atlanta, Georgia that have already been around the block – Pitchfork awarded their EP “Best New Music” in 2006. What followed is your typical love story.
At Sled Island festival in Calgary this past June, “Word got around that we really looked up to them,” Katie Lee, Neighbourhood Council’s keyboardist, explains. Deerhunter watched them play, and it turned out the admiration was mutual. Fast-forward five months, and things have gotten hot and heavy: Neighbourhood Council are opening two stops on Deerhunter’s North American tour, promoting the release of their new album Microcastles. “It always happens the old-fashioned way,” comments Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Neighbourhood Council’s lead singer. “Having a festival brings a lot of bands together.”
The two bands share a DIY spirit with the third act of the show: Columbus, Ohio’s Times New Viking, also opening for Deerhunter. However, their sounds are all fairly unique. Deerhunter keeps the pop in noisy garage punk, channelling My Bloody Valentine. Times New Viking is a fuzzy yet melodic three-piece rock band, part of the lo-fi movement some have dubbed shitgaze. But the Neighbourhood Council is more shoegaze than shitgaze, making instrument-heavy ambient pop – a musical equivalent to the loveliness of Sofia Coppola’s art direction.
The three bands sure don’t share any geographic proximity, either: Atlanta, Columbus, Calgary, and Montreal are pretty far apart on the map. And while local scenes are vital to fostering independent bands, it’s refreshing to see cross-pollination across borders and genres. Deerhunter are intimately involved in their Atlanta scene, and are no strangers to collaboration: Atlanta’s Cole Alexander, of the Black Lips, makes an appearance on their recent release Microcastles. But it seems that Deerhunter are using their Pitchfork-proclaimed pedestal to give a leg-up to bands beyond just the ones in their hometown.
In an article from April 2007, The New York Times asserted, “In an earlier era, a weird, intense band like Deerhunter might well have remained a secret. Not these days.” Undoubtedly, the Internet has changed the way music is hyped. And while Deerhunter quite possibly owes much of their popularity to online reviews and their frequently updated blog – check it out for downloads deerhuntertheband.blogspot.com – there is something to be said for old-fashioned modes of promotion like touring.
Just listening to Deerhunter won’t convey the raucous performances that they are notorious for – often complete with their towering, emaciated lead singer Bradord Cox, face bloodied, wearing a sundress. In a similar vein, Times New Viking’s lo-fi recordings render a very different sound than their concerts.
Live performances are unrivalled by Internet downloads. Touring across our vast nation, however, is economically impractical for many Canadian bands, and Standell-Preston notes the Internet’s importance in putting cities like Calgary on the map.
Being full-time students at McGill provides another challenge. “If we didn’t have school we would probably be touring right now, but we’re all so young. We’re all under 20,” Lee explains. “‘Take your time,’ is our mindset. We all have our own passions that we are going to school for, but music is our main passion.” This passion is clear in the Neighbourhood Council’s basement pop, rife with sonic climaxes and fervent yelps. Hopefully you’ll fall in love, the same way Deerhunter did.
The bands play at Theatre Plaza (6505 St. Hubert) on November 11. Doors are at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15.