an interview with Hello, Blue Roses (Dan Bejar & Sydney Vermont)
by BrooklynVegan Mike
The love child of two multi-talented, multi-tasking eclectics, Hello, Blue Roses pairs visual artist/vocalist/flautist Sydney Vermont with her scraggly-haired sweetheart, artsy singer/songwriter Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers, Swan Lake), to make up this charming duo. Their intimacy beget a distinctive and engrossing debut album, complete with the awww-inspiring title, The Portrait Is Finished And I Have Failed to Capture Your Beauty…
dueout Jan. 22 via the Locust label. [SPIN]
Dan: Hi Michael
Sydney: Nice to meet you!
Mike: How/When was the decision made between you guys to make a proper album? I read that your first performance as a duo was in 2001.
Sydney: 2001…oh that was an impromptu performance at our goodbye Montreal “Snowball”. Our friend Gordon B Isnor had turned everyone on to Judee Sill that summer when he found a record of hers at a garage sale. Him and Goody played an evening of her songs with Shary Boyle performing Sharyoke in Halifax, and their beautiful poster was hanging on our Montreal walls. So I pretty much copied them by singing a Judee Sill song and a Kate Bush number with Dan on guitar and our friend Terry on cardboard box drums. It lasted thee minutes or so. I guess that was our first performance.
We didn’t think about an album until 2006. We had started to play just the two of us when my other band, Bonaparte, went on hiatus. I guess we had about five songs at one point and our friends asked us to play a Valentine’s Day show. So we had to write a few more. By the time we got to Spain, we had eleven or twelve songs and just decided we would record them there and see what happened. Those turned out to be demos, as maybe Dan’s vision for arrangement outgrew our equipment and engineering capabilities. So then to JC/DC studios in Vancouver in the Spring.
Was there ever an idea or a concept that you guys wanted to approach musically or did the sound just come about organically? There is a weightlessness to the album, but not in a contemporary sense.
Sydney: The only overarching concepts were the two of us, and keep it simple, relaxed. The rest just followed out of the songs.
The song titles and lyrics suggest areas and moods, and the conflation of the two, which is quite opposite from Dan’s lyrics. How would you describe the lyrics on this record on their own and in comparison to Dan’s work?
Syndey: Yup, I wrote all the lyrics, save the lines I borrowed consciously and unconsciously from various unnamed and largely unremembered sources. I think my lyrics are more ambling, generally involve characters without names, feel more personal/intimate where Dan’s are decidedly more poignant, biting, but still incredibly poetic. He reads more poetry and has a more specific relationship with the history of rock music than I do. I read more novels, theory, draw a lot, spend a lot of time eavesdropping, watch cop shows and read gossip blogs. Therein lies the difference.
Is there/was there any conflicts that can come about working with someone you are intimate with? I get the impression that both of you have strong artistic ideas.
Sydney: When we first started trying to record, we argued about microphones and vocal sounds. Which is pretty stupid seeing as we only had two. I like one, Dan likes the other. Chances are a microphone that is perfect for Dan’s voice is not going to work for mine. It’s a lot to expect from a microphone. But Dan gets attached to his souped up mics. I am a fan of the SM 58 which makes sound engineers shudder in disgust. But I know, or I have this idea that it works for me. I get frustrated pretty quickly recording, sometimes throw a quiet fit and go have a nap. Which is cool, anxiety gives me narcolepsy, so it never turns into anything bad. Dan just puts down the guitar and makes a sandwich while I sleep it off. It’s not a big deal, he knows how that feels. All in all though, we just get along and haven’t encountered any other pressures that could lead to a stressful creative environment.
Have you heard the Ruby Isle cover of “Shadow Falls?” If so, what are your opinions on it?
Sydney: Yes, I have heard it. It’s funny. I wish someone would do a swing era floor show version of it.
A lot has been written about the “Six Degrees of Separation” aesthetic going on in Canadian indie-rock right now to say nothing of both of your plethora of different creative outputs. Any thoughts on that? Is it just a matter of the accessibility of technology now or is it just coincidental that everyone is friends with one another?
Dan: I think most of the coverage of the Canadian music renaissance, 2002-2007, is very eastern based. Out here, life goes on as usual. Even when shit blows up, west-coast keeps it underground (Black Mountain), while east-coast is patsies (won’t bother naming names), and I don’t know any of those people.
You both work so much. When was the last time you had the chance to do nothing together? Just stayed in and listened to music or watched a movie?
Dan: It just appears that we work a lot. There are busy times, like right now, or real easy quiet times, like last year. It also don’t really feel like work, so long as it’s enjoyable, and making things is usually pretty fun.
Will there be any conflicts with the fact that HBR and the new Destroyer record are coming out so close to one another? Touring, perhaps? Or concern that the Destroyer record will overshadow this release?
Sydney: I don’t foresee any conflicts, it’s just the way it goes. We are going to play a few shows in February-March, here, and a couple in New York. Destroyer has a loyal and sometimes fierce following and I think it’s a blessing Dan’s record is coming out so soon after, it will satisfy those who would wish HBR to be Destroyer or closer to it. They are so different, it allows this record to be what it is, which isn’t a rock record.
People ask if I regret having Dan as my musical wing-man, but that’s just nuts to me. That’s a comment on reception, which is the least important part of making things. Don’t get me wrong, I want respect, love, and money from total strangers like everyone else, but the balance leans far more in favour of having fun and liking what I’m doing and working with people I love. Hello Blue Roses is super enjoyable for me, and that’s a direct extension of Dan’s quality of making everything positive, funny. Anyhow, I count myself as the most loyal and fiercest Destroyer fan, so anytime a new record comes out is a good time.
I also read in an interview with Spencer Krug that Swan Lake planned on recording the follow up in Feb. Is that still a possibility?
Dan: It is an extremely distinct probability.