Interview: The Courtneys
Vancouver-based punk-pop trio, The Courtneys are currently on the road touring their critically acclaimed second album, II. Now with the legendary Flying Nun records the band have evolved their sound and honed their craft and are emerging as one of the most exciting live performers on the circuit.
We caught up with the band to discuss their new album, touring with Mac DeMarco and the challenges of being in an all-female band.
Q. Paint us a picture. Where are you right now and what have you been doing today?
Well, I don’t want to blow you away with the perpetual glamour of life as a musician but I’ll give you a small insight…
I’m currently in the kitchen doing the dishes.
Q. You latest album II has been well received. Tell us a bit about your reflections on the work now that you have a degree of distance from it?
We were very slow in the process of making it so we had a lot of time to reflect. The first record we did we just recorded everything we had and we didn’t really think that much about it. Saying that, it was received very well and sold out pretty quickly. I think that lack of planning worked for the first album as it was very care-free and without restraints –in all aspects.
This album was very different because we spent about three years writing and recording it. We also involved six different people to do a test mix because we wanted to find someone who had a passion for it and could bring something a little bit different to what we had sort of imagined.
Q. You’ve now toured the UK. What UK influences do you have and what are your best memories of playing here?
We’d never played the UK before and we’re all really interested and influenced by UK music. Although we all have really different musical tastes, we all really love Kate Bush. She’s such an important and influential figure – a genius. In the same vein, we all have a profound appreciation for David Bowie and New Order and bands of that ilk. It’s definitely an honour to play in a country which has such a rich heritage in musical history.
Q. You’re now with Flying Nun records. Tell us a bit about your relationship / appreciation of Flying Nun and how the deal came about with them?
I was living in a house with Jen [Twynn Payne] and then we started a band. Our other house mates we’re getting a bit jealous – and probably a bit annoyed by the noise – so we got them involved in the band. They were all really into Flying Nun stuff and that was really my first exposure to their work.
One of the first songs myself and Jen played together was Point That Thing Somewhere Else by The Clean so it’s been the background to mine and Jen’s musical relationship all the way through of the bands we’ve been in. So, with The Courtneys this continued and the music coming out of Flying Nun has always been a reference for us.
When our first album came out we kind of had this dream that Flying Nun would distribute us in New Zealand. That dream ended up with Jen just sending them a fan letter telling them how much we loved their stuff and would they be at all interested in getting involved with us and they came back to us saying yes!
It was strange making all of this music on one side of the world and there’s these people on the other side of the world knowing our music and liking what we did so much that they wanted to make a record with us. It all turned out great for us and it’s a privilege to be involved with such an important label.
Q. Talk to us a bit about being in an all-female band and what are the challenges or differences you face in 2017.
I suppose the ultimate wish is to not be recognised as an all-female band but just a band. It’s difficult because 20 years ago other women were getting asked the same question. Bands were touring and people hadn’t seen a female drummer before.
So, the challenges are real because if we don’t talk about it in those terms i.e. talking about being in an all-female band then the issue doesn’t disappear it just ends up being silent but, at the same time, still real and present and relevant.
For us, we really try to ride the line between both issues – I think it’s strange to group people together in a genre just because of their gender but that does happen. Our biggest problem is with some sound engineers because there’s this assumption, because of our gender, that we’re not going to be a loud band. That’s a discussion we have all the time with sound engineers because we are a loud band.
So, there’s been instances were a band goes on before us and the sound is really loud and then we go on and people are saying that the guitar’s we’re really quiet. That can be quite crushing as we’ve worked really hard to get the songs right and know how they should be delivered – especially when the reason for this problem has something to do with people’s assumptions about your gender.
I will keep talking about the issue until the issue goes away and, in the end, you need to start by identifying and talking about the issue for it collapse and become irrelevant.
Q. We’re big fans of Mac DeMarco here. Can you tell us a bit about touring with Mac and what you have learned from him.
We’re friends with Mac and have known him for a really long time so it was great when he asked us to go on tour with him.
We were pretty curious about what it was going to be like going out on tour with Mac and to see how he deals with fame. He’s pretty generous with all of that stuff. I’ve seen him after shows stay in a car park for three hours and talk to every single person who wanted to talk to him.
On his last record, he put his address on the album sleeve and invited people to come over and have coffee with him. He lived in some real faraway part of New York city and he was surprised by how many people actually came. He ended up having to move haha!
Seeing how he plays was really interesting as it was always really low key to the point that you could imagine it being the same if you just saw him jamming in a basement. He tries really hard not be compromised by his fame and keeping his personal and artistic integrity and I really admire him for that.
Q. Tour scheduled but what’s next for The Courtneys?
We have a huge tour over four continents so that’s keeping us very busy.We are in talks about a new album and will eventually get around to that.
For now, I’ve got to finish with the dishes.
The Courtneys are currently on a European tour. Tour schedule can be found here