By: Michael Lara

“And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. And you may find yourself in another part of the world… And you may ask yourself-Well, how did I get here?” A Heads classic cleaner that could encapsulate the amazing adventures of Montreal’s Think About Life post their whirlwind 4-date tour de Nippon that finished in Tokyo’s cozy Astro Hall.  Candidly discoursing about cold beverages, Canadian history, realty matters and Vancouver’s upcoming Olympics, Martin Cesar (vocals, loops, keys), Graham Van Pelt (Casio-fun, beats, guitar), Brendan Reed (bass, floor tom) and Matt “Nature Boy” Shane (drums, howls and yes, black boxers only onstage and on his birthday itself) divulged aplenty:

STM (Stay Thirsty Media): The drink of choice.

Graham: Really?

Martin: (hesitant, but curious) Can I open it?

STM: Yeah, go for it (3 cans subsequently open one after another). Whenever you guys go to a convenience store here…

Matt: I haven’t seen those anywhere else, are they hard to find?

STM: Oh, no-no-no-no. The Chu-Hi is popular, cheap and strong.

Martin: Kind of like vodka with a bit of Sprite to it.

STM: Yep.  Enjoy (While they savor their respective Chu-Hi’s). So as far as this last album, I like how you say, “Get set. Get set for life.” So what made you set for this? What made you ready to coagulate together so to speak? And the MySpace phrase, “A black guy, a hipster and an albino.” Who coined that?

Graham: Mmmm…I think maybe a fan said that.

Martin: Yeah…Somebody had to point it out (big grin and laughing).  Well, I don’t know, what made us coagulate together? Hmmm… I love how you are using that word. I guess one thing, living in the same city right (chuckling)?

Graham: Actually Brandon moved into my apartment.

Matt: Yeah, basically I moved into this former loft space that Graham was looking at.  And at that point Graham had been making music with another band at another place for a long time and I convinced him to play some music with me. And we were having an okay time with guitar and drums, but then he picked up this real cheap Casio keyboard that was lying around and then it was incredible when he plugged it in.  We realized what we had to do at that moment.

STM: It was a Falco moment, a kind of Rock Me Amadeus?

Matt: (laughing all) Yeah, kind of.

Graham: But way less profound… It really struck a chord with us, back to our Nintendo years. Then we played one show with just the two of us, like the last show at this loft place.

STM: Oh you played Shinjuku Loft?

Graham: No, back in Montreal.

STM: Ah, back in the Real Mountain.

Martin: Yeah, back in the Real Mountain (grinning).

Matt: I guess Martin was playing with a band called Donkey Heart at the time.

Martin: Yeah.

Matt: And Graham was a fan of Donkey Heart. I had only seen them once. So we kind of got together. Martin has a knack for writing lyrics on the spot, like really quick and changing them. It was great so we just kept it together.

Graham: We recorded some stuff just the two of us and sent them to people as MP3’s over Windows Messenger.

Martin: Yes, the power of Internet!

Graham: Through a series of emoticons we arrived at an agreement to start a band.

STM: Well I know you guys are now all eating and stuff, but…

Matt: Don’t be gross.

STM: Oh, I’ll never do that.

Martin: Yeah, what’s up with that?

STM: Don’t be afraid, it’s just a bag.  Like G. Love & Special Sauce, I think you guys have a sauce, but it’s different.  So here we have steak sauce, chili sauce and then black pepper. 

Brendan: Mmmm…

STM: So, who’s the chili sauce?

Martin: (clapping)

STM: Who’s the steak sauce?  Who puts the pepper in?

Martin: The black pepper (smirking with all erupting in laughter)…

Graham: Okay, okay, okay (restoring order) let’s think about this…

Brendan: I’ll definitely be this (the Chu-Hi)… (laughter ensues again)

Graham: Yeah, Brendan’s definitely that. I, I don’t know, I think maybe I’m the steak sauce.

STM: Why?

Graham: Well, like, I put the base down.

Martin: Yeah.

Graham: And then Matt makes it really spicy, heats it up and Martin tops it off with the blackness.

Brendan: And then we pour this all over it (the Chu-Hi can proudly raised).

STM: Yeah, wash it down.

Martin: Yeah, that’s it. Wow! I’m glad you brought all of these (chuckling). It’s a bit racy, but ah, you did it anyway (all laughing).

Kevin: Actually, can I have some chili sauce?

STM: Yeah man, go for it. So back to album and the song “Money,” if you were to have that running to either opening credits or for closing credits of a movie, what would it be?

Graham: Which movie?

STM: Yeah.

Martin: ‘Bananas’-that Woody Allen film.

Graham: Yeah that’d be pretty good… Wasn’t there a movie where Eddie Murphy film where he pretended to be from Africa, but he was really just an African-American?

Kevin: That’s ‘Coming To America.’

Martin: No-no-no. It was the other way around! He was actually…

Matt: Yeah, he was from Africa

Martin: He moved to New York, to Brooklyn.

Brendan: Yeah, that’s definitely ‘Coming To America (all laughing).’

Graham: There’s another Eddie Murphy movie, ‘Trading Places’ or something.

STM: With Dan Akroyd.

Martin: Oh yeah.

STM: And nature boy (Matt)?

Matt: Ah… I don’t have any (arms raised).

STM: I have to say that because on MySpace someone wrote, “Oh God, is that another naked sketch of Matt Shane?”

Graham: There’s a whole bunch of those.

Martin: There’s like a new generation of Matt Shane naked sketches.

Graham: Archeologists are you gonna… (more laughter)

STM: What about in “Serious Chords, what makes serious and what makes silly?

Graham: It was in a minor key (deadpan delivery).

Martin: (laughing loudly)

Graham: Yeah, we had been goofing around with happy melodies and then we finally got to like some kind of chords of immense power.  Something that would take you out of the moment and makes you think about greater issues.

Matt: Something a little more profound. That’s how we came to our band name as well.  We just basically hit a minor note, a sadder sounding note.  And we were like “Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa, this is not just about fun anymore. Now it’s about real issue (grinning with eyes alive and eyebrows up).”

Graham: We ultimately like to raise the profile of real issues.

STM: Okay, then I will throw this to you: If you were to have the pleasure or scare to play for any prime minister in Canada’s history, who would it be and why?

Martin: Wow, you know Canadian history (clearly shocked)?

STM: Well, I do.

Martin: Wow! This is amazing. That is such a good question (thinking hard as the others minus of course the Yank Brendan).

Matt: Probably Trudeau.

Graham: I’d probably play for like Joe Clark.

Martin: Yeah! He just… Totally!

Graham: He’s only in there for such a brief period of time.

Martin: Yeah, give him some hope.

Graham: Yeah, lift his spirits a little. Remind him of the real issues that he was in there to protect and to promote.

Martin: Yeah, totally, same here.

Graham: Kim Campbell also.

Martin: Kim Campbell yeah.

Graham: A short-lived conservative prime minister.

Matt: I don’t want to do anything for her man (snarling with a grin and the rest snickering).

STM: Ah, but where would it be? Ottawa?

Graham: Where would we play?

STM: Yeah. Where would be the big event? Ottawa then?

Graham: Tobin’s basement (all agreeing shortly after).

Martin: Yeah, Tobin’s basement is amazing. Just him sitting there and we just play in front for him. 

STM: Where?

Graham: Okay, there’s this kid named Tobin, who like runs a kind of punk house in Ottawa.

Matt: He just lives there.

Graham: All these kids like come to his basement and he has punk shows in his basement all the time and we’ve played there a couple times and it’s always been the greatest thing ever.

Matt: Yeah.

Graham: People are just always right here (motioning to his face).  They order pizza and pass it around in the mosh pit and we get pizza all over ourselves.

Matt: Yeah (grinning), pizza guts flying all over the guitars and drums and stuff… just a wall of kids knocking over the drums.

Graham: Yeah, Joe Clark would be in there.

Matt: And the guest list would be the Clark family.

Martin: (laughing hysterically as all roll their eyes, beaming brightly)

STM: That reminds me of the Mike Ness, Social D, Better Youth Brigade documentary called um…

Kevin: Get in the van.

STM: Nah… ‘Another State Of Mind.’ They go to house like that in Canada. It was just like that.  So how long has that guy been doing that?

Graham: Probably a couple years.

Martin: 3 or 2 years I guess.

Matt: He’s a young guy. The last time I went there, they did a documentary, a national film board documentary.

Graham: Yeah, it’s a pretty amazing place.

Martin: He’s an icon of the revolution.

Graham: There’s this whole network of weird 19-year olds who hang out there.

STM: So do you feel the scene is pretty healthy there right now?

Martin: Ottawa yeah…

Graham: There are so many kids who go to the shows and party.

STM: So you think Montreal is pushing the most as far as Canada goes?

Graham: Toronto’s probably got the most going on actually.

Martin: Yeah, it’s where all the money is right now too.

Graham: A lot of people in Toronto are doing DIY stuff is going on there.

Matt: Montreal has a lot of that stuff too.

Martin: I think proportionally wise, Montreal has an abundance of it.

STM: More conducive?

Graham: It is.  It is easier to do things there.

Matt: I’d say yeah for sure.  I mean, I’m from Vancouver originally and just going from Vancouver to Montreal, just how much easier it is to be a band in Montreal was shocking. Like in Vancouver, we’d have to call 8 friends to come out.  It was just much more of a struggle to make things happen. 

Martin: Actually a lot of bands per se that exist from one city in Canada per se, move to Montreal just because things are easier.

Matt: Yeah a lot of bands move to Montreal and suddenly they are “real” bands (all chuckling in agreement).

STM: So cost of living is about the same or cheaper?

Matt: Way cheaper.  Yeah and not only that, you can get a huge space there, like where Graham is living right now is a place called Friendship Cove, it’s like a former dairy I guess.  You can have like a venue and a recording space and like just a big house and it’s all just a reasonable price.  In Vancouver, that kind of thing is just nonexistent.

Graham: Yeah, the same thing in Toronto. That’s why there is so much music there and people move there. Montreal just has a lot of old industrial buildings.  It was an industrial town originally.

STM: Like Detroit?

Graham: (pausing and all looking at each other) ah, a little bit, but… (laughter ensues)

STM: Okay, we won’t go that far.

Graham: Montreal retains a kind of vitality.

STM: So do you guys have a desire for a space for just yourselves?

Graham: Well, pretty much we have that at Friendship Cove.  We have our own space to play as loud as we want and not bother anybody.

Matt: Yeah, and I just opened up a jam space slash studio. “Just opened it up.”

STM: Whatcha got on tap there?

Matt: Old Milwaukee.

STM: So no Pabst Blue Ribbon? 

Matt: No, a little too pricey for me (all laughing).

STM: So what is the ghetto drink in Montreal anyway?

Matt: Old Milwaukee Dry. It’s a dollar a can.

Graham: I think people drink a lot of 40’s, Black Label 10%. Black Label has 3 degrees of pain: There’s the 7%, the 9% and the 10%.

Martin: You get cronked on the 10%. I spent my whole teenage years drinking the 10% and walking around Montreal with friends.

STM: Ah, the happy man!

Martin: Yeah(laughing), that made me see the day.

STMOkay, so if you were to deregulate anything, what would it be?

Graham: Maybe I would want to regulate. It doesn’t seem to get out of hand here in Japan:  Everybody seems to know the rules here.  It doesn’t seem to get out of hand. We were at Okayama the other night and everybody was drunk and all, but at the strike of 11:30, everybody went home. In my hometown of 30,000 people, you can go out any night of the week, when the bars close at 2 am, you can watch fights every day. Everybody is just fat and drunk.

STM: Well, how about when you guys are playing, what’s a good topper and good nightcap so to speak?

Matt: Well, the best nightcap for me per se was at the after party on Thursday.  Gradually, it just more and more packed in a really small little club-a lot of people who were at the show (Astro Hall).  And at one point, I just found myself getting pushed to the front, to the stage area where the deejays were.  Then this guy pushed me on and then our song “Paul Cries” came on and then someone passed me a microphone.  So then basically I did karaoke to our own song.

Martin: Yeah (clapping).

STM: That was your Olympian moment. 

Matt: Yeah (big grin). It was a moment like, “There’s no way I can, but then yes I can!”

Martin: (laughing)

STM: Getting ready for Vancouver.  Speaking of which, if each of you have to compete in the Vancouver Olympics, what event would it be?

Matt: 2010.

Martin: That’s a long way from here!

STM: Ah dude, it will be here shortly.

Brendan: Luge!

Matt: I like that one where you like do cross-country skiing and shoot a bunch of stuff.

Graham: Biathlon.

STM: So the two of you would do that?

Graham: Yeah, I’ll compete against Matt Shane.

Matt: I’ll take you down (all laughing).

Graham: I’ll blow the lens of your helmet!

STM: Better call the IOC on that one. And you?

Martin: Speed skating (beaming grin, eyes alive).

STM: What distance?

Martin: I don’t know, what’s the longest?

Graham: 4000 meters I think.

STM: But what song would you have in your head?  What would motivate you?  I always had Cheap Trick during roller-skating (all laughing).

Martin: What song? I don’t know…  I don’t know.

Graham: Maybe one of DJ Kink mixes.

Martin: Yeah, DJ Kink.

Matt: He was one of the deejays who traveled with us.

Martin: I wouldn’t have any specific song, anything with a beat.  You know, you need some tempo right?

Oh Canada and more:




All opinions expressed by Michael Lara are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.


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