Women, a band full of cackling unrest and marred melodies, comes from Calgary. Their debut album was crosshatched with airy-reverberations and distorted instrumentation. Chris Reimer and company create a landscape of flickering memories and weathered musical notes. On their newest record, “Public Strain”, they have sharpened their chiseling tools to create an album that is emotionally monolithic, intangible yet tactile. Reimer, one of the conductors of Women’s apparitional symphony, talks to Cinema Spartan about the band’s newest album; their upcoming appearance in San Diego on October 19th; and his favorite track on the new LP.
Pitchfork has been a huge catalyst for some of the band’s recognition. Do you think that the site has replaced Rolling Stone Magazine as being the most influential thing in music journalism today?
Possibly? I think the most important thing is music journalism is the sheer amount of it, not necessarily the source. There is just so much information you can actually find out about anything.
You’ve spoken about how thrilled you are to be signed to Jagjaguwar in previous interviews. With artists such as Bon Iver, Dinosaur Jr. and Sunset Rubdown, do you feel that the record company, because of its diverse and talented lineup, has become somewhat of a juggernaut, on par with labels such as Sub Pop, in music today?
For sure. The Jagjaguwar team is an amazing group of people, and I think that their passion for what they do is a large reason for the success of the label. They are also all quite handsome.
Who came up with the album art for your newest record, “Public Strain”?
We were looking around and one of the things I found was a postcard that belonged to my grandfather. The card had a black and white overhead shot of some lakes in Michigan, so we started looking for things like that. We eventually came across a photo archive at Wayne State University in Michigan and found the photo [that we used for the album cover]. I thought it fit the record really well.
What do you like the best about your newest album?
The fact that it’s done, I think. It took the better part of eight months to finish. All of the finalizing of things, such as song names and album art, took awhile to complete. So, yeah, I’m just glad that it’s done.
Because of Itunes and the accessibility of downloading singles, do you think, modernly, that the appreciation of listening to entire albums has decreased over time?
I think maybe a little, but there was a time when artists only released singles, so the industry has had its ups and downs. But for me, I love sitting down and listening to entire records.
In your mind, is playing the last show of a tour any different than playing the first?
It’s different because when you’re playing the last show, you’re looking forward to going home where there is a shower and a toilet. But the last one is also bitter sweet. The first one is more exciting, obviously, but the last one is both good and bad.
Having had toured all over the world, what venue and location has been your favorite?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. During our last show in Berlin we played at a place called the Bang Bang Club, which is under a tram bridge. You could hear the trains go over the top. We had a really good time playing there.
What, in your opinion, what is the greatest writing contribution that you’ve given to the band?
The “Bells” song off of the new record. That’s something I did about a year and a half ago in my basement. We figured it would work really well on the new record. But I like a lot of the songs.
You guys are from Canada, right?
I have an obligatory question: Are you guys hockey fans?
Not really. Some of the guys in the band follow it, but I’ve never been into sports.
Okay, I was curious because you guys begin your tour at the start of the NHL season, so you would be missing the games.
If you looked up your band, maybe ten years from now on Wikipedia, what would it say?
Hopefully that we launched a band off the bridge and landed safely on the other side.
On your label is there anyone that you would like to tour with or work with on an upcoming album?
Probably Dinosaur Jr., so I could try to cut J Mascis’ hair off every night.
Comparing your new record to your last, what is the biggest difference between these two albums?
This time around we probably took more time on one song than it would to record an entire album. We were able to care to each song, and we were really happy about the way everything came out. With the first album we had less of an idea of what we wanted the final product to sound like. This record is a lot closer to what we want the band to sound like. So that’s satisfying.
You’ve performed some 180 times, throughout the world, over the course of 2008 and 2009. What sort of things did you learn about yourself after such extensive touring?
That at my core, I am a sweaty nervous man when I am under lights on a stage. Also the importance of using the bathroom before a show…
Critics have earmarked your sound as being similar to Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. Considering that you have been quoted as saying that you never really listened all that much to the band, do you find these comparison’s to be inaccurate or a misrepresentation?
Not necessarily; it comes down to what your frame of reference is as far as pop music from that era goes. A lot of that music was very similar melodically, but a larger influence would be Skeeter Davis or the Everly Brothers.
Your band name, Women, has been jokingly referred to as being one of the most difficult bands to look for in a search engine. If you had to solve this problem, which keywords would best describe your band for someone that was looking for you on Google?
Type the word band or music after the word women, not sexy or naked. You should have a bit more success.
The mediums of music and film often seep into one another. Have films ever influenced you in any way when creating music? What are some of your favorite movies?
I think the way music works in conjunction with film has always been inspiring to me, the way you can change what a scene might mean by having unexpected music accompanying it. One of the best movies I have seen recently is Spirited Away. I also got a real kick out of watching Poltergeist the other night as well..
If approached to compose a score for a film, what sort of movie would it be, and what actors or directors would you want attached to it?
I’m not sure. Probably something arty with no real plot and long stretches with no dialogue. If they could get that Shia Labeouf guy to play Benicio Del Toro’s father somehow in a movie, I would be all over that.
You said you don’t necessarily agree with people dubbing your style of music “lo fi”. What are your thoughts on other bands using this method of recording as a genre?
It is fine as a technique, but sometimes it overshadows the songs and makes things sound bland.
So, to clarify, you’re not a huge fan of the sound?
[laughs] I just think that sometimes it’s a shame when production takes away from the songwriting. I like a lot of that stuff. I just think that when the production sounds the same from song-to-song, the album doesn’t sound like anything after awhile.
I spoke with Bethany Consentino of Best Coast and she shared the same opinion. We both came to the conclusion that lo-fi is to indie-rock what auto-tuning is to hip-hop. Do you think that’s accurate?
[laughs] I think that’s close, yeah. I like that.
This has nothing to do with anything, but I have to write a review of “The Social Network”, ghost write a two-sentence review of the film for me.
Totally mesmerizing; better than french fries.
That’s awesome. That might even be used on the poster.
Can you tell me about your solo career…as MIRAGE?
[laughs] Oh man, how is this going places? I had to give myself a nickname because I gave this guy we were touring with a nickname, and it stuck really, really well. It stuck so much that people are still calling him the nickname to this day. So, to change the dynamic of the situation, I had to give myself this nickname so that he wouldn’t be the only one with a silly title. So, yeah, MIRAGE is going strong.
You guys are coming to San Diego earlier in the year. Do you have any memorable San Diego experiences?
I’ve only been there once, outside of the venue, and I was convinced that a plane was going to land on my head. Downtown they are so close. That, and we ate the most mediocre Italian food I have ever had in my life. We need to find a taco truck.
You’re the second person who has come to San Diego that has told me about mediocre Italian food. I cant say that I can argue at all.
For you as a musician, what band, do you think, will more than likely define the next decade in music?
That’s a tough one. You know the BEAK band, with the guy from Portishead? Yeah, that band is sort of doing the Can thing. I really hope that this style of music comes back. No one has really taken that kind of hypnotic and repetitive approach to things in awhile. I think we can deal with a little less sampler/high voice mayhem and deal with a little more mellow darkness.
I think that’s a refreshing response – a lot of people would have used Animal Collective. I think that they are a canned answer.
Will Women ever consider teaming up with Girls, the band from Matador Records, to form a themed concert of sorts?
We played a festival once and on the same stage on the same day the lineup was: Women, Girls and Vivian Girls. They also had Crystal Antlers and Crystal Stilts playing that stage as well…. It looked really funny on the schedule.
Think back to your last show. What was the very last memory you had of that particular evening?
We played a small little hallway of a room in London called The Social. It was a great show, and after I had an emotional farewell with our friends from the band Cold Pumas.. I’m going to miss those guys, and I owe them all a beer.
If you had to choose one song to listen to, for a first time listener, which track would it be and why?
Probably “Can’t You See”, I think it is a pretty good marriage between the noisier and more melodic aspects of what we do.
If you had a blank slate, to tell people to come out to your show in San Diego, what would you say to get them to come out?
Well, I already gave you that better than french fries line.
It’s good enough to be used twice.
[laughs] How about: “Drop your pants hilarious.”
That works for me.