Interview and photos by Winnie Surya. Say hello to Toronto’s alternative experimental pop trio, We Were Heads. Not only do they sound like Sonic Youth, but they’re also as Canadian as can be. This month, in addition to learning about the band history, we also discover what makes their hit “Great Canadian Rock Song” so great and Canadian and how the guys feel about Canada’s biggest city.
How did the band form?
Peter: We’ve been playing together since high school. We started when we were 17/18. We’ve been playing music together since we were 13. So, we’ve known each other for a long time.
Evan: For this project, since we were 17. So, it’s been a little over 6 years now.
Dan: Just been hanging out.
Peter: Grew up in a small town. That’s all there is to do: it’s play music.
What’s the reason behind your band name?
Peter: Like I said, we formed in high school. So, it’s just something that made sense to us back then.
Evan: It was just kind of a name that was thrown out of the blue from a guy who used to play in our band. Then, we kind of just went with it. There’s a whole lot of meaning behind it; we kind of made a meaning afterwards because people would always ask about it. It was mostly about the projects that we were in before, where we were overthinking the style of music we wanted to play or wanted to sound like. So, when we started this band, we had the idea of just being open to all kinds of influences and genres.
Peter: Yeah! Using our souls, instead of our heads. It’s pretty much just self-referential these days; it doesn’t have much of a meaning.
Speaking of influences, who are your musical influences?
Peter: It’s all over the map! We started aiming towards the 90s alternative, like Sonic Youth and Pavement, but it’s taken all new shapes ever since. So, it’s pretty much all over the map with all kinds of genres.
Evan: Punk, post-punk, alternative stuff…
Peter: Yeah, even hip hop and electronic! It all finds its way into the mix [laughs].
What’s “Great Canadian Rock Song” about?
Evan: [Jokes] It’s for Canadian Music Week!
Peter: I wrote the lyrics on that one. It was basically just a song for my friends. It was just a song about how good it is to belong in a community of musicians, artists and stuff in Toronto. I wrote one for them.
Evan: The title is just because we thought it sounded like a Neil Young crazy horse riff or something!
Peter: The riff is all these chunky chords and it sounded like The Tragically Hip or Neil Young or something – somewhere along the lineage.
Yeah! The music video has a really cool concept with the VCR!
Peter: Yeah! Our friends did that – in APN, which is Analog Preservation Network, and if anyone is looking to do videos, they should just go to them. They’re just all analog gear nerds and they do their own analog distortions on them. It’s all very cool stuff!
Evan: It’s all filmed on a VHS camera and then they use video mixers. It was only digital once they sent us the final copies.
It looks like those 90s MTV videos.
Evan: It doesn’t translate so well on the internet though because of YouTube’s encoding. It worked pretty well and it kind of gave it a weird effect.
How do you feel about the Toronto music scene in general?
Dan: From what I’ve experienced, I haven’t had a lot of hardships from it, but it’s a very fast moving environment. It’s always changing. It is what it is. It’s a big city and it’s typical big city type things, as opposed to living in Hamilton. Going from one place to the other, it’s definitely a big change. Things are more fast paced here and things are more flashier. It’s a big city and everything’s a big to-do. Because we’ve been playing together for so long, it was the only thing to do out there. So, when you come to a big city, there are more things like a manager and stuff like that. All these side things – besides going with the music, you can definitely see that more in a big city.
Evan: With Toronto (because it’s a big city), there’s definitely a lot of that “becoming a big band” and making a career out of it. But it’s cool too because there are so many people in the city and so much music going on that you can always find a group of people who are doing something similar. Everyone can get together, work together and team up.
Peter: it’s exciting because there’s a lot of good local energy going on in Toronto. It has a better music industry in general and a better music scene now than ever. So, the only thing I would like to see more of in the future is a more collective vibe between all of the little groups that are seen and spotted all over the city. It’s what we’re pushing for.
Evan: There are a lot of small communities and everyone keeps in their own area, but it’d be cool if people could collaborate more together.
Dan: Have you ever heard of that website called Stillepost? They don’t have it around anymore, but it was a really good website. It was a message board type style and you can just go and talk about shows and different bands who are coming through. It was just an online community and it’d be really great if something like that came back around.
Peter: Well now, there’s stuff like Weird Canada that carries that torch.
What’s in store for you guys after CMW?
Evan: We have a split coming out at the beginning of June that we’ve been working on with this band called Les Ex. We’ve been working on it for a while and it’s coming out on 7”. So, it’s taken so long to get the vinyls in because Record Store day was just the other week. We already have an EP written and we’re probably going to record and put it out in the coming September.
Peter: But closer down the road, our release is on June 7th. So, that’s pretty soon and we’re pretty excited about that! Like Evan said, it’s a long time coming for the production of this one.
Dan: Lining up events, so we want to play out-of-town shows more often. We’ve been playing Toronto and Hamilton.
Describe your music in three words.
Dan: Punch, nugget, rock.
Peter: Spontaneous, fun and loud.
Dan: Pyscho junk pop.
Peter: Hardcore hockey rock.