Something remarkable happens when Larissa Loyva and Elisha May Rembold get together. The voices of the two Vancouver women blend together so well that they seem like a single instrument of ethereal beauty.
The pair’s recorded debut under the name Fake Tears is called Nightshifting, and it’s an apt title. There is something ineffably nocturnal about a song like “You Want the Night”, with its twilight shimmer of oscillating synthesizer tones and dreamily contemplative vocal harmony. And when Fake Tears kicks up the tempo, as on “Second Wind”, it makes a perfect dancing-with-tears-in-my-eyes soundtrack for those nights when Austra just isn’t soul-searching enough.
What is perhaps most remarkable about Fake Tears is that Loyva and Rembold manage to find time for it at all. The two are in high demand for their vocal and instrumental skills and generally find themselves juggling commitments to different projects. Loyva, for instance, has toured with Destroyer and How to Dress Well in addition to recording solo as Kellarissa. Rembold, meanwhile, plays bass for Shimmering Stars and leads the Lost Lovers Brigade (which also happens to feature Loyva).
“I was at four at one point, which is ridiculous,” Rembold says, tallying up her various musical projects in an interview at Mount Pleasant’s Our Town Café. “So now I feel like I’m on an awesome vacation, because I’m just focused on this. People always ask both of us to sing on many different records and play live with many different people. I was at four and now I’m at 2.5.”
“More recently we were both singing in Adrian Teacher’s band Cool TV,” chimes in Loyva, who is seated across from her bandmate. “We were singing backup vocals with him. But since then they’ve had to pare down a little bit so they can tour, and they can’t tour with six backup singers or whatever.”
Loyva notes that Fake Tears got its start when she attempted to launch an all-female musical collective, but that didn’t quite pan out. “I tried to start a group with a bunch of girls, women whose musical prowess I really admire, and they were all local singer-songwriters or band members,” she says. “And I was like, ‘Maybe you would like this opportunity. We could all collaborate and share ideas and sing together.’ I wanted strong singers, too, because I love singing and I wanted a lot of singers. But we were down to three members of five after about two rehearsals, and then we were down to just the two of us after a couple shows.”
“We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we slowly figured it out,” Rembold says of the nascent outfit. “We’ve been together playing as Fake Tears for about three years, but the first part was trying to figure out what we were going for and how we were going to do it. Because before that I never really programmed beats or did any electronic stuff.”
The sound the two arrived at is a winning one, with their voices woven together seamlessly over keyboard parts and rhythm tracks that Loyva says are kept simple and relatively unadorned by design. “The voices are first and foremost,” she says. “Everything else is just a vessel for singing.”
As for who exactly is doing what on Nightshifting, instrumentally, Rembold notes, “I love hooky lines.”
“Yeah, she does that more than I do,” Loyva agrees. “I’m more like a chord person.”
When it comes to the words, each member contributes, but both are reticent to reveal which songs are whose, although Rembold does acknowledge that she and Loyva differ in their approaches to lyric-writing: “I think her lyrics are more to do with a story line, and my lyrics are like, ‘I really love the sound of how these words go together, and I just want to use them.’ Or, actually, to me, how it comes out as a voice, like singing, is a huge thing for me. Sometimes I’ll write lyrics and then I’ll try to sing them, and it just doesn’t carry as well.
“Everybody’s always said to me, ‘What is this song about?’” Rembold continues. “I don’t think I’ve ever really written a song about anything. I know how I feel about the song. Visually, if you were to say ‘I love those colours and shapes, and it’s not about anything,’ that’s how I feel about writing lyrics.”
Nightshifting was released earlier this month by Mint Records, which, probably not coincidentally, was also home to P:ano and the Choir Practice, a couple of Loyva’s previous bands. That should give Fake Tears enough clout to book a killer tour, but, without getting into all the details, the duo points out that there is some red tape to cut through before that can happen. Logistically, though, hitting the road shouldn’t be a problem. With their on-stage setup consisting of a pair of microKORGs and an iPod, Fake Tears could fit all of its gear in the back seat of a compact car.
Rembold counters that they wouldn’t even need that. “We’re just going to do a bike tour, with our keyboards on the front,” she says. “It’ll be next-level.” And at that, the members of Fake Tears burst into very real laughter.
Fake Tears plays the Lido on Saturday (August 15).