Village takes a dreamy path
Three of the four members of Village are gathered around a table at Budgies Burritos in Mount Pleasant. Guitarist Alex Smith is devouring one of the establishment’s signature burritos, but singer Jessica Chau has brought her own dinner—Japanese-style deep-fried oysters—in a plastic container from home.
“You do this all the time!” exclaims Smith. Sitting across from him, bassist Lindsay Partin laughs and nods in agreement.
“That is not true,” Chau protests. “You’re thinking of venues. I always bring food to venues. I never bring food to restaurants.”
The vocalist didn’t always have bandmates on hand to critique her eating habits. When she founded Village in 2009, she was living in Tokyo and emailed tracks back and forth with Toronto-based collaborator Colin Gillespie (of Count Oak and Greys). Those early demos—which are still available to stream on Village’s Bandcamp page—found Chau’s voice swathed in a reverb and backed by minimal arrangements of chiming guitars and murkily downcast rhythms.
She eventually returned to her hometown of Vancouver and continued the band as a casual project until a chance meeting with Smith, who was an old acquaintance that she had met through UBC’s CiTR 101.9 FM radio station.
“We ended up sitting together on a plane to Paris,” she remembers of the 2011 encounter. “We talked and we had the same favourite local bands and movies and a lot of similar things. I was like, ‘Do you want to do this band thing?’ ”
They played their first show together a couple of months later, but Smith admits that they got off to a rocky start. “We had no drummer and had played together for maybe three hours before the show,” he recalls. Turning to Chau beside him, he asks, “That show sucked a little bit, didn’t it?”
“It was all right,” the vocalist argues before trailing off and conceding, “Yeah—we only played three songs. Who am I kidding?”
The group progressed quickly, becoming a fixture on the local live circuit and making a few personnel changes before eventually settling on a solid four-piece lineup that includes drummer Ina Vukmirovich plus the three members on hand for this interview. It’s in this incarnation that Village has finally perfected its dreamy sound; while not an overt departure from Chau’s formative demos, the addition of a full-time rhythm section helped to push the material in a noisier direction.
“You have to drown people out or they’ll just talk over you,” Smith observes of the outfit’s increasingly loud live shows. “I’d say it’s pretty ’90s shoegaze. I use a distortion pedal a lot now, so it’s a clean verses, distorted choruses type of thing.”
The musicians explain that, while Chau’s singing and keyboard playing tend to be melodic and pretty, Smith’s guitar work gives the material its gritty edge. “It’s a good cop, bad cop thing,” Partin offers, and her bandmates concur with a chuckle.
These fuzzy inclinations aren’t yet reflected in the group’s recorded output. Last year’s “Nowhere” 7-inch, which was recorded cheaply at Smith’s house using GarageBand, showcased the band at its softest, with angelic vocals floating over atmospheric washes of keyboards and jangling guitars.
Those same sessions—which occurred before Partin joined the band—also produced the new 7-inch “Stranger Thoughts.” This tune is slightly bubblier than the prior single, as a toe-tapping rock beat anchors satisfyingly simple and singable refrains. The vinyl is backed by a bleary-eyed remix of the same song crafted by local electronic artist the Passenger. With its woozy textures, the remix bears only a passing resemblance to the original track.
“I almost think of this as being a split 7-inch rather than our 7-inch, because it’s very much his track, and I really love what he did with it,” enthuses Smith. Fittingly, the Passenger is on the bill for Village’s impending release show for the single.
After releasing “Stranger Thoughts”, Village will sets its sights on recording its debut full-length, which is largely already written. The band will continue to perform regularly around town, but the members’ full-time jobs mean that extensive touring will likely be impossible. “We can’t really just pick up and go,” Smith says. “Is there really any point in touring for two months and playing a bunch of shows where nobody’s there? I know it’s fun, but it costs you money—it’s not like you’re making money.”
That being said, they intend to do some short outings to nearby cities or festivals when their busy schedules allow it. Let’s hope, for Chau’s sake, that the out-of-town promoters don’t have a problem with her smuggling her dinner into the venue for each gig.