Straight from their hearts: Vancouver musicians sound off on Valentine's Day
True romantics understand that Valentine’s Day is all about getting things just right. For example, they know that a box of Tic Tac Fresh Mint candies isn’t an acceptable gift on Cupid’s big day, no matter how much thought went into the purchase at Shoppers Drug Mart. As every seasoned Lothario will confirm, Tic Tac Cherry Passion is the way to go.
Springing for a honeymoon suite at the Bellingham Motel 6 is wonderful and thoroughly admirable, but what’s the point if the room doesn’t come with an instant-coffee maker, a vibrating bed, and a view of the I-5? And as far as dinner reservations go, only a fool waits until February 12 to make the call to Applebee’s.
The message, then, is simple: with Valentine’s Day, it’s about the details. To find out how our fellow romantics celebrate one of Hallmark’s favourite days, we’ve asked some of Vancouver’s top-tier talent what they’d like to see sitting on the bed on February 14 (besides their loved one), as well as what song gets their heart aflutter when it pops up on the iPod.
Funnily, no one brought up Tic Tacs, Motel 6s, or Applebee’s. Try not to feel sorry for their Valentines.
Greg Beamish has spent the past year piling up the kind of bucket-list experiences most budding MCs would trade their gold teeth for: playing shows with Ghostface Killah and Redman, touring Japan, and collaborating with Juno-winning ska queen Elaine “Lil’Bit” Shepherd. Brilliant as all that is, shit is about to truly get crazy with the release of the hip-hop head’s debut full-length, Disposable Income, which he launches with a February 20 gig at Hooker’s Green in Yaletown.
Dream Valentine’s present: “Space travel. I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut. So if I happened to be dating a very rich chick, I would ask her to shell out the 250 grand for a ticket on Virgin Galactic so I could be the first Canadian white rapper in space. Nothing says ‘I love you’ more than the gift of suborbital flight. I’m also a big sports fan, so maybe just some Canucks tickets. They’re about the same price.”
Favourite sonic love letter: “My girl just finished telling me about how I keep forgetting about Valentine’s Day every year. ‘I Keep Forgettin’ ’ by Michael McDonald is my sonic love letter to myself to remember to not forget Valentine’s Day this year or I’ll piss her off and end up sad like Michael McDonald in the song and ‘things will never be the same again.’ Warren G is a big fan of this song as well.”
Randy Kramer sings and plays guitar for Hallow Moon, whose music is the aural equivalent of dropping acid and wandering around Stanley Park. It’s pastoral and lovely, but it’s also a thoroughly psychedelic experience.
Dream Valentine’s present: “Beer, what else?”
Favourite sonic love letter: “ ‘Hot Burrito #1’ by the Flying Burrito Bros. Listen to the lyrics. It’s haunting and beautiful. Gram [Parsons] does a great job crooning, and its title is amazing.”
Brittney Rand and Francesca Belcourt make up the refreshingly outside-the-box synth-pop project Mu. The duo’s eponymous, chilled-out debut EP will have you reaching for comparisons to the likes of Mirah, Bat for Lashes, and the Knife, even if none of them totally fit.
Dream Valentine’s present: [Brittney] “I don’t remember the last time I received a Valentine’s Day gift, but I would want to receive something thoughtful. A hand-drawn card of Ricky from the Trailer Park Boys draped in diamonds, beside a plate of chocolate fondue and an array of fruits, would make me immensely pleased. I would be impressed by any gift that doesn’t take the holiday too seriously—something that would make me laugh would go over well. Valentine’s Day is for sissies, and since I am one, I would like to receive all the candies.”
Favourite sonic love letter: [Francesca] “I’m going to choose an instrumental song by Kisduke called ‘Ghostgirl’ because I think the kind of love that is very real is too weird to be summed up into words and sung by another human sometimes. Being sickeningly in love is basically the same as being mentally ill, so music that encapsulates those insane feelings with similar insane sounds are a really great representation of true love. Singing works for pre- and post-breakups.”
Charlie Kerr fronts JPNSGRLS (pronounced “Japanese girls”), a Light Organ Records signing whose delightfully skewed take on indie pop has Next Big Thing scrawled all over it in black Sharpie.
Dream Valentine’s present: “I can’t quite remember if it was for my 19th birthday or if it was for Valentine’s, but my girlfriend at the time bought me a brand-new record player with a Daniel Johnston record and a White Stripes record and the Julian Casablancas solo album. I had mentioned in passing that I had wanted a record player a couple times and that I was jealous of hers, but I never thought she would actually get me one. I don’t know why, but I think it’s an incredible feeling when someone surprises you with something you really want and you were clueless to their sort of romantic detective work. I think there’s actually a Seinfeld episode about that, where Kramer remembers that Elaine wants a footstool and when he gives it to her she’s just over the moon about it. I felt like Elaine that day.”
Favourite sonic love letter: “I’m sure some people are just gonna try and out-cool each other with their answers, but I’m going to try to speak directly from the heart. The song that makes me feel hopelessly in love is Sam Cooke’s ‘Wonderful World’. He just lays it out so damn simply: ‘I do know that I love you/And I know that if you love me too/What a wonderful world this would be.’ On top of that, his voice is just solid gold. Y’know, there’s certain people who sing love songs and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that dude had it bad for someone.’ Sam Cooke is one of those dudes. Jeff Buckley’s like that too. ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’ annihilates me every time I hear it.”
Steve Bays is best known as the frontman for alt-pop hitmakers Hot Hot Heat, but watch for him to spend the months ahead basking in the glow of Mounties, a new project that teams him up with Hawksley Workman and Limblifter’s Ryan Dahle. The band’s upcoming debut is titled Thrash Rock Legacy, and based on hook-heavy early singles like “Headphones”, Canada is about to discover its new favourite band.
Dream Valentine’s present: “Any painting by a local—or current—artist is the ultimate gift. Paintings give off an energy—they have a soul. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just a small piece of art that your Valentine knows will match the feeling in your home. You will think of them every time you walk past it and feel good knowing there’s an artist out there who is one more step further away from having to give up their dream. My wife had a painting of our dog Rigby commissioned by local painter Heidi Siller. Love it.”
Favourite sonic love letter: “Before it shut down, my friends and I used to go to Hoko’s on weekends to sing karaoke. It was a hole-in-the-wall on Powell Street with bars on the windows, so it was usually just local young(ish)sters taking advantage of cheap wine. My girlfriend and I were still a somewhat new thing, and we chose to do a duet of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon’. We both awkwardly realized the last lyric—‘In other words, I love you’—soooo I took the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, yeah, I actually do!’ and thus officially start dropping the L-bomb. We got married a few years later and had a local Frank Sinatra impersonator, Rick Valiant, perform ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ for our first dance. That has been our sonic love letter ever since.”
Jordan Ardanaz sings and plays guitar in the power trio Phoenix Thunderbird, which draws much of its influence from ’80s thrash metal but isn’t afraid to give a shoutout to new-wave synth moper Gary Numan.
Dream Valentine’s present: “A sensual scalp massage from all the members of Sunshine while they whisper sweetness in my ear and the New Values serenade us—then we see what happens. That’s not just a dream present for me; that’s for anyone.”
Favourite sonic love letter: “ ‘Nazi Girlfriend’ by Iggy Pop. Just like that episode of Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Iggy is thrust so deeply into the throes of desire that he suffers a melancholic crisis with the thought that his girlfriend is, in fact, a Nazi girlfriend. This describes my ideal relationship—minus the Nazi. Plus, ‘Her French is perfect/So’s her butt.’ These are things I care about.”
Carl Spackler (yes, Caddyshack fans, that’s really what he calls himself) sings and slaps the bass in La Chinga, and he’s probably never heard an obscure proto-metal LP from the ’70s that he didn’t love.
Dream Valentine’s present: “The Dragon Master needs some new deep-shag carpet, as during a recent trip, while listening to Hawkwind’s Space Ritual, our drummer spilled Colt 45 all over it. We love deep shag. I think it’s the most romantic of carpets. So yeah, maybe five or six yards of powder-blue shag would stoke the fires. That or some new platform shoes—mine are getting pretty worn-out.”
Favourite sonic love letter: “Everyone says go with Side 2 of ZOSO. I won’t argue with that, but if I really wanna set the mood for the old lady and me, I throw on Thin Lizzy’s ‘Still in Love With You’. That one is a real panty-remover. Then follow up with some Tony Joe White. No one can resist ‘The Swamp Fox’. ”
Elliot Langford has crawled from the wreckage of electro-spazz kings SSRIs to form Sprïng, which, in addition to cosinger and guitarist-keyboardist Joseph Hirabayashi, also features Kevin Romain on drums and Ridley Bishop on bass. The band’s debut, Celebrations—which gets an album-release party at the Rickshaw on March 7—mixes ’60s-sunshine-folk flourishes with postrock heaviness and ambient washes of freeform pop.
Dream Valentine’s present: “Let’s go somewhere! A ticket somewhere is a present, right? So I guess we could go to one of those warm parts of the world, but fuck it, let’s just go to Montreal for the weekend. Half of Vancouver is already there, so we can hang out with some old friends and party! And have a freezing picnic in a park with a bottle of wine without worrying about getting in trouble, ’cause that’s legal there.”
Favourite sonic love letter: “A cool one is ‘Care of Cell 44’ by the Zombies, which seems like a normal pop song about wanting to see your lover, but the catch is you’re waiting for their release from jail. The ultimate Vancouver Valentine’s jam, though, has to be ‘You’re Beautiful’ by James Blunt, which is about having the hots for someone on the SkyTrain, but you’re super blazed and too confused to do anything about it.”