Humans hell-bent on speed
The world is separated into dreamers and doers, according to a book that Robbie Slade was browsing while he sat on the shitter recently. We only mention this detail because Slade himself is so enthusiastic about it as he tells the story to the Straight, over seriously great espresso milkshakes at the Acme Café on West Hastings. More significantly, it appears that the dreamer-doer binary applies somewhat to Slade and his partner, Peter Ricq, respectively the guitarist-vocalist and the Roland-MC-505-bashing members of electropop outfit Humans.
The duo is about to release its first official EP, Avec Mes Mecs, premiere a new five-minute short film called “The End”, and kick off a jaunt to the East Coast that takes Ricq to his hometown of Montreal. “It’ll be the first time I’ll be playing in front of my friends and family, which will be nice,” he notes. Humans will also hit Toronto and New York—or “America’s version of Toronto,” as Slade puts it—which is a pretty high-profile way of rounding out the short but action-packed history of Humans.
Ricq and Slade only met in 2008, but their ascension has been swift, to say the least, as anybody who saw Humans’ almost-sold-out, second-ever gig at Glory Days will tell you. Put that down to Hurricane Peter and the game plan he drew up presumably within minutes of starting the band. As Slade admits, he’s in awe of the man’s “crazy mental stamina”.
“He can go forever,” he says. “I think it’s because he took all the things he likes to do and he figured out ways to get paid for them. His work is his play. Then all he does to relax is watch RoboCop and fall asleep.” Indeed, Ricq appears to be an insanely goal-oriented individual, which explains why he has his own animated TV series (League of Super Evil, seen on YTV and Nickelodeon in Canada), plus another three shows in development with his partners, while also maintaining a career as an artist. Somehow he floats the Humans project right down the middle of his overstuffed calendar. Pretty amazing for a guy who, by his own admission, “always looks stoned”.
“It can be hard keeping up with his schedule,” Slade says, although the roguishly charming singer is no slouch. He might have a slightly more relaxed internal timetable (he was “super late” for their first practice, and also for this interview), but Ricq obviously intuited something when they met at his art opening and bonded over MGMT and “men who sing in high voices”. Gradually, Slade drifted from his scruffy folk-rock band Family Room and into Ricq’s high-pressure, digital project. Ricq wasn’t disappointed.
“I saw this going well from the first two songs we did, ”˜Always Around’ and ”˜Bike Home’,” he says. “And I thought, ”˜This could go somewhere.’ I just had to convince this guy.” Slade shrugs. “He expected it. When I think things are going really good, he’ll say, ”˜Yeah, it’s not moving as fast as I wanted.’ ”
It’s hard to imagine things moving any faster. Humans’ opening salvo was to produce and release a homemade, five-song EP, pester the blogosphere, and make a video for the Daft-Punk-gone-dub dance-floor champ “Bike Home”. Slade provided the concept, and Ricq, naturally, directed and shot the crisp, guerrilla effort, which subsequently rocketed to the number five spot on the Hype Machine. Local impresario and all-around tastemaker Dani Vachon got behind Humans, and opening slots with Junior Boys, among others, followed.
The release of Avec Mes Mecs puts a cap on this whirlwind first chapter for Humans with a ridiculously catchy, seven-track ass-shaker that includes “Bike Home”, the blue-eyed digital pop of “Always Around”, and the lovingly crafted ’80s proto-robo-funk of “Witness”. As for the future, that aforementioned short film, “The End”, features an intriguing new track, also called “The End”, which is like a 21st-century refitting of Riz Ortolani’s syrupy Cannibal Holocaust soundtrack. Quite appropriately, since the film itself—written and directed by Ricq—is apparently a gorefest. Ricq’s long-term ambitions include feature filmmaking, and he counts Sam Raimi as an influence. Proving once again that the man has killer instincts, Slade has turned out to be an astoundingly good foil. “He’s never really acted before and he’s got some really good, funny expressions,” Ricq says. “Robbie also has a lot of really good angles. He’s like a young Bruce Campbell.”
Then there’s the projected, all-new full-length Humans is hell-bent on releasing in April. Slade is apparently rising to the standards set by his high-functioning colleague and takes the deadline very seriously. “I have enough unfinished ideas that we can definitely have it done by April. We have a lot of material that we haven’t done anything with,” he states, wagging his finger and forcefully adding: “Moving on is really what it’s all about.” Slade seems to be graduating from dreamer to doer, and Ricq couldn’t look prouder. Or more stoned.
Humans simultaneously releases Avec Mes Mecs and premieres “The End” at the Cobalt next Friday (October 15).