Don’t misinterpret the title of Close Talker’s new full-length, How Do We Stay Here?. One can read it as the kind of question asked by creative people who end up stuck in Nowheresville. Think redneck-outpost Alberta, Barkerville, B.C., or anywhere in Manitoba not named Winnipeg.
Close Talker comes from Saskatoon, which is often overshadowed by more celebrated cultural hubs like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. But as anyone who’s ever been to the city will attest, it has no shortage of charms, from the picturesque bridges over the winding South Saskatchewan River to the boozy mini-village that is Broadway Avenue. Small though Saskatoon sometimes seems, the members of Close Talker have never thought about relocating.
“It’s so community-driven, and that’s why we love it and why we’ve probably stayed,” drummer Chris Morien says, speaking on his cell from a Toronto tour stop. “It’s a place where you really feel at home and connected to people. I haven’t really spent enough time in other cities to say that wouldn’t happen elsewhere, but bigger cities seem a little more disconnected.”
It hasn’t hurt that, since forming in 2012, Close Talker has been gushed over by heavy-hitting outlets like NPR, Interview, Billboard, Spin, and Q. Albums like Lens and Timbers have been celebrated for a strain of meditative indie rock often injected with double-fuzzed distortion. That’s helped build a base on both sides of the border.
“Being in Saskatoon has afforded us a lot of comforts, even financially, because it’s so cheap to live here,” Morien says. “But also being here maybe forces us to get out of the city and tour. In Toronto, you can be a band that plays a lot and do quite well even if you’re almost unknown outside of the city. Then you reach a point where you’re so big everyone sort of catches on. Because of where we started and grew up, we were forced to tour. We can play Saskatoon twice a year at this point. Otherwise, we’re saturating the market. So if we want to play shows, we have to go somewhere else.”
If this makes Close Talker sound like a band that realizes smart planning and hard work can be a career substitute for blind luck, that’s definitely the case. When it came time to begin work on How Do We Stay Here?, Morien and his bandmates—singer-guitarist Will Quiring and guitarist Matthew Kopperud—drew up a carefully thought-out blueprint.
The result was a decidedly downtempo record made for walking the long, grey beaches of Tofino—a place that Close Talker has not only spent plenty of time in, but also used as a backdrop for numerous videos, including the new “Half Past Nine”. The trio sets the mood with the ghost-town chillwave of “Void”, and then holds steady right until the cello-laced closer, “Refuge”. Even when taking mild sonic detours—as with the ’80s-flashback synths in “The Change It Brings” or the incandescent guitars in “Pace”—How Do We Stay Here? is about as perfect a rainy-Sunday soundtrack as you’ll find this fall.
“With every record, we’ve had a different approach,” Morien offers. “After you tour and go through an album cycle, you sometimes have this pendulum swing. I don’t know whether it’s just getting sick of the songs or whatever, but it’s like, ‘Okay, we tried that—let’s do something new.’ One of our goals was longevity—trying to make music that we’d still be in love with five, 10, or 20 years from now. Sometimes you get fatigued with songs when you play them a lot. We wanted to challenge ourselves on that front by creating an album that we’d be proud of. And not just today.”