Guitarist Gil Carroll comes across as a man with big expectations for Winnipeg’s Living Hour, and his optimism is well-founded considering what the group’s accomplished on its eponymous debut album. Originally issued last year in hipper-than-hip cassette format, the full-length got a proper release in February of 2016 on Portland’s indie-cool Lefse Records, and the band won a new round of praise for its languid strain of shoegaze-y pop.
As thrilling as it is to get nods from the likes of Paste and Stereogum, it’s also possible the easygoing musician is just happy to be part of a group that’s a little more serious than past projects he’s been involved in. Like, for example, the two-man Velvet Underground–obsessed act featuring his future bandmate in Living Hour, drummer Alex Chochinov.
“That band probably wasn’t executed to a level of excellence or anything” Carroll says with a laugh, on his cell from Winnipeg, where he’s doing some pre-tour chores. “We were definitely doing Velvet Underground stuff, along with Silver Jews and Built to Spill. That’s where the initial influences for what we’re doing now came from—’90s indie and lo-fi kind of stuff. But then once we got Sam [Sarty], our singer, onboard, that really changed everything. She had that beautiful voice that pushed us into the more shoegaze-y, dreamy kind of stuff.”
As one might extrapolate from that brief recap, Living Hour does indeed draw heavily on shoegaze and golden-era college rock, but the quintet’s influences don’t stop there. There’s a smoky Americana haze to the album opener, “Summer Smog”, while waves of apocalyptic surf and hypnotic organ propel “There Is No Substance Between”. Those who miss ethereal icons like the Cocteau Twins, meanwhile, will find plenty to love in “Feel Shy”.
What instantly stands out on Living Hour is that the record sounds like summer, a perfect sonic backdrop for golden, sun-saturated afternoons. That is indeed the vibe the group was going for, even if the weather was anything but summery during the recording process.
“It’s honestly been a while since we did the record,” Carroll says, “but I’m 99 percent certain we recorded in the winter, like in February. But soundwise it’s not wintery, and that’s because we were out to create our own little world. We didn’t want to make something that sounded like any other Winnipeg band. I definitely wanted to tap into a unique kind of headspace. I’m super into the Winnipeg local scene, and I love tons of the bands that come out of here, but I really wanted to create something that people might think was weird.”
By “weird”, he presumably means a sound like nothing that’s ever come out of the ’Peg, as opposed to, say, a Prairie version of the Butthole Surfers. Cue the plans for world domination, which include an upcoming five-week assault on the U.S. and then European dates in May.
“We’re going to be on the road a lot, and we’re totally excited,” Carroll relays. “We haven’t really toured a lot, but we’ve already met so many great bands and cool people. The only bad part can be the driving. Winnipeg is pretty isolated and we only have a minivan—nothing fancy—so things can get a little tight. But we’re all super close and really good friends, so the dynamic is strong. We get through it together.”
Living Hour plays Fortune Sound Club on Saturday (April 2).