Two months have passed since I spoke to Anwyn and Charlotte of The Lonely Parade, and so the interview you’re about to read may seem somewhat out of date. I happened to catch the post-punk band in an odd, transitional moment, a sort of limbo. Having just moved to Montreal, the band hadn’t practiced in months, hadn’t found a practice space, hadn’t gotten a chance to get to know the local scene, and also had a new album up their sleeve, ready to go — they just couldn’t talk about it yet. The big fish of Peterborough had become the small fry of Montreal.
Even now, however, things have changed and are changing for The Lonely Parade. For one thing, they’ve released the first of their recordings on Buzz Records — “I’m So Tired,” a driving, fuzzy number about seasonal depression. For another, they’ve played at least one big Montreal gig, on a Blue Skies Turn Black bill with Preoccupations (formerly known as Viet Cong). They might not be at the top of the heap, but things are settling down and warming up.
As it is, I think this interview stands as a compelling portrait of an accomplished band in a state of flux. I hope you like it.
Will Wellington: So it’s been a little over a year since you put out the No Shade album. What’s new for The Lonely Parade? Where are you as a band?
Anwyn Climenhage: It feels like there’s been a big lag. We recorded our new record in late August in Toronto. So now it’s just going through the motions, being mixed and mastered. It’s done.
Charlotte Dempsey: It’s done, we’re just sitting on it.
AC: And that’s all we can say about it yet. It’s all a big secret. But we’ve got new stuff happening really soon.
CD: There’s a lot of new content that’s being made or about to be made that we’re pretty excited about.
WW: Are you mixing that new content into the shows at all?
CD: We pretty much only play our new songs now, which is kind of a bummer for people who are fans of No Shade. We maybe play one or two tracks from No Shade at most. And then it’s mostly just stuff from this [new record].
AC: Anyone who’s seen us in the last six months probably will know the songs that are on the record.
WW: When it comes to planning a setlist, are you always trying to incorporate new material?
CD: Pretty much as soon as we write something, we play it — as soon as we have a track that’s ready to be played. Sometimes we’ll play something we’re not sure about yet.
AC: Lately, we’ve been trying to bring back really old songs for fun. It’s always fun to be able to change your setlist up a little bit. I think we’re going to try to do more of that, especially when we start playing a lot of shows in short periods of time. It’s fun to be able to change your setlist just so you don’t go crazy.
WW: How do you feel nowadays about the different recordings you’ve put out? Like Sheer Luxury, the Splenda Thief EP, and No Shade?
CD: For a lot of the tracks on Sheer Luxury, I’m just plain embarrassed about them. We started writing songs when we were really young. It seems like we’ve become a different band, but we’re still associated with the same stuff that we put out like six years ago. We were talking about taking some of that stuff down for a little while.
AC: Sheer Luxury is so all over the place. Some of the songs are straight punky, and other ones are more like “I want to show off my jazz drumming” — and now I cringe at that. We have a more comfortable sound [now] in a lot of ways. Although we still try to make every song unique. I think we’re better at writing an album now instead of a weird collection of songs. It feels a bit more natural.
CD: And cohesive.
WW: I did get that vibe from Sheer Luxury, although I have to say that I had a really great time listening to it the other day. I thought it was a great record, and I was writing down lyrics that I liked.
CD: What were some of your favourite lyrics?
WW: Let me see. There’s a line in “Tip of an Iceberg”: “It’s not porn if there’s flowers in the bathtub.
CD & AC: Ahhhhhh!
CD: That’s so funny.
WW: “Feel like every band here’s just pitying us.”
CD: Oh yeah, yeah, we like that one.
WW: And then of course there’s “My Mom Got Hit on at a Punk Show,” which is just the best song.
CD: That’s the one we want to take down to be honest. People always, always draw attention to that song. It is catchy — it’s our joke song.
AC: I think now we’re just coming back to a point where we haven’t played it for long enough that we can joke about it and don’t get asked very often to do it.
WW: I also really liked “Mono” off the Splenda Thief EP: “We want colours but we want only one colour.”
AC: Yeah, I want to bring that one back.
CD: I can’t play it. It hurts my hand too much.
WW: Yeah, it’s a pretty intense song. I actually want to ask you about the Splenda Thief EP — where it came from, why you decided to put it out the way you did.
AC: I think it was probably just because our friend Brandon [Root], who recorded and mixed the EP for us, was like, “I want to make a recording with you. It’ll be fun. Come over, we’ll order pizza, and for a few nights this week we’ll record some stuff.” And, at the time, we jumped at any opportunity that was handed to us to record stuff. It’s really just recently that we’ve been thinking about shopping around. But yeah, Brandon was a friend of ours. I think it was more that we wanted to hang out and record.
CD: I think the songs on that record ended up being a turning point for us in terms of the kind of stuff that we were writing. A lot of the stuff on Sheer Luxury is very … straightforward. Not that I’m saying that the stuff on Splenda Thief isn’t, but it felt like the writing process was a lot more cohesive and integral, instead of it being just “songs we came up with,” you know what I mean?
WW: And what about No Shade then? I take it you’ve spent a lot of time playing that album. How have your feelings on that changed?
AC: No Shade is also kind of like Sheer Luxury in a lot of ways. It is a collection of songs that were written over the course of a year and a half. Each one is really different, just because we were in very different places, or listening to different things, at the time. So it also feels like less of a cohesive album than the album we’re about to put out. Without giving away too much, a lot of the songs we wrote, [we wrote for this album]. No Shade was a collection of songs, which I don’t think is bad. It’s just a different way of doing an album. It almost reminds me more of how The Beatles wrote albums, where each song is really weird, trying something different.
CD: With this one, we were more focused on — not thematic stuff, but we were all in a similar place when we were writing that record.
AC: But I will say that No Shade was a kind of transition, because we used to write all of our lyrics together, and so our lyrics were …
CD: Too embarrassing.
AC: They were embarrassing, but also weird because we used to be like, “What’s a theme? Let’s go with ‘making fun of hipsters because we’re better than them’” — so angsty and weird. No Shade was a turning point where Charlotte and Augusta brought their own lyrics to it, and then I had one song, “Duck Hunt,” that I wrote lyrics to.
WW: On a similar note, is The Lonely Parade the kind of band that takes breaks? Like do you have periods of down time where you’re not doing Lonely Parade stuff, or is it pretty much a “hang out all the time, playing all the time” kind of situation?
CD: We’re kind of coming out of a break right now.
AC: Yeah, I ended up going away for a couple months. We all just moved to Montreal not too long ago. I was the last one to move here so that also kind of separated us a little bit. I was in Winnipeg hanging out for a little while. We’re practicing tonight for the first time in a month and a half.
CD: The last time we played together was December 10.
AC: That’s insane. All of us now have solo EPs. They all came out at very similar times. We write music on our own now. And I think that’s because Lonely Parade is becoming a little bit more — I don’t know…. I don’t want to say “professional,” but we’re a little bit more in the public eye, so we like to be able to put out really lo-fi solo EPs on the side.
CD: But, yeah, we’ve been kind of on a break. It’s been good, I think? A lot of last year and the year before — like the No Shade release was pretty taxing on all of us. It was a long period and now we’re coming back, gearing up for this new thing with a renewed energy. We’re all in a more motivated place.
WW: And how has moving to Montreal affected the band energy?
CD: It’s been weird. We currently don’t have a jam space, which is awful. We’re getting one for March 1, which is really nice, but basically we haven’t jammed at all because we don’t have a jam space. We don’t play that much music.
AC: You have to pay per hour, and for the last little while, we practiced if it’s like “We have a show next week! We have to run through our setlist a couple times!” But we haven’t been able to jam, like do any experimenting or any new songwriting at the moment — which I don’t think is really on our mind, but it’s also a lot of fun.
CD: And it’s nice to go and shred a Nirvana cover for no reason, you know? And not be like, “I’m paying $40 and I’m wasting my time.”
AC: We’re excited to have our jam space. I think that’s definitely going to—
CD: —change the game!
WW: Yeah, having to rent jam space by the hour would definitely add to the feeling that this is a formal, professional thing.
CD: Like if I had moved to Montreal before starting a band, I don’t think I would have the motivation to start one. I probably would, but in Peterborough we would jam in our parents’ basements whenever. This feels like an investment, or a career step. [But] we’re all rising to the occasion. In terms of shows, we haven’t really played many shows here either but we’ve been having a pretty good reception, I think. We have a lot of friends who play in bands here too. It’s been nice to get a new grasp on a new community.
WW: I’ve never really spent time in Montreal, but I hear so many great things about the music scene there. I’d like to get your perspective on that, on how the Montreal scene works.
CD: It’s weird how much having a promoter does help a bill. I feel like I never worked with promoters until very recently.
AC: Again, it’s a little bit more sophisticated I think, coming from Peterborough, where the community is so tight-knit that you can rely on everybody being a regular, showing up to your show, which is obviously not good for exposure, but also is super fun. It’s an interesting adjustment. We are nobodies in Montreal, essentially. We haven’t really established a following here yet. We have some friends and we played here a handful of times before moving here. But it is scary to start from scratch.
CD: There are a lot of really cool DIY venues that we haven’t played yet, but that I would be into playing. I like going to [those] shows. There’s a lot of DIY spaces that are not just houses — they’re weird basements, or weird alleyways. It feels like a lot more options of where to play. And that’s cool.
AC: We’re still exploring those options.
WW: Speaking of weird spots, you played in Iceland recently?
CD: [Laughter] That one was weird. The show itself was really cool, the bar we played at was really cool. Definitely weird flying to a show and not having a van. I don’t know how much I liked that.
AC: It’s so much paranoia: “I hope we get the guitars back at the other end!” It was an interesting festival because we definitely immediately got the impression that the music we’re playing is not the popular music of European countries. Our bill was specifically supposed to be rock/punk bands, so they paired us with good matches. But all the other shows we went to were—
CD: —electronic music!
AC: Yeah, it was electronic dance music, which wasn’t bad, but it was very interesting.
CD: It’s not really my cup of tea. It was kind of a culture shock.
CD: Our genre’s been doing really well over here. It was a shocker to be like, “Oh, we’re the niche here!”
AC: We’ve only played Canadian festivals, and here there would be, like, one electronic band, and that’s like a weird thing. But in Iceland, everybody was a European electronic band, and then there was the one show that was like “Rock Bands!”
CD: We played at the local metal queer bar.
AC: Super cool. It was like a queer-friendly metal bar.
CD: It’s actually where Weaves played when they played at Iceland Airwaves like three years ago. Same venue.
WW: So how did you get hooked up with this festival? Did you apply to them?
CD: No, honestly, we just got an email out of the blue. It was very shocking.
AC: For a moment, it was like “What the hell? This is a joke, right?” Someone who scouts for their festival saw us at Megaphono in Ottawa.
CD: We got pretty frigging lucky with that one.
AC: Can’t beat that.
WW: Speaking of Weaves, you’re going to be playing Guelph with Weaves [Weaves, Lonely Parade, and Baby Labour played the Guelph Concert Theatre on March 2]. Do you have a relationship with Weaves already? I know you played a festival with them a little while back.
CD: Actually, I feel like I’ve known them for a long time. We met them like three years ago at Lawnya Vawnya back when Anwyn and I were both babies. This was also before they were famous.
AC: I remember talking to Jasmyn [Burke], and she was like “We’re about to play Glastonbury.”
CD: “What the fuck!?”
AC: They seemed to just be on the cusp of doing all these big festivals. We hung out with them there.
CD: We kind of run into them all over the place.
AC: Often Zach [Bines] or Morgan [Waters] will come to our shows in Toronto.
CD: We stayed at Jasmyn’s house when we recorded our album in Toronto this summer. She Airbnb’d it to us. River & Sky was the most recent [time we played with them] — ran into them at this weird afterparty in the bush. They’re all very funny and kind people and we’re looking forward to spending some time with them, and seeing them play, because they’re probably the most talented musicians I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s actually freakish how good they are.
Excerpts from this interview previously appeared in The Ontarion: “The Lonely Parade puts new tunes to the road test”
Photos by Will Wellington