CMW Preview: The Strain (Interview)

The Strain

In January, I was able to sit down with The Strain before they played Nu Music Nite at the Horseshoe Tavern. It was their first time playing the Horseshoe, though the band has played in Toronto a few times before, including Canadian Music Week and NXNE.

You may have heard of The Strain before, as the band won last year’s Live 88.5 Big Money Shot. Frontman David Taggart describes the experience. “It was 60 Ottawa music scene bands competing and it lasted almost a year. The first round was just a YouTube video and you were judged on your live performance. And there were a couple rounds with judges judging you. Then we made it to the top 5 and they sent us on a 401 tour, so we went to London, Toronto, Kingston, and Peterborough. And then they sent us to Barrie after. On October 19th, they had the final in Ottawa at this big, old church with super high ceilings. It was really weird because it was apparently de-churched but with all the memorabilia still up. It was really good acoustics. We packed a school bus with all our fans and they were the most rowdy fans there, so they helped us a lot and made the night really good.”

David says the band prides themselves on their live show. “Growing up, I always wanted to be a good live band. I think that’s where the fun is. You can listen to a CD and really like it, but if you show up and the band is not very good live, it kind of just ruins it. I’ve always liked live bands.”

Alex Serre, drummer and David’s cousin, then says, “I guess what stands out about ours is probably the electronic aspect of it.”

The electronic aspect hadn’t always been a part of the band’s sound and their second EP certainly has more of the electronic influence than their first. David says, “We added Rylee [Taggart, David’s sister] to the band when we first started and just took it to a whole different level of what we could do and what kind of music we could write.”

The band had an interesting start. When the band first came together, it started off with David and Alex, who had been playing music together for years. Neither of the guys were really classically trained and just grew up around music. Soon after high school, they asked Rylee to play on their new project, but she had never played keyboard before. Rylee, instead, was much more into sports. But David convinced his sister to play and she had to learn with a lot of help from YouTube. The band then enlisted childhood friend Nick Johnston to play bass. Similarly, Johnston, though already a musician, was unfamiliar with the instrument and had to learn. Impressively enough, all four members of the band are self-taught musicians.

It was an interesting choice to turn to people who hadn’t played certain instruments before, but David explains, “I wanted this time around to have people I’m really comfortable with. What better than your sister and your friend for ages? It makes it a lot easier. And I’m glad it worked it. It was kind of just like, ‘Let’s have band practice and see what happens.’”

The Strain released their Hush Hush EP in March of last year and will be looking spend some of their prize winnings on a new CD, but first the band is looking to put out a single soon, hopefully before Canadian Music Week. Their songwriting process, as David explains, varies, but generally the songs start off as acoustic bare bones before turning into a rock song.

David then says, “My first test is that I always bring it up to the kitchen table and I play it in front of my dad and he’s always brutally honest. That’s what I love about him, so if he likes it, it passed the kitchen table test. Great. If not, I go back down to my room, sulk, cry a little and then try again.” There’s a bit of a laugh from everyone at this point, but David still points out that he doesn’t take everything his dad criticizes says to heart.

The band is from Wakefield, Quebec (20 minutes north of Ottawa on the Quebec side) and David admits he likes to write about the people in their town. This leads into a drunken story.

David starts, “It was Canada Day. And we all went to this raft that Wakefield, the community, makes that they float down the river on Canada Day. They dress it up with flags and it’s very illegal, but we’re apparently allowed to do it every year and on Canada Day there’s a big party on top of the raft.”

The next part of the story involves others shooting fireworks and some sort of misunderstanding that led some folks to think David was the one shooting fireworks, which resulted in a group of guys taking him on and David coming away with a broken nose.

“They were all so drunk and crazy,” Rylee adds.

David says, “We played earlier that day. We played an early set in the daytime and then at night when we started to drink, shit just hit the fan.”

Alex remarks, “I guess that’s more of a sad story…”

“I find humour in my broken nose,” David jokes.

As a change of topic, we discuss shots of choice. David and Alex both agree on whiskey, while Nick likes Jager. Rylee’s shot of choice is a little more complicated, as she says, “I think I like rum. Well, I guess it depends on my mood, like if I want something smoother, I’ll probably just have Jager.”

The Strain just released a new music video for “Cold Shot Girl” and are just finishing up a brand new single. Watch their new video below and check them out at the festival. They play on Friday, March 22 at Clinton’s Tavern at 8pm. David also admits that he likes to update their social media sites religiously, so be sure to follow the band there.

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Categories: Canadian Music Week 2013, Interviews


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