THE sheer breadth and range of Canadian artists available…
on the market keeps me pretty busy! CROATIA’s Matt and Justin tell me whether there is a story behind that name; what it is like playing music around British Columbia; what they have planned for the coming months; how the quartet all came together – I ask them about their new track, Make Circles. The guys talk about their upbringings and the albums/artists that compel them; if we will see them come to Britain – and whether there are any new artists worth a closer examination.
I was eager to know more about their current E.P., Half Dreams; what they hope to achieve this year; if there is any advice they would give to upcoming artists – what it was like working with Rob Willey on their latest video.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Justin: Busy, busy, busy! We had our single release-show recently - which was the biggest local show we’ve ever put on. Now, I’m leaving the country for New Zealand (sorry, guys).
Matt: We’re kind of glad Justin is leaving for a month so we can hit our studio and write some new music while he is gone - he’s going to have a lot of lyrics and vocals to write when he’s back! It’s really important for us to take short breaks and re-focus solely on songwriting. Shows are great, but we have a hard time being creative while rehearsing.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
Justin: We’re CROATIA. We play dark Synth-Pop. We’re from Victoria (British Columbia), Canada. We all love the name ‘Dave’.
Make Circles is your new track. What is the story behind the song?
I kept finding myself in these terribly cliché romantic situations over the course of a few months - that I didn’t foresee at all. The song is, basically, about being completely weirded-out, excited; terrified and (just) entertained about the whole thing all at once.
What was it like working on its video with Rob Willey (and Tall Grass Films)? How come you selected him to visualise your latest single?
We were really flip-flopping on what song of ours we would release as the first single off of our E.P. - and which one we would be able to pull off in a straightforward and appealing way with a video, given our timeline. We had heard good things about Rob from other artists - who had worked with him in Victoria – and, upon contacting him with about a month-timeline; he not only made himself available but was genuinely excited to work on the video idea with us.
He’s a Rockstar.
Make Circles is taken from the E.P., Half Dreams. Are there particular themes and inspirations that forged the songs?
Not at first. But, as soon as we decided on the songs to be released, I’d say a few themes popped up: a general feeling of achieving a lot of personal and artistic goals WHILE simultaneously questioning your entire life course is the main theme overall I’d say.
You are from British Columbia but are named ‘CROATIA’. How come you went with that band-name?
Matt: I’m part-Croatian; so I was always convincing my friends to check out all these crazy Croatian athletes who aren’t overly-professional but always seem to win things. I’m a big fan of Croatian MMA guys like Stipe and Cro-Cop; so the country of Croatia was always an inside joke. Eventually, we just kept saying the word so much that it birthed some new strange meaning - and we decided to use it as our band-name. It’s a beautiful word: it has more vowels than consonants. It’s also a beautiful country so, hopefully, we will get to play some shows there one day!
Is it quite a busy and active scene in Victoria (British Columbia)? What sort of sounds are coming from there?
Justin: Yeah! Victoria has quietly become one of the epicentres of music and art on Canada’s West Coast over time. So, so, so many bands across genres and styles are popping up all of the time. We also have a pretty diverse amount of promoters covering different levels of musicianship and fame which brings a lot of interesting music to town, despite us being on an island. Some of our favorite bands from Victoria that are worth checking out are Bridal Party, Diamond Cafe; Bodies, Smash Boom Pow; Layton Kramer, Peach Pyramid; Peach Pit, ACTORS; Douse, Art d’Ecco (and bands like that).
Did you each grow up in musical households? Which artists came to your ears at an early age?
I grew up playing piano at an early age - but wasn’t from a particularly musical family. I did grow up with a TONNE of 1980s Pop and Rock as a kid, though, thanks to my dad. I was also obsessed with Pop music when I was younger - when music video culture was so rampant. I think that definitely swayed my music tastes. Primarily, I find myself influenced by Soul, R&B and Post-Punk.
Matt: Steve (Synths/Programming) and I grew up in families that were constantly listening to music - so that really helped. But, overall, none of us has serious musicians in the family. Our friends and families are really supportive, thankfully.
IN THIS PHOTO: Close Talker/PHOTO CREDIT: Rachel Pick
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Justin: Close Talker from Saskatoon (Canada) are an absolutely phenomenal Indie band with one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. Been playing their latest record, Lens, on-repeat. Charlotte Day Wilson (Toronto) has also been a constant for me, lately. Seriously; some of the most inspiring R&B out at the moment...
Matt: Diamond Cafe from Victoria BC. This dude is the real deal! Search for 'It’s Been a Mess Without You'.
IN THIS PHOTO: Diamond Cafe
If you each had to choose the one album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Justin: The Mars Volta - Deloused in the Comotorium
When you’re an angst-filled teenager there is enough heartbreak, hooks; meaning, musical genius and aggression to get you through just fine. Also; I’ll never be able to release anything that complicated ever for fear of losing my mind.
Matt: Frank Ocean - Blond
I grew up listening to bands - and not many modern solo artists. Sometimes, the personal message can get lost in a band setting as four people compete to share their message. Blond was the most personal and intimate album I’ve ever heard: I feel like I know everything about Frank Ocean’s life after listening; despite the fact that he’s a very quiet guy. The production and musicianship are unreal as well.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
Justin: We will be announcing a few Western Canadian dates fairly soon! Follow us or something...
Do you think CROATIA will come to the U.K.? Might we see you at some point?
Definitely! Nothing in the plans as of yet but that would be incredible. Honestly, the U.K and the rest of Europe are looking a lot more feasible as tour stops for us than our neighbours to the South at the moment. Haha.
What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
Personally, I just want to write the best material I can and stay inspired. We’re always pushing ourselves and keeping each other in line when it comes to ideas, lyrics etc. (That may not be the best we can come up with). It’s nice to write with people who aren’t afraid to say how sh*tty they think a certain chorus or melody is. Haha.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I played a Punk house show a few years ago in this hilarious Punk ‘mansion’; complete with pillow fight mosh-pit, ten ripped-up couches in various spots to sleep on; giant beer bottle slingshot aiming into various yards…and a nineteen-year-old popping a champagne cork into their eye right as midnight struck.
Professionally-speaking; probably the festival spots I’ve played but, personally…that night, without question.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Just don’t stop making your music or art in general. I’ve thought of giving up music so many times in the past for various reasons, but couldn’t imagine if I actually did. There are a-thousand highs for every low: there are a lot of lows starting out. Haha.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Close Talker - Waking Up
Matt: Diamond Cafe - It’s Been a Mess (Without You)