IT is great discovering an artist…
who has had a long career and continues to make bold and fascinating moves. I have been speaking with Marchildon! about the new track, Sweet Potato Kisses, and what we can expect from his album, Please Pass the Potatoes. He tells me about fond music memories and the new artists we need to check out.
The Canadian songwriter reveals the inspiration behind his latest single and how that amazing and nostalgic video came to be; what the scene is like in Toronto right now; if he will come to the U.K. and play – he ends the interview with a cool song.
Hi, Marchildon! How are you? How has your week been?
I’m well. This week has been exciting. It feels good to release new music.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’ve been making music in Toronto for about sixteen years. The music I write and perform is Rock ‘n’ Roll songs sprinkled with a velvety Country tinge. I began playing bass in the critically-lauded, now-defunct Math-Rock quartet, From Fiction. While playing in From Fiction, I was encouraged to pursue my own projects. I had never really played the guitar before with songwriting as a focus. I quickly realized how fun and creatively rewarding it was.
So; ten full-length albums and one E.P. later; I think it’s fair to say that I’m happily obsessed…
Sweet Potato Kisses is your new single. What is the derivation of the track?
Sweet Potato Kisses is a song I wrote for my son, Charles. I quit my full-time job to take a part-time job on weekends when he was a one-year-old. I stayed home with him during the week when my wife went back to work. He loved mashed sweet potatoes for lunch. He’d have this orange sheen around his mouth and then he’d kiss my knees while I played the guitar for him, which he loved.
So, the song was right in front of me. He’d just stare at me with those big blue eyes. The song is about when a parent finds focus with their child and appreciates the time spent.
The video was shot by your uncle in the 1980s, is that right?! Was it hard digging it up – or was it something you had safe and treasured?
Yes. My uncle shot the footage on a VHS-C video camera in ’85 or ’86. I emailed my Aunt Mary around a year ago inquiring. They miraculously had it in a long-forgotten box in their basement. It was like receiving treasure! Really meaningful. I digitized the footage and then my friend Valerie Calam edited it.
Please Pass the Potatoes, your eleventh album, is out on 4th May. What sort of themes are addressed throughout? I sense a ‘potato’ theme shaping up…!
The album is about the simplicity of happiness, the relaxing joy of monogamy and a driving ambition for self-awareness; all seen through the lens of family life. As for potatoes, they are really easy to grow. You are very likely to end up with accidental potatoes. Just like a surprise pregnancy!
Is it hard coming up with new angles and materials so far into a career?! Does music itself give you constant inspiration?!
Not at all. I swear by a Lou Reed lyric from that Velvet song, Some Kinda Love: “Between thought and expression lies a lifetime”.
Yeah; I just love music. My evenings are mostly spent listening. It’s easy these days to keep up with what’s out there. I believe constant inspiration comes from constant repetition and practice. I believe everyone has a creative muscle. You just have to take the time to exercise it…
As Lou said: “The possibilities are endless”.
Toronto is where you are based. How would you describe the city’s music scene right now?
The Toronto music scene is constantly shifting and full of surprises. It’s a wonderful place to live and be creative. There are so many pockets with different scenes. I can go watch a Roots band or attend an Ambient music night. Whatever your flavour.
The scene is overwhelming with talented people, young and old. It’s exciting!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
The same thing I’ve always hoped to achieve: giving my current musical project existence and then moving on. It’s very important to eventually get away from what you’ve been attached to creatively. Start from scratch; turn your eyes into a blank canvas and go for a long walk.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Definitely, the time spent in Chicago recording the From Fiction L.P. with Steve Albini. He was such a great person. Watching him work was inspiring; one of the most articulate people I've ever met; hard-working and to the point. I had serviced my Fender Bassman before leaving for Chicago.
Right when we were about to hit the record button, he came in over the talk-back and said: “Something doesn't sound right with your amp, Owen”. So, down he came along the winding stairs in his mechanic suit and took the grill off my amp. He got me to hit a couple notes. It was discovered that one of the two speakers on the amp wasn't working. So, I ended up using one of his homemade speakers, which sounded way better. So much chunk and aggressive low end. We were all amazed.
If you could select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Have Moicy by Michael Hurley, The Unholy Model Rounders, Jeffrey Frederick and the Clamtones.
This is my all-time favourite Folk-Rock album. Listening to this album made me realize that you can write songs about anything. As long as you mean it. Also; Jeffrey Fredrick doesn’t get enough credit. His songs are clever and heartfelt.
Top Track: What Made My Hamburger Disappear by Jeffrey Frederick and the Clamtones
Crazy Rhythms by The Feelies
I love a jingle-jangle sounding guitar. It just doesn't get any better than this: a real meditative listen from beginning to end.
Top Track: Forces at Work
Cowboy in Sweden by Lee Hazlewood
This album blends cowboy songs with Psychedelic production; well-written songs that exist in a world of their own. Everyone is always talking Phil Spector production: I say ‘Lee Hazlewood production!’.
Top Track: The Night Before
Are there tour dates coming up? Might we see you in the U.K.?
I will be playing The Cameron House in Toronto on May 4th to celebrate the release of Please Pass The Potatoes. (I’ll be playing on) Saturday, May 12th in Hamilton at the Capitol Bar. Opening acts for the shows: Julie Kendall (1977) and Jose Miguel Contreras (By Divine Right)
Unfortunately, no U.K. shows.
Is the stage somewhere you love being? How does it feel getting up there and playing songs to the people?
I was involved in a lot of theatre during my teens and early-twenties. Some film as well. I took acting in college. I like being on the stage. Playing songs in front of people is fun but what I love more is spontaneous banter. If I’m on top of my game with the stage banter, I find it fuels my band’s performance. It makes everyone loosen their grip and relax into their parts.
This is usually followed by stage moves and newfound postures. That’s when you know the show is cooking. That combination is what I live for when playing live.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I would say just focus on your body of work and try not to get too obsessed with the notion of ‘making it’.
IN THIS PHOTO: CupcakKe
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Oh yeah. Here’s a list of artists I admire from this year so far:
Cupcakke, Sidney Gish; Shopping, Onyx Collective, Nap Eyes; TNC6, Maxo Kream; Birthing Hips, JPEGMAFIA; Ought, Loma; Jennifer Castle, No Age; Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever, Cut Worms; The Men, EMA; Portal, The Soft Moon; Lea Bertucci, Tal National; Iceage, Beach House; U.S. Girls, John Prine, Parquet Courts; Suuns, A.A.L; Mark Renner, MorMor; Colin Fisher, Victime; Dick Stusso, Abyss X; Park Jiha, Grouper, Kraus; Eric Chenaux, Andre Ethier; Wand, Snail Mail; Kilchhofer, Jenny Hval; Vive la Void, Jean Grae; Quelle Chris and Kamasi Washington.
IN THIS PHOTO: Jean Grae
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
It’s not really something I like to get away from. It’s always on my mind because it’s the only thing in life that I’m in total control of. No one’s telling me what to do with it because it’s inside my head. It’s my own private playful secret. It brings me great joy.
How do I unwind? Listening to records. It slows everything down.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
So Hot (Wash Away All of My Tears) by Spacemen 3. Thanks a lot Sam. This was fun!