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Photo by Yannick Pereira Bajard
Dreamy post-punk quartet, Mundy’s Bay, have released their full-length debut, Lonesome Valley, on Pure Noise Records. The Montreal-based four-piece have premiered the album’s lead single “Goodbye” an enticing cut of kinetic dream pop that perfectly captures the band’s ability to blend hazy atmospherics with overt hooks. Engineered and produced by Kurt Ballou (Converge, Joyce Manor, Code Orange), Lonesome Valley seamlessly melds shoegaze grandeur with effervescent melodies and the evocative lyrics of vocalist/keyboardist Esther Mulders to make a sound that’s invitingly familiar yet fresh and distinctive to Mundy’s Bay. The album’s second single “Visions of You” features Mulders‘ warm voice and evocative lyrics dance overtop of shoegazey textures and bouncy, new wave flourishes. The band has been justifiably and favorably compared to Sweden’s Westkust and fellow compatriots Alvvays.
The members of Mundy’s Bay (Mulders and Victor Beaudoin, along with guitarist John Donnelly and bassist Will Love) met in Montreal’s punk and hardcore scene but, set out to form a band with no stylistic confines. That highly collaborative and open approach to writing, along with a shared love of ‘80s and ‘90s musical touchstones, forms the band’s core sound. Mulders’ serene vocals guide the listener through dream-like explorations of love, loss, and longing, whether she’s singing overtop of chiming guitar passages or waves of reverb-drenched distortion and winding bass lines. It’s an impressive debut sure to fit alongside moody post-punk and shimmering guitar pop alike.
Huge thanks to James Goodson at Let’s Go Publicity for the coordination and to Esther & Victor for the fantastic conversation. Let’s hope rescheduled tour dates make it out into the world soon! In memory of Charles E. Broscheid, 1937-2020.
James Broscheid: How’s isolation treating you?
Esther Mulders: Actually kind of good (both laugh)! Trying to work on painting and stick around the house. I live with my boyfriend so at least I’m not alone so that’s good, (James agrees)!
JB: I was really hoping to formally meet you both and the band when you were due to come through Phoenix but those plans have obviously changed.
Victor Beaudoin: (Laughing) Yeah.
EM: That is unfortunate.
JB: Before I get started I wanted to share a personal experience with you both that conveys what your record Lonesome Valley means to me and my family. We were driving back home to Arizona from a memorial service in Colorado and received a call from my family in Cleveland saying my father had passed away. At the time, (we love the record by the way and loved it before this event!), and coincidentally, we were listening to the record’s first single Goodbye when we received the call. So as it turns out, your record will always have a special place in our hearts, being the perfect supplement to one of the most memorable moments in my life.
EM: Wow! Really sorry to hear about your dad.
JB: It was rough. He had been sick for awhile so the family had been expecting it but we were still not prepared for it. Not being able to travel or have a funeral due to the pandemic makes it extremely difficult.
EM: I can’t even imagine. I hope you’re doing okay.
VB: Fuck, that’s terrible. I’m glad the record is at least giving you something to listen to during this time.
JB: Not to bum everyone out right away but I just wanted to convey a fan’s experiences to your work. It has opened up a different way of listening to the album now and gives it a personal meaning. It’s not all bad obviously as I remember a lot of good times with my dad.
EM: It’s a horrible thing that happened but it’s great that you found that connection with our music to help you through it.
JB: Definitely. We were driving up to Colorado with the record on constant repeat and it was a blast seeing my kids digging it, bouncing around. They kept asking, “Who’s this?, Who’s this?” So I hope when I am able to see you guys it’s all ages! My son has been to Tacocat this year and our last show before everything came to a grinding halt was Orville Peck.
VB: That’s awesome!
EM: That is really cool.
JB: Yeah, he loved both shows. And now all shows have stopped so getting used to that has been sucky.
VB: Hopefully we’ll be back when all this stuff is over.
JB: I hope so. I am really looking forward to seeing you. It’s great seeing your live sessions on YouTube but nothing like being there of course.
VB: That’s for sure. It’s weird that you mention that. In the last week, being confined at home, it gave me and some of the guys in the band a relook at some of the live stuff so it’s great someone else is posting it (laughing)! For me I have been listening to a lot of sets we recorded or sessions that we did, and taking this time now to revisit that stuff. So I’m happy you’re doing that too!
JB: It’s pretty powerful stuff. It’s obviously on the record too but, seeing the band transfer that to live settings is awesome to watch. Just as intense if not more so.
VB: We always hope it translates because I don’t feel it needs to be the same as the record or as good even.
JB: Speaking of the record, congrats on the new LP. I know Mundy’s Bay has been around a good while. Maybe five years or so?
EM: Yeah, I think it has been about five years.
JB: Esther, I understand the band came together when you met up with Yann (Therrien)? Could you give us a brief history of the band and who is in the band now? You’re based in Montreal so there is that Anglo-Franco dynamic of the region. Did that prove to be a struggle at first?
EM: The band came together when I moved to Montreal and I wanted to start working on a music project. I felt like writing a lot and we met, through Yann’s friends, John (Donnelly) and Victor before meeting Will (Love) and finding a jam space. We started writing together just for fun and to experiment and see how things go. We developed our sound through that (experimentation). There hasn’t been any struggle or issue with the Anglo-Franco thing. I wouldn’t say there has been any issue with that because we all communicate together. Everybody knows English (laughing)! There hasn’t been any problem with that at all or struggle with it in any way. That’s basically how we came together. We’ve been writing and recording ever since.
JB: So the Anglo-Franco aspect of the band, I guess from a cultural perspective, was there any distinct differences between anglophone and francophone populations in relation to the band initially? You were a sextet at one point correct?
VB: We were six at one point, yeah. We had an extra person playing keyboards and backup vocals for awhile. I think the French and English thing is mostly that … if you spend some time in Montreal and you want to appreciate the city as much as you can … both languages have a very distinct culture here. Also, if you want the best of town, you have to dabble in both at least culture-wise. I don’t really know of someone who speaks only English that can make a very good impression here (Esther laughs). I am happy the band is mixed like that because it’s kind of representative of where we are. I dig it. I like the fact that whenever we play outside the city it’s a bit of a mind-fuck for the bands we are playing with or the promoters because people sometimes think none of us speak English. People don’t realize we actually speak another language. It’s always interesting.
JB: I was born and raised in Cleveland and would spend a week or so in Montreal come summertime. My favorite (NL) team in baseball was the Expos …
VB: Oh wow!
JB: To see them go away was a heart-breaker, (great for the Nationals as it turns out!). I always found it funny because, although never fluent in French, I would try and take a stab at it while there. The French-Canadians would easily spot an American and call me out on it every time (Esther laughs).
VB: It’s funny you mention the Expos because I never expected that to come out today so that’s awesome (all laugh)!
JB: How did your relationship with Pure Noise come about? They are, after all, a punk label out of Berkeley! I wanted to ask because much of the label influence has been diminished due to bedroom recordings being self-released as opposed to relying on labels, publishing, etc. Is it re-assuring to be in a band on a label?
VB: Hmmm. Esther?
EM: Well we were reaching out to a bunch of different labels and a lot of them didn’t make sense with us. They would sign us but we would have to change a lot about us. Pure Noise was the only label that said, “You guys can do you. Do whatever you want.” They heard us through a mutual friend who sent our music to someone who works at Pure Noise or was friends with someone at the label. That’s how things came about.
VB: I think it’s good for our band. I think labels are still relevant even though, as you mentioned, a lot of music is self-produced out there in the world. We were lucky there is something about recording yourself or recording with someone like Kurt (Ballou); an experience we could never afford or get to do if it wasn’t for the label. If you find a good label … Pure Noise has been nice for us in a sense because they helped push our ideas further and given us the means to achieve what we wanted. I think it’s been a good relationship and very fulfilling. Hopefully on both sides!
JB: Going that traditional route, no one knew this virus would wipe out touring schedules for bands.
VB: Our album came out the day it really exploded with the virus (March 13th). It’s been really weird because we’ve been getting cool messages and good reviews. It’s bittersweet for sure because this is the time when we can really unleash that thing and at the same time I feel constricted but now people can listen to the whole thing. They have time for it!
JB: Yeah, and to that you guys should be out on tour right now. I’m sure you were getting amped up to head out. Has it been difficult to dial back the anticipation and adrenaline?
EM: It was really surreal because I had gotten the message literally just after packing my bags to leave for a month and our manager was like, “Well, tour’s cancelled.”
EM: I had been preparing mentally for it because it is a long time to be away and I was also really excited to travel with my friends and then it took a couple of days for me to wrap my head around, “Holy shit, first of all I am not going out on tour and second I can’t work for two months and I have to stay inside!” It’s pretty trippy (all agree). Absolutely crazy.
VB: I think we would be in San Francisco right now had the tour went on. It’s weird especially when we found out the tour was cancelled. I think it might have been my own doing not to be that informed about the virus but I was still quite shook, “Is this really happening?” Now, two weeks later, it is out of our minds that we would have been out there. When I found out the tour was cancelled my initial reaction was, “Really? People aren’t going to go out because the flu is happening?!” It’s been surprising and weird to step back.
EM: Yeah, if we would have left the day before we would be basically be stuck in the U.S. (laughs). With no shows and then we would have to come back and quarantine. We have to do that anyway now but yeah, it’s pretty crazy to think that we would be on the west coast right now.
JB: I think the Canadian government was pretty swift to act (Esther agrees). Compared to ours of course (more agreement).
VB: It’s a weird time for sure but I think it allows us to re-center everything. I have been home for two weeks and it has been fine. Hopefully we will all get out of this a bit smarter (all laugh). I hope we learn from this.
EM: One thing I’ve been seeing, and it is a horrible thing that is happening but, I think people are making the most out of a bad situation. I’ve seen a lot of friends taking up knitting and doing other creative things to take up their time. People are going to re-evaluate what their time means to them and see how valuable it is to have time to focus on yourself and the things you want to do. So that’s the way I am looking at it right now.
JB: Yeah, that is a great way to look at it. You see people taking matters into their own hands by knitting masks and utilizing other creative outlets to fill the supply gap. It’s amazing to see how people don’t hate each other, at least in this country because the political climate is so toxic the last several years. It is reassuring that people do give a shit about one another and we want to get through this. At least see Mundy’s Bay in the shortest amount of time (all laugh)!
VB: It’s been pretty reflective. It has allowed time to look at all the stuff I’ve been pushing off that I can do now. There’s a little bit of that but also I can’t wait to play the album for people.
JB: Absolutely! I wanted to go back to when you both started in music. I understand the entire band came from more of a hardcore background? Or at least associated with that scene in one way or another? You wouldn’t know it listening to Lonesome Valley! There are breakout moments of complete frenzy which is awesome but to me it is a totally different record from what you would think comes from a hardcore background (laughs)! Just to give you some background, the magazine’s namesake comes from the Bad Brains song!
EM: I went to hardcore shows when I was younger but I wouldn’t say it influences my writing at all or any of our writing for this band. Everyone of the band were in the hardcore scene and/or playing in hardcore bands.
VB: I love the Bad Brains! I think for us hardcore means community in a lot of ways. Growing up, I also loved different kinds of music. It was when I saw the Amercian Hardcore (The History of American Punk Rock 1980–1986 documentary directed by Paul Rachman and written by Steven Blush, 2006), I realized I really liked that music. Back then I started going to shows and seeing bands my age that couldn’t play that well too and that’s when I thought, “This is what I can do!” In relation to Mundy’s Bay, I think our time playing hardcore and, my record collection is mostly punk records in a lot ways, I think it gave us, as a band, the fact that our band will be good if it sounds authentic. I think with Mundy’s Bay we try to create songs that we all really like and there’s no agenda to it. It’s making music that we dig, right? That comes from the mentality of hardcore. If you want to do something you can just do it. Even though we were coming from hardcore bands and we all tried different types of music before Mundy’s Bay. We played hardcore, I also played weirder music. John and Will played rock before we started the band. I think that’s something hardcore taught us. If you want to do it and it sounds really good, we don’t care, just do it. That’s the beauty of it I think.
JB: There’s no preconception of, “You guys were hardcore. How could you put out something like Lonesome Valley?” type of crap.
VB: I think we put something out like Lonesome Valley because of being exposed to hardcore and punk for such a long time. We can do that, that’s what we like to do. It’s been the reverse because people never really gave us shit for sounding that way. If they did they are anti-hardcore I guess. Bands have always been like that. Dischord and bands like Fugazi did something different, I think it’s cool when people try different stuff musically. I haven’t played in a hardcore band in a long time but I feel like if I want to do it, it has to be very primitive and very “out there.” You grow up and eventually you pick a different chord and think, “Oh shit, that sounds cool too!” but it doesn’t really fit on the hardcore record. So you start Mundy’s Bay (laughing)!
JB: I always think of the clicks from middle school in the late eighties. You had your hardcore/skateboarders, your jocks, and the like. I was fascinated with people being part of their own little groups. When I really started getting into music, if someone wanted to do some solo work or collaborate with another artist, that was the end of the band they were in.
It is refreshing to see bands nowadays diversify their work. You can be a guitarist in Mundy’s Bay and in another band that is the polar opposite at the same time.
VB: That’s true. I feel like our generation … I remember in high school and when I got into punk the first band that flipped things over for me were the Ramones. My friends were mostly metal heads because there was no one else that liked that from high school. Maybe our generation are more open to stuff because there was no one else to chill with so they listened to the records I liked and I had to listen to the records they liked. In some sense I was exposed to metal and now I love metal. As a kid I considered myself more punk rock oriented. I suppose it was a good thing too that the internet made that possible. I like The Cure and Minor Threat so I think the internet has helped make things more individualized.
JB: Going back to the record which is out now, I wanted to ask about working with Kurt Ballou. I think that was a great choice! I guess you had been looking to recruit him for quite awhile in the build-up to recording the LP? Did you have any preconceived notions going in to record the album with Kurt?
EM: We actually reached out to Kurt, I think, a year before we were signed to Pure Noise and he actually said he was very interested because he really likes bands like The Cure, post-punk and all that stuff. He was really interested but unfortunately he was really booked up for a long time. So it fell away. He recorded Chelsea Wolfe, Beastmilk, which is really cool, so we were wanting that more raw, live sound and he would be perfect. Then we signed to Pure Noise and they asked if we wanted to work with Kurt Ballou. Yes! They booked us time with him which was great.
VB: I know for John and I it was like growing up with a lot of the Deathwish bands from maybe ten years ago were recording at GodCity (Ballou’s recording studio in Massachusetts), and it has always been a teenage dream to go there and record. At least see the fucking place and going in there was pretty surreal because for years I’ve been looking at what Kurt’s recording and doing because he has such a cool approach to sounds and his way of producing really utilizes the best sounds for your songs. It was totally a blast to go there. It was so cool! We’re happy it was a great choice to go with him because the way he saw the record was the same way we saw the record. We didn’t want to go with someone who would make it sound different. He just took the record and made it sound the best it could, I think.
JB: In light of that, were there any other sound engineer considerations besides Kurt knowing how booked up his schedules was? Doesn’t sound like it!
VB: A little bit. What we did was when we first started working on the LP, we had done two EPs and we tried to tour as much as we could. We did a couple of runs in the U.S. and a run in France as well. After that we thought, “Okay, let’s see if we could get an LP going and start recording as soon as we can!” When Kurt initially said no, we actually recorded about twelve songs in Montreal with a friend of ours. They came out great and that’s the songs we got Pure Noise interested in us. They were like, “Those songs are great but would you like to work in a better studio and work with a producer?” They suggested a bunch of names but we were like, “What about Kurt?” (James laughs) We asked him before and he was interested and that was a cool fit and made total sense to everybody in the end. We would have considered other people out of necessity but Kurt was always in the back of our minds for a little while for sure. Even now that I’m stuck at home I wonder what studio would be cool if, I mean when we do a second record. I don’t really know now. I don’t know who else could have done it (laughs).
JB: Definitely a great choice because it sounds great. To me it is hard to believe the record only took two weeks to record considering all the nuances. I was listening to it through headphones the other day which really brings out the subtleties of the album that you can’t pick up on in a car obviously. The richness in tones and the lyrical content, all the sounds I picked up and lyrics I could relate to by just sitting and quietly listening. It is astounding.
VB: That’s awesome. I think that might be Kurt’s magic touch. I don’t know what you think Esther but, he’s so knowledgeable about all the equipment.
EM: Yeah, it was insane!
VB: He’s got good ideas and he knows how to put them forward. In the studio he would have an idea and then you try to look for it for two days. You’re not sure how to make it work but he’s smart and knows how to work these things out. “It would sound so cool this way”, then we agree and before you know it he has it!
EM: I don’t even understand how … he has such a knowledge of mikes, texture and sound. It was pretty incredible. Before we even recorded my vocals he brought out at least ten different mikes. “This one may sound great but it might sound like this … let’s test this one!” (Some laughter) He’s very thorough.
JB: Isn’t that wild? (All laugh).
EM: It’s pretty wild.
JB: You think everyone hears the same thing but Kurt has one of twenty-five microphones he is willing to try out first. Not to mention placement!
EM: (Laughs) It was pretty crazy!
VB: I think we got lucky I’d say Esther! I think he’s used to heavier bands coming in there and ripping the whole record in five days. So he also enjoyed the fact that, even though it may not look like that much time, we were there for two weeks. Even for him it was like, “Oh shit, I’ve got time to put an extra layer of this and that!” It gave him more time to (experiment). He’s good. He could doing the same record all the time but he’s always looking to search for new sounds. The fact that he knows how to dial stuff in very fast, it’s very convenient (laughs).
JB: I think Lonesome Valley is the case in point for him too. It may not be in his wheelhouse but it allowed him to branch out a bit. It worked out great because it sounds fantastic I must say!
Both: Thank you (laughter)!
JB: In talking about the record, I always enjoy reading what other writers have to say, especially trying to pigeonhole a band. You’ve been described as “indie” and that covers quite a wide range. I think the album is a bit more than that. I love bands that push themselves to not always sound like something you’ve already heard (Esther agrees). I’ve seen “post-punk” and my favorite Esther; “female-led post-punk band” (both laugh). Listening to you earlier on YouTube and in particular the live session for “Window In the Shade” from 2016 I think? (Both agree laughing). It reminds me of another Canadian band I love called FRIGS because they are always pushing and pulling on dynamics and sound. Post-punk sure but, like you, they have plenty of other elements to keep us guessing. They’re ethereal, shoegaze-y and that’s what I love as trying to describe bands can be so subjective. How do you perceive the music of Mundy’s Bay?
EM: We’ve been compared to a lot of other bands and sometimes people say, “You sound like so & so.” Really? Well okay, that’s interesting. It’s nice to hear people say we sound like two bands that are completely different. It’s cool to hear what other people take from it. It’s really interesting because we don’t really try to sound a certain way. We do it our own way and we think it’s good. If other people think it’s good, that’s great. It’s hard to categorize us because we draw on so many different elements, we don’t try to, “Okay, we really want to try and sound like this other band.” I think that we are different in that way. We just play music that sounds good to us.
VB: Part of it comes from the fact that we try to have a very communal aspect. There’s not like there is one sole songwriter for the band. It’s always been, “Does that sound cool? Oh, it does, that’s awesome. That riff sounds like The Strokes or that riff sounds like The Cure.” But, in the end, there is all of our personal elements which breaks it out of any tag. When we started the band we didn’t know what we really wanted to do. Esther’s cool and she’s got a cool voice (Esther laughs, James agrees). We tried a bunch of different ideas before coming to the sound we got now. Even now, if you listen to our previous EP that came out in 2017 (Wandering and Blue on Sonic Order/Sunday Drive), it’s really different sounding than what we do now. I realized recently by revisiting it that we do sound different now than we did three years ago. For us it has been really natural and we enjoy playing with each other. The fact that we have always been associated with hardcore a little bit makes us a bit more free of barriers in some ways because we’re not trying to please a “indie” crowd or not trying to please a “hardcore” crowd or any crowd for that matter. I think we enjoy playing shows with bands we like. Right before we were to go on tour we played two shows with our friends in Blooming Season, they kind of sound like The Fall but, the band is fucking great so I would rather play with a band I love and want to see every day than something that would break into any specific scene.
JB: Victor, I was thinking about some of the guitar touches on the record as you discussed the band’s evolution from the EP to the album. Particularly Heavy Bloom and Visions of You and the tidy keyboard bits throughout as far as placement. Considering the band’s hardcore background, did you find it difficult to use space and restraint in the recording of this record? Again, the headphones really pick up on all the subtleties!
VB: That’s a good question. I find it actually motivating to do something in that way. Like you said, restraint. We spent quite a bit of time on this record thinking about background (to the songs). Kurt works from ten to six so there is a specific time you spend recording but at night you are still there in the apartment over the studio so we spent a lot of the off time (discovering) noises to use. Like the creaking of the floor would be nice and it’s a lot of pot smoking, chilling and thinking about cool ideas like that. I think in some ways it’s fun and what we got from hardcore is just a certain directness to it. The fact that we have seen the effects of a cool mosh bar on things and in some ways hardcore gave us the ability to write catchy hooks. We know how a simple hook, whether it be a breakdown or cool chorus, that’s kind of what you would expect from a song that would move you. The simpleness of punk and hardcore has been helpful for us and at least balancing it with simple ideas I know for me, has been really fun.
JB: So at the end of Sleep Away the Summer, that’s what that sound is?
VB: Yeah, it is! It sounded sick so we recorded it (laughs)!
EM: There’s a piano in the apartment above the studio where we were staying and I used to play piano for years and years and I haven’t played in awhile. Having that time to be in the studio and listen to the songs over and over again (laughs), it was a nice to have to be able to revisit the piano for me anyway. I used to play it a lot and write songs on the piano so it was fun to revisit that and add things to the songs that I thought would make it sound really cool. It was nice to be able to experiment with that too.
Photo by Chris Vincent
JB: Coming up on piano, I am always thinking about my kids and getting them into music. I’ve brought it up in several interviews now! My wife and I always talk about getting them started on piano as a gateway to other instruments.
EM: Piano is probably one of the hardest instruments to learn but once you do learn it, it is so valuable because you feel like you have a knowledge of learning all the scales and they are all right out in front of you. It will develop your knowledge on sound and composition while also focusing your brain to work with your left and right hands. When I started piano lessons I was eight and I didn’t like it at first because it was really hard. Now looking back, I’m so happy my parents made me do it because I can read music now and I can write music. I know how to read notes and everything like that. It’s such a valuable skill to have even when you’re learning a different instrument, say you want to learn guitar, it’s kind of the same thing. You have these chords that are set up in a different way but piano provides a really good base of knowledge in learning an instrument. If you know how to play piano, you can pick up any instrument pretty much.
JB: Growing up for both of you, were your parents pretty supportive of you becoming musicians and being in music?
EM: Yeah, of course. I had always been in theater and choir and doing a lot of music-related things but Mundy’s Bay is the first band I’ve ever been in. I never performed actually before this. I’ve never shown my music to anybody (laughs). Which is pretty wild I think but I just had the want to explore that part of my music. I enjoy writing lyrics and melodies. It just became something really great.
VB: My mom is an art teacher so she’s always been supportive of me. It’s great! When I got into punk, hardcore and all of that, both my parents we like, “Oh! Well, that’s a pretty cool thing to be into!” If you look at punk ten, fifteen years ago and even now, it’s a culture that’s always evolving. I think my mom was happy I was into punk and not the club culture. I think they found it sort of safe in some ways. My parents are not crazy-musical but they have pushed down some nice records on me. It was nice to be exposed to some of them early on.
JB: What records stood out that your parents gave you?
VB: I’d say Neil Young’s Harvest and The Stranglers. No specific record by them but my mom vibes with that band a bunch!
JB: Nice! Being a musician is a pretty hard career choice for sure. Being someone who has struggled with self-doubt their entire life, I can’t think of any career where you are really throwing it all out there, completely exposing who you are and how you feel. There’s nothing to hide behind when you’re up on stage playing for an audience.
VB: Absolutely (laughs)! In general, there’s not many college degrees or jobs that will be like, “For the first ten years you have to do this out of your own pocket.” I guess college is like that in a way in the states but sometimes it’s weird because if you want to consider music as job, the conditions are not too good (all laugh). At least it’s something fun to do!
JB: Laying it all out there and completely exposing yourself is the reward in a way … liberating. Though the life of a touring musician, there is a lot of factors outside your control.
VB: Oh yeah. Definitely agree on that. In the end, I think people that do music and go out there and tour are always drawn to that lifestyle. It’s also that all of Mundy’s Bay are over twenty-five (years old), so we have to take our own lives in (consideration). We always have to think about, “How is that going to affect me paying rent or that decision of doing this thing, how is that going to affect that thing. We are all growing up in some ways so it is interesting to see in some ways how it’s all going to pan out! It’s such a different path than what most people take. That can be associated with all art. All art is such a weird path (Esther agrees). Music is one that can be a little more nerve-wracking in some ways (both laugh).
JB: I goofed around with a couple friends in a “garage band” back in the mid-nineties that was inspired after seeing Nirvana with the Boredoms and Meat Puppets. Around the time I became really awake to music. I had a folder full of poetry that I never showed anybody! Esther, when I read your lyrics to Lonesome Valley it reads more like poetry.
EM: Yeah, that’s usually how … when I write songs I just write poems. I don’t have a base of melody, I just write poems and then I basically edit and construct them to fit the music that the guys write.
JB: I still have all the pieces of paper crammed in a folder somewhere that one person has maybe looked at other than myself (all laugh)! But that goes back to having the courage to put it out there.
VB: It definitely puts every musician in a vulnerable position but I think when you are out there doing it, it doesn’t really feel that way often. Sometimes it does but at least for me, whenever you break that barrier like I think our record is good and even though I made it, I’m really happy people listen to it. I think eventually, after a couple of releases that you do – and going back to hardcore – it can make you realize everything is valid art-wise. Not just, “I don’t like it”, that makes it bad. That’s something I got from punk. If you do it and it’s honest and heartfelt, it’s worth it and you should put it out there.
EM: I think so too. It’s a vulnerable thing to put something out in lyrics that is so personal but, in a way, it’s also very cathartic. Letting it go and not really … obviously we want to write really good songs but I don’t necessarily care if someone finds it (too sentimental). It’s for me and if people relate to that, that’s great. That’s my way of doing things. Its poetry at the end of the day. It’s my poetry and it’s like going to a poetry reading or something similar. It’s the same kind of feeling as saying those poems, like when we’re on tour, are just telling a story. With stuff like that you can’t worry about what other people think too much lyrically-wise. When I’m writing I try not to worry about what other people will think of my lyrics. That’s my personal poetry. (Laughing) I don’t know if that makes sense?
JB: Yes, it does. No matter how personal it is to you, there is more than one person that will relate to it. It is almost inevitable.
EM: Yeah! Not to say that anyone has been (saying), “The lyrics are questionable” or anything like that. Everyone has been very connected to them which is great, it is a beautiful thing to be able to share music and emotion that people relate to. So, that’s all I’ve been hearing and that’s great that people are connecting to my lyrics.
JB: Making those personal connections too. Like taking the phone call in the car I told you about earlier.
JB: So you would be on tour right now. The pandemic has obviously done a number on touring acts for the foreseeable future. Is there any talk of rescheduling dates later on?
VB: So that particular tour (with Hunny and Bay Faction), is a bit of a tricky situation because the tour is being rescheduled but we probably will not be on it. We will be on another tour then that is not announced yet. It’s weird to talk about rescheduling right now. At first we thought, “Oh, we’ll reschedule for May” and now …
JB: May is too soon.
VB: Hunny is going out again in August and if everything goes well, we should be heading somewhere too in August. We’ll see. We definitely want to be on the road as soon as we can to promote the record and play it for people. We took quite some time off playing shows to make it so to be able to perform it was something we were really looking forward to. So yeah, more dates this summer but exact dates, they’re not ready yet but they’re coming (laughs)!
JB: This state of limbo is obviously exacerbating things too. Is summer too soon? Like you were saying, bands are beginning to schedule for May and that may be way too soon.
EM: Yeah, I think it’s pretty crazy to schedule things now when no one knows when it will be safe. For me, I own a tattoo shop, that’s what I do as my career, and I can’t even go back to work until May. So it’s pretty crazy right now for businesses, it’s awful. So who knows when anyone will be able to do anything (all agree).
VB: And for people who want to see us, I don’t think we want to jump the gun and say, “Okay, we’re coming down” and then there’s a second wave of that shit. For now we are looking at options and see what we can do to play whenever we can. We were so excited for that tour because, as I mentioned earlier, we set up to do our first LP, we used to book all our shows ourselves and do everything else ourselves. It was taking a lot of time so we said, “Fuck that, fuck the shows we’re going to do a record and it’s going to be good. We’re going to do the record we want to do!” And now that we did we want to go back to playing (all laugh)! We played two shows to warm up for the tour in Montreal and Québec City and said, “Okay, we’re fucking ready for this!” Then boom, nothing. We’ll try to play stateside and anywhere else as soon as we know what is happening. Who knows how the virus will effect long-term, the touring industry in general. I bet more viruses will come out and eventually there will be a new system probably on how bands will tour or something. I don’t know, our eyes are open to whatever comes out next. It’s a tricky time to plan anything.
JB: For sure. How will societies and standards change now once we are cleared to go out. I am lucky enough to have a job where I can telework and make it out a couple times a week but the steps our government is taking, doling out money for people, is obviously not going to be enough to sustain people not working for more than two weeks if that (Vic agrees). A lot of people in our population are struggling (both agree).
VB: As a band, it’s been really weird because both Will our bass player and I, we both work on events. Whenever we are home we are planning events. So not only is the tour cancelled but every event planned the next few months are cancelled as well. For us it really is a situation where we really have to figure that one out (laughs)! Like Esther was mentioning, her shop is closed for awhile so as a band, all our shit got cancelled or rescheduled or whatever and then, as individuals too, our whole lives have to be on break. We have to take the time. Hopefully we can play again. Maybe touring will be different after this. Who knows. Maybe whole economies are about to change. Interesting times.
JB: Is the Canadian doing anything for people who can’t go back to work? The U.S. Government is mailing out money and trying to implement initiatives for small businesses in the form of loans but being ill-prepared hasn’t helped.
EM: Yeah, the Canadian Government has been really helpful about putting things in place. They have been pretty fast in getting help to people. I’m really thankful. As of April, everyone is entitled to $2,000.00 a month for four months. For people who can’t work or do not have employment insurance. I’m very happy they have taken so much action very quickly. So that is really going to help and also help for small businesses which is good. I’m not sure when they are going to do that but hopefully not too much longer (nervous laughter).
JB: I don’t want to get too political but I really miss a government that is on their game in times of crisis. First it was a hoax then people started dying before action was slowly taken when we could have been on the front end of this a long time ago (both agree).
EM: Yeah, I have a friend who lives in Florida and they’re telling people to go back to work (in March! – JB), or something like that. She was saying she thought the state government was going to tell them to go back to work. She’s struggling too. It’s pretty bad.
VB: I don’t know if you saw the headlines about how the U.S. military was going to be placed at the Canadian border (James and Esther laugh). In fact, more Americans are trying to get into Canada than people from Canada going to the states.
JB: Definitely since November 2016!
VB: Yeah! You can do it if you want and even though I have friends in the states and I love going down South. I’m not, at the moment, wanting to go to a country that doesn’t have healthcare (laughs)! I’m not rushing to the border right now.
JB: I used to go to Canada all the time. I spent some time in Toronto, Montreal obviously and the contrast between each country’s border authority could be more stark. The Canadian side has always been no nonsense. People aren’t pouring across the border into the U.S. yet we’re going to man the border with the military!
VB: (Laughing) I think in the end it did not happen, I just thought it was such a funny idea. Right now the situation is a global pandemic. I would go to a country that has better healthcare system than us. I would go somewhere else other that the states if I wanted to rush out of the country. I think we are lucky enough to be in Canada right now. That’s one thing I was mentioning to my partner earlier. We’re lucky the tour was cancelled and we didn’t wing it because we would be stuck somewhere in the states. We would have nowhere to go and no shows to play (Esther agrees)!
JB: Here in Arizona I know several people who go to Mexico for dental work and minor surgery and when I ask why they respond with it’s cheaper and just as efficient (both laugh).
VB: That’s crazy!
JB: I wanted to ask about being in a band in Montreal and the overall scene. People obviously think about Arcade Fire and I will spare you about how much I love The Nils and No Joy. How is the scene there?
EM: I haven’t lived here all my life and moved here about six years ago. I lived in Toronto before moving here and I noticed a huge difference between Montreal’s music scene and Toronto’s music scene. Toronto is really … there are some amazing bands that have come out of Toronto but it’s like a popularity contest. Montreal is so open. Victor and our drummer John are in three other different bands and everybody just supports each other in the scene. Which I think is really wonderful and it’s partly to do with Montreal being the cheapest city in Canada if not the world to live in right now. So a lot of people can actually spend time working on music and things that they love to do and be able to afford to live. That’s my take on it. It’s pretty awesome because everybody supports each other. That’s what I have found since moving here.
VB: I just want to say I am happy you point out The Nils. That’s one of my favorite records to find in used record stores in the states because it’s usually pretty cheap and buy as many copies for my friends. I just give it away after (laughs). They’re still active. A friend of mine (Emilien Catalano) actually plays drums for them now. He’s my age so he’s way younger than those guys but I love the fact that they’re still a Montreal on-going thing. What’s interesting with music here are a lot are bigger bands like you mentioned Arcade Fire and those bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor all got very big but they also come out of a very DIY community. In Montreal, it covers hardcore, punk, indie or whatever and I think people are down to have those spaces available for bands. We have great venues and the people that run them have been running them for a long time. In general, there is a sense of community when you are an artist in this town. We have played with punk bands ourselves and I think it’s more of a strong sense of artists and their community. Being in a band here is cool because there’s a lot of resources available to you. There’s a lot of people running their own studios, there’s people with DIY spaces … it is a good place. There’s a lot of places to play and a lot of people to meet as long as you’re interested, there will be people interested in collaborating with you.
JB: I don’t know why that is so surprising to me. I was expecting it to be the reverse between Toronto and Montreal. That’s interesting. Circling back to The Nils Victor, I don’t know if you remember but Alex Soria of The Nils was in a band called Chino. I lived in Cleveland at the time and they came over to Toronto to play the El Mocambo and I made the drive up there. Alex was such a humble, shy guy and was amazed anyone would go to such trouble to see his band. I was really struck by him and to know he is no longer with us but The Nils are pressing on is good to hear.
VB: Yeah, I’m not very familiar with Chino but his brother Carlos (Soria) is in The Nils and he’s the one that keeps it alive. I saw them maybe four years ago play a bar we also play so it was really cool. The whole band is such a tragic story. It’s so cool to see people who really care about hearing those songs.
JB: They put out a new album relatively recently and I heard it was pretty decent.
VB: I have not checked it out, I’m going to be honest but I know they still play with honestly and they love playing those songs together.
JB: So I have one final question for you both in regards to influences. Not only in the build-up to Lonesome Valley but also as you were coming up as musicians. What inspires you as artists as well as your work in Mundy’s Bay?
EM: When I first started writing music, when I was younger I first started discovering a lot of indie bands like Broken Social Scene, Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear and really got into that kind of thing. It was really inspiring. That whole genre got me really passionate about writing because it was so inspiring. I think now I’m listening to a lot of the same music actually that I used to listen to. I especially love any kind of lyric-driven music now. That’s basically my inspiration for writing.
VB: Growing up I really fell into Sonic Youth hard. In my late teens, I really liked Nirvana when I was a kid and then through high school after seeing that Amercian Hardcore documentary, I was all about Black Flag and other big hardcore names and a lot of hardcore stuff. After college I went back and (started) listening to those guys that started Gorilla Biscuits and then they did Quicksand and then Quicksand played shows and in the end they kept playing. I think that’s the thing with hardcore, especially those records, they were made by kids who may have not done anything else and that’s fine. The records are so powerful that way. I’d rather have a few 7” records from a cool band than them trying to break out in the music you know? Hardcore does not belong in big ass rooms. It’s music by kids for kids in some ways. I would say Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Sonic Youth were two of the most influential bands on my musical journey. And Neil Young! Neil Young I have always listened to since I was a kid.
JB: I remember seeing Neil Young in Akron, Ohio in 1999 and it was just Neil Young. There were three different areas on the stage. There was a pump organ on one side, a piano on the other and a semi-circle of guitars center stage. He just rotated between the three sections, played whatever he wanted and played for a long time.
VB: That’s amazing!
EM: That is so cool!
VB: That’s something I’d love to see. I saw him 2010 with Patti Smith and it was pretty good. He was playing with Crazy Horse and it was cool to see that. He was already kicking in his seventies I think (sixties – JB). I don’t know how old he is now but, he was pretty old and there was a stadium full of people wanting to hear his hits and he went on played crazy rock jams for two hours that no one came to see! I love the fact that he is himself, all the time. Whatever you get from Neil Young is what he wants you to get. You’re never going to get a greatest hits show or something. He select obscure songs from records people forgot about. I kind of like that.
JB: I looked it up, he is 74 now (all laugh). I was thinking about Kurt Cobain too and when I started getting turned on to music outside what I was used to or what “alternative radio” was playing in the early 90s. I was really into classic rock in high school being in Cleveland which evolved into thrash, speed and death metal. The harder and more bitter it got the more I liked it because it matched how I felt at the time. I started a transition around the time of Nevermind and listening to interviews where Kurt talked about Flipper, Wipers …
JB: All this stuff I had no idea, which was around the time, coincidentally, when a friend threw a copy of The Big Takeover in my lap, what was out there and that turned me onto punk, hardcore, psych and shoegaze and on and on!
VB: That’s awesome. Even when you were mentioning Kurt Cobain, as a kid growing up I remember he listed his hundred favorite records and his first one was The Stooges. I was luckily enough to find out about it really young and the first 7” record I ever bought was a Melvins record. Without ever hearing them just because I knew Kurt Cobain liked them. So thank you Kurt for helping to shape my musical tastes!
JB: I still think about him to this day and wonder what he would be doing now had he lived. I do that with a lot of musicians we’ve lost way too soon.
VB: It kind gave him a hero status too because he did not grow up to be in the Foo Fighters. His legacy is untouchable because of the fact that he passed away. But all those guys in Sonic Youth are still doing cool shit and I wonder if Cobain would be too. Where Kurt would be now and what kind of music he would be creating and art because I knew he painted too. Maybe he would have quit everything just to paint. According to interviews that’s kind of what he was going to eventually. Maybe Nirvana was done at that point anyway, who knows. It’s a different world!
JB: I saw them on Halloween in 1993 and I didn’t know what to expect going in because back then Nirvana could be great or forgettable depending on Kurt’s mood. That night they were spot on and Kurt looked like he was genuinely enjoying himself. I still remember that show very well. He came out dressed as Barney the dinosaur for Halloween (all laugh). Somebody threw a shoe at his head, he grabbed it, pissed in it and handed back to the wrong guy. He was having fun with it which made his passing that Spring all the more surprising.
VB: That’s crazy! When I was a kid I did that thing where I’d trade bootleg CDRs of Nirvana shows so I wonder if I have a recording of it at my parent’s place.
JB: I have it so when you come through here I’ll burn a copy for you!
VB: Awesome (laughs)! I’ll listen to it for sure. I’ve got so many. My mom is always asking what am I going to do with these hundreds of Nirvana CDRs!
JB: Anything I missed or that either of you would like to add?
VB: I think this was pretty spot-on.
EM: Yeah, very thorough!
VB: Very fun conversation.
EM: Thank you!
Photo by Yannick Pereira Bajard
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