OLD MAN CANYON
- June 2014 -
HAVE A BEER WITH OLD MAN CANYON
Singer-songwriter Jett Pace of Old Man Canyon has always been deeply invested in music and the artistic world. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the beautiful mountains of Lynn Valley, Jett has had a colorful history of musical endeavors including his beginnings in hip-hop and classical training on the cello. Jett’s dabbling in different genres and sounds over the years culminated in a five-track EP, Phantoms and Friends, produced by Dave Meszaros (Wake Owl) and released in April 2013.
Most recently, Jett has taken his refreshing indie-folk approach on the road, with a full band and a debut U.S. tour. We drank beers with the guys in Schubas’ greenroom before their June show to talk about the new sound on their forthcoming album, the “scene” in Vancouver, hip-hop mixtapes and trusting your vision.
The Show: Old Man Canyon with The Modern Electric at Schubas Tavern
Drinks of choice: Dark ‘n’ stormies, orange juice, tangerine juice and grapefruit juice (50/50), Trappist ales/Belgium beers
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: You guys like juice a lot.
Mark from Old Man Canyon: It’s tough because I can't afford what I used to drink all the time.
Kristen: What did you used to drink?
Mark: I used to be a bit of a scotch connoisseur, but then I decided to put my money somewhere a little more solid.
Kristen: Like a savings account.
Mark: Yeah, it's amazing how much money is in there now.
Kristen: I think about that often. If I put my beer money somewhere else what would happen. A college tuition, probably…So, you guys are from Canada.
Jett from Old Man Canyon: Well, we're not exactly from Canada. We're from Vancouver.
Kristen: What’s the scene like there? How did you find your way into it?
Jett: I'd actually say that I’ve tried to stay out of the scene. The biggest thing right now in Vancouver is the radio station called The Peak, and they do a thing called The PEAK Performance Project that has gotten really popular for indie bands. They win something like $100,000 dollars at the end. It kind of destroys your image. You get pigeonholed and it's really hard to break out of it.
Julien from Old Man Canyon: Funny thing talking about our scene, I just saw a sticker of a band [on the Schubas greenroom wall] I'm friends with—Bear Mountain. I went to school with Greg.
Kristen: Nice! We interviewed them last year at Lollapalooza. They’re the nicest guys. And really talented.
Jett: And they're not really part of the scene either. All of the bands from Vancouver that actually go out on the road aren't really part of it.
Kristen: I think that decision to be in or out of the scene also probably depends on who you want your audience to be. How has the tour been so far?
Jett: We've been on the road now for about ten or eleven days. So far we've played Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and L.A. Last night we played Minneapolis at 7th Street [First Avenue & 7th Street Entry]. It was a cool little place. Tegan and Sara were playing next door and they had some good openers as well.
Kristen: Did you get to see any of their show?
Jett: We saw a little bit of the opening bands, but Tegan and Sara were playing at the same time we were. As for the tour in general…it’s been a good run so far. Well, except for San Francisco. First, we pulled into the venue and the van’s transmission pretty much blew. Then, we came outside after playing the show, and the window of the van was completely smashed in. It was not a good day. The next day we had to get it towed to a mechanic, get the window replaced and fix the transmission. It was like $4,000 grand.
Kristen: And then all the savings from the scotch fund were gone in a night. Obviously that's been a low point of the tour. What's been a high point for you guys?
Jett: Playing Los Angeles at The Hotel Café was a really good time. Unfortunately we couldn't stay there for very long, but it was fun.
Alex: My mom and sister flew down to come see it. We had some local friends that came. Their families drove up from San Diego to watch us as well, which was really nice.
Kristen: Let's talk about the EP, Phantoms and Friends, that’s currently out. What was the creative process like?
Jett: I had just kind of broken up with another band and it was a rough period, as it as always is when something creative ends. I was trying to find my own independent creative vision, so I spent the whole summer writing and came up with these songs that fit well together. I ended up getting together with Dave Meszaros, who did Wake Owl's EP as well, and we spent about six months recording it. I'd known him for a while from previous bands recording with him. He was pretty much the only person I knew at that point, but it worked out. And then I found these guys after.
Kristen: Did you know each other beforehand?
Jett: It's been a crazy process. Alex has been here the longest. He replaced the drummer that we had, who was actually Wake Owl's drummer.
Alex: The gig got stolen from him.
Kristen: Oh, really? How does he feel about that?
Jett: It was his choice.
Alex: So he can't be bitter. But he never gets his gigs back afterwards.
Julien: And then I was a very random connection. Jett's dad's girlfriend is an old friend of my mom's. Really weird.
Jett: We had never met. I was looking for a keyboard player last minute and it was just this fluky way it all worked out, but it has been awesome.
Kristen: Have there been any band arguments on the road?
Julien: … We need to stop for food again?
Mark: …Is Julien asleep again?
Alex: He doesn't drive. Ever.
Kristen: What are one another's tendencies on this tour? Not trying to start a band argument here or anything...
Mark: Well, I was really congested for the first week, so I was blowing my nose a lot. I went through a whole box of Kleenex.
Jett: He sneezed a lot. Like over 3,000 times.
Mark: There's ONE tree that does it to me. I don't know which one it is.
Kristen: I guess we’ll see what the Midwest holds for you tonight. You should get those Breathe Right strips. That'd be cool because then you could wear them on-stage and everyone would be like, "What's that guy doing?"
Jett: That must be his thing! Like a Nelly thing. The band-aid on the cheek.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. Well, and then Alex just eats a lot, sleeps a lot and makes me drive.
Julien: I hate how chill Alex is.
Kristen: Are you one of those people who can just fall asleep anywhere?
Alex: Yeah, pretty close. When we were staying at somebody's place in San Francisco I was sitting at their dinner table and I put my head down for a second and then woke up an hour later. I was like, "Oh, okay!" I guess that happens.
Jett: I can't sleep in the van, so I'm sure I've bitched to these guys about how they’re driving. I’ve been super paranoid ever since I almost crashed on another trip. I spun out on a highway on Coquihalla, which is this huge highway up through the mountains in the winter. It was very close to death. It was a two-lane highway. Cliffs on either side. Semis flying.
Julien: Well, you're here now.
Kristen: What's the least rock-'n'-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Mark: We need to do some filtering I think with the amount of un-cool stuff we've done. Alex and I just graduated from Jazz school.
Julien: Least rock-'n'-roll thing for me probably has been attending multiple videogame tournaments.
Kristen: What kind of video games?
Julien: Super Smash Brothers Melee. It's a very competitive scene.
Mark: I want to list my favorite games right now, but I don't want to replace my least rock-'n'-roll thing I've already stated.
Kristen: What about you Jett?
Alex: Jett has a steady girlfriend.
Jett:… And I don't cheat on her.
Alex: She sold merch for us. That's pretty rock-'n'-roll.
Kristen: That's pretty nice actually.
Jett: I paid for it when I got home, trust me. That was not a free transaction.
Julien: I feel like all three of us are music nerds and videogame nerds, so we can pretty much hold down the nerd front in the band...
Mark: Oh, I’ve got another one. My other main project other than this band is a videogame Jazz band cover group.
Kristen: How does that work?
Alex: They make the music for videogames.
Mark: We do Jazz arrangements for video game songs and we go to expos and play them for people.
Kristen: I didn't even know that existed.
Mark: We really cornered the market.
Kristen: Jett, what’s your musical background?
Jett: Well, I went to a private school, kind of an arts school, where in grade four you have to choose a stringed instrument. I ended up playing cello for ten years in Vancouver. I think that's what began everything. I played in orchestra and that laid the foundation for my musical interest. But then I was also super into hip-hop. I actually used to rap with Colyn from Wake Owl.
Kristen: Do you have any mixtapes you want to share with us? We can premiere them on A Beer with the Band.
Jett: Oh, we have a whole album. Maybe you can hear it...someday.
Kristen: That's an interesting combination though: cello and hip-hop. Are you still into hip-hop now?
Jett: I love listening to it now, but I don't make it anymore. There are definitely hip-hop elements in my writing. Not so much on the EP, but you'll hear it in a lot of new songs tonight. We're only playing two songs from the EP tonight. There are a lot of new ones we’ve been performing to find out whether or not they work.
Kristen: And are you working on a new record?
Jett: I have a shitload of demos that I've recorded at home, but I’ll probably be recording an album later this year.
Kristen: Who are you listening to right now? It doesn't necessarily have to be a contemporary band but just something that's always playing for you.
Jett: St. Vincent...D'Angelo...I've also been listening to a lot of Father John Misty and I recently go back into MGMT.
Kristen: They're a good summer band.
Jett: Their new album is great. It's a lot different than their older stuff. But to be honest with you, I don't listen to a ton of music.
Kristen: A lot of bands I've interviewed have actually mentioned that they don't listen to a lot of new stuff when they're on the road. Which surprised me...
Julien: Well, also the auxiliary input in our van isn't working.
Kristen: Or that.
Alex: I figure, too, that for people who don't play music, it's that initial desire to experience music by listening to it. For me, when I have the experience, I just make it. It's different in that way.
Jett: When you're creating, you're fulfilling that space.
Kristen: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Julien: Once, after a huge lecture from my dad about how I needed to try harder in school, I got a fortune cookie at the end of a Chinese dinner that said "Lower your expectations to avoid disappointment." It was amazing.
Jett: That's horrible.
Kristen: Did you show it to your dad?
Julien: Oh, of course. And he was mad. He was saying "Aim high" beforehand and it was just perfect timing.
Mark: I've had a lot of good advice...I would say one of the best was from a number of music teachers that I've had who basically summed up the entire experience of trying to be a musician or an artist. They said, "Don't forget to enjoy the process." You spend all of your time trying to think about where you should be, feeling anxious about it, and in turn, you don't spend any time being a part of the present. It’s about enjoying the process of making something.
Kristen: Even if it's frustrating.
Mark: Yeah, especially if it's frustrating.
Kristen: I think sometimes some of the best stuff—and this is just talking from a writing perspective—comes from pushing through frustrations. Of just trying over and over again.
Jett: Yeah, absolutely.
Kristen: It's a lot of hard work.
Jett: It's a shit ton. Even if it starts coming naturally, it's because you've invested a lot of work for a long time. I feel really lucky to have been very supported by everyone around me growing up, especially in school. I was in a very alternative curriculum that focused more so on developing yourself as a human being. It was about the creative side of who you are and how that's the most important thing for you to find. We’re all looking for the ability to create, to have a vision and to trust in the vision. There’s a tendency to fall into a system that's governed by not following your dreams. I think that's been the best advice I’ve received—from the universe, I guess—and that I’ve always found important. Stay true to your vision. Trust it and it'll create.