Halifax punk artist Matty Grace never stops and never slows down. She is a tour de force of creativity and some of her projects include (but are in no way limited to) Future Girls, Weekend Dads, Cluttered, Century Egg, Modern Cynics, as well as some amazing solo work. Whether she’s revisiting a style of songwriting from 10 years ago, writing to process, creating huge anthemic hooks, or working with friends on some killer cover songs, everything she touches is filled with passion and heart. Her solo EP I Was A Fat Stupid and the new EP from Future Girls, Year Long Winter will be out on May 6 via Tarantula Tapes and Dirt Cult Records and Cluttered and Talk Show Host will be releasing their Enemy Us split on May 13. Punknews editor Em Moore caught up with Matty Grace over Zoom to talk about the upcoming releases, creative process, mental health, new projects, and much more. Read the interview below.
You’re releasing a new solo EP, a new Future Girls EP, and a Cluttered split with Talk Show Host in May. Over the past little bit you’ve also released Modern Cynics stuff, more Cluttered and solo stuff, and Century Egg stuff. How do you do it all?
I’ve been using the phrase “can’t stop, won’t stop” a lot lately. I write to process big feelings and my emotional state and all of those things. So I feel this compulsion to write all the time and there is more stuff coming, that’s the wild thing. There’s new projects that are coming in the span of the next couple months and everything kind of sounds different. That’s really challenging to be like how do you not just write the same kind of song over and over and over again. So it’s like an artistic practice a little bit. You just work at it and see what works and eventually it streamlines a little bit and then you just keep doing it. Modern Cynics is usually just entirely me and if my brain is kinda in a darker headspace I’ll just write out some quick songs. Same with the solo acoustic EP. The Cluttered and Talk Show Host split kinda started as a funny text exchange and then it became this whole thing. Future Girls was a little bit different. That was recorded basically at the first break in the first wave of the pandemic. That band kind of quieted down and hadn’t done much and then the drummer and I conversed and we were like “maybe we can do another record”. So I pulled together four songs and an old demo to make a five song EP and then we recorded that. I Was A Fat Stupid was literally like everyone was 10-year nostalgia posting on Instagram and as a queer person, as a trans person I was just like super bummed out by it. But 10 years ago I was in a band called Fat Stupids and I haven’t tried to write songs like I used to in Fat Stupids in a really long time. So I just challenged myself and I wrote everything over 2 days and mixed it and put it online for a day and now it’s coming out. [laughs]
That’s all really exciting! So you got into it a little bit but what fuels your creative drive and has the pandemic had an impact on your creative process/creativity?
Yeah. I don’t really know how to describe the need to create. I just know that it’s there and I know that part of it is me processing feelings or processing what’s going on in my life or just dealing with that kind of stuff so I know that that’s a big part of it. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s kinda like an addition to therapy, like yes I go to therapy and yes I do the thing but the thing I can do for myself to help me work through things so not everything feels like a crisis moment is by just writing and creating. And through the pandemic I got much better at home recording. So I have a little setup and I kind of plug in and go and I have my settings. I’m visiting Ottawa for a while and since getting here, I’ve written a second Cluttered full-length. The first one is written and we’re in the process of recording it to finalize it to put it out but LP 2 is written, like completely. So, I jokingly say “can’t stop, won’t stop” but like can’t stop, won’t stop.
Find what works and stick with it.
Yeah, exactly. The pandemic’s been really interesting because I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to play shows. When there’s been breaks I’ve been able to go on tour and I’ve gotten to do those things. But for the most part the way that bands used to go for me was you would write the songs and you’d rehearse them all together and then you would play shows and figure stuff out and eventually record. Now, it’s kinda the opposite where it’s like, “oh, we’re going to play a show in July, we should have a release ready before that so somebody knows kind of what we sound like.” I have a new band in Ottawa and we’re called Crisis Party. Crisis Party is going to record in the next little while and we play our first show in July. I’m just like, “that’s going to be sick but no one knows what this band sounds like yet”. So we gotta record before we do it to get it ready and then put it out and just put it out into the ether.
How did Crisis Party come about?
I messaged two friends. It’s myself and Jeff - who goes by Ska Jeff sometimes - he was a member of Dogma and some other punk bands in Ottawa and Tony Cordozo who drummed for John Creeden and the Flying Hellfish. Tony and Jeff are pals and I was like, “I’m coming to Ottawa for awhile, would y’all wanna start a band?” and they were like, “yeah, let’s do it” and I was like, “ok, here’s four songs” and I just sent them four songs. They were into it and I wrote three more so we have a set finalized and a cover. We had our first rehearsal six days after me arriving or something. I got here and it was like, “let’s go”.
Nice! So how does your songwriting process change from project to project?
Usually it’s just headspace. Sometimes I’ll sit down and be like, “I’m going to try to write a Crisis Party song or I’m going to try to write a Cluttered song” or whatever and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, it's just kind of headspace. I predominantly write on guitar. I’ll write a guitar part first and then kinda build a song around it. Occasionally I’ll have an idea or it’ll be a bass part or something like that but usually it’s a guitar part or bass part and I’ll write a song around it and then I’ll just add words. The thing is some of the bands are in different tunings so if my instrument is in the wrong tuning I will stop and re-tune it and then play it in the right tuning and be like, “ok this is THIS song, like this is a Century Egg song, this is a riff that could work for Worst Part”. It’s kinda hard to judge, I just play it by ear sometimes. Also it’s like, “what am I listening to?” because if I’m listening to a bunch of like 80s hardcore and bands like the Wipers and Wire and punk like p-u-n-k sorta stuff then when that comes out in my writing it tends to lean towards Crisis Party but if I’m listening to something with more emotive lyrics or something with more heart to it then that inspires me to write a Cluttered song. Because those songs are a little open-wound-y at times where you’re just like, “ok, I’m just gonna talk about my feelings. Heart open.” So it just depends. Creative process is kinda weird and it’s just being open to that flexibility, knowing that sometimes the intention to make a thing specifically for a thing is not going to work but you can shift it instead of being defeated or being like “I can’t do this”. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it’s like “I gotta put this down” because I’ve written a bunch of songs and I need a couple days but sometimes it’s just like, “what if I shift my focus a little bit or what if I shift my intention?” and I move it from one thing to another and I’m just like, “oh this song is dope!” Like here’s another song.
So the song first and then like the project after.
Yeah, I mean usually I know pretty much right off the bat where it’s gonna go. Usually from the first riff or the first couple chords or something I’ll be like, “oh, this is a blank song”, I just know where it fits. There are little things in the way that I write that are commonalities. I’m playing a solo show on the 24th in Ottawa and the set is a bunch of Cluttered songs and some other things but everything is re-worked with a capo because I’m playing by myself. I realized as I did that, that I use a lot of the same patterns and not progressions because everything’s in a different key, but I will be like, “oh I go to this” or “I go to this”. It makes it like rewiring your brain trying to relearn the same song you’ll play differently with a full band when you play it solo. It’s just different.
That makes sense. What do you find the biggest difference is writing with a band and then writing for yourself for solo work?
I’m a sucker for a big anthemic chorus or a big outro. I just love that stuff. I went to see Sincere Engineer and The Menzingers and Hot Water Music in Toronto last weekend or the weekend before and I was like, “big outro choruses”. All of those bands are very good at that thing. Usually with a band, I really like a part where I want it to be good lyrically and hit the point and also be sing-a-long-y. So there’s a little bit of audience participation if they know the song or if they’ve heard it, they hear it once and they’re just like, “oh that part!” When Cluttered was on tour in November there’s a couple songs in the set where you can see people singing along to it and it’s just like “oh, that’s really dope!”I really enjoy that, it’s pretty cool to have somebody be so stoked that they’re singing back to you. I’ve been in bands where that’s not been accessible. That’s not a thing. So when I try to write for a band it’s usually what’s the best idea I can come up with for the band to make a song sound not exactly the same as the one I did before [laughs].
And then, I Was A Fat Stupid was literally like, “oh this could be fun, I wonder if I could do this”. I did all the instrumentation for it. It’s very much in that 2010s’ Clorox Girls, Ramones, Marked Men resurgence thing that happened and it’s very much in that vein which is stuff I loved and was very, very into. I’m very proud of that EP, that’s good. But the previous solo EP is an acoustic one called Dysphoria City Limits and Dysphoria City Limits was literally like, “what are the four saddest songs I can write?” Because my mental health was just like in the toilet, it was just really, really bad. When I was living in Halifax I was dealing with a lot of - there’s a lot of aggression towards trans and queer people even though people are like, “the East Coast is so friendly” but there’s the sinister thing and it’s a big part of the day to day. It’s stuff like repeatedly being misgendered, and having to navigate that kind of stuff and so I was just having a really bad time and so I wrote that EP. I listen back now and I’m like, “oh this is maybe the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever written.” and I just put it out. Being ok with that vulnerability is a big part of why I create. Because I consider myself kind of a shy person so sometimes it’s easier to just speak through music then it is to make my words work. [laughs]
Right, more people will understand.
Yeah and also when you write something it’s up to the person who listens to interpret what you meant by it. Because my experience is different from your experience and different from other people’s experience. So it’s one of those things that when you do it the original meaning of the song can still be the original meaning but whatever someone who listens to it takes away from it is also important. It’s kinda weird but it’s also a thing.
It makes sense. You have the meaning, then someone else attaches their own meaning and it keeps snowballing. It means so much to so many people.
You’ve mentioned a couple times that creating and writing music helps you process and helps with your mental health. What has been the biggest impact that being able to do this has had on your mental health?
I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been in bands for a long time and my first attempt at being specifically and consciously emotionally vulnerable in a band was with Future Girls. I think we started in 2016 and we did a record on Dirt Cult called Motivation Problems and Dirt Cult is doing the new one which is called Year Long Winter. I was in my early stages of transitioning when Future Girls was really getting going so I was like, “what if I just embrace the emotional vulnerability of this”. It was still veiled in metaphor and whatever but I can look back on that record now and I’m still really proud of it. But it’s like this narrative arc of dysphoria and addiction stuff and isolation and all of those feelings I was having at the time, it flows through the whole record and people are paying attention now which is kinda the thing. I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m not doing things that are totally out there and I’m not trying to really break new ground, I’m just trying to say the things that I feel in a way that maybe it would resonate with other people. That's a big thing, wanting that connection. It’s hard to make connections. It’s really challenging to make friends in your late 20s and early 30s and it’s really challenging to make friends during the pandemic. It’s wild what catches on and wild what catches with people. Cluttered originally started as a project for a thing called DEMO FEST which happened in the fall of 2020 and we had never anticipated being a real band. Then it was just like, “I like this, do you want us to put out your tape?” and we were like, “sure”. Then we worked on another EP and were like, “oh we should probably play shows, we should probably be a band” and we just pulled it all together and now it is what it is.
On your solo EP I Was A Fat Stupid you were playing songs in the style of Fat Stupids, which you mentioned that you were in 10 years ago. What was it like to return to that style of writing and playing?
It was really interesting because I haven’t tried to write that way in quite some time. I haven’t tried to write just pop songs like they’re garage-y and they’re punk-y and whatever but they’re ostensibly just pop songs. I was able to kinda approach it with this lens of what would happen if Fat Stupids was still a band and I wrote songs for that band now, the way that I write songs now. There’s some more lyrical depth and the hooks are a little bit better and everything is a little bit more streamlined. There are some Fat Stupids songs that I think are really good. We had a CD that came out in Japan that was a compilation of all of our songs that we had released while we were a band called Spun Out. Then we did a reunion EP called The Reaction EP because we had a song called “Reaction” that we never recorded and a couple years after we broke up we got back together. We only broke up because our drummer moved away. We’re still pals, we still have an email chain like everything is great. One of the songs on I Was A Fat Stupid is actually an old Fat Stupids song that we never recorded. I found a YouTube video of us playing this song and I was like, “What? Why did we never record this?” We all seemed to be stoked on it and everything was good, all the parts were good and I was just like, “ok I have this idea, are you cool with it? I want to get your blessing” and I sent them the email. They were like, “ok” and I was like, “and I wanna do “I Don’t Wanna Go”” and they were like, “what song was that?” [laughs] So yeah the one that we all forgot. “I Don’t Wanna Go” is actually a Fat Stupids song but it is now finalized. I never finished lyrics to it originally, I would just mumble my way through it but now it exists.
That’s the best origin story.
Yeah, it’s pretty rad. That band was really formative for me for learning how to write songs and learning how to be in a band and learning how to have stage presence and all of those things. We used to play in Halifax and in Atlantic Canada. We would practice three times a week and we would play once every two weeks for the span of like seven or eight or nine years. We were doing that a lot and it was like boot camp because I played bass in Fat Stupids and I had never really played bass in a band before. Craig Hamlin, who was the guitar player, is one of the best guitar players I have ever been in a band with. He used to be in a band called Tongan Death Grip. They put out one record on P Trash Records, that’s an incredible record. Craig was like, “do you wanna play guitar or bass?” and I was like, “bass” and he was like, “well, you could play guitar” and I was like, “not a chance, it’s not happening. Let’s do this”. We were a three piece band, we did a lot, we learned a lot of covers and we were kinda the house band for a full band open mic called “Rockin For Dollars”. There’s one in Calgary now.Calgary or Edmonton? I don’t remember. I played it once, I just can’t remember where I was. It started in Halifax. I am very grateful for that band because me being in that band led to me being in Out of Controller which led to me playing in a bunch of bands and then when Fat Stupids kinda stopped, that was when Future Girls started and it’s kinda like everything was a step to the next thing.
I definitely am very aware that bands have finite timelines and real-life stuff happens and people have other commitments. My only real commitment is to making music and to doing things like this so that’s why I have so many projects on the go. If one thing gets busy and people can’t do it I can focus on the other thing and work on that. Then if people are busy with that thing then I can shift back my focus the other way. It’s like juggling or wearing a lot of hats all at the same time.
It sounds like the setup works well.
Yeah and I’ve got ADHD so it’s just kinda like, “look over there! There’s a pop-punk song to write! ok” just chase after that for a while. That’s my day. I’ve gotten it down to now where I write in a way that is very quick. It seems to happen at the end of the day and I’ll send a message to Dylan [Mombourquete], who’s the drummer in Cluttered, and be like, “I think I have a new jam for us” and he’s like, “ok” and 45 minutes later I’ll send him a finished demo [laughs]. Then it’s just like me singing along in my apartment trying to not annoy my neighbours. It's a trip.
I Was A Fat Stupid was recorded in two days. You don’t give yourself a time limit, it's just whatever happens happens.
Yeah, sometimes I’ll write something and it’ll be like “I need to sit on this” or “I need to come back to it”. I had that recently with a song where I did most of the music but I left the bass part and the vocals and I was like, “I’ll do this tomorrow and just see what happens”. I came back to it and I was just like, “I don’t remember making this but ok”. [laughs] Because it’s such a quick process it’s kind of like get in, get out and then you have the finalized demo that you can refer to. But I Was A Fat Stupid was done over two days, I just didn’t have work for a couple days and was like, “I wonder if I can do it. I gotta bunch of feelings right now. Let's see if I can make this thing”. Then I did it and then I recorded it - whatever the timeline was it was over two days - and the following week it got mixed and I put it out the following week for Bandcamp Friday. So it was kind of like, “yeah, let’s do it, let’s do the thing”. When Tarantula Tapes wanted to put out the tape version of it I was very flattered because most of my solo stuff I don’t push as hard for trying to find labels or trying to find people who wanna do stuff with it. It’s more like, “I’ll just put it out and it’ll be there and exist”. So with that it was really nice but I was like, “oh if this comes out in May, the whole ‘do you remember in January when people were doing Instagram posts about 10 years ago?’” just loses some of its impact. So I made an agreement where I was like, “I’m going to put this online, I wanna still do the tape - if that’s cool but I wanna get this out now”.
Nostalgia is universal.
I’ve got a complicated relationship with nostalgia as I think a lot of people do where there’s a comfort in it that is really nice but also at the same time I kinda hate it, where it’s like, “why am I reflecting back on better times because those were bad times too”. It’s a lot and also especially as a queer person, in my experience it was “I don’t wanna look at pictures of me 10 years ago, that’s the last thing I wanna do right now.”
Focus forward or even just not dwelling on it because it wasn’t a good time. I was doing things but it was just not a great time like making it out of that was good. I’m glad I did.
Don’t wanna relive it all the time.
No, reliving trauma is really challenging and really hard. Sometimes that happens with songwriting where you’re like, “I was in this headspace when I wrote this song” or you write a song that’s a thinly veiled metaphor about a person and then your relationship with that person changes. So I try not to write songs about people, I just try to write songs about my feelings or like the current political climate or socioeconomic climate or something, I just try to focus on that kind of stuff. Sometimes it’s weird writing songs about people.
What did you learn about yourself while working on I Was A Fat Stupid?
I learned that I still really enjoy writing that style of song. I re-listened to it last night because I haven’t listened to it in a while and I was like, “oh I did a good job. It sounds very professional for what it is and it sounds very put together”. The first song on the EP is a song called “Moment” and was the first song I wrote. You can almost hear as the EP progresses that there’s little nods to Fat Stupids throughout it. So it’s “Moment” then “I’m Sideways” and “I’m Sideways” very much is me trying to write a Craig Hamiln song. I was like, “Craig, I wrote this song and I’m ripping you off but this is the whole point of this thing is this is what a new Fat Stupids EP would sound like if it existed”. The last song on the record is one that I really like and it’s called “Wintertime”. Fat Stupids have a song called “Summertime” and that song is about a person essentially blowing up their life. It was referred to on some Italian message board as a “pop-punk classic” at one point. I was just like, “aww that’s really nice, I’m really happy to hear that!” Then I was like, “I’ll write the companion song” so I’ll write “Wintertime” and I really like “Wintertime”. I think it’s one of the strongest things I’ve written in a while and I’m pretty stoked on it. But it’s very literal, if you read the lyrics to it it’s just like, “I’d rather be anywhere else while waiting for this ice to melt”. It’s like you’re stuck in wherever you’re stuck and it’s winter and there’s nothing you can do and winter is terrible and it’s hard on everybody. [laughs] It’s not particularly artistic but it’s definitely a little bit clever, I’ll give it that. I feel like that EP is me trying to get some of that, trying to be a little bit more quick-witted or trying to be a little bit clever or trying to be like a little tongue-in-cheek or something because that falls into the style of the bands that influenced Fat Stupids. Of bands like, as I mentioned, Marked Men or Clorox Girls or The Ramones and The Buzzcocks and all of that stuff. When that band was going there was this huge pop-punk boom of The Ergs, The Copyrights, Dear Landlord, Chinese Telephones and all of those bands. It was like we were some of the only people listening to that kind of stuff while also listening to like bands that were coming out on P Trash Records and bands from Ottawa, listening to things like Sedatives and White Wires and bands from Sweden like Masshysteri and The Vicious, and trying to take all of those influences. So now it’s like looking at songwriting through my lens of having some years removed from writing songs like that because Future Girls songs don’t really sound like Fat Stupids songs and Cluttered songs don’t really sound like Future Girls or Fat Stupids songs. It’s that thing of “how can I differentiate these things” and I think I was pretty successful with it. I think it’s pretty good and I’m stoked that people will be able to get a physical copy if they want and it’ll be on all the streaming stuff. Maybe it’ll resonate with some other people too and that’s really cool.
It’s so good! If you could go back in time and tell yourself something from 10 years ago what would it be?
Things don’t get easier they just get less hard, that would probably be the thing I would say. I started medically transitioning in 2016, I came out in 2017, so 10 years ago it was before that but I was grappling with dysphoria feelings and things for many years before that. So I would just be like, “do the thing, don’t worry about it, it’s gonna be hard but it’s gonna be worth it”. Those were all things that were going through my head because I felt out of place in my body. I was drinking all the time and doing drugs and doing all sorts of stuff and just being deeply unhappy. I wouldn’t say that I’m the happiest person on the face of the earth but I’m definitely happier than I was. I’m more content, I feel a little more settled in my body which is different than it used to be. I had multiple undiagnosed mental health things and I was not seeking help and I was playing five nights a week just to have a moment where I could feel something when it’s like, “you can do that but you’re going to burn yourself out”. So to 10 years ago me, I would be like, “slow down, it doesn’t get easier but it gets less hard, and try and just enjoy the things as they’re happening - taking things day by day and taking things in moments to just let them happen”. That is something that I’m still working on because it seems as soon as I finish something I’m on to the next thing right away and I’m not taking a second to be like, “I did a thing, I should feel ok about this”. It’s just like “what’s the next thing on the conveyor belt?”
Future Girls will be releasing the Year Long Winter EP May 6 and as you already mentioned it was recorded earlier in the pandemic. What was the recording process like and did COVID-19 mandates impact the recording at all?
Dewayne Shanks, who is the drummer, also plays in a band called Botfly. Botfly were a very busy touring band and that’s kinda why Future Girls slowed down because Dewayne was super busy with that. But COVID hit and no one could tour and everybody was kinda cagey and we were talking about how good Skeleton Coast, the Lawrence Arms record was. It’s so good, right? Chris’s songs are great, Brenden’s songs are great, it sounds cool. And I’m holed up in an apartment with a person who I had broken up with and I have to live with them for six months because it’s lockdown and Dewayne was in a weirdly similar situation and we were just like, “maybe we should do one more thing”. Then I was like, “let me see if I can write some songs” and I wrote four songs in two days. I had one old demo from right after we had finished recording Motivation Problems which is the song “Year Long Winter”. So “Year Long Winter” dates back to 2018 because Motivation Problems came out in 2018 and I was just like that song’s too good not to do something with. I was listening to a lot of The Replacements and a lot of Laddermen and a lot of Worriers, those were my three bands and it was again putting myself in the headspace to be like, “I wonder if I can still write a Future Girls song”. Because there's little quirks to those songs that just kind of happen and the EP turned out really good. We did drums at a studio. We went to Ocean Floor Recording in Halifax which is run by Charles Austin and Franc Lopes and they were great. We did drums there and I engineered everything else: the guitars and the bass and the vocals and did all that. Heather [Grant], who’s the other guitar player and one of the co-vocalists, has a space where we could do guitars and we could do stuff so I did that and then did her vocals. Originally Year Long Winter was going to be the original Future Girls lineup, we had had some lineup changes and we reached out to the original bass player and he was just like, “I don’t really think I want to do music right now” and we totally respected that. Becca [Dalley] - who plays in Cluttered and sings on my solo stuff - we’re like partners in crime at this point so I was like, “Hey Becca, you know do you wanna play bass and sing in Future Girls? We’re doing an EP.” and they were like, “yes, absolutely”. This round it’s three vocalists and there’s lots of harmonies and it sounds great. Becca crushes it because she’s a great bass player so we pulled all that together.
I was in a band called Weekend Dads as well and Justin Yates mixed and did some Weekend Dads stuff and has done Lawrence Arms demos and is very accomplished. So I was like, “we should get Justin, we should spend the money and do a good job with this”. We got Justin to do it and it was mastered by Dave Williams, who runs Eight Floors Above who used to be in Crusades and Sedatives and The Steve Adamyk Band and a bunch of awesome Ottawa bands. We got Dave to master it because he mastered the first thing and he’s a pal and we wanted that kind of uniformity. The EP was ready to come out last year and there was just a little bit of a road block so we shelved it for a minute to not think about it because the important thing with bands that I’m in is that the people come first. Our relationships are more important than the band which is why I do solo stuff because I can just go play songs, I can just go do the thing. But it’s important to check in and it’s important that everybody’s friends and everybody’s on the same page and we just weren’t on the same page so it took a while to get it together. Then a couple months ago - maybe not even that long - Core and Casey who run Tarantula Tapes, they’re pals, reached out and were like, “so what about that Future Girls record?” and I was like, “let me see if I can pull this together” to get it out, to get it done, to finish it.
Dewayne was in the process of moving to Montreal and so he was in Montreal, I’m in Ottawa for now, the rest of the band are in Halifax and Cluttered are busy and Botfly are busy and Dewayne was like, “do we wanna play a show with Future Girls?” and I was like, “honestly, I do”. I would love to play those songs, it would feel really good, and I love all of those people but I think putting the album out and just letting it be a statement on its own is kinda a cool approach. Maybe we will do another show. I know that there’s going to be a point this summer where we’re all going to be in the same city so maybe it’ll happen. We’ll see if it happens and it would be really cool to do that but if it doesn’t happen the catalog of work that Future Girls have - which is like a two-song demo, a 12-song full-length, a cover song of a Newfoundland punk band called Samesies, and Year Long Winter, it’s a solid catalog for a band that wasn’t always a top priority for some folks because everybody had so many other projects and had other things. It was kinda my band and my ship to steer but it was really challenging when time constraints and real-life things came into play. It’s something I’m super proud of. If people want to see Future Girls play shows just let us know and maybe we can make it work. We used to play Ottawa once a year for Ottawa Explosion when that was a festival and we made a ton of pals and got to open for some incredible bands that were really important to me. We opened for Shellshag one year, we opened for Martha, and just like really, really cool shit. I’m really grateful for my time with that and I’m really stoked that this is coming out because I thought we were just going to put it out and it was just going to fall into the ether and no one was going to listen and no one was going to be stoked on it but it’s good. It’s objectively a good record and it’s different than Motivation Problems, but it’s maybe not as bleak [laughs]. There’s definitely a bleakness to it, that’s just part of it. It’s literally called Year Long Winter.
Perfect name. [laughs]
Chris, who runs Dirt Cult Records, agreed to do the digital side of the release and Dirt Cult put out the first album. Chris has been a friend for a while and I’m really grateful that we get to continue that on. I sent him an email saying, “do you want to do the digital for this?” and he was like, “yeah, totally”. Then he made some post on social media that was really nice but he was just like, “I’ve been listening to the title track on repeat and it probably can’t be good for my mental health”. [laughs] I was like, “Yep that’s absolutely the truth” because the whole thing is very much the genre for the band that I’ve jokingly said for years is that we’re a “bummer punk” band so like it’s gonna kind of bum you out a little bit.
You know what to expect going in.
Yeah, you set reasonable expectations.
What makes it less bleak than Motivation Problems?
I think a big part of it was, in the span of time between finishing Motivation Problems and coming into writing the Year Long Winter EP, I think I just developed better coping skills. It’s not like not every song has a silver lining but the last song on the record is a song called “Cross Streets” and the lyric is “it’s not set in stone/it’s the cross streets that drag you home”. The idea of that is that no matter where you are on your life’s path, if you keep persevering you will still find your way to where you need to be even if you drunk-walk home and you’re just crossing everywhere and you’re like “I don’t know where I am!” Then you magically end up at your place and you’re like, “oh, still made it home”. [laughs] It all worked out, I’m very lucky that I didn’t end up in the ocean.
Will this be the last Future Girls release or will it remain up in the air?
For now, it is. For now it is but who knows what’s going to happen, maybe I will write a couple songs. I think it would be really challenging now where not all four of us live in the same place to pull it all together but never say never. If I wrote something that I was like, “this is a Future Girls song and this is a really good song we should do it” I’m sure I could convince everybody to pull together their parts to do it. But we’re all still pals. Dewayne and Becca and I have a project called Winter Trash that should have our EP out hopefully in June. It’s just a three song EP and it’s a little more like dark punk, if that makes sense. [laughs]
No, it’s just moody. It’s really moody. The songs don’t have titles, they’re just like “1”, “2”, and “3”. [laughs] It’s just a different thing. I wrote some songs in December and then sent them to Dewayne who put drums on them. Then let’s get Becca involved because Becca’s my go-to. It’s just like. “you wanna sing on some stuff?” “Yeah!” “You wanna yell on some stuff?” “Yeah! Let’s go!” So we did that and that’s in the process of coming out. We’re all still pals and we all get along. We’re just making the best of the situation we have now and I can’t predict the future, but I can’t see there being another Future Girls thing but who knows? Maybe I stockpile like ten songs or twelve songs or something and then we do another record in two years, who knows.
Just have to wait and see.
Yeah, with everything else that’s going on with Cluttered being so busy and doing solo stuff and starting this new band, Crisis Party, things don’t get back-burnered a lot but it’s like, “so this is very intentional time that I have to spend” and finding the time to be that intentional is really challenging to do over six projects. It’s a lot. And still working and still doing stuff and trying my best and just doing the thing.
That’s all you can do. Cluttered will be putting out the split with Talk Show Host on May 13, where you’re covering Enemy You songs and switching vocalists. What’s the story behind the split, how did this come about?
Ok, so Chris [Veinot] and Fab [Rivenet] from Talk Show Host did a podcast called The Punk Lotto Pod and what that podcast does is it picks a year and then you pick a record from that year and you talk about it. So they picked Short Music For Short People which is a compilation of 101 bands doing 30 second songs or less. When I found out they were doing it I was just like, “Dillinger Four and Enemy You are the best songs on that comp. Listen to more Enemy You!” So that was like planting the seeds. We played some shows together in November and became pals. We talk pretty frequently and Chris and I were talking about that and it was like, “are y’all playing Pouzza?” “I think so. Are y’all playing Pouzza?” and I was like, “Yeah. Do y’all wanna cover Enemy You and let me sing?” And they were like, “yeah, we should record that” and then it was, “Cluttered should do the instruments for one song and let me sing” and then it was, “well, what if we do two each?” So then it became a four song EP. I sing on two and Talk Show Host is the backing band for two and Cluttered is the backing band for Chris from Talk Show Host for two songs. Everybody sings. Becca does back-ups in Cluttered and Sean [Woolven] does back-ups in Talk Show Host and Becca and Sean are on every song. I do some back-ups on the ones that Chris is singing on so it’s like this fully enmeshed thing. The songs all sound different but we’re getting it mastered today and it was like, “how quickly can we get this out?” I think Fab said we conceptualized it in February, we recorded in March, we’re getting it mixed and mastered in April and we’re releasing it in May. Talk Show Host are self-admittedly like, “we’re a slow band, it takes us a long time to do stuff” but they’re done and their songs sound great. I think I did a good job singing on their songs and Chris did a great job singing on the Cluttered songs. Everything sounds really cool and it kinda sounds like two different bands but there’s this uniformity to it that’s really interesting to listen to. It’s not like two Talk Show Host songs then two Cluttered songs because it’s not fully Talk Show Host and it’s not fully Cluttered, it’s kind of both bands all at the same time so we sequenced it in a way where it’s like one and one and one and one, if that makes sense.
Cluttered had originally planned on doing another EP while we’re waiting to finish our full-length, which is going to be called High Lows. We were just like, “we need something, we need to do something” then it turned into, “well what if we do this split? That’s a good idea because it gives us something and also Enemy You are a super under-appreciated band”. I remember listening to Stories Never Told, which was their second full-length, in like 2006 upon recommendation from a band member being like, “you should listen to Enemy You, you kinda sing like the person but the lyrics are great”. Lyrically David Jones touched on heartbreak and isolation and those things that are universal lyric themes. There was a band in the 90s called After School Special. After School Special put out a record on Mutant Pop which was kind of known within the pop-punk scene. David Jones fronted After School Special and went on to form Enemy You and Enemy You had a song on a four-way split that came out on a subsidiary of Lookout! Records when Lookout! was still a thing so like Green Day’s label. I think Panic Button is the subsidiary, they put out the first LP which is called Where No One Knows My Name and then Red Scare did Stories Never Told and reissued Where No One Knows My Name. Then they got signed to Nitro, The Offspring’s label, to do a record that never saw an official release. It came out as an iTunes release in 2008, you can find it on YouTube. It’s called Fade Away. The artwork literally just says “Enemy You - Fade Away” and I don’t like that record as much as I like the other two but it has its moments and it’s great. Then they just dropped off the face of the earth for a while. Then Red Scare did a 10 year anniversary comp and got Enemy You to reunite and record a new song which is called “Adios (To You)” which is the last song that Enemy You ever released and recorded and I think is the last song that David Jones ever sang on before he passed away. That’s just super telling and really sad.
But it’s one of those things where I’m genuinely stoked on this band. They had a big influence on me and Chris and Fab from Talk Show Host really like them and so we were like, “let’s do it, let’s cover an obscure band that like 12 people know”. Cluttered and Talk Show Host are both technically like “up and coming bands” or whatever, we’re not super established. Cluttered have been a band for two years. I don’t know how long Talk Show Host have been a band but I don’t think it’s been tremendously longer than that. So it’s like, “we get to do a split with our friends, we get to do it ourselves, we get to put it out on our own terms, maybe some people will hear it”. It’s very in the spirit of punk and DIY like it’s a split and we’re pals and we’re like sharing these songs that we love. Chris picked his two that Cluttered did the music for and I picked my two that Talk Show Host did the music for. The tricky thing is The Lillingtons did an Enemy You tribute album a while ago and we were like “no overlap!” But the first song that I suggested was a song that they covered and I forgot and I was like, “arg, crud. I could’ve picked another one!” But it turned out really good so I don’t really care.
What songs did you pick and why did you pick them specifically?
Ok, so I can’t speak for why Chris picked his songs but I’ll go through the track order. We did “72 Hours” and then “Something New” . Those are both from Stories Never Told. Then we did “Where No One Knows My Name” and “Adios (To You)”, so those are the four. “72 Hours” I picked because it’s got a fun guitar riff, it’s right in my vocal range so it’s not super hard to sing. I’m drawn to the analogy of clocks, like time ticking by or clocks or whatever and for some reason, both Enemy You songs I picked have an analogy to clocks in them. It was really strange. It was not on purpose, it just happened that way. So with “72 Hours” I was just like, “this song is really rad” and it resonated with me a little bit. There’s there’s a little bit of juvenile lyrics to it because of the era that the song came out of like, “I’m still the same old kid/I don’t get paid/I don’t get laid/and I don’t really care”. It’s funny but now there are two queer voices doubling up on that line, “I don’t get paid/I don’t get laid” and it’s kinda empowering right? Shit like that just happens. I know Chris mentioned that there’s a line in “Something New” about “I take no solace in technology” and that resonated really hard with him. “Something New”’ is a rad song. My interpretation of that song is wanting to find something different from the expected norm put on you which also resonates big time where it’s like, “read the ads/buy the right things/but it doesn’t feel the way they promised me”. That kind of stuff where you’re forced into consumerism, you’re forced into capitalism, we’re all cogs in this machine. You have to work within the system and make it work and it feels really bad a lot of the time when you sometimes just want to be left alone and make art. And to be compensated for your strength when people don’t look at skills like journalism or anything with print media or anything with audio or visual art - everybody appreciates it but very few people are willing to compensate the people that are really good at it. So there’s this huge burnout thing and there’s turnover that just goes on and on and on. The third song is “Where No One Knows My Name” which is pretty sad. The version we do of it is a little bit slowed down and I mean I can go through the whole song but like it’s kinda sad. Reading it as a literal translation it’s about wanting to get away from a city or a place where everybody knows you, everybody knows your business and just wanting some anonymity and wanting some peace, whether it is literally saying that or it’s a metaphor for something else. The song literally starts with “I try to stop the world every day/with my last breath but it turns anyway”, it’s very, very good. You’re just like, “oh, there’s nothing I can do about this. The world keeps turning no matter what I do. Good things and bad things happen”, it would be great to go somewhere where I could deal with this stuff and not have to worry about all the other things that come with people knowing who you are. And then the last song was “Adios (To You)” and I don’t really know why Chris picked that one. It’s a dope song and it being the last song that Enemy You ever recorded is kinda cool and having the last song on the EP is really funny to me. But that song could be looked at as a relationship break-up song or it could be looked at as like a you know, “peace out, this is my last thing, I’m done” song. It could be looked at from a couple different points of view and it’s pretty hard to reflect back on Enemy You’s output now with the lens of knowing that David Jones is not alive and what happened there. Being able to reflect on that you can see it. I always have that really morbid thought about the material that I make because I’ve struggled with mental health for a long time and it’s something that has come up and big dark thoughts are a thing, they’re just a part of the deal. I imagine that people were upset but not entirely surprised based on the lyrical output or the quality of the material. I imagine that there are multiple people who would fall into that category where you reflect back on their body of work and you’re just like, “oh, this person was unwell. Unwell but trying”. That’s the thing, you’re still trying all the time to get better and to be a better person and to be healthier - your mental wellness as well as your emotional and your physical wellness.
Would Cluttered and Talk Show Host tour together and play the songs as they are on the EP in a live setting?
There’s talks about it. There’s talks about maybe doing it at Pouzza. It’s a little bit hard because of the way that it’s scheduled so if it doesn’t work out this time, then maybe that’s a thing for the fall but I would do that in a heartbeat. It would be really interesting to seam the sets so, Talk Show Host does their set, I come up and do “72 Hours” and we have everything set up all at the same time then people come on and then we transition into a full Cluttered set. That would be really cool, I would love to do that. If we could find the avenue to do it that would be really sweet. Right now Fab’s like, “I gotta finish this EPK, can you do a quote for me about this split?” and I’m like, “Yeah, sure”. I’m sending it off to get mastered and I’m just like “Hey, how quickly can you turn this around? We have to put this on the internet!” It’s very DIY but it’s also very much like by the seat of our pants, we’re just trying really hard. We got the art turned around in a week because our pal Frank, who has done all of Cluttered’s art so far and did the art for the split, is also a fan of Enemy You and knows the band and stuff so I was like, “this is the idea” and he was like, “ok, great, I’ve got it” and sent something like a week later. It was just like, “this is perfect!” It’s just an amalgamation of two album covers. [laughs]
They look really good.
Yeah, Frank did a killer job.
Do you feel like the isolation of the past few years has led to more community building online and in person when that’s available?
Oh yeah. Yeah, community building online has been very big. I’ve made pals specifically through Twitter and specifically through Instagram and it continues to happen. The only reason that Talk Show Host and Cluttered are friends is because we each released an album on the same day. Mid-Century Modern came out the same day as Accidents. We ended up on their radar somehow. Fab was like “this is dope!”and we started following each other and talking. Then it was like “hey, your record’s really good” “YOUR record is really good” and then it was realizing there’s so many commonalities and being like, “do you wanna play some shows together?” We were still like, “oh they’re rad, oh they’re rad”, just kinda feeling it out then we played two shows together and hung out afterwards. After the Toronto show we hung out and it was like, “no we’re pals this is just how this is now”. Talk Show Host was playing and if you’re a band, and I’ll say this outright, if you’re a band of all cis white men you have to be really good and really nice. You have to be good boys. There’s gotta be something there and I remember during the Talk Show Host set in Toronto I look over at Becca and I go, “we should do an East Coast tour at some point with Talk Show Host and they’re the only band with men in it, like they’re the only band that’s all men. They can be the token man band”. Becca’s like, “yeah, let’s do that” and then I was like, “they also have a song called “I Hate All Men”” and then Becca went “I love these men!” [laughs] They’re so good and they’re so self-aware and they’re just rad humans.
We get along, it’s a cool mix because the bands don’t really sound the same at all. Talk Show Host have said in the past that sometimes they’re too indie for punk shows and too punk for indie shows or whatever it may be but Cluttered are just a punk band. We’ll play with whoever. I love mixed bills and our first Halifax show was a weird pop band, a band called Gemstones who are great - they have members of Eric’s Trip and Dog Day, they put out a 7-inch on Celluloid Lunch Records, and they’re fantastic - and Desperate Times, who are a hardcore band in Halifax. We were just like “mixed bill let’s do this right” and it worked. We’re trying our best not to be the only band with women and queer people in it on every bill that we play, there’s a lot of conscious thought that goes into it because we want people to feel safe to come see us play. We’ve been really fortunate that at the majority of shows that we’ve played the crowd has been made up of mostly women and queer people and that’s the audience that we want, that’s the people that we want to be stoked on our band. Not saying that you can’t be a dude and you can’t be a good dude and not problematic and still like our band but I’m not really writing songs for that demographic. I’m writing songs for people who are marginalized and experience hardships and might experience heartache. Like “The Toll”, on Accidents and on The First Pandemic Cassia Hardy from Wares does a vocal part on that song, I introduce it live this way, “this song is about a city that doesn’t give a fuck about you” and it’s, “trample on me la la la la la la /trample on me la la la la la la”. The city takes its toll. It’s being in a place that wears you down. I’m sure that there are men who experience that and mental health for men is really, really challenging as well because there’s the stigma of like “you gotta be strong, you gotta be manly, you can’t address your feelings” which is total bullshit. But you’re not serving anyone by not addressing that stuff and feeling your feelings and trying to be on the same level as somebody who’s doing the work, somebody who has gone to therapy and who continues to go to therapy. You gotta even the playing field out a little bit.
Do you have a band or bands that you want to bring on tour? Do you have a list that is like “these are the bands I want to tour with”?
Definitely. I mean there are bands that I would love for them to take us on tour. Obviously there’s a huge list of things like that. If I could play a show with Sincere Engineer I would be so happy. But as far as bands that we could take with us or people who could hang out with us, a big one on my list is No, It’s Fine from Halifax. No, It’s Fine kind of have a mid-western emo thing. I did a fill-in set for them in November, they’re great. Cailen, who fronts that band, is just like the sweetest person and is so witty and so funny. The band that Cailen has assembled is a powerhouse band and everyone is great and their lead guitar player is on tour with Cancer Bats right now - it’s KT Lamond from Like A Motorcycle. No, It’s Fine are a great band, I would love to play more shows with them. I would love to play shows with Blemish from Montreal. They were introduced to me since coming to Ottawa, they’re so rad. I get to see them in July at Sitting On The Outside Fest and I’m just elated, I can’t wait. So like No, It’s Fine and Blemish. I’d love to do some touring with Like A Motorcycle if they ever wanted to do that because two punk bands from Halifax, we’re all old friends so why not hang out. We’re all gonna be playing Pouzza so it’ll be an excuse to just hang out and have fun. There’s a band from St. John, New Brunswick called Love Over who just put out their first single and they used to be a band called Surface Wounds and before that were called Rival. They just had a total shift into pop-punk territory and we’d be down to play shows with those folks. It’s really just good people and friends who want to do this. The big thing when I was like, “I want to take No, It’s Fine on tour” was because No, It’s Fine has never really toured and no one has ever really gotten to see them outside of Nova Scotia for the most part and being like, “I could introduce you to people”. Becca and AJ have a band called Book Buddies. Book Buddies are excellent, they’re my favourite band in Halifax. Becca writes incredible songs. I’m biased because they’re like my best friends but Book Buddies are rad. There’s also a new up and coming band called Persephone from Halifax who are really dope. There’s going to be a show, I think sometime this summer in Halifax that will be involving some of these bands and I’m really excited to pull that bill together, I just haven’t done it yet. Persephone are - when I say ‘kids’ they’re young, they’re like maybe 21, 22, 23, they’re just figuring it out. But AJ who plays in Cluttered and Book Buddies and Designosaur and all those bands kinda took them under his wing a little bit. They came to see us play and they came up to us afterwards and all bought shirts and were really stoked. When they performed earlier in the night, we made a point of going to see them and they were a force. You couldn’t tell they were a new, shy band, they were just a dope band. So like I think putting them in front of a more punk audience might really be appreciated because I wouldn’t necessarily describe as a punk band but there’s punk elements to it. It would be cool to just be like, “these are kids who are doing the thing, their front person is awesome, their band is great and they’re worth supporting”.
I’ve said this before but if you don’t support your scene at home - if you don’t support the bands that are local to you that are up and coming then you don’t have a scene because no bands emerge from that. It involves going to shows and making yourself known and being there. Obviously when you get a little bit older it gets a bit harder to continue doing that and in bigger cities it’s harder to hit every show and support all the new bands but a big thing is supporting your scene. There’s this pitfall that happens with music and musicians from the East Coast where it is so isolated and it is such a far drive to go places and to tour that you end up kind of in this kind of echo chamber where you’re like, “I played in Moncton and I played in Fredericton and I played in Halifax and I played in Sydney” and you kinda bounce between the four. Cluttered played a show in New Brunswick and a show in Newfoundland before we ever played a show in Nova Scotia. We played a show in Truro, Nova Scotia before we ever played a show in Halifax and then immediately following our Halifax show we went on tour. So in my mind Cluttered is Halifax based, for the most part, but we’re just a touring band. We exist to go play shows in different places to not get pigeonholed or not to get stuck with - when bands come thorough, however rare that is, being like, “yeah you get to play with the Halifax band” and like, “no, we're just a band”. It’s COVID and we were like, “let’s go on tour”. I booked the November Cluttered tour in June and every show was with the implication that it might just not happen like, “if it happens, it’s good to go, but it might not happen”. We were like, “that’s fine, we’ll make it work” and so we did and it was great. I will probably do a similar thing this fall. Our summer’s getting a little bit filled up, we’ve got Pouzza Fest, we’re playing Side By Side Weekend in Ottawa at the end of July. We’ve got a couple appearances but nothing like a solid run so I'm going to try to book that for the fall because who knows what things are going to look like. But if bands were stoked on us and wanted to take us on tour, we would rearrange our plans and go on tour. That’s the thing that we wanna do - we’re all in. It’s really nice being in a band like Cluttered because we’re all on the same page and all want this thing to be successful. Like yea, they’re my songs and Dylan adds great drum parts and we kinda co-produce the things but the band itself is a unit and that’s the thing we want to do is to go play music. So anything we do that can kinda put us on anyone’s radar is cool as shit. We would love the play in the United States but that’s really challenging, we’d love to go to Europe which I think is in the cards in the next couple of years. We just wanna go because we enjoy each other’s company too. It’s like no matter what happens or how bad things get or how weird the situation of the world goes, we’re still in it together and that’s really, really nice. It’s very much like a united band front.
That’s so good. It’s so nice to hear when everyone gets along and it’s not just thriving off opposition, everyone's in it for the right reasons.
Totally. Well, for context, on the tour we did in November we played Halifax on a Saturday, we played Sackville, New Brunswick on a Wednesday, Quebec City on a Thursday, Montreal on a Friday, Toronto on a Saturday, and Ottawa on a Sunday. So we did that and then we drove home. We were like, “ok, we should probably play a show in Fredericton on Monday night to nobody or something”, the shows all went really well but it would just break the drive up because it’s a sixteen hour drive from Ottawa to Halifax. We were still laughing and joking and having fun and we got home at 2am from the tour and we were just all smiles and hugging each other and just so stoked. For the next week it was just like, “wish I was still in the van, wish I was still in the van”, we were just really happy. I think some of that is isolation because Becca and AJ and I were actually on tour when the pandemic hit. I was playing solo with Designosaur, we had done a tour tape, we had done a split, and we were like, “we’re going to tour in March because February’s terrible and we’re going to do some Atlantic Canadian touring and it’ll be great”. We got one show in and then everything got cancelled. We went home and were locked down. So it was almost like making up for that, being like, “huh, this is a little bit weird, we were just in the van a year and a half ago”.
Yeah, gotta make up for lost time now.
Yeah, exactly. That’s all this is. Just making up for lost time and like trying to make the best thing that we can make.
You’re doing great! What's next for you?
Ok so May 6 is the release of I Was A Fat Stupid and Future Girls’ Year Long Winter, May 13 is the release of Enemy Us which is the Cluttered/Talk Show Host split. Hopefully by early June will be the release of Winter Trash which is the release with Dewayne and Becca. July should be the release of Crisis Party and Crisis Party is playing Sitting On The Outside Fest and is also playing Side By Side with Cluttered. In May Cluttered is playing with Propagandhi in Halifax - we’re opening for Propagandhi and then going straight to Pouzza Fest. That’s gonna be a party and we’re going to have fun and we’re gonna make the best out of a sixteen hour drive. [laughs] I think to get in on time we have to leave at 5am or something so we’re going to play with Propagandhi, sleep for like 2 hours, and get in the van and go. It’s DIY, right? You just wanna do the thing and be there and hang out and have fun. Those are the big upcoming things. Cluttered is still working on a full-length as I mentioned before, it’s called High Lows. It’s demoed and we’re in the process of recording it. We made a slight tracklisting adjustment to it so it’s not as finalized as it was a little while ago but it’s gonna be pretty sick. When we start recording High Lows, we’ll start demoing the second record which is tentatively called Far and Away. So we’ll have two Cluttered records recording concurrently and getting them together and going. And then that’s kinda the next couple months. It’s a lot of bouncing back and forth between places, it’s a lot of coordinating but it’s going to be sick.