FROM THE TAPE DECK: BBQ POPE
There’s pretty much an unwritten rule that any band who lists hanging out, rocking out, getting kicked out, PBR, drugz, and intellectual conversations about advancing human rights and gender equality in their interests are going to be cool as fuck. Protesting on the days they aren’t playing shows and crafting songs made for moshing, BBQ Pope is the band you’re going to want to be best friends with.
With their youth deliberately on display, Reid Millar (bass, vocals), Sean Hackl (guitar, vocals), and Duncan Briggs (drums) don’t make themselves out to be mindless and don’t try to manufacture maturity. Instead they embrace the awkward changes, trying to sneak into their bedroom window after a night out, the fact that their friends’ parents buy them nicotine in attempts to curb smoking habits developed between classes. Their youth doesn’t make them naive, staggering through parties and getting slammed around at sweaty house shows, they anticipate the headache they’ll have in the morning.
Singing about the blunders of adolescents, their latest release Winters of My Youth presents them as wise beyond their years. Proteges of psych-rock, the band fumbles through infatuation and trips through intoxicating interactions with all the breathless optimism of youth. With clear punk influences, the track still maintains a glow derived from the warmth of their analog recording and reckless realism. With tangled thoughts and 2am texts, they give the chaos of coming of age a purpose, even if it is just wasting time and trying to find someone else who’s just as lonely. Still amidst all the uncertainty, stuttering, stumbling, sleeping through work and being stuck with a hangover that lingers into the night, there’s something magical about all the mess ups.
It isn’t until “Before and After,” that the disillusionment begins to set in. Somewhere in those absent minded ‘do do do do’s’ they begin to realize that everyone has started growing up and moving on. Fluctuating between an intrusive reality and the comfort of memories, there’s a reluctance to give up that last shred of innocence they’ve been clinging to. The idealistic version of their future, the people they used to be when they still believed they could be anything seem to fade and in their place is someone consumed with nostalgia. Trying to reconcile with the changes there continues to be that promise of a future completely different than anything they could dream, to the ambiguous ‘after’ that they have the whole rest of their lives to figure out.
BBQ Pope proves that it’s not all perfect, it’s not a huge party. Their youth isn’t romanticized or abstracted, it simply is what it is: messy, confusing, resounding, exhilarating, and fleeting. Sometimes you’ll miss the version of yourself you never got to be, weighed down by all the memories that you want to rush back to, still you have to turn your face towards the sun and find your way out of the snowfall.
WHY DO YOU THINK TAPES ARE STILL RELEVANT IN OUR INCREASINGLY DIGITAL SOCIETY?
We think that tapes are still relevant in our increasingly digital society because people will always value having physical things more than digital files. We think that the exchange of purchasing a tape directly from an artist or music store creates a personal connection that you don’t get from a download or stream. Holding a tape is a real tangible act that you get to explore and experience.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ATTRACTS BOTH AUDIENCES AND ARTISTS TO TANGIBLE FORMS OF MUSIC?
We think that analog art is re-emerging because it encourages human experience beyond our computers. We enjoy the process of creating a physical recording that people will cherish. It requires much more networking and effort than simply uploading a file directly to the internet, but ensures a product that audiences can use all of their senses to enjoy (even taste... SLURRRP).
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE MEDIUM DOES FOR YOUR BAND’S SOUND, IF AT ALL? DO YOU THINK IT HAS HELPED SHAPE THE BAND’S IDENTITY IN ANY WAY?
Tapes are our chosen medium because they are the cheapest physical format available. Although tapes have less sound quality than digital formats or vinyl, we find that they become a visual component to our digital sound (because we still sell our music online). A lot of people in our scene do not have tape players, but will still purchase cassettes despite this. We make a point of including a download code for this reason. So whether a person actually listens to the tape or not, they still own it, and they have our music within their homes.
FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TAPES?
REID: Sean and I grew up in the west end of Toronto near a record store called Pandemonium. One day in grade five we went there, and they had a wall of cassettes. I bought Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Nirvana’s Lithium, and AC/DC’s High Voltage. Later in high school someone gave me VCR’s demo cassette and I started listening to tapes again, leading me to discover the Burger Records online cassette store and local releases.
SEAN: My first experiences with tapes were when I was really little. My mom used to put on audio books like Frog and Toad to help me go to sleep. This lead me to start listening to bands like Iron Maiden and Triage later in my life! Talk about a segway!
DUNCAN: Before high school I never had a huge interest in going out to buy tapes. My lack of money at the time did not help. But one day, I found a box on my street with Pearl Jam tapes in it. Never really got into Pearl Jam, but definitely got into cassettes after that!
HAVE YOU EVER MADE A MIXTAPE? IF SO WHAT WAS ON IT? IF NOT WHAT WOULD YOU PUT ON IT?
Reid makes mixtapes. He’s made too many to remember. If we were each to make one right now, here’s what would be on it:
Kitana by Princess Nokia
Cannibalistic by Hex
Agony by Yung Lean
I wrote a Bible by together PANGEA
Errands by Casper Skulls
Strangest Thing by The War On Drugs
The Magician by Andy Shauf
Stone Women by Charlotte Day Wilson
Pretty Pimpin by Kurt Vile
Ready/Problems by Boy Pablo
I’m in your Mind Fuzz - King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Saved by a Waif - Alvvays
Jammed Exit - Thee Oh Sees
Oblivion - Grimes
Money City Maniacs - Sloan
HOW DID YOU FEEL LISTENING TO YOUR TAPE FOR THE FIRST TIME? DID YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE? A “WHOA” MOMENT?
SEAN: There was definitely a “whoa” moment for me. Especially after only listening to the digital masters beforehand, I was pretty shocked by how much sound quality was lost. However, after sitting on it for a while and listening to it more, the tape sound started to grow on me, and because we recorded to analog tape it just adds to the warmness of the sound!
HOW DO YOU THINK “WINTERS OF MY YOUTH” AND “BEFORE AND AFTER” COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER AS A AND B SIDES?
The two songs are both big, melancholic anthems that compliment each other because they are both exploring the past but from different perspectives. “Winters of My Youth” is sung in the first person but set in the past and is addressing the mundane cycles of growing up in Toronto: getting drunk and texting people you want to date, waking up and feeling awkward, and the icy blackout in between. “Before and After” is thinking about the past from a current perspective, contemplating how our relationships develop over time and how we grow alongside each other. Both songs explore the idea of learning more about ourselves, each other, and the depth within us all.
WHAT WAS SPECIAL ABOUT MAKING WINTERS OF MY YOUTH WHERE YOU KNEW YOU WANTED THE WORLD TO HEAR IT?
The writing process of these songs was longer than anything else we’d ever done. Both songs with their many changes were originally multiple songs that we realized were similar in style and were singing about the same topics so we eventually sewed them all together. The lyrics were written in a much more direct way than anything we’d released prior, and we felt like they were a huge accomplishment for their simplicity but simultaneous depth.
On our album we released last summer, we obviously draw lots of influence from west coast bands, so we really wanted to contextualize ourselves as a Toronto band with our next release. The songs came from graduating high school and looking back on everything that has happened with the knowledge we have now. We are addressing sex, partying, nostalgia, sadness, confusion and human desire.
They are important to us because we aren’t hiding within them. We have written really personal songs before such as “Baby Face” and “Blankscreen” but they either shield their meaning with ambiguity or humour. We are singing about real experiences, so we are taking a risk with these songs and we feel like we’ve opened a new chapter while keeping the best parts of the last one.