In case you haven’t been paying attention, Toronto’s Buzz Records has become one of the city’s best suppliers of irreverent and incensed rock ’n’ roll. And though the label isn’t purely rooted in it (see the giddy pop of Weaves, or the arpeggiating synth blizzard of Beta Frontiers), the intense guitar-fronted attacks are its bread and butter. So far, some very resounding evidence of this has come via impressive full-lengths by Odonis Odonis, Greys, HSY, and Dilly Dally. Now, it’s the Beverleys’ turn.
Formed in 2010, the trio of Susan Burke, Joanna Lund, and Stephanie Lund have taken their time with their debut LP. But as last year’s self-titled EP hinted, it was worth the wait. Brutal is a beast of an album: scowling vocals, scowling dual guitars, scowling drums. It’s pretty damn scowling – that album cover says it all. But within the barrage are some razor-sharp hooks that make their fuzz-laden “junk punk” jams so much more than a source of anger management. Brutal is pop music at its most raw and unbridled.
The band’s pop sensibilities shouldn’t come as a surprise either: the Lund sisters spent part of their youth growing up in England where they fell in love with the hook-filled mid-’90s movement that was Britpop. And so amongst a series of questions about their own music, I felt the need to grill guitarist Joanna about her Britpop partialities.
AUX: In your new video for “Visions” you have a number of different Toronto musicians making guest appearances. Would you describe the scene as a tight-knit community?
Joanna Lund: Definitely. I don’t think we’d be where we are if it wasn’t for that tight-knit community. When we first started we didn’t know a lot of bands. But when we started rehearsing at our space we would run into people and we ended up getting close with these bands really quickly. And a lot of them are on our label, which is pretty great.
Buzz Records seems to be a family, when it comes to its artists.
It has a lot to do with people who are really passionate about music. I would say that Buzz had a lot to do with it. We knew people in HSY, like Kat the drummer. Jude for HSY does or did A&R for Buzz with Ian Chai. Jude came to see us early on, which was when all we cared about was getting really drunk and playing instruments no matter where we were. He came to see us a few times, but we caught him on a good night. And from there we just got to know all of the bands on the label.
So did everyone that participated in the video shoot know how to play the song? They look very convincing.
We didn’t really know how it would turn out until the day of the shoot. We just put out a call to our friends, a lot of them were in bands. One person in the video we didn’t know until that day. She was friends with Katie [Monks] from Dilly Dally, who brought her. Another girl in the video is a co-worker of mine, but she doesn’t actually know how to play an instrument. It was more, “Just show up, and we’ll find something for you to do.” Whether it was helping Henry, the director, or bringing snacks or beer. And we just ended up getting a great group of people.
Shehzaad Jiwani from Greys co-produced this album. What made you want to work with him?
We all really like Greys. Before we even really knew them, we were fans. Just getting to know Shehzaad, we learned he has a really good ear for music. And I like the sound of the Greys record [If Anything]. But he also has great taste in music and he’s so knowledgeable about so many different genres. He’s like a music encyclopedia, which, given his age, is pretty impressive. He and Josh knew our sound really well, and they just felt like a really good fit for us. And it worked out so incredibly well.
And Josh Korody co-produced the album as well.
Josh is actually a friend of ours from St. Catharines who we’ve known for a long time. He’s in Beliefs, and he owns Candle Studios with Leon Taheny, which is where we recorded. Josh helped with tones and knowing what would fit. His willingness to experiment was pretty big too. He also engineered the record, and a lot of engineers just want to get in and out, and don’t have input or time for experimenting. But Josh loves making noise, and he was perfect for us.
Shehzaad gave some quote where he said the band is “exorcising demons on this record.” What kind of demons would those be?
For me personally, when we were writing the songs, some of them were quite old. I guess those demons would be dissatisfaction with a lot of things in our lives. Whether it be with relationships or jobs or a general fed-up-ness of the way things are, and the way things were going for us. To use Sue’s quote, “We just felt like junk.” And a lot of our frustration was put on this record. A lot of shit we went through together and individually were expressed through guitar tones or lyrics or Stephanie’s drums.
Who is that on the album cover?
No idea. We don’t know her. I mean, we know who she is now, but when we had the idea for the cover, we decided that this girl should be someone we didn’t know. She’s a friend of our photographer, Phil Babcock, so we said to him, “This is what we’re going for. Do you know anyone?” And he knew the perfect girl.
So you described what you wanted and he made it happen. How did you describe the photo you wanted?
Basically, the idea was this girl who was from the ’60s or ’70s, who didn’t give a shit. Like, “whatever!” Just the way she looks all the time. I think it’s connected to the album title. It’s what she would say: “Brutal!”
You guys call your music “junk punk.” So what kind of junk are we talking about? I consulted Urban Dictionary, which has five definitions. Which one best applies to the band?
“Seemingly useless rubbish which sits around for months and is inevitably disposed of the day before it is needed. That’s great. I think they stole that from our head. It’s been really hard to describe that, so it’s perfect.
I hear you’re a Britpop fanatic. So I thought I’d test your fandom. Who was the ultimate Britpop band for you and why?
Oasis. I think a lot of the reason had to do with their attitude. They were always saying, “Fuck you! We’re the best band.” And there was something very British and naughty about that, which I like. And also there wasn’t a bad song… in the ’90s. Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants was the last one I bought. Once Liam started writing songs, hmm. I’m a Noel fan.
Blur or Pulp?
Blur. They have better songs. I love Pulp and I love Jarvis Cocker, but I only ever bought Different Class. That is the only Pulp record I listen to, so I can’t really call myself a massive Pulp fan. But I am a massive Blur fan. I have every single Blur album.
Elastica or Supergrass?
Elastica. Justine Frischmann was a bad-ass. Girls playing music like that? Awesome.
Ash or the Bluetones?
Fuck, that’s tough. But I would say the Bluetones because I heard them first.
Gene or Marion?
Gene. Olympian, be still my heart!
They were great. But did you consider them a Smiths rip-off?
No. I never did, but come to think of it, that is the first time I ever thought of that. Weird. I can see the similarities now though!
Menswe@r or Northern Uproar?
Menswe@r. I didn’t get into Northern Uproar. It’s too bad Menswe@r didn’t write anything good after “Daydreamer.” That’s the only good song they wrote.
You and Steph are sisters. Are you more Liam and Noel Gallagher or Colin and Jonny Greenwood?
I was not a Radiohead fan until about two years ago. I think we’re probably half and half. We do bicker in rehearsal and in the songwriting process.
If you had to choose a Britpop anthem, which would the Beverleys cover?
I have always wanted to cover “Song 2.” I think we’ve talked about it before, but Susan isn’t the biggest Britpop fan. Not compared to Stephanie and I. And I think we would do a straight cover but it would sound different because we sound different.
The Beverleys would have been a good name for a Britpop band. Kinda like the Jennifers. I know a Beverley but we call her Bev. Does anyone ever refer to the band as the Bevs?
Oh yeah, we do. I feel like everyone that we know does it. I think it’s out of laziness. It says “The Bevs” on the drums in the video for “Visions.” We just did it that day. I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner. But it’s now permanently on there.