Interview: Partner (Canada) on touring the world, their goal “to not be compared to Weezer anymore” and flute solos

One of the most exciting Canadian outfits right now goes by the name of Partner. Led by Lucy Niles and Josée Caron, the Ontario group recently were short listed for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize (the Canadian equivalent of the AMP), won the SOCAN Songwriting Prize (the Canadian equivalent of the Vanda & Young Songwriting Award) and have been busy touring North America and the world.

Earlier this year, while busy doing said touring, I sat down with them in Wrexham, Wales, during an event called Focus Wales. Here, we spoke about touring the showcase circuit, sleeping on couches, being told they sound like their music belongs in an Amanda Bynes movie (or American Pie for that matter, not wanting to sound like that anymore, and how great it is to get to tour with your “best lesbian girl friend”.

Talk me through a little bit about how this tour has gone. I think it’s really the first time you’ve done these sort of events with an album to talk about.

Absolutely. Yeah, well this is our longest tour ever, and our last tour that was even close to this was two years ago in Canada, before we had a record. So it’s totally different in every way and it’s been a blast. Getting to party in Europe, figuring out that people in Berlin know of our music through Spotify and stuff has been a total trip. And just getting to meet fun people everywhere we go… It’s a blast, for sure.

Do you look into that before these tours to figure out where to go… in terms of your Spotify numbers around the world?

Yeah, so that’s definitely something our manager does. I’m not sure exactly how much it plays into the booking side. Very outside my realm of knowledge, but I do know that everywhere we’ve been there’s been at least one person that’s heard of us, which was really cool. I think a lot of that is very organic, like they’ve seen a poster up at their café or whatever. But, yeah, some people in Berlin, they discovered us through Spotify Explore, which I thought was really exciting, because that’s never happened to us before. So it’s kind of a first.

Obviously when you’re playing a show like Focus Wales, which is a showcase show, you just throw a bunch of songs together. It’s not really indicative of what your headline show will be like. And I’ve only seen you in SXSW and here… so what are some of the ways that you’re incorporating the elements of the album, which is quite performative at times, into the live space?

So we always try to talk to the crowd a little bit, even if we don’t have much time. And contextualise… cause all of our songs are about one thing… for instance, our song “Sex Object” is about the time we were looking around our roommate’s room and found we found a sex thing. So we’ll always tell that story…

A sex den?

A sex thing… not a sex den.

Oh, a sex thing. *laughs*

But it actually wasn’t a sex thing, it was an aquarium maintenance tool. But we thought it was a sex thing, so we wrote a song about it, and then later on we figured out that that’s what it was. So the whole story, we always tell that, because it’s pretty easy. It gets across a whole lot.

I think you’re trying to tell that story last night, but we couldn’t hear a word you were saying.

Yeah, Mar (their Manager) was heckling me and she was like “speak slower!” *laughs* But yeah, again, it’s like when you have 30 minutes, it’s obviously different, but luckily for us the songs kind of speak for themselves, because they’re very literal. So even if we just play our songs, then I think people will get a good idea of what they can expect from the album.

Do you see that as a strength of yourselves as a band in terms of your ability to hone in on things and not try to be ambiguous?

Well we just can’t really write songs like that. We never start with a riff, we always start with a subject, and then we’ll write the melody around the feeling that we have about the subject. And that’s just for us. A lot of my friends, I’ve heard them say that they can only write songs when they’re sad. But for me and Josée, we kind of tend to write when we’re maniacally giggling. We have to be in a pretty good mood to get anything done, really. Even if it’s a sad song, we have to be in a good mood. So just for us personally, I guess it’s definitely a disadvantage sometimes, like, we’re trying to get our songs synced and a lot of them… it doesn’t make sense, because it’s about finding a sex thing, or whatever. But-

If there was a scene in an American Pie-esque movie, maybe, where instead of a pie, they found a water cleaning tool?

They found a sex thing. And like Eugene Levy’s room or whatever. Yeah, exactly.

Nailed it.

Exactly, so we’re just waiting for that opportunity. But, I mean, it might be a disadvantage sometimes, but it’s the only thing we know how to do, so we just have to roll with it.

You hear a lot to influences in your music in terms of the melodies. How much do you feel like the music that you grew up on has inspired the direction that you’ve taken?

Definitely, a lot. Well because most of our songs on our first album where written about four years ago, so at that time we were going through a kick of re-listening to a lot of Sum 41 and the stuff that we –

The American Pie soundtrack, basically?

Exactly. Basically. Well my sister always says that our album (In Search Of Lost Time is their latest) sounds like it would be in an Amanda Bynes movie, which is a complement. But we’re actually really trying to get away from the 90s thing, because we’ve always had a lot of different songs, we kind of just took the ones that made sense together for the album. But we’ve always had electronic songs, we’ve got country songs, we’ve got a lot of blues… songs that are just all over the place. We’re also pretty into classic rock from our Dads and stuff, so our next EP is gonna be all over the place. It has more 70s sounding songs, electronic songs, country songs, acoustic songs. And then our next album is a lot more classic rock. Our goal ultimately, is to not be compared to Weezer anymore. Which was great for the first album, but now we’re trying to spread or wings and shit.

Well that’s probably down to one song, though, really.

Totally, I think it’s because we have a song about hash.

Exactly, yeah. Yeah, and you were playing some new songs last night as well, I know, so that’s where I was going to go next. Because you recorded the last record (In Search Of Lost Time) in 2016, the songs date back quite far so you must be ready to kind of move things forward.

We’re pretty much pretty sick of playing the same set. We’re having some kind of lineup changes and we’re gonna take the time to do a bit of overhaul and just kind of change everything just so that it’s fresh. And it’s been great so far being the loud rock band, but we’ve got a lot more up our sleeves…

You’ll be played by Kevin Bacon, I understand, in the new line up?

Yeah, yeah. Exactly. *laughs* No, but it’s gonna be cool. We’ve got tonnes of new shit coming down the pipe. More of a mature perspective. A lot of those songs we wrote when we were 22 and now we’re 27. So, you know, shit happens, you grow.

You would’ve seen a lot of shit in the last few years, travelling the world.

Oh my God, yeah.

We were talking before about kind of staying at people’s houses when you’re on the road and things like that, which you’re doing a lot on this tour, which takes you through the next few weeks. What have you learned about yourself on the road?

Honestly, I’ve learned that I can be kind of a little bitch. I always thought that I had a very strong constitution for just partying and putting up with any conditions, but I’m kind of having a little more difficult time. Not that it’s not been fun, but it’s like you start to realise that you need certain things, and that it’s your responsibility to make sure that you don’t drink every night. It’s fine on like a week tour, but this tour is definitely teaching me a lot of … Like I need to have patience, I need to not freak out a lot.

You start to realise this is a job.

This is a job, and that’s like … A lot of people say “It’s so sick that you just get to party all the time.” I’m like “For sure, and it’s the best job in the world.”

Until you have to wake up at six in the morning to make a flight.

You do have to treat it like a job, which I’m drinking a beer right now. So I don’t know, but today’s a day off.

People drink at work all the time.

Yeah. CEOs and shit. But yeah. No, I’ve definitely learned that I’m not as tough as I thought I was, and I need to be proactive next time. Bring a pillow and stuff.

Do you think things like that will come through in the next round of music?

I think so. We’re trying really hard to… Well me and Josée, we really value communication and stuff, so we’ll get together and have a talk about how we’re feeling all the time. It’s great to have your best lesbian girl friend on the road for reasons like that.

But that’s so important. You’re in it together so you’ve gotta communicate that stuff.

And if we’re ever… We never really fight or anything, but if we aren’t on the same page, we both like to get together and talk until we are and that’s how we stay together as a band, for sure. Because there are stuff that can be challenging, but as long as you’ve got each other’s back and stuff.

Also, being on the road, you get to see a lot of other bands, in theory, either supporting you or you’re supporting them. Who’s kind of exciting you musically at the moment musically?

Well, for this festival, I’m actually really excited, because a lot of our Canadian friends are around.

Yeah, there’s a lot of Canadians here.

Bands that we’ve played with on this tour. We’ve played with a band called Charmpit from London, they were awesome. We played with a band called Drunken Butterfly from Bristol. They were the really professional band that played a great show with five people and didn’t bitch about it.

And then we played with this band Suggested Friends, also. Everyone we’ve played with so far has been great. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, but they’ve all … We’ve also … It’s much more common in Europe to just play a one band bill, which I love. In Canada, it’s usually always four bands, and you’re just like “I wanna go home now,” so I love that. We can play for an hour and then that’s it. But yeah, lots of cool shit.

When will you have time to record new music?

Yeah, well we have a couple days off, and then we play a show, and then we go play another show in Toronto, and then we’re recording in the beginning of June. So keeping pretty busy, yeah. Not a huge turnaround, but we’re really excited to lay down this new shit that I’ve been telling you about. Get it out there for maybe the Fall, hopefully.

And then do this all over again?

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. But it’s a blessing. It’s the best job in the world.

It’s a blessing and a curse. “Be careful what you wish for” is often the …

I’m always very cognizant of, like … I worked at Tim Hortons and Subway and shit for years, so it’s like I fucking know damn well what a real job is like and that it sucks way more than this. But at the same time, I know what a real job is like and parts of this are work, but it’s so much better than any other job that I really can’t complain. It’s so awesome.

At the end of the day, you get to stand on stage and sing your hearts out.

And even if you have a 14-hour drive, or whatever, and you just get on stage and people are smiling, it makes it all worthwhile. As they say.

As they say. And with the music that comes next, what do you hope? I guess you kind of mentioned it before, but do you hope that it kind of moves you away more from some of the comparisons?

Kind of, yeah. I mean, ultimately it’s kind of up to anyone to decide and we’re not trying too hard to control anyone’s perception of us. Our main thing is pretty much always just in the moment to express what we want to express, and then get it down. But I think we’re really just excited to exercise some different musical muscles, or whatever, to extend the metaphor.

You must feel like you’re getting better as musicians as well.

I think I’ve gotten way better at singing. I was a really shit singer, before. I never … I didn’t particularly want to sing, and then when I realised I had all this stuff I wanted to say, I was like “Wow. I guess I’ll sing,” but now I actually really enjoy singing. It’s not a chore. And probably also at guitar, I mean, I’ve been playing guitar for 13 or 14 years. So it’s kind of hard to tell, but playing it every day and stuff. And just like working together and having … I think our grooves have gotten better and stuff like that. I feel like I strayed away from the original question a little bit.

No, not at all.

Sorry, I don’t really remember exactly what it was.

Neither do I, so we must be on track.

Yeah.

You mentioned there’s some lineup changes as well. How much is there … Has it always just been the two of you working on the music together? Has there been external input musically?

Absolutely. We write all the songs completely, just us. But then we teach them to our guys, and it’s just me and Josée writing, because it’s like, do we really need anyone’s help? I don’t think so. *laughs*

Maybe if you needed a clarinet solo or something, you know?

Yeah. Oh, exactly. Yeah. And that’s another thing we want to get into. So far we’ve been able to play all the instruments along with our friends that are in our band. But we were thinking we might get my sister to play flute on one of our songs… And that’s not something we’re against, but all the lyrics and music and concepts are always gonna come from the two of us, for sure.

Oh, I’d love that. Some flute solos in the songs. Yeah.

Yeah, we got this one new proggy song that we’re gonna put on our next full length. It’s pretty sick.

Ten minute flute outro.

People are gonna be totally like “What the fuck”?

Hey, that’s what you want.

Exactly.

Partner play Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife (Canada) this weekend. To listen to music from the group, head to their Bandcamp page, and for more of everything else, follow them on Facebook. Their latest album In Search Of Lost Time is out now.