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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Positive Chatter

Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday December 11, 06:01 pm
Saskatoon’s Close Talker has a lot of tongues wagging


Friday 12 and Saturday 13

Capitol Music Club

I finally managed to catch up with Close Talker as they were driving through the U.S., somewhere near the border between Oregon and California. Drummer Chris Morien, riding shotgun, answers the call. I’ve interviewed a lot of bands from places all over the world, so a phone convo is no big deal, of course — but it’s kinda hilarious that I’m talking to a band from right here in Saskatoon, one I could’ve easily met for a beer down the street had they not been on the road.

But the road is where Close Talker lives right now, and they’re definitely not complaining — because it’s a direct reflection of their exploding popularity.

“We’re halfway through our drive for today,” says Morien. “We haven’t had a day off in the last little while; we’ve just been driving. We drove from Montréal to Los Angeles last week, in three days, so all we’ve had is whatever’s on the inside of the van to entertain us. We’ve actually been listening to the Harry Potterseries on audio book.”

Close Talker has had plenty of time to go through the lengthy saga about the young wizard, having been on what sounds like a zig-zaggy tour since the beginning of November, which they kicked off by driving from Saskatoon to New York for a Creative Sask showcase with some other SK bands. Since then, they’ve played shows through Canada and the States, where they’ll hit the coast before turning around to make their way back for two hometown shows at The Capitol (December 12thand 13th) to cap off the tour.

There’s really no such thing as an overnight success, but Close Talker has definitely put together a seriously fast track when it comes to their career arc: they’ve got a lot of critical and industry tongues wagging barely two years into their existence. Close Talker got together in 2012 — in rather hilarious fashion, seeing where they are now — thanks to a mutual friend who was getting married and looking for a band to play the event.

“[Our buddy] wanted a wedding band to do some songs together,” says Morien. “We decided to do it, and we had a crazy weekend in Lloydminster. We’d all played together before, but we had so much fun that weekend that we decided to start working on some [original] material. Oddly enough, our bass player [Jeremy Olson] wasn’t in the band then, but he was at the wedding, ripping the dance floor up. He started playing with us a few months later.”

Soon enough, the fledgling band released an album called Timbers, a record of indie-rock summer anthems that quickly gained attention, as they became finalists in the national CBC Searchlight competition for Canada’s Best New Artist. It was a pretty huge deal right off the start of their career, says Morien, garnering them play on CBC Radio 2 and 3, with the single sitting on the top 10 for a few weeks.

“That helped a lot,” he says. “It was a worthwhile experience. Even to get some exposure and get into the CBC culture and across Canada, it was definitely a stepping stone and we made some good contacts.”

Their new material seems poised to take Close Talker to even greater heights. On their latest album, Flux, they sound like a band that’s settling into themselves and their sound. The new songs are much more textured and layered, digging around in the sand a bit to discover sonic palettes over easy hooks.

“Where we’re headed right now is a lot more atmospheric,” says Morien, “trying to create more intense atmosphere and change throughout each song, looking at different moods and things. [The new songs] might not be as hook-y as our first album, but there’s a little bit more depth there. I think it’s from spending more time writing the songs and battling through different arrangements, structures, and instrumentations.”

The ace in the hole for this new direction is Jase Lasek from The Besnard Lakes — one of the more atmospheric bands in Canada. Close Talker headed to Montréal so that they could record with Lasek, which was not only great for them musically but also a good experience personally.

“He was just awesome,” says Morien. “That was our first time working with a producer, and actually going somewhere else to record. At the start we were all a little bit nervous, and we’re all Besnard Lakes fans as well. We were hoping that he would put his touch on things, and he did that for sure — he had a really good vibe in the studio, he kept everyone happy and was always laughing. He was just so nice and always had cool ideas to share with us.”

While it’s clear that they’re absorbing as much of the experience as they can, Morien sounds very grounded for a guy whose rock-star dreams are blossoming. I’ve seen bands, some of them pretty amazing, toil away for years spinning their wheels to get nowhere: meanwhile, Close Talker is creating amazing opportunities for themselves, like the CBC thing and being profiled by magazines like Exclaim!and Spin. So: throughout the mundane nature of sitting in a van for 15 hours a day, do they fully realize that the traction they’re getting is like lightning hitting them over and over?

Damn straight they do, says Morien.

“When good things happen, we’re usually pretty humbled,” he says. “We all feel very lucky and thankful and extremely pumped about it. [Spinreleasing one of our songs] was pretty cool and sort of unexpected. It’s been crazy to see that type of exposure… I think right now, we’re sort of riding the wave and having fun.”

Sweet — because if I’ve made any of the success they’ve found on their journey so far sound easy, that would be wrong, because it’s definitely been anything but. Close Talker has done the best thing a young band can do: instead of spending more time on a Kickstarter page before they’re even out of the garage, they’ve put the damn work in on their music. They’ve stayed dedicated and hardworking, even through the struggle of being physically separated for a time, with singer/guitarist Will Quiring and guitarist Matt Kopperud going to school in B.C., while Olsen and Morien were in Saskatoon.

“At Christmas break or over the summer or wherever, there was a week where we were all together [when] we’d make the most of it and work as hard as we could,” says Morien. “I think that made a big difference for us. For the four of us to push ourselves like that… we’ve always had a mentality that when we have an opportunity like that, we have to go for it.”

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