Toronto’s July Talk are lead by yin-yang duo Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. Representing sonic forces of darkness and light, the cool pair came together quite by accident, but their fiery connection was immediate. Demonstrating a compelling play on the boy/girl dynamic — as evidenced in their new single, Paper Girl — their musical interplay has been simply described (by Peter himself ) as “a man and a woman screaming and whispering to each other.’

After releasing their self-titled debut LP earlier this week, the tough-as-nails Peter and pixie-like Leah join us for a little July Talk “he said, she said.”
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How did the two of you meet?
Peter: I came back from a tour in Europe and was playing a festival with another band in Toronto. I ended up going out to the bar after the show; I saw Leah across the bar playing an acoustic guitar with a bike helmet on. My favourite voice in the world. After a few drinks the guitar ended up coming around the room, and I played a song. At the time, the song I played was called July Talk. Anyway, she played to the bar that night and I was taken. It was apparent to me immediately that she was different. No one had ever made me feel that so vulnerable with a single song.
Leah:
Peter and I met just before last call at the Communist’s Daughter in Toronto. It was the anniversary of the blackout, I was singing a waltz-y song I wrote about an ex-love with my band-mate (Mothers of Brides) and Peter began banging 2 empty beer bottles together in time with the music. When the song ended the bottles shattered into a million pieces on the floor and when I looked up he was exiting through the backdoor of the bar in to the alleyway. I thought maybe he was embarrassed or maybe he wasn’t old enough to be there… but when I think about it now he probably just needed to pee.

Is it a case of peas in a pod or of opposites attracting?
Peter:
I don’t think we’re too similar. I admire her for a number of reasons, and I think I’ve learned a lot from her. We don’t talk too much, we try not to over think it. I trust her and she infatuates me. In a lot of ways, whatever is between Leah and I is out of our control. We feel very strongly about the project and we know what we want and we’re going to help each other get there.

What records, artists or songs, if any, did you instantly bond over?
Peter:
Thinking back, I think we listened to a lot of Sandro Perri. We both also loved a B-Side from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot called “Venus Stopped the Train”. She knows a lot more about the Toronto / Montreal music scene, and because I’m from out west, she introduced me to a lot of that stuff. That said, we were always pretty focused on the music we were making. We would meet at a dusty, disgusting jam space every Wednesday morning and go through a few of the songs I had been working on. Once the band was formed and Josh (bass), Ian (guitar/keys) and Danny (drums) came into the fold is when we started to develop our sound.
Leah:
Before I knew I wanted to play music with Peter he sent me a link to his MySpace page so I could hear his songs. There was this quiet home-recording of a simple song called “I’ve Rationed Well” and I fell in love instantly. I listened to it repeatedly for hours before realizing the page was counting my plays and asked him to email it to me so he wouldn’t know how obsessed with it I was.

What in your opinion makes the boy/girl dynamic so compelling?
Peter:
Best of both worlds, I would think. They call it the “opposite sex” for a reason.
Leah:
If you put a male and female beside each other on a stage it means something specific to an audience before they’ve even had a chance to consider what their relationship may entail. I think what makes our dynamic interesting beyond this is the fact that we are both passionate and assertive and the audience gets to observe the power shifting back and forth.

What your creative juices flowing?
Peter: Being on the road always helps. If I could live on the road, I would. I think that part of a band member’s job is to inspire the rest of the band. All five of us help each other to keep creating and to work on new material. It can sometimes be hard to focus on continuing writing when there is so much time and effort being put into getting the music out there. It’s important that we all remind each other how much fun writing is. It’s the only process that you can’t rush, so you need to do it constantly and patiently until you’ve found your direction.
Leah:
I love to study performance in all it’s forms. You can find me note-taking intently at dance shows and Karaoke bars alike. I got to see Justin Vivian Bond perform for the first time at Buddies In Badtimes during the Rhubarb Festival in February and she made a huge impact on me. She covered “Sinnerman” by Nina Simone and had me weeping. I also go see Gord Downie whenever I can as he is the master of staying present with an audience and making you feel like he cares that you’re there with him.

Jack White said he’s spent his whole life trying to write a song as perfect as Son House’s Grinnin’ In Your Face. What one song do you feel is perfect?
Peter:
Great question. I narrowed it down to three (I couldn’t pick… I’m sorry): Bob Dylan’s Most of the Time, Spoon‘s Who Makes Your Money and Queen & David Bowie’s Under Pressure .
Leah:
Call me hopelessly romantic, call me patriotic: “Bobcaygeon” by the Tragically Hip.

What inspired the song, Paper Girl and what’s it about?
Peter: A harsh break up. I think writing Paper Girl made me feel empowered and in control of a situation that I had no control over. No matter what anyone says, yelling makes you feel better. I think it can be easy to dismiss anger without giving it a chance but this song gave me a chance to say what I wanted to say, however hurtful it was. It’s nice to look off stage and see people dancing to such a spiteful song.

Tell me about the new record.
Peter:
The record is much less a self-titled album as a document of how the band came to be. We definitely tried to capture the live show by keeping it high energy and fun. That said, it kind of took on a mind of its own. I look forward to hearing what people think. Alex Bonenfant produced the record, and because he manages us as well, we were able to take our time in the studio and make sure that everything felt right. It was a dream to be able to have a record out so quickly as an introduction to the band. We were also lucky enough to have the guidance of Jon Drew. He’s made some of my favourite records and I’m still a little shocked to know the guy.

How are you feeling on the brink of its release?
Peter: Busy. We’ve been lucky enough to create lots of visual content that we’ll be sharing with you in the next few months. There was something pretty great about holding the album in my hands. It’s pretty heavy when you first pick it up. That really solidified the amount of work that everyone put in to make it happen and to have something tangible as a product of that work was a hell of feeling. A friend always talked to me about how music is our way of creating something that will last longer than us and will be available for years after we’re gone. I never really understood what he meant until we finished this record.

Do you co-write your lyrics and/or your music? What’s your process?
Peter: Our writing process is still evolving. Josh and I wrote the majority of the music together for this record. I wrote most of the lyrics on my own. That said, Leah and I have started to talk about lyrics together and Josh, Ian and I have been working on new material for the next record over the last couple of months. I think the material has the potential of becoming more expansive if Leah and I wrote the lyrics together. The only reason that we haven’t in the past is because a lot of the songs are about Leah and it would be terrifying to try to write a song like that. From an audience’s perspective it would be pretty powerful however, and I think we both see that as a goal for the future.

Fill in the blanks: Because of Leah, July Talk is:
Peter: Never boring.

Because of Peter, July Talk is:
Leah: Driven.

Are you the new Johnny & June?
Peter: I hate to be the one to tell you this, but Johnny & June were a one time thing…We do a mean kareoke version of Jackson though.

Talk Rock To Me recently gave away tickets to tonight’s Toronto show. What’s in store for our winner?
Peter: We’re definitely a live band. It’s where we feel most comfortable and when Leah and I get to really let loose. The Toronto show will be special because it’s really the celebration the album being done. Also it’s my birthday…
Leah:
All I ask is that you dance for me, Toronto. Don’t just stand there. Dance like you’ve never danced before.

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July Talk kick off a series of Canadian dates tonight at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern.

10.19 – Toronto, ON – The Horseshoe
10.23 – Winnipeg, MB – Le Garage
10.24 – Saskatoon, SK – Vangelis
10.26 – Calgary, AB – The Gateway SAIT
10.27 – Lethbridge, AB – The Slice
10.28 – Edmonton, AB – The New City
10.31 – Kamloops, BC – Bailey’s Pub
11.01 – Vancouver, BC – Media Club
11.10 – Kingston, ON – Merchant Tap House

pixel July Talk: Of girls and boys and rock and roll