The Varsity Songbook: Riley Szulc Band

The U of T based band sits down to discuss their latest sound

In the inaugural episode of The Varsity Songbook, we invited Riley Szulc Band — who competed in January’s U of T Battle of the Bands—to stop by and catch up with The Varsity. Here, Riley Szulc, Jacob Cappe, and Chris Blachford share their experience filming a music video set in an empty metropolis, introducing new members to the band, and what they have planned in the coming months.

The Varsity: First off, what has Riley Szulc Band been up to since we last heard from you at January’s Battle of the Bands?

Riley Szulc: Since Lee’s Palace, we’ve been playing a lot of shows. Actually, our very first out of town show was just a couple weeks ago in Kingston, so that was pretty fun.

TV: Something pertinent to a lot of students — I wonder how you guys manage juggling school, rehearsal performance, song writing… it seems like there’s a lot on your plate.

RS: In terms of the sort of the school-band balance, music is really important to me, because it’s kind of my project. My name’s on it [the band] after all, and so I spend a lot of time with it. Luckily, my workload isn’t crazy heavy, and what’s really nice about my situation is that I’m in a university program that lets me kind of combine the two efforts. I study media production at Ryerson and therefore have been able to produce music videos for the band, audio recordings, and things like that which sort of get me school credits while working for the band.

TV: Now you mentioned filming music videos, so one thing I’ve got to ask is how the video to “In The Summer” came to be?

RS: So “In The Summer” is the most recent video we’ve done, and it’s a perfect example of what I was saying with combining music and school. The whole thing was sort of a school project for a course where they just give you access to all this great equipment and just say, “make something.” So we took out far too much equipment and spent three days filming.

TV: And I assume it was all morning shoots? For anyone who hasn’t seen the video, you seem to have just evacuated the entire city. There are these great wide shots of somebody biking through Toronto with absolutely no one else in sight.

RS: We were really going for the sort of abandoned look because that fits with the lyrics of the song. It’s sort of about enjoying spending time by yourself. We kind of replicated that visually by waking up at six o ‘clock in the morning and going downtown where we found it’s eerily empty on weekends. Between the hours of seven and 11 am., it was really easy to make a video that made it seem as if the city was totally abandoned.

TV: Now I know you recently upgraded from a trio to a four-member band. How did Chris come into the equation?

Chris Blachford: Hmm…Well, I remember a late night car ride. It was like two in the morning and.

RS: Let me take over. We were driving home from something, and I was talking about how we were thinking about adding a lead guitarist to the band and wasn’t really sure who to go to, and Chris sort of jokingly said, “You didn’t ask me…”

CB: Well I think I had been jokingly saying it for like a month. I thought, “I’d totally play the guitar for your band, I practically produced your EP!”

RS: Right. And so after that it was just sort of like, “Alright, you’re in my band.” And Chris kind of went, “Don’t you want to try that first before you sign me up?”

TV: What’s next for Riley Szulc Band? What do you have planned, be it the coming months or the grander scheme?

RS: Going forward from here, we’ve got a couple more shows we’re playing this month, and then hopefully we get some of the arts grants we’ve applied for and can find our way back into the studio. As fun as those live shows are, the studio is where we really thrive. And then who knows what’s planned for the summer. Maybe we’ll manage to work on another EP.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

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