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In conversation with Broken Social Scene’s Justin Peroff and Sam Goldberg Jr.

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The Varsity recently had the opportunity to sit down with two members of the Juno award-winning Toronto supergroup Broken Social Scene — Justin Peroff and Sam Goldberg Jr. — right before they embarked on their latest tour in support of their February 15 EP, Let’s Try The After (Vol.1).

Peroff has been a member of Broken Social Scene since their 2001 debut album, working predominantly as the group’s lead drummer. Sam Goldberg Jr. joined the band a guitarist in 2007 and has remained a permanent fixture in the group ever since. Their last album was Hug of Thunder, released in 2017 after a seven-year hiatus.

The Varsity: How have the last few months been since you got off the Hug of Thunder tour?

Justin Peroff: Sammy and I were actually just in the studio yesterday with a songwriter called Kelly Healey. Sammy and Brendan [Canning] started writing… and fleshed out some tunes and brought me in on the project. And then we finally tracked drums on four tracks. So that’s nice. I think it’s important to keep creating during the time that you’re not creating with your main hub. I think it allows us to approach things with a fresher perspective the next time around when we’re to get together as a group.

Sam Goldberg Jr.: I’m always working on projects at home: the Kelly Healey thing, my own music. But it’s just nice to know that we don’t have to go to the airport. We don’t have to get on a bus. You don’t have to be surrounded by a thousand people. I mean that stuff is great, but after a while it’s just nice to be hunkered down, be in your own space, and play with your animals. It’s nice to get cozy.

TV: What were fan reactions like to the band reuniting? The pre-tour hype?

SGJ: There’s always been a BSS fanbase. There’s always been excitement for the band when a new album comes out. I don’t personally follow many reviews and stuff like that, but you could definitely sense the excitement when we started playing again, getting on the road.

JP: I think that’s a good question. Compared to any of the previous albums, there was more of an anticipation because we had taken so much time off. So I feel like I was a little more nervous this time. First of all, we’re in an environment where indie rock is not necessarily carrying that torch anymore. You know we have the Lil Uzi Verts of the world and Juice WRLDs, and a lot of people making emo-rap. That’s kind of where the youth are. And we’re veterans now. We’re almost like a legacy act.

TV: You guys have been around right at the rise and fall of CDs, vinyls, and MP3s. Now the big thing is streaming — how do new ways of consuming music affect you as a band?

SGJ: I’m an Apple guy. Everyone’s been telling me to get on Spotify. I like the fact that I can listen to music just like [that]. I open my eyes in the morning. I have a really nice sound system. I push a button. I have my playlists that I have created or whatever I want to listen to. I mean, I love how user-friendly and quick you can get to something. But also, I love putting a record on my turntable and listening to that. But as for releasing music? It’s hard to know how to release music these days, it’s always changing.

JP: So we had to reset a lot of things this time around. We reset our management team. We hired a social media team for the first time and we really kept in mind exactly what you were saying. We kept in mind that this is a different landscape that we’re navigating. We are old men navigating — I say that tongue-in-cheek — we’re an older band navigating in a very sort of modern, new landscape for us. Our management company is amazing, we’re with Red Light. At first when we were touring there were certain things that needed to come out that were more like ‘assets’ but now that we’re in an off-record cycle… we still want to engage with our fans. Kevin [Drew] is doing all of our social media engagement. But in terms of how I consume music? I have cassettes, I have vinyl, I have a Spotify account, I have a TIDAL account.

TV: What are some new acts you guys are listening to?

JP: I’m on a big emo-rap phase right now. I’ve been listening to the new Trippie Redd mixtape, A Love Letter To You 3. I’m listening to a lot of classical music as well. So I’ll start my day with a classical playlist and then as I head into the day, I’ll listen to that Carters album.

SGJ: Kurt Vile, his new record [or] that Cat Power record. I really like that new A Place to Bury Strangers record. I think that guy is a master at production and weird, super dark sounds.

TV: What is it like still getting accolades for ‘old’ records? The newest one was, I believe, the Polaris Heritage Prize Fan Vote?

JP: I don’t know what to say. I think my life’s a trip. I don’t know man, I’m grateful. I love that album and I love that people still listen to it and consider it a classic. I’m very flattered and I’m very proud.

TV: What songs or recordings are you guys most proud of? Which do you have fond memories of?

JP: If I can continue to riff on You Forgot It, [then] You Forgot It In People and the self-titled album were recorded at Stars and Suns, which is a studio that doesn’t exist anymore in Toronto. But the producer and owner of that studio, David Newfeld, is out in Trenton, Ontario now. I believe he still calls it Stars and Suns. But when we were recording those two albums, the studio environment was very unhealthy. There were no windows, no circulation, no air conditioning. I don’t even know if there was any heat? There must have been heat. But it was just this really bizarre, kind of half-made space.

SGJ: I was making a record at the same time, with David Newfeld, at the same studio. I had a band called Hawaii with my girlfriend at the time. And — similar experience — but it’s funny because these guys would do sessions and I would go in and hear David talking about his experience: “God its so hard! There’s so many of them!” I also remember when you guys were deciding how to pay David at the end of You Forgot It. They were saying he would get a percentage of the songs or an overall sum. I would hear about this after they left which is weird [because] I wasn’t in the band.

TV: How does the release of a full EP differ to full-length projects? Is there less pressure as a band when promoting and touring a shorter work?

JP: Well, since this first EP is “volume 1” of what will clearly be more, the standard type of marketing and touring apply. Even if we were releasing only one shorter work to promote and tour, we wouldn’t ‘phone it in.’ Present climate of the music industry requires constant presence, materials, and assets to stay in the game.

TV: You guys going to be like the Rolling Stones at 70 years old?

JP: Yeah!

SGJ: I hope so!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The life of a rock star: getting to know Black Pistol Fire

In conversation with drummer Eric Owens

The life of a rock star: getting to know Black Pistol Fire

If  you’ve never listened to Black Pistol Fire, it can only be described by the band’s drummer, Eric Owens, as “[Taking] a sword from medieval times — not the restaurant —the age, hollow it down, break half of it off so it’s not pointy on the end, but a jagged sharp edge, then dip it into molten lava, then use that hot sword to cut down a dead tree limb.” Or, in other words, “Just sweaty, fiery, rock n’ roll with swords — the sword is a metaphor for Kevin [McKeown]’s guitar.”

Bluesy rockers Eric Owens and Kevin McKeown have taken over the rock-and-roll airways with their band, Black Pistol Fire. Originally from Toronto, the duo is now based in Austin, Texas, releasing hits such as “Suffocation Blues,” “Hipster Shakes,” and “Lost Cause.” Owens, the drummer, spoke with The Varsity last year about competing and performing.

The Varsity: Why would musicians or artists who are dying to make it onto the scene or are trying to release more of their art go to Austin, Texas, as opposed to Hollywood, California? You know, the cliché.

Eric Owens: I think the thing with Austin is no one really goes there to make it, necessarily. Because like you just said, there’s not as much industry there as there is in LA or New York or even Nashville. I think the reason people go there is it’s just an interesting, creative hub and the level of musicianship. I don’t think you go there to become a star by any means, but you want to be surrounded by really good competition, healthy competition and as far as really good musicians — which exists everywhere — but it’s kind of like a lower pressure situation.

TV: You’ve been able to release four albums in the last four years. How do you create music so consistently?

EO: I think a big part of it is just work ethic and liking to do it. Kevin constantly writes, I mean, all the time. His mind is constantly going, constantly at it. I had a friend ask me, “So, when you’re not on the road, do you just hang out, binge-watch Netflix all day?” Absolutely not. We’re constantly trying to come up with new stuff and make some new music. So yes, I guess part of it is work ethic and the love for it. Having a partner who is very, very hard working is a big, big plus.

TV: I find that drummers always have their own superstitions around the way they like to perform. When I was looking at your live sets I noticed that you’re always wearing what looks like batting gloves or golf gloves. What’s that about?

EO: Yes, so those are older sets. I haven’t worn those in about two to three years, but I used to. And that wasn’t so much a superstitious thing — I use these really big, stupid drumsticks, that are like big marching band drumsticks, and they’re fine for one show, but if you’re playing multiple shows, the blisters will get so bad they’ll start to bleed. So [the gloves] were a way to alleviate that. I found that over time the gloves ended up doing nothing after a couple of shows, and they would wear out on the spots I get blisters. Then it also just smelled horrific after a couple of days, like a hockey bag or something. So, I had actually abandoned those, but my new superstition is blister band-aids and [I] preventably put them on the spot before every show. It’s kind of like a ritual doing that, just taping up the fingers.

TV: What’s the song that really challenges those blisters?

EO: The toughest one, there is a song we play near the end of the set called “Run Rabbit Run.” It doesn’t sound anything like it does on the record — I mean it does, but we take it for a ride. It ends up being somewhere between eight to 10 minutes. By the end of that I think both of us are gassed, because it goes peaks and valleys, it speeds up, it slows down, it gets intense, then it softens up. It’s kind of a rollercoaster, so that one’s always a bit of a challenge, but also very fun and rewarding to play.

TV: When it comes to two-person bands or duos, I think people are very quick to associate them with other duos, even if they’re more dissimilar than they are similar. Do you still get that as much as you used to?

EO: I would say it’s definitely happening a little less than it was. It still happens of course. It does happen a little less. At first it was just inescapable, but it definitely happens a lot less than it did. People are still very excited to say, “Do you like Royal Blood?” or, “Do you like this band?” Yeah, they’re two guys, cool. I mean, they’re fine, I guess. Yes, interesting it’s almost like some people, a very small fraction, like to make it like a genre, even though the music maybe doesn’t sound similar. But, yeah, there are great duos out there, of course, some that we aren’t as fond of, but there are some that make really good music.

TV: From the Phoenix Concert Theater to Lollapalooza, what’s your favorite kind of venue and atmosphere to play in?

EO: A big festival with a lot of people like Lollapalooza, or we did a really big one in Madrid last [July] called Mad Cool where there are thousands and thousands of people. I mean, it’s pretty hard to beat that atmosphere. But a big sold-out large club show where everyone knows the words and are fans of the band, and it’s just your band, that’s also a really good feeling. I wish I had an answer for that. Yeah, they both serve a different purpose. Festivals are just a lot more people which is amazing and it’s really cool to see. There’s a good fun energy, but there’s something special about a club full of just your fans that know the words to the song and everything. So it’s definitely not one or the other, they both serve a different purpose and a great purpose.

TV: I talked to Jason Pierce, the new drummer of Our Lady Peace, and when I asked him a similar question, he said that one issue with smaller venues is that people can really read you and they can tell if you’re terrified or nervous. Do you feel the same way?

EO: I don’t know if people can read it as well. I’ve never had that feeling or thought about that about smaller venues. My issue with the smaller venues, like a very small venue, occasionally the sound might not be as good as it sounds. I’ve never had that thought about smaller venues that they can see and tell. That’s interesting.

TV: What can we fans expect from you in the near future?

EO: There’s going to be some music released. It might be just one song by the end of [last] year. It might be two. It might be three, but I think definitely at least one that we have ready to go fairly soon. It shouldn’t be that long; it’ll be before [December] and once we have it all, kind of figure it out. We’re doing some back-end stuff on the business side of things, getting a release planned for all that. But there are songs in the chamber.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

An exclusive interview with @uoftears__

The story behind all the stories

An exclusive interview with @uoftears__

With over 6,000 Instagram followers amassed over the span of a few months, @uoftears__ (or “U of Tears,” not “U of T Ears” as the admin has requested I distinguish) is the new confession account that has trickled into conversations across the student body.

As of February, there are well over 4,000 confessions ranging from describing firsts — first kiss, first time having sex, first fail in a course — to slapstick posts about the various bowel movements of students, whether they be confined to a bathroom or not. There are even more controversial confessions, like Confession #216, which reported that the student allegedly “like[s] pineapple on pizza.”

There are other secrets on this platform too, of the genre rarely shared without the blanket of anonymity. People write about their worst depressive episodes, their suicidal tendencies, and their family troubles — some posts are penned with an overwhelming sense of loneliness.

The admin of @uoftears__ manages and disseminates a wide variety of voices and stories, all from one account. I wanted to know why she does what she does — why she created this platform, how she is impacted by all of the confessions she receives, and what her perspective is after the success of her account.

I sat down on the phone with her and she told me, on the condition of anonymity, about the story behind all the stories.

TV: Are you the only person with access to this account?

uoftears__: Yeah, it’s only me.

TV: So when you graduate, what plans do you have for the account?

uoftears__: I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I don’t think I’m going to continue writing it, but I will definitely look for someone to run the page because I do want the account to continue.

TV: Does anybody know who you are? Like your close friends?

uoftears__: The only people who know who I am are my roommate and two friends from high school. But no one really knows who I am.

TV: So why did you start this account?

uoftears__: I think there were a lot of reasons I started this account. If you look at other accounts that do similar stuff with mine, it’s not really a platform to share personal things, but I wanted to make mine a platform for people to be able to share how they’re feeling anonymously. And I’m trying to just make people more aware to start people talking about the issues that we’re having at our campus.

TV: Would that be the purpose of your account, this sense of community that you’re creating?

uoftears__: I guess, yeah, I wanted a sense of community. I wanted people to know that they aren’t alone. I know sometimes it’s a huge campus, it’s easy for you to feel like you don’t have anyone. But I wanted people to have a place where they can share how they feel, what’s happening in their lives, and know that they’re not going to be judged. Or they can at least get a positive response from other people. That’s really why I wanted to do it.

TV: So how do you choose whether or not to post a confession? I’m just curious about clarifying the process.

uoftears__: When I look at the Google Form, it tells me I have “x” number of confessions. Normally, it’s like 100 or something. For me, a confession is where someone is admitting to something that they’ve done or something that they feel. So for example, if they’re talking about a crush, there’s no actions taking place, so I don’t post those. I look for ones that are repetitive. I read all of the confessions, delete the ones that don’t meet the criteria, and then I read them again and I keep skimming them down until there’s 20 left and then I post those.

TV: Beyond just the darker confessions that you get, because there are a significant amount on there, I’ve got to say there’s some pretty weird confessions. Like Confession #3751 involved somebody taking a dump in a urinal, for example. What’s your reaction to confessions like these?

uoftears__: I get really weird ones. Today, I got one about someone that stalks people in bathroom stalls — they just stay there, and then they jerk off to people peeing. I like getting the weird ones because it’s a good buffer in between some of the harder ones to read. Even though I know some of them are fake, it’s a good laugh for people, so I post some. Because at the end of the day, it’s an Instagram account. It’s a place to read funny and stupid things too.

The first post made by @uoftears__ was actually on September 22, 2018, and it consisted of a picture that read “u of t confessions” with a caption telling people to submit confessions and tag friends. The only comment on it read: “Stop is this high school over again,” which, admittedly, is a valid point.

Though there are plenty of other university-based anonymous sharing accounts, there is something reminiscent of high school about a confession account. Maybe it’s because it takes on the mantle of the grapevine gossip transmission, or maybe it’s because you get the same outlandish confessions of unlikely sexual situations and bodily functions that echo certain stereotypical high school guys.

You have the commenters who have become staples of the page, like @whatjoelthinks, and you have the fairly active engagement of people who know a bit too much about other people’s lives — without really knowing them at all.

This is like high school, but that sense of community is also changed. Due to the extremely high number of submissions, the admin has had to pare down the voices to 20 per day. Even though her process of evaluating confessions is straightforward and she prides herself on maintaining an eclectic mix of posts, readers can still glean fragments of her personal beliefs and priorities from what she picks.

During our conversation, she mentions the posts about sexual assault that she receives. She explained how it’s become important to her for to show students to know that there are survivors on campus that still haven’t received the treatment or investigations that she believes they deserve. She mentions that she feels like the school has failed some students, whether in terms of mental health or adequate support overall.

In cases like these, a confession takes on a whole new shape. It is a vehemently personal statement to make, and it also coalesces with certain topics that the admin advocates for. That’s not to say that @uoftears__ is one massive social justice crusade, but rather that with a page like this, the person behind the virtual account will still bleed through.

TV: You emphasize this anonymity a lot for your account. All names, if they’re included, will be taken off the confessions, and all the confessions are completely anonymous. So what do you think is the power and significance of being anonymous for confession accounts like yours?

uoftears__: I really wanted it to be a place that anyone felt safe sharing stuff with, regardless of what it was, because some of the stuff is really dark and it’s really sad, but I think it’s about just giving them the voice to say what they need to say and knowing that they can be 100 per cent anonymous.

TV: How has your U of T experience changed after creating this account?

uoftears__: To be honest, it hasn’t changed too much. I think the funniest thing is when I’m at parties or when I’m out with a big group of friends, sometimes they’ll start talking about the account and I pretend like I don’t know it at all. People will say, “Oh yeah, I send in confessions all the time!” And I’m like, “Yup, I’ve read every single one of them.”

TV: That must be a very unique position you’re in.

uoftears__: It is.

TV: To be able to know so many personal things about people.

uoftears__: Yeah, it really is. Most of the time I have no clue who is sending it in because of the way that I set up the Google Form. But sometimes, they’ll include names, so that’s when I actually do get to know things about people, but I never share any of it. Literally, never.

TV: How has receiving these confessions changed the way you see students on campus?

uoftears__: I think having this confession page just validates what my thoughts were already.

TV: What were your thoughts?

uoftears__: U of T is notorious for being a cutthroat school, I guess. Which is not always the case depending on your program and depending on the people you surround yourself with. But I think it does take an emotional toll on a lot of people, and I had a feeling that this was the case, but seeing all of these posts… And these are just the people who are sending them. I’m sure there’s hundreds more. For every one person who sends it, there could be 10 other people feeling the exact same way, but just haven’t confessed it.

This is an odd paradox in which anonymity becomes intimacy. Of course, you’ve got the funnier confessions, some of which supposedly from Rotman students, that leave you a little concerned for the wellbeing of some people in that faculty. Then you’ve got people who confessed to taking dumps in urinals or being high in every lecture. It’s a diverse set of voices, and it’s supposed to be, as the account is meant to be representative of an entire university.

But in other confessions, with topics ranging from heartbreak to devastation to complete emotional turmoil, you read secrets from people that you never would have heard from otherwise. There are no faces to the words, which fosters an unique sense of intimacy. At our core, the account suggests, we’re all driven by and impacted by similar forces.

Who writes the confessions? Anybody and practically everybody, if you really think about it. If you read a particular confession about loneliness or insecurity that you really relate to, it could’ve been written by any of the hundreds of faces that jostle past you on King’s College Circle. It could’ve been from the girl who sits next to you in MAT137, the boy who lives a couple doors down from you in Lower Burwash, a person you’ve seen again and again in the dining hall. Any face, any time, anywhere.

Who’s to say it couldn’t be your very best friend?

TV: What types of confessions do you usually get the most of, do you think?

uoftears__: I get a lot of confessions about wanting help on courses. I also get a lot of people talking about crushes like, “Oh my God, the girl I saw today in the blue shirt and brown shoes, I thought you were so cute!” I also — it’s actually really hard, but I get a lot of people saying that they’re depressed, and they want to die. I get a lot of suicidal confessions. Those are the hardest ones because sometimes I can’t post all of them and I want to. I don’t want to silence people, but some days, I’ll go days without getting any, and then some days, I’ll just get a bunch, and then it’s overwhelming.

TV: On that whole topic of getting overwhelmed by it, from the sheer number of depression or dark confessions you get, is it kind of numbing to a certain point after you’ve seen so many?

uoftears__: No, it’s really, really… At the beginning when I started the account and I first started getting suicidal confessions, I was debating if I even wanted to post them. But then I was like, “No, the reason I started this account is so people can share how they’re feeling, so I’m going to be posting them.” Which is one of the major differences between my account and any other university account. At first, it was really hard for me. In the caption, I didn’t know what to caption it. At the very beginning, I comment more as a friend and I wanted to be supportive, but people were saying, “Stop pretending to be people’s friend.” You can see now I always post a couple links — a set amount of links — with the suicidal ones. And the only reason I changed the way I approach things is that I wanted to stay a neutral platform and I wanted to give people resources that could actually help them. It looks like I probably became more of a bitch, but it’s not like that. It’s so hard… Every single confession that I get about depression, mental health, suicide, anything — it never gets numb. I’ll always feel something for that person, and I always feel like I want to do anything I can for this person.

TV: This question is a little more personal, but when you see these posts about mental health, do you ever relate to any of them? Do they ever trigger you sometimes or negatively impact your own sense of mental health?

uoftears__: I do have mental health problems, and I do see a therapist. When people say, “Oh, you don’t relate to us, you don’t know I’m going through,” — I do know what you’re going through. I’ve been there, I’ve had really tough days, really tough weeks, really tough months. Sometimes people notice that I’ll go inactive for a couple of days, and the number one reason I do that is because if I get a day where I get a lot of suicide confessions, it’s just really hard. Sometimes it does trigger stuff. It’s what motivates me, in a way, because I empathize with them. It motivates me to keep sharing their stories.

The first published confession that explicitly mentioned suicide was Confession #667. Before then, there were some about depression and suicidal tendencies, but #667 was the first to flat out declare suicidal intentions. Since then, more and more students have confessed their mental health issues to the point where suicidal confessions are nearly commonplace on the feed.

The choice to post these confessions potentially puts both the administrator and her readers at risk — there’s a fine line between sharing and encouraging, even if only accidentally. Suicide or mental health problems can be idealized or romanticized if they aren’t dealt with properly.

If the admin had decided against posting confessions about mental health and suicide, she wouldn’t have opened the floodgates to more people confessing those secrets. She wouldn’t have to read about people’s worst moments every day.

She faces these concerns every time she reads a confession about mental health, and she deals with the fallout in her own mental state. She tries to balance a neutral, non-judgmental platform with offering support to suffering students. For example, she posts links to give her followers more resources. These links are a start, as they show the confessor, and people who identify with them, that these mental health issues require attention and treatment.

uoftears__: I remember this one person, and they were like, “Maybe not everyone clicks the link, but I clicked it, and it saved me.” So that’s why I keep posting those.

TV: Yeah, it’s the small victories.

uoftears__: I just want to help people. And I’m not a professional. I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m just trying to do it the best way I know how.

UC Follies’ B-Side rocks the Stage at Hart House this November

The show’s creator discusses making a show about records in the digital age

UC Follies’ <i>B-Side</i> rocks the Stage at Hart House this November

From November 30 to December 1, the UC Follies will be at Hart House for a two-night performance of B-Side: A Rock Cabaret. The show is a grand musical experience that will take you back in time with classic rock records you love and lesser-known songs for you to discover and fall in love with.

The Varsity wrote to Jocelyn Kraynyk, the show’s creator, about her inspiration for the show, nostalgia for rock music, and listening to records in the world of online streaming.

TV: So many people listen to music digitally, on Spotify and Apple Music — why did you decide to create a show about records instead?

JK: The simple answer as to why I created a show inspired by records is that I find digital means of listening to music passive. Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with my iPod and I might actually die without my Apple Music, but I think it’s important to acknowledge how easy it is to become complacent about listening. Many a time, I have found myself in a playlist loop where I don’t realize I’m listening to music that I don’t really like or care about. With records, the act of listening becomes so active. You carefully choose what record you want to listen to. You engage with the music in the ceremony of putting the record on and the needle down. If your mind is focused on other things, the record waits for you to reengage at the halfway mark. I think that level of immersion lends itself well to a theatrical endeavour.

TV: Where did you get your inspiration for B-Side?

JK: I was so thrilled when the Follies asked me to create a show and I celebrated by going to my favourite record shop and picking up a heap of new music. When I got home, I put on my new Pat Benatar and rocked around my living room basking in the amazing vocals and bopping tracks. Two things happened while I listened to that record: 1. I found a couple songs that I had never heard before but fell totally and completely in love with, and 2. I heard songs that I forgot that I loved and it felt like coming home. That is how I found the concept for this show — thanks Pat. For me, B-Side is all about celebrating the songs of amazing artists that don’t get the same amount of play as other classic rock, as well as celebrating better known songs that were put on the B-Side of their record. Some of the songs in this show are ones few people will know — but everyone will love — some are songs everyone will know and can sing along to, and some are songs that people will hear, be flooded with memory, and fall in love [with] all over again. 

TV: How did you choose what songs to include in the show and why did you choose rock music?

JK: Listening to hundreds of classic rock songs to find the perfect setlist was torture — just kidding, I was in my glory. I love that shit. I ended up deciding to centre this show around songs that explore young love and relationships – the good, the bad, the ugly, the horny. It connects every song and performance and reined me in — if I didn’t have that connecter, the show would be hours long instead of the sleek 55 minutes it is now. B-Side has an unclockable flow and energy. It’s dynamic. It’s energetic. It’s magnetic and it demands to be seen!

As an artist and a consumer, I love the feeling of nostalgia. For me, it serves as escapism and when I perform or listen to music from or reminiscent of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The flow and intensity of it allows me to let go and live in its palpable energy. That feeling is what I want for my audiences and that is why I gravitate towards rock. 

TV: What is a song or performance in the show that stands out to you? 

JK: As far as what song or performance stands out, I’m going to give a pageant answer: every single song and performance stands out. When creating this show, we wanted to make sure that every performer got their moment to shine, and shine they do! We have been incredibly fortunate work with this incomparable group of people. Every single one of them owns the stage and I challenge anyone watching not to be warmed to the core by the joy and energy that radiates off of them when they sing. They are a beautiful unit. Hart House is an intimidating space. It is huge and can be daunting for performers — I say this from experience: that stage is scary — but we don’t fear the stage, we dominate that stage. The passion and excitement from our cast fills the theatre from the dressing rooms to the very last row. 


In conversation with Abigail Whitney

U of T student, model, and director — how does Abigail Whitney do it all?

In conversation with Abigail Whitney

At just 21 years old, Abigail Whitney is a full-time University of Toronto undergraduate student, model, actor, and now, director. Whitney is majoring in Theatre and Performance Art, with a double minor in English Literature and Equity Studies. When she is not in a lecture or a library, she models for CoverGirl and Vogue Italia, and most recently, she has become the centre of Sephora’s national beauty campaign.

Whitney’s latest creative endeavour is directing the UC Follies’ show Les Frères (The Brothers) by Sandra A. Daley-Sharif. The play stars Kwaku Adu-Poku, Kato Alexander, and David Delisca as the brothers, with Most McNeilly as Woman and Rob Candy as Mr. Brent Ewens.

The Varsity sat down with Whitney to discuss how she, as a woman of colour, navigates being both hyper-visible and invisible in her three worlds: student, director, and model.

The Varsity: How are you juggling being a full-time student, director, and model all at once?

Abigail Whitney: Yeah, it’s so much, but I knew that I wanted to direct this play and I would do anything to just make it happen. Currently, I have assignments due, so I couldn’t even schedule rehearsals this week because I knew I had to focus on school. The actors are super understanding about it, because this is the only week that I haven’t been able to have rehearsals and they’ve been rehearsing together.

I have a [modelling] gig today — I’m such a bag lady on campus. I have this interview, and then a class, and then I am missing part of another class, and then I have another interview, and then I have to run to the shoot, and then I have class in the evening. So I’ve been able to sort of balance school and model, but it’s definitely a lot on my plate.

TV: That’s incredible. It all sounds quite demanding. How does the industry navigate your availability?

AW: As long as I’m free, I can let them know that I can schedule something, but they are totally up-to-date that I’m directing [Les Frères] and that it can’t conflict with show dates or anything like that. They are completely aware that I’m a full-time student as well, and they know my class schedule, so they try to work around that. Honestly, I feel more like a student because I’m a full-time student. I’m not yet a full-time model, so I consider myself more of a student.

TV: The fact that you’re part of Sephora’s national campaign is a big deal. What’s it been like working in the industry as a woman of colour?

AW: It is a big deal. I take it so seriously because I know having this opportunity doesn’t come to every dark-skin Black model. And, oh my gosh, it’s super emotional too… it’s rare — just the slightest opportunity is huge and a super big deal. I’ve met so many incredible women of colour on set who are tremendously supportive. Doing this campaign, I was kind of low-key when I went into the Sephora stores, but my friend was with me and she’s told all the workers, “That’s the model.” And then I had really beautiful Black women come up to me, who were like, “Oh my gosh, to see you, you know, a dark-skinned Black model, showcased with this huge brand.”

I’m just happy for the support that I’m getting. I haven’t had a negative experience, but obviously coming into it, I was a bit hesitant, because of the perceptions of being a Black model [and] what kind of shoots they might put me in because of the way that [the industry] perceives Black women. I thought that would have an intense role in what I could do. That’s something that I just thought might happen, but that has really never been the case.

TV: You co-directed I Can’t Trust Anyone, Everyone Hurts Me: A Comedy for the U of T Drama Festival earlier this year, but Les Frères is your directorial debut — how have the two experiences differed, if at all?

AWWhen this play came around, I knew I had to do it on my own, because it’s unique to my experiences. It’s still a collaboration, in the sense that I am collaborating with my set designer, my lighting designer, and my actors as well. These ideas are not solely mine. I still welcome opinions. It’s honestly just a total learning experience, and I want the work to be transparent with both the actors and me. They tell me how to improve. I tell them how to improve. It’s student production. We’re all learning. We’re all just trying to make the best out of things.

TV: Now that you’ve worked professionally in the industry, how does that translate into student productions and your understanding of them?

AW: I know that there are limitations to student productions — limitations with budget, with how much energy and time people can actually commit to the production compared to when you’re doing, say, a professional modelling gig. [In that scenario] everyone is focused and zeroed in on that and they’re not thinking about other commitments. But for this, the actors have other commitments, the stage manager and assistant stage managers have other commitments, [and] I have school. It’s a lot of balancing.

TV: For sure — everything is such a balancing act! Why is this play so important? Why should people go see it?

AW: For so, so, so many reasons. It’s the first time [Les Frères] has ever been staged. So really, it’s the premiere of this play. It’s just super amazing. When I asked the playwright for the rights, she was hesitant because [the script] was a draft so she didn’t know how I would feel about it and didn’t know how she would feel about it or if she wants it out there.

It will be the first time that [many audience members will] get to witness a play that centres around Haitian culture and [a] representation of Haitian history on stage. I’m half Haitian, so it’s just so full circle. It feels like an out-of-body experience just to have the opportunity, in a creative space, to talk about Haitian culture, to talk about Haitian history, and to speak the language. I remember when one of the actors was speaking Creole and I was just like, “Oh my gosh, this is so amazing.” The audiences will be able to witness that, and I think it’s a beautiful, really beautiful thing.

I have the opportunity to creatively express my own relationship with Haiti. I’ve never stepped foot in Haiti. I was born [in Toronto] and the play is allowing me to question what that means, and I am able to explore how I express that on stage. I completely relate to the male characters, in terms of them being displaced from Haiti and being displaced from their apartment as well.

They are estranged brothers and haven’t seen each other for over 10 years. There’s this fear of entering back into their apartment, and the play explores what the apartment represents and what it reflects — perhaps, our ideas of Haiti, or maybe it simply represents Haiti. So I get to creatively work through these ideas. The actors are doing an incredible job. It’s a lot, but it’s going to be really, really good.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Les Frères runs at the George Ignatieff Theatre from November 29 to December 1.

In conversation with Wild Rivers

The Toronto-based band's latest EP, Eighty-Eight, is a nostalgic, harmonic blend of genres

In conversation with Wild Rivers

Formed at Queen’s University, Toronto-based band Wild Rivers is on an upward trajectory. The indie four-piece, comprised of Khalid Yassein on guitar and vocals, Devan Glover on vocals, Andrew Oliver on guitar and bass, and Julien Laferriere on drums, recently released their EP Eighty-Eight, a mix of Americana and folk influences.

The record is a perfect soundtrack for when summer starts slipping into fall, one that pivots between tones of longing and nostalgia on tracks like A Week Ago and the beautiful harmonies of Howling, and resignation on the plaintive Call It a Night and kiss-off track I Won’t Be Back.

Wild Rivers are currently opening for Australian band The Paper Kites on the North American leg of the Where You Live tour. The Varsity spoke to Yassein about the production of Eighty-Eight, the band’s time in Nashville, and the upsides and downsides of touring.

The Varsity: You and Devan [Glover], the other vocalist in the band, were formerly a two-piece called Devan & Khalid, but you’ve since added two new members, Ben Labenski on drums and Andrew Oliver on bass and guitar. How has that affected Wild Rivers’ music making process?

Khalid Yassein: We’ve kind of become a whole band as opposed to the duo that we were before. We’re more jamming in a room instead of just doing acoustic stuff, and sounds are coming from different places. So it’s really enriched our creative process. That’s two, three years ago, and we haven’t looked back.

TV: You just put out an EP a few months ago, Eighty-Eight. What were some of the themes that you wanted to incorporate in the writing and production of that album?

KY: Musically, we wanted to do a pretty raw representation of who we are as a band. A lot of the sounds were tracked live in a room, without a lot of additional stuff. So it’s got a live feel, which we really wanted. We spent so much time touring our first album and playing on the road that we feel like we have become a real band. Then, thematically on the album, a lot of the songs explore relationships in some way or another. And a lot of them involve the element of time. “I Won’t Be Back” and “A Week Ago” are songs about getting out of town and having regret, and that became the theme accidentally to the EP, which is why we called it Eighty-Eight. There’s a lyric in the first song, “A Week Ago,” that goes, “If I could get this Chevy up to eighty-eight / I’d take it back in time,” from Back to the Future, obviously. That kind of theme just accidentally came across through all the songs on the record. 

TV: While you were listening back to all the songs that you had put together, was it then that you felt like there was a theme? It hadn’t been obvious to you all along?

KY: Totally, yeah. We have our tendencies when we write, to write about certain stuff — usually mention a car, or a movie reference, or some kind of accidental calling card. It’s cool that it makes the music feel a little more organic and not so contrived, that the songs just naturally have these ideas that we’re talking about based on where we’re at in our lives. So it was cool to notice that and lean into that after the fact.

TV: Would you say that while you were putting the songs together, you were thinking of how they would play live?

KY: I think it was actually a little bit of the opposite. Usually, before we record we do pre-production, which is us in a room rehearsing and talking about the arrangement of a song, and we definitely did that for the EP, but a big part of it too was that we played a bunch of the songs live this year before we recorded it and got the live feedback from the audience and figured out what hit, and what worked, and what felt good live. That more informs the record than us worrying about if we could play the songs on the record live. At its core, it’s just us, because we played the songs, and that’s what made it feel good and real. If we want to do something in the studio, we try not to worry about if we can do it live; we consider it a totally different medium. We find that it’s been good not to tie ourselves down to worrying about that too much.

TV: How do you know when to take feedback from the audience and when to disregard it because it’s something you feel really strongly about?

KY: It’s kind of intangible — when you go to a show and you can feel that moment that everyone’s in it and responding to it emotionally. Everyone in the room, us and the audience, can feel it when that kind of stuff happens. It’s more of an organic thing than someone coming up to us at the merch table and saying, “Ah, you should add a bridge after verse two.” It’s a feeling, and after the show we’ll talk about, “Oh, ‘Call It a Night’ felt really good tonight.” We feel like we were catching a groove and everyone was buying into it. So it’s that kind of thing that informs it on a human level, which is hard, because the magic about it isn’t obvious on paper and it’s rather a vibe, which is something we tried to chase for the EP. 

TV: How would you say that your sound has evolved over the years? Even from being a duo with Devan through to the album in 2016, and now with Eighty-Eight.

KY: In terms of genres, I think we started in the indie-folk world, and that was a product of the songs starting as a voice or two voices and acoustic guitar, and building a song around that. Every song on the first record had an acoustic guitar at the centre of it because that’s the origin. And on the second record, the EP, there were more band songs, more songs that originated from the four of us jamming in the room, and that’s allowed for a different sound — rock, some indie-rock, some country. It’s become a little more of a polished version of our sound, especially production-wise. We just recorded a song a week ago that doesn’t have an acoustic guitar at all and it’s a different feel. We’re all individually into all kinds of music and we’re lucky that the fact that the two voices and acoustic guitar makes it us, but at this point we can explore a little bit to do something cool and different and it still feels honest and like a Wild Rivers song. So it’s cool, we feel like we’re in a place where we can really do whatever we want and we’re always trying to get better at what we’re doing. 

TV: I read in an interview with the Queen’s Journal that you wrote Eighty-Eight between Toronto and Nashville. What do you think those two cities bring to the table, musically speaking, and do you think the EP has influences from both places?

KY: We’re all from the Toronto area, and that’s where the conception of the EP happened. We wrote a bunch of the songs in Toronto but we made them our own in a little studio that happened to be on 888 Dupont Street, a little basement recording studio, so that was another push for the namesake of the record. It started in Toronto and then we went to Nashville, which we’d been spending some time there this year, and wrote two other songs for the EP. We’re all crazy about the city and it’s so rich in talent; every time we go, we feel like we soak up a ton of energy and inspiration and get a lot done. We consciously decided to lean into that influence as a product of being on the road and being in Nashville that year. It was a cool part of where we were at. There’s definitely a little bit of that feel in the design, the album cover. It was an important part of the project practically and it comes out a little bit in the sound too, which is probably more country, Americana than we’ve ever done.

TV: Do you see Toronto as your home base for the foreseeable future?

KY: I think so. Right now we’re talking about spending a month or two here to start working on the next record, but we’re very easily enamoured by new cities. So, who knows, Toronto’s definitely our home base and I don’t ever see us leaving for good, but the great thing about this job is we don’t have a 9 to 5 and we can live and do whatever we want, whatever feels cool, and push ourselves. So, who knows, maybe the next record we do will be an LA concept record or we’ll move to a cabin in Montana. 

TV: Pivoting a little bit toward the tour, is this your first months-long experience on tour or have you done similar lengths in the past?

KY: This is basically on par with our longest tour. We just came back from our longest tour, which was a little over a month long. It was a couple weeks ago, we just came back. So we’ve been on the road a lot this fall. But I think this is the biggest scale tour we have. We’ve upgraded our van, we have a tour manager, we’re playing these amazing theatre venues all over Canada and the US, so it feels like we’re doing it bigger than we’ve done before. 

TV: What’s your favourite and least favourite aspect of touring?

KY: Favourite is eating good food and getting into shenanigans with my friends. My least favourite is probably that it’s tough to sleep and it’s tough to stay healthy. But you live so much and have so many experiences in such a short period of time that you don’t really think about how tired you are — you just kind of enjoy it. We’ve had a lot of fun touring and being on the road this year. I think we’ve set a good balance of being ambitious and serious, and also appreciating that what we’re doing is actually crazy and enjoying every moment. 

Wild Rivers will be opening for The Paper Kites on November 22 at The Opera House.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Two ‘newspapers’ have a chat

U of Tears™, a boundless education, and self-deprecating humour: The Boundary covers it all

Two ‘newspapers’ have a chat

Founded in 2017, The Boundary is Victoria University’s humour newspaper. The Varsity sat down with the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Ted Fraser and Head Content Editor Kyle Brickman, while Finance Executive Daniel Aykler lounged nearby.

The Varsity: How did The Boundary come into existence?

The Boundary: The Boundary is our head staff writer Jack Mageau’s brainchild. He came up with the concept, and then after mistakenly naming it The Farcity — which we thought was a hilarious name — we changed it to The Boundary. It’s a play on ‘boundless.’ We toe the line; we are that ‘boundary.’

Any school that earns the nickname U of Tears needs a humour outlet, because otherwise it’s just depression and Con Hall and cold winters, and there’s nothing really to express yourself [with] in terms of opinions or just human emotion. I think we share a very similar sense of humour with the meme page and our main goal is to almost formalize that type of humour through The Boundary.

[Mageau’s] concept was just an outlet [to] see if we can reach people. The spirit of the University of Toronto population is almost self-deprecating — and I don’t want to say self-hating, but definitely aware of the reality that [the] University of Toronto is not a fun school in the traditional sense. I think it’s really deeply ingrained into the psyche of University of Toronto students that we don’t have fun, and we’ve worked really hard, and we get screwed on tests, and that no one — no one — likes their life.

It’s great because U of T is sort of the opposite of every other university, right? Because frats are lame, no one goes to football games, studying is king, and it just provides constant fuel for headlines. Like, they don’t have to drop into your lap per se, but they’re going to drop more than they would [at] a prototypical college-based school.

TV: Why should people read The Boundary?

TB: Our mission is to amuse rather than to inform, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We acknowledge our own irrelevance and we thrive off of self-deprecation.

TV: Your content is predominantly published online. How often do you release content? Are you going to release a paper copy?

TB: We aim to release four or five articles a week, but through our brainstorming process, we always have one or two articles that we know are really good that we want to release at a certain time.

Perhaps [we’ll have] a semesterly bound paper publication that we will try our best to put on some newsstands or throw in some study rooms at Robarts.

TV: Where are your current contributors and contributions coming from?

TB: The majority of the contributions are coming out of a very core group of people, three of us in this room, then three or four more. And that’s just a product of us being in our infancy. We had a soft launch, as we were calling it. But really, we were just kind of fooling around with the idea to see if it would even work or [if people] would be interested in [it], including ourselves. I think we were figuring out if the contributors would be interested and I guess it turns out that other people are too, to a certain extent. We’re always looking for new contributors.

TV: Why should people want to write for you?

TB: The articles that are being written are 200 words. It’s half a page really and it’s funnier that way. We don’t want long editorials. Our goal is to provide very short content because, again, students are busy. Like, even as the writers, we’re busy.

TV: You’re both in your third year. What’s the plan? Are you going to pass on the torch to keep The Boundary around after you graduate?

TB: We’d love to pick up some contributors from second or first year and have them continue this because I think, yeah, it’d be a nightmare if this was the end. We’re the architects of our own fate. We can definitely figure this out and see if we can get some more people. We’re trying to increase our Facebook presence, which is crucial, and I think there’s also a thirst for this humour across Ontario. The Beaverton and The Onion hit up certain demographics, but I think we cater to a neglected demographic, which is why we’ve kind of sprung up.

TV: Can you explain a little about the neglected demographic?

TB: The Beaverton caters to young professionals and sort of cerebral university students who get the jokes. The Onion is more like the everyman’s satire and, I think, not specific to university in general. We’re specific, I think, so there’s more people like our current consumers out there. Also, a good thing to note is that we’re not nearly on the level of The Onion, so we couldn’t just do Onion content, satirizing everyday life, because we will not get the traction with our current audiences.

TV: Do you have any sources of funding, for Facebook ads, for example?

TB: Initially our bravest member, Kevin Yin, submitted his credit card, but [he] will be compensated. We just kind of went out on a limb and sort of fundraised bankroll ourselves, and it was minimal costs. We’ve now got funding from the VUSAC [Victoria University Students Administrative Council] and our budget is going to be ratified, hopefully soon.

TV: Are you considered a club or a publication?

TB: Technically, I think we’re considered a club. I’m actually in the process of doing the CCR [Co-Curricular Record] phase right now, but I think we would offer it in the same space as maybe the UC Review or something like that — a local, regional, or… a college-based club — although the content is not really catered to college at all. I’d say we kind of referenced it in passing.

TV: How can people contribute?

TB: We have an email, it’s Some people have submitted pitches, but I’d rather honestly meet a potential candidate in person. It’s not necessarily [a screening], but more so just [to] talk to them and see what they are interested in — does this person share a sense of humour with us? Do they have an understanding of what we’re going for?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You can follow The Boundary on Facebook or visit their website.

Arkells and their sports, politics, and community Rally Cry

In conversation with lead singer Max Kerman about the band and their upcoming album

Arkells and their sports, politics, and community <i> Rally Cry </i>

A 10-minute walk east of McMaster University in Hamilton lies Arkell Street. The small residential road is where the alternative rock band Arkells got their name. The band was founded at McMaster in 2004 when lead singer Max Kerman met guitarist Mike DeAngelis at Welcome Week. The members consist of Kerman, DeAngelis, keyboardist Antony Carone, bassist Nick Dika, and drummer Tim Oxford.

Now a decade since their debut album, Jackson Square, the band is set to release their fifth studio album, Rally Cry, on October 19. Kerman spoke with The Varsity about the band’s formative years, their contributions to the sports and political worlds, and what’s in store for Rally Cry.   

The Varsity: What does Hamilton mean to the band?
Max Kerman
: The whole band grew up in Southern Ontario: London, Guelph, Toronto, Mississauga, Newmarket, but the band was born in Hamilton. That’s the way we like to put it. We feel really lucky being a Hamilton band. We got a lot of opportunities when we were coming up that I feel wouldn’t come to us if we were in Toronto.

We had a chance to open up for some of our favourite bands at the local rock-and-roll club because we had good relationships with the promoters, and there weren’t as many bands as there are in Toronto. So I think we got some chances that were unique to being in Hamilton.

The other cool thing, when we were in university — I started in 2004 — it was sort of the height of the ‘great indie rock era’ in my mind. A lot of great Canadian bands, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Constantines — we got to see all those bands at 300 [capacity] clubs, and to see that level of talent up                                                                       close like that — I think it helped shape who we are.

TV: In the summer you played in the Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton for 24,000 fans. What do you think the band means to the city?
: You know we have a lot of support from the city, or whenever anybody in Hamilton goes out, and [that] makes an impression on the rest of the country. People in Hamilton are especially proud of that. It’s not like anyone’s going to resent you for that. People like their champion — there’s good stuff that’s produced in Hamilton.

I think [in] the city, we feel like we get a lot of hometown love when we’re there. I think we’re pretty aware of how awesome each community is, [and] how everybody makes it work, whether it’s small businesses or local community advocates, city councillors — not that everybody always gets along. But I do think that everybody adds something to the party. I am appreciative to be part of the ecosystem that is Hamilton.

TV: What accomplishments are you and the band most proud of?
: That’s a good question. It’s funny because in music, you don’t sign up to be musicians just to win awards. It’s not like sports, where you want to win a championship. And there’s a part of me that thinks winning an award for writing a song, quote-unquote ‘beating out the competition,’ is kind of stupid. I don’t think that art should be competitive in that way.

That said, obviously, everyone likes to win awards, so I’m happy about it. I think, for me, the thing I’m most proud of is that we just continue to evolve and grow and remain really curious about what it means to be in a band and have lots of conversations within the group that are like, “What’s the next thing we’re going to do?” We’re always trying to push the “what’s the next thing we can do that would be really interesting and exciting to us” and “how can we get people on board with those ideas or that are part of our live show,” whether it’s a piece of merch or a new song.

The fact that we’ve had a steady upward trajectory since we started, I think that’s what I’m most proud of. We’ve never really stagnated. I’m really proud of that.

TV: “People’s Champ,” “Knocking at the Door,” and “Whistleblower” are not only sports anthems, but are also strong political anthems. Can you share a little bit about the meaning behind the songs?
: Yeah, I mean that’s one thing I think we’re proud of… that we sort of [share] our politics [with] a much broader audience, like a broader audience that might not be up for talking about the politics I’m interested in talking about.

I mean, a song like “Whistleblower” is an ode to journalists who dig deep and dig in a corner and are exposing the truth to a wider audience. “Knocking at the Door” is about the Women’s March and the idea that you have to keep standing up for what you believe in. And, you know, the Women’s March is so inspiring to me, just because it’s sort of all of the things that I think are essential to our lives, equality and acceptance of all different types of people and compassion, and just continue to fight for that.

“People’s Champ” is an anti-Trump song, but I didn’t want to do it in a hit-you-over-the-head kind of way. I kind of wanted it to be a little bit more subtle lyrically. The idea behind that song is [that] I think we should all be disappointed and angry about how the current system works.

It’s okay if you didn’t like Hillary Clinton, if you thought she was part of the problem, I think there is an argument for that. But to believe that Donald Trump would be the guy to sort you out — I don’t think it’s the best route to go, because he’d be the last guy to help someone out, in my opinion.


TV: We’re seeing this hostility toward the entertainment business, especially for those using their platforms to promote political change. Where do you think musicians stand in politics using their platform for change, and what would you say to people who say just stick to music?
: I think of all jobs, artists and musicians are the most expected. People aren’t as surprised. I think it actually was surprising when [we had] the late show hosts like [Jimmy] Kimmel talking about health care, or [Colin] Kaepernick, a football player who was talking about police brutality. I think that caught people off-guard and that’s what made some parts of the population annoyed.

But I think with musicians, I mean, occasionally I’ll tweet something and somebody goes, “Stick to the tunes” or “I liked you better when I didn’t know your politics.” But I think there is a pretty good precedent with people like [Bob] Dylan or [Bruce] Springsteen or Neil Young [who] talk about their politics in their music.

TV: Can you tell me a little bit of the story behind Rally Cry?

MK: Actually, this is my first interview with someone who’s heard the whole record. I think there’s certain subjects that over the years that I keep coming back to. I think I tweeted a month ago, when someone asked about the record, that there are three types of songs that we kind of come back to all the time: political songs, love songs, and then there are songs about friends and people in the community. This record is 10 songs, so it’s like three, three, and four. Something like that.

“Company Night” is a song that was inspired by Sean Spicer, former White House Secretary, and the idea of being somebody who loses who they are, because all they care about is the name they represented, like in the company they work for. With a song like “Hand Me Downs,” there’s a shame you carry with you from where you come from. I think everybody has got a bit of that in them. “American Screams” is about this hysterical conversation between the left and right in America. It touches a bit on gun violence.

The idea of calling it Rally Cry is [that] all the songs have an outward-looking perspective. There’s a message that we want to put out there, and when I think about a rally, it’s a very outward experience. You’re coming together and you’re around people that maybe are like-minded, and that’s why the word ‘rally’ kept coming up over the last year and a half.

Whether a political rally or a sports rally, there’s this idea of being part of the community and I think all these songs are not songs that a guy with an acoustic guitar is singing from the deeper parts of his inner emotions, but [from] thinking about the world around you.

I like guys with acoustic guitars, but we’re trying to do something a little bit broader.

TV: The album is 10 songs and three have been released so far. Of the remaining songs, what song are you most excited for fans to hear?
: You know, we have four records now, and I think as a fan of bands, I want to be surprised by a band. I want to be surprised and hear something I haven’t heard from the band before. But then, I also want to hear parts of the band that I love and that I come back for, and I think the record has got that.

“Hand Me Downs,” to me, is like a “Leather Jacket” 2.0. I think it has that kind of joyfulness, but a bit of sadness. That’s an oxymoron, but the qualities I think people connect with “Leather Jacket,” you’ll find in a song like “Only for a Moment” or “Hand Me Downs,” which I think is comforting as a fan and a listener of our band.

But I also want to challenge them to go, “Oh, I haven’t heard that before.” So a song like “Eyes on the Prize,” I think is a good example of that — that’s us doing something different. This is something that we’ve never done before, but eventually want to become part of our catalogue and become a part of who we are.

Even a song like “Saturday Night” or “Show Me Don’t Tell Me.” I think we always have a ballad or two and I think [they’re] going to be the [ones]. I think the romantics will connect with [those] most.

TV: You guys have mentioned on Instagram that you want to play more campus shows. Have you considered playing at U of T?
: Yeah, we’re going to figure something out. I don’t know, we do have a big Toronto show in the works. So you’ll hear about that when the record comes out. If it’s not [at] U of T, you’ll just have to go down the street.

Arkells’ Rally Cry is set to be released on October 19.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.