First Rate People: Collective vision yields eclectic soundby Talk Rock To Me on Jul 22, 2011 • 10:31 AM No Comments
Founding member, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jon Lawless, describes Owen Sound’s First Rate People as more than a band: they’re an open and experimental collective where personal ego plays second fiddle. While their first recording featured over 45 people, the current incarnation to join Jon is considerably more compact, featuring Anna Horvath (vocals), Nicole Jasper (vocals, melodica), Luke Lalonde (vocals, percussion), Liam Sanagan (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Hayden Stewart (guitar) and Anna Wiebe (vocals). Though their sound is tricky to summarize, their ear-catching singles like Girls’ Night, Someone Else Can Make A Work of Art and Funny Games all have this common thread: they’re funky and flirty and perfect for anyone’s summer mixtape.
Why the name First Rate People?
We had a really bad song called First Rate (laughs). It just kind of stuck. Some people think it’s super tongue in cheek and others think we’re deadly serious. The reality is probably somewhere in between.
What mindset has to exist in order to welcome new people in?
You have to be okay with knowing that the parts you record may not make it into the final cut. I’ve recorded vocals that haven’t made it into our songs because I have to be objective. In some ways that’s liberating but it can sometimes be stressful at the same time.
It must be exciting to not have a precise formula.
Oh totally. I read an interview with Beck where he said that to be creative, you have to stay slightly out of your comfort zone. That’s what we subscribe to as a band; we don’t know what it’s going to sound like until it’s done. I have an idea of what my solo album would sound like, though – and I’d be bored by it – so I totally appreciate being in something that’s a collective in nature.
Who’s would you love to have step in for a collaboration?
Anybody from Broken Social Scene would be pretty amazing. And there’s a Swedish band called Air France that I quite enjoy; they’ve been working on an album for the past two years so I doubt they’d have the time, but it’d be a dream come true if they’d want to produce us or something.
Is it a handicap to be from Owen Sound rather than say, Los Angeles?
Hmmm…I’m not sure. I don’t pay attention to geography when it comes to bands. I respect what CBC Radio 3 are doing to promote a national identity but I think we can all find our own little niche, wherever it may be.
Picking up celebrity admirers is certainly proof that music from Owen Sound is getting out there.
Totally. I’m a huge fan of The National and when I found out that Matt (Berninger) from The National liked one of our songs… it totally shook up my world. I think he may have heard us through his label somehow. It was pretty amazing that he could appreciate it.
And filmmaker Vincent Moon is a fan too?
Yeah, we had a little contact with him. He’s amazing. We’ve wanted to shoot a video together for some time now, but it hasn’t lined up yet. A lot of our members are in university so it can make things difficult logistically.
Hearing Matt and Vincent are fans is telling – but what else indicates to that your music is catching on?
My friend pointed out a music blog to me where a woman blogger was describing driving to the U.S. with her five-year-old kid. One of our songs was playing as they drove. That’s a cool image for me. It doesn’t mean I’m a certified rock star or anything, but it’s nice to hear.
Can you resist the urge to Google yourself?
I mean, I was talking to Kevin from Broken Social Scene and he said, ‘It’s amazing how a 15-year-old kid can ruin your day with a single comment.’ And it’s true. I’m sure there are plenty of bad reviews of us but it doesn’t help you to read that. It can start to affect you negatively when you feel like you have to cater to what certain people say they like or don’t like about you.
Do you have the general sense that people get you?
Mostly…but sometimes it’s the opposite, too. We were playing a festival once that was predominantly experimental bands and there was a quote in the local papers that said, ‘I don’t think that First Rate People are experimental at all.’ I mean, we’re not the most experimental band out there, but you don’t have to record an ambient noise record to experiment with music either, you know?
*Originally published under ‘Interviews’ on MyTelus.com.