Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
“Confidence is Paramount” : Best Fit meets Suuns

“Confidence is Paramount” : Best Fit meets Suuns

20 February 2013, 10:30

Montréal ensemble Suuns are a band born of the darkest of parts; spawned of that increasingly intensely populated hinterland deep within the musical spectrum which ultimately dislocates the openly accessible from the eccentric. Aptly perhaps, we meet in the dingy labyrinthian backstage of the heavily industrialised Village Underground – a venue which occupies the oddly underdeveloped nether region to sit between East London’s Great Eastern Street and Bethnal Green Road. It is here where I encounter a disarmingly tranquil lead vocalist-slash-sometime guitarist Ben Shemie and a comparatively sedate Joe Yarmush.

The four-piece were initially alimented by “a climate of excitement, hope and frustration” and these prove primary features of their densely frequented show upstairs a little later on: there’s excitement provoked by the mere airing of material from their forthcoming sophomore Images Du Futur, great hope for this ’Futur given the unquestionable quality intrinsic to the likes of ‘Minor Work’ and album standout ‘Bambi’, and frustration both at the discombobulating restraint demonstrated as well as the show not attracting enough to be staged in the venue’s greater main room next door. Though Suuns dine also on intimacy – they’re best witnessed when the whites of Shemie’s eyes are plainly visible and as they frequently roll back in his skull, they glare piercingly like those of that now infamous wolf immortalised on the cover of Brand New’s Daisy. Shemie, or rather his semi-spoken though simultaneously quasi-sung vocal (which has “been very similar” but has “only gotten stronger with time”, Yarmush later proclaims), is their most emblematic hallmark. He, or perhaps it, is the crux of Suuns, and its every other component is a centripetal element orbiting about this core. Conversely, in conversation, he becomes unprecedentedly reticent.

It’s a symbiotic character composition – as though the beast within is only unleashed once Shemie is allowed onstage. Though to revert to the now for a moment, in person his gruff shush is just as disquieting as that almost passively aggressive hiss of his heard both live and on LP. He scares me a tad if I’m honest, though no more than Les Georges Leningrad, or Les Breastfeeders, or The Unicorns did. Maybe it’s just a Montréal thing?

“I think maybe to some extent but for me, it’s hard to compare as I’ve never lived anywhere else”, Shemie proffers in a baritonal snarl. “I don’t know anything different: Chicago, London, or wherever.” Yarmush intervenes: “It’s really not, like, you know a jam-fest every weekend. It just so happens that a lot of musicians are concentrated in that same area, probably because it’s easy and cheap to live there. Otherwise, yeah, there really is no other reason for it. I don’t really feel like there’s any real community there, other than other musicians being the people I hang out with most of the time. But then we don’t really talk about music in those sorts of social situations. From the outside looking in, it perhaps seems as though there’s this crazy vibe going on, which is fuelling everyone around us but I really don’t think that happens. It is really well connected though, so if you need someone, or something then there are those resources readily available. Like there are a lot of venues to play, or places in which we can jam. There’s a lot of things that have been built up, because of the amount of active musicians out there so in that respect yeah, it’s pretty good and really easy. It’s not really a big city, and it just seems like a small town in a way ’cause a lot of people are really concentrated in a smaller area within it. But yeah, I mean whatever.”

As with Shemie’s almost schizophrenic vocal self portrayal, stark contrasts abound: there is no communal vibe, and yet the members of these miscellaneous Canuck bands hang; there are all these places to do just that, though they never natter musical nor wax lyrical over some of the world’s finer aural produce of recent times, much of which has been homegrown. Though in amongst Suuns, Shemie reckons music to be “probably the top thing we talk about. When you’re at home, and you’re with your best friends it’s different. Your best friends are not necessarily musicians, either, and they’re doing their own thing in their own lives. So when you’re at home, you know, it’s just a different space. And it might be boring! What can we say? I mean we’d definitely have to make up all these nonsensical tourist stories. Otherwise it’d just be like talking about work…”

It’s another turn of phrase upon which we get caught up. Surely the pair don’t regard Suuns as a pitch up, grind out only to eventually be ground down kinda setup? “I think it’s good to view it as work”, Yarmush sheepishly contends, “because then you approach it a little more seriously. ‘Cause there are a lot of things that are work-like when you go out on tour.” Pragmatic as per, Shemie picks up where his counterpart cuts out: “I mean you have to be smart about it from a business point of view, too, if you want the project to maintain some form of trajectory so you can’t treat it as being ‘all about the music’, as though it’s just some ideological thing. Going out on the road is a lot of work, and so as Joe says, you have to remain serious. I mean you wanna enjoy yourself obviously, but you’ve got to take it seriously if you wanna be taken seriously.”


Furthering the explicit portrayal of a seemingly lucid business acumen, he goes on: “There are a lot of parallels between being in a band, and having a small business: the initial investment that you have to put in, and all these things building up, and what your expectations should be. It’s just like that, and so in some respects it’s very much built like a business.” To stick with this more vocational filament of thought, the band are currently signed to Secretly Canadian – a label to have centralised its attentions upon the envelope-pushing, off-kilt pioneering of the mid-2000s zeitgeist which was, in itself, inspired in no small part by the rich output of their homeland. Intriguingly though, the business neither hails from Suuns’ side of the Canada–United States border, nor does it conceal a surreptitious predilection for alternative Canadian music as its epithet may intimate: indeed alongside Little Scream, Suuns are one of only two bands contained within their current roster to come from up top.

Though the affiliation between independent artist and independent label is one that’s still “definitely working very well. Yeah, I mean it’s been a long year working on the album”, Yarmush confesses, “but we still get along great with them. And I honestly believe that they really get what we’re doing. They’re, you know, pretty hands off, which I think is just about the most ideal situation you could possibly have.” Again taciturn, Shemie punctuates the spiel: “That’s kinda the deal, in a way: there’s an unwritten rule whereby we do what we do, and they do what they do. We look at each other for help, and we do need that help but that whole horror story that we hear from most people we meet of their label making them do this, or fucking them like that, is something we’ve never experienced. From day one, they’ve been really cool, and easy, and above all fun to work with. We feel really lucky.”

The gelid sterility, and general lack of warmth renowned of winter could be said to correlate with their debut full-length, Zeroes QC: to all extensive purposes, it was a tricky listen, during which the unexpected was to be fully anticipated throughout. As exhausting as it was introversive, it was an alas widely unheralded triumph. Its artwork, meanwhile depicted an amorphous figure drenched in a murky darkness though contradictorily, that adorning Images Du Futur is a disconcertingly awry image of unadulterated innocence – the face of what looks to be a child shredded and strewn across an optically illusory vortex of varied layers. Sonically too, the record is not only the sound of a band finding substantial footholds in their own collective identity, but also of a troupe brightening up the doom and gloom inherent of the debut as they advance. Or at least it is to my ears…

“Well it’s interesting, ’cause the cover of Zeroes QC is a model who has this somewhat revered look of a woman to her but I guess the treatment of the photo is quite dark and mysterious, while the girl who’s on the front of the new cover has a very interesting look, shall we say. She’s not like, you know, the classic but I think that’s the cool thing: she’s amazing looking to me. So yeah, I don’t think we set out to be lighter or darker or anything, but it was all just suited to the record at that time.” The prophetic Shemie chucks in his 2¢: “I understand what you mean when you say it sounds brighter: whereas on the first record we never went anywhere kinda poppy, nor anywhere… I guess it was a much more suffocating kind of sound whereas with this one we felt more liberated to deliver in a more… I don’t wanna say poppy, ’cause it’s a very loaded word, but some of the songs are a little more open, and like you say confident and so certain songs seem to speak of a direction towards a more accessible approach, you know? Although I do think that there are some songs on this one that are darker still than those of the first, but I think it’s contrasted as such because of the artwork on the album, and the way that it’s all been set up.”

Suitably though, that they continue to restrain themselves from the immoderately overblown – something one feels Suuns could articulate quite effectively – plays another of umpteen crucial parts in their overriding resonances. Though continually menacing the clean-cut of distorted bombast, they instead continue to veer off on acerbic, unknowable, and bleeding edge tangents that sear with a cutthroat guile. Baleful to the last, or perhaps the first (Images Du Futur opener ‘Powers of Ten’ is a visceral blast of agitated brilliance) any change is only slight. Or rather it would be, were the monolithic riffage of ‘Bambi’ not saddled up alongside the soft-psych seduction of another entitled ‘Holocene City’ in the record’s latter stages. It’s the point at which Suuns strike up the optimum equilibrium between this accessible, and the still wildly eccentric: “Totally. The first record was an amassing of a selection of songs we’d accumulated over two years or so, whereas this one went down to the wire in terms of the ordering, and even which ones went on in the end. So we didn’t think of the cohesion while we recording, but when we were done it kinda just presented itself.”

Live, too, they make for a cohesive beast despite being composed of four visibly distinct, and with that outwardly distinctive individuals. In terms of coming together to actually write the songs, it is what it is: “We’ve never even so much as thought about that process. We don’t say: ‘We need to do this’, or that, and we’re certainly aware if and when we’re repeating ourselves. But you don’t need to talk about that – everybody knows that, and we can all feel it instinctively. But, you know, there isn’t a master plan of ‘Oh, we did this and so now we have to do something differently’ nor of ‘Oh, we did this and so now we have to do something similar’, you know? It’s just the four of us rolling with whatever – trying not to think about it too much and instead just letting it happen.”


Though irrespective of allowing this creative evolution to occur as the instrumental capacities of the four Suuns continue to infuse with one another and subsequently suffuse throughout the records, confidence surely plays a fundamental part not only in Shemie being able to vocally project “a more powerful version of what he’s always done”, but in the band itself succeeding in recurrently pushing themselves as far as is collectively possible. “Definitely. For sure”, Yarmush counters without even a scintilla of doubt emanating from his mouth. “I mean if you go on tour for a year and play 100-odd shows, you have really great shows but also really shitty shows, and you play with other bands that you really admire and of course you then get to see how they operate. And so because of all that, you get tighter as a band, and stronger whenever you go out on stage. That’s not to say that it gets any easier, but I think you’re right in that confidence is paramount.” And especially with regard to music that is in so many respects quite so insular? “Yeah, I mean I definitely felt particularly confident right at the end of our last tour, even if personally I don’t exactly feel that way right now. Maybe that’s just because there’s a lot of new stuff… And so often we’ve relied heavily on technology – on pedals to create certain sounds, and stuff – which, for better or worse, we’re closely bound to now if we wanna recreate those songs. I hate relying on stuff to work, and a lot of my insecurities come from making sure things are going well, and I think once that begins to happen without us having to think about it then I’ll probably snap back into it.”

However were you to reduce the emphasis of the live show down to its essence, is it really all that necessary to so finely tune the respective sounds of the once recorded and the nightly reproduced? I mean Zeroes QC, originally recorded now over two years ago, obviously isn’t the defining sound of Suuns today… “I think it’s important to sound better live. I mean if you don’t then what’s the point? I don’t think any band should just be looking to recreate a carbon copy of the record when they play live. You know, if you do something in the studio that you physically, or technologically can’t do live, then you should try and do something else. You can’t do anything justice with backing tracks. But we try to make the best records we can make, ’cause that’s ultimately what people are gonna live with. It’d be really cool to do a record, and then tour it for two years, and then redo it but I mean we’ve always played a lot of our songs live before we record ‘em anyway, because the way we combine changes the songs a lot.”

And with the release of this impatiently awaited followup ever approaching, is there also a sense of personal release as 4 March draws forever closer? “Like you’re sending your kid to college? No, I don’t really look at it that way. I like to think of it being like the construction of a catalogue. Yeah, you’re putting all your eggs in one album, but I think I’d rather be judged in terms of what you accomplished over your career, as opposed to what you did with this one thing, you know? So that takes the pressure off when we’re coming to put together the records. You’ll have stronger numbers, and less whatever – it’s like anything – but it doesn’t make, like, reading reviews problematic. You’re still listening to it, and judging it for what it is.” And what this one is, ultimately, is a further statement of pioneering intent and appositely futuristic propulsion from an hermitic clan of post-everything luminaries, though you’ve to wait ’til a little later on to experience its irrefutable excellence. The Futur is not yet now, but Suuns.

Image du Futur will be released on 04 March through Secretly Canadian.

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