DO MAKE SAY THINK, at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor West), Friday (June 2). $10/door, $8/advance. www.digitalpoetry.com Rating: NNNNN
The members of Toronto space rock sextet Do Make Say Think are disarmingly casual about the quantum leap forward they've made on their new album.
The recently released disc, Goodbye Enemy Airship The Landlord Is Dead, is miles ahead of their self-titled debut. It's a decidedly bigger recording that's still cohesive and free of the familiar post-rock cliches.
The Do Makes' basic framework of loose instrumental songs built around subtle repeated patterns remains, but has been filled out with ambitious arrangements and hours spent tweaking noises between the notes. There's a remarkable amount of detail on the 50-minute epic, crickets and coughs best revealed late at night with a pair of sturdy headphones clamped around your skull.
"We didn't really know what we wanted to do," drummer James Payment begins over midday pints. "We just knew what we didn't want to do. Our main focus was to try to do something far removed from what we'd done before."
"It was totally scary," guitarist Justin Small continues. "It's easy to get away with 20-minute songs when it's your first time around and you're just throwing it down and having a good time. There's almost a sense of being naive, because you're just doing what you want at the time.
"The thing about getting all compositional is that you can lose that innocence and end up being pretentious. In one second, you run the risk of someone saying, 'Who the fuck do these guys think they are, Rush?'"
"It's a really tricky thing to be able to mature and still be innocent about what you're doing without sounding contrived," guitarist/trumpeter Charles Spearin adds. "The way to avoid that is to maintain that innocence and the playfulness and honesty in the music, instead of having some grand idea."
Crucial to keeping that feeling intact was the Do Makes' guerrilla recording schedule. Goodbye Enemy Airship was written under near-hostile circumstances, as the group constantly faced eviction from their occasionally heatless studio apartment. The album's recording was no more luxurious.
"We recorded over a weekend in the beginning of August and then mixed it over a weekend in September," Spearin admits. "We didn't have any time to over-analyze. We took opportunities when we had them and did the best we could.
Guerrilla sessions "If it was up to me, we'd make all of our records commando-style. Maybe with a bigger budget, though, so we wouldn't be worrying about hums and buzzes and country radio signals appearing."
"The little mistakes that drive you crazy in the middle of the session actually sound pretty amazing at the end," Small laughs. "All of a sudden you're rewriting rock music because you fucked up."
Plans for a follow-up are already in the works. Today, though, all attention is focused on the show tomorrow (Friday, June 2). Even for a group who played a gig in a partially operational insane asylum in Siena, Italy, this is by far the Do Makes' most ambitious concert.
For their sole Toronto date this year, the band has rented the Bloor Cinema and is collaborating with a brass orchestra featuring members of GUH.
The stage will feature an art installation by Roger Carter and Ingrid Paulson, and the band's 90-minute set will be accompanied by the abstract film Subway, created by directors Chris Mills and Steven Chung.
Cinematic show "One of the joys of seeing a band is the environment," Small reasons. "It just makes the band that much more interesting. The whole concept of this show revolves around the idea of the subway. Everything will move slowly and gracefully, and the storyline will be made up by the audience. It's not just going to be a psychedelic band playing in front of a big screen with flashing lights."
"It's anti-psychedelia," Spearin interjects. "We're not trying to trip people out with this show."
"Everybody involved is on the same wavelength," Small adds. "Steve and Chris are the film versions of the Do Makes. The GUH guys are the jazz version of the Do Makes and Ingrid and Roger are the installation art version of the Do Makes."