PHEDRE and HOODED FANG with MOON KING, DOLDRUMS and L CON as part of DAPS REVUE VOL. 1 at the Great Hall (1087 Queen West), Friday (February 24), doors 8:30 pm. $10-$12. RT, SS, TM. See listing.
Since their emergence as members of the sprawling Hooded Fang, Daniel Lee and April Aliermo have become local scene stalwarts. Recently, though, their influence has begun to spread across the Canadian border.
When I reach the pair, they're at Pearson Airport waiting for a flight to London, England, where the second Hooded Fang album, Tosta Mista, a less squeaky-clean follow-up to their acclaimed glock-pop debut, is set to be released on prominent UK indie label Full Time Hobby.
Leaving their luggage with their bandmates and locking themselves into a family bathroom in order to use the speakerphone in private, they rhapsodize about the situation.
"It's all very, very, very strange," says Aliermo. "There's already a lot of press about us over there and people are excited for the shows even though we've never been there before."
"It's pretty odd," Lee agrees. "People we've never met are pulling for us in a space we've never played."
That's a change for the duo, who typically have a hand in every aspect of their music-making. They self-record their albums, control the business side of things and throw their own concerts. (Their Daps Duo all-ages shows have become a small-scale Toronto institution in a scene bereft of age-inclusive options.)
Most recently they've joined forces with Ian Chai to start Daps Records, a channel to release their albums plus those by their friends, including Odonis Odonis, Moon King and Times Neue Roman.
Ironically, setting up Daps has contributed to the viral success of their newest band, Phèdre. Till now they've been content to release music by their various side projects - the loud and dirty Hut, the sloppy rap-punky Tonka & Puma - in the form of small-run cassettes, but Phèdre's self-titled debut is getting a proper digital release (and launch party on Friday).
A collaboration with Airick Woodhead, the solitary man behind experimental electro-psych project Doldrums (and formerly Spiral Beach), Phèdre hitches Lee and Aliermo's Hooded Fang-honed hooky popcraft to pulsing programmed beats and synths, creating a woozy, gothy dance sound that captures the zeitgeist in the most satisfying way.
So it's no big shock that Phèdre's irresistibly catchy In Decay and its NSFW video, an over-the-top parody of decadent hedonism, caught the eye of powerful indie tastemakers Pitchfork and Gorilla vs. Bear, and then spread throughout the blogosphere.
"That actually freaked me out a bit," admits Aliermo. "It's really easy to get lost in a project. You make it and put it out into the world, then you work on the next one, go to your job, make your dinner and then all of a sudden...." She pauses as the airport PA overpowers her voice.
"...people are blogging about you in Greece and Mexico and France. It's kind of mind-blowing. And in Phèdre we're putting on personas and masks, so people are liking us but have no idea who we are in real life."
Phèdre's well-defined visual aesthetic and roots in Greek mythology suggest the trio spent a lot of time planning the project, but it was actually conceived mostly in a single weekend in 2010 and shelved until now.
"There was less pressure than with Hooded Fang, who already had a bit of a legacy," says Lee. (The latter, by the way, have trimmed down from a seven-piece to a four-piece.)
"Phèdre was just me, April and Airick hanging out in our attic, just going for it. We had a bunch of wine, played some stuff and were like, ‘Yeah, record that.'?"
"It was totally spontaneous," Aliermo adds. "We were driven by enthusiasm, excitement and fantasy. Like little kids."