Ambitious Toronto art pop ensemble visualizes future
JUNETILE opening for Microbunny at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, May 9). $7. 416-596-1908. Also at C’est What (19 Church), Saturday (May 11), 416-867-9499 and the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Tuesday (May 14), 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
listening to local four-pieceJunetile’s music is like watching the world through the window of an airplane: you get glimpses of familiar, poppy hooks and blissed-out melodies, but they seem like far-away, miniature elements set off against a much grander backdrop.The songs combine wavering, disjointed vocals with cloudy cello parts, trippy keyboards and catchy guitar riffs in weirdly deconstructed configurations that have inspired comparisons to Radiohead circa Kid A. Very avant-pop, and very artsy.
So when Junetile vocalist/guitarist/songwriter and York fine arts grad Jonathan Relph says his visual aesthetic influences his music, I’m not surprised.
“I did a lot of collage work, taking body parts from different sources and sticking them together, and working on a computer with wave forms is sort of the same thing. I’m also really attracted to big buildings and airplanes and clouds, things that seem monumental. I think that comes through in the musical aesthetic as well when I listen to our songs they seem really big.”
The band began in 1994 as a basement duo, when Relph and cellist/guitarist Sam Simmons holed up with their instruments and a four-track as a distraction from their university careers — fine art for Relph, English for Simmons.
That’s when they came up with the name. As Relph explains, Junetile’s more prosaic than it sounds. “We put our names backwards, tried to make up funny words, but the only thing that caught was well, Sam’s Jewish, and I’m Gentile, and when you fuse the two, you get Junetile.”
Relph’s childhood buddy, Chris Stringer, who’d sold him his first guitar, became a full-fledged member when the boys decided to move out of the basement and in front of audiences in the summer of 2000.
In one of those seemingly fated, weirdly incestuous Toronto music scene moments, drummer Michael Wojewoda, known for his work in the Rheostatics and as a Juno-winning producer, was playing sound guy for the band during a show at Ted’s Wrecking Yard that September. Relph mentioned that they were in the market for a drummer, Wojewoda liked their sound, and the trio became a foursome.
“He completes us,” chuckles Relph sheepishly. “He had me at hello.”
In person, Wojewoda comes off a bit like Junetile’s proud papa. He’s obviously wowed by Relph’s songwriting skills and praises Stringer’s talents as an engineer. But you get the feeling it was their refreshing inexperience that drew him to Junetile.
“In the last year and a half I’ve felt this deep need not to feel deeply responsible for anything,” he explains. “It was a pathological desire to not care on an official level. Coming into the fold, they didn’t want me to record them, which was great. And now they want me to get involved.”
The band’s first three EPs were composed primarily on the computer, guided by Relph’s and Stringer’s obsession with Logic Audio software. For their upcoming full-length debut, set to drop this summer, the boys decided to head into the studio and actually “document how we play with one another,” according to Stringer.
The songs are the same, though. Relph says he doesn’t know how to write a conventional pop song — he just makes ’em short, sweet and unstructured.
“I know there were a few points where I’d say to myself, “Man, I’m gonna get bored with this really quickly.’ So a lot of the songs are shorter as a result of that. That’s my writing style, though. When I had to write a 10-page essay in university, I’d only be able to come up with, like, seven pages. And I’d usually do pretty well anyway. Quality over quantity.”email@example.com