SLIM TWIG and U.S. GIRLS with YOUNG MOTHER, FIVER and DJ CHRISSY at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), tonight (Thursday, December 13), doors 8:30 pm. $8. RT, SS. See listing.
If David Lynch made romantic comedies, he would probably struggle to improve upon the real-life pairing of Max Turnbull and Meghan Remy.
Solitary pop perverts until they met in 2009, the musicians have spent years exploring the sinister, unsettling edges of the popular music of the last six decades in their respective projects, Slim Twig and U.S. Girls. Turnbull and Remy are now married and settled in Toronto, but their partnership extends beyond nuptials.
"Meeting each other seemed to start some sort of chemical reaction that opened doors for both of our projects," says Turnbull over the phone from Brighton, UK, where he and Remy are playing a showcase for U.S. Girls' record label, Fat Cat. "It's been a game-changer."
Slim Twig produced the newest U.S. Girls record, Gem, which replaces the lo-fi harshness of Remy's earlier experiments with a newfound emphasis on vocals, hooks and live instrumentation by Turnbull, Louis Percival, Carl Didur and Tim Westberg. (The band backs up Slim Twig, too, live and in studio.)
Turnbull has taken a similar approach to his own music of late, distancing himself from his earlier "weirdo" gothabilly persona to embrace a more immediate 60s-influenced psych-pop sound.
"When we met, we were both pursuing stranger, fringier sounds," he says. "The number-one influence she's had on me is that she finally made me comfortable with pop music."
It turns out he needed the help more than he thought. Turnbull had been attempting a pop makeover for the last couple of years but had a hard time shaking his experimental past. In 2010, he holed up on the Toronto Islands to record his pop album, but when he played it for his collaborators and record label, Paper Bag, they didn't grasp its supposed accessibility.
He went back to the drawing board and came up with Sof' Sike, released in August. Written and recorded in three months, it's more immediate than anything he's released as Slim Twig, embracing relatively straightforward hooks and structures.
Now that his pop album is out of the way, he's finally releasing the earlier shelved A Hound At The Hem (Calico/Pleasance). Influenced by Serge Gainsbourg's L'Histoire De Melody Nelson and featuring string arrangements by Owen Pallett, the record lets his freak flag fly once again.
"It took my making Sof' Sike to kind of appreciate A Hound At The Hem on its own merits," says Turnbull. "If I may say so immodestly, I think it's my most original album yet."