TANGIERS with the DIABLEROS at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (October 7). $10 (door only). 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
Two phone calls to Josh Reichmann disrupt my lunch with him and James Sayce, together Tangiers.
The first is from his therapist. Call two is from their newest friend, Les Savy Fav and Inouk producer Chris Zane, the man who sat behind the mixing console at Gigantic Studios in NYC for Tangiers's third record, The Family Myth.
The guys are laughing before Reichmann can say he'll call back.
"That was our producer. He stayed with us for two weeks," Reichmann begins.
What, while they were making the album?
"No, no, after! He was like, 'I'm coming to Canada! You guys are crazy fools!'"
"He's that guy," says Sayce, laughing. "No exaggeration. He vomited all over my house. He basically did everything a house guest should not do."
"And he criticized Toronto the entire time," adds Reichmann, who took Zane in after Sayce kicked him out. "Yet he wanted to live here. He's just one of those guys who's confused about how he feels. He was like, 'In New Yawk, Snapple's like 40 cents! This is bullshit!' Everything was about that. But then at the end he admitted, 'I love this place. '"
Loving T.O. is something Sayce and Reichmann have in common with the guy who, they say, to their initial amusement and eventual ire, recorded The Family Myth while communicating with the band in the voice of Borat from Ali G.
From the release of their 03 debut, Hot New Spirits, which boasted some of the bloodiest cuts of the garage rock resuscitation, to the pulsating post-punk rush of their second record, Never Bring You Pleasure, to their latest, Toronto has always served as both a recurring reference point and a conceptual influence for their lyrics and sound.
It's not hard to see why. The two fellows, who came to the fore as an offshoot from the Deadly Snakes, grew up together here, connecting through the local scene, playing now-defunct rock hot spots like Classic Studios on Ossington as kids.
For Reichmann and Sayce - who are so brotherly that their rapport has a snappy morning-show ease - the city is a point of acute fascination that bleeds into their music in many ways.
"There's an English element, there's an American element, and then because we're not purely either one, there's an inherently North American element," analyzes Sayce. "And you feel kind of left out and confused by that.
"That's very Toronto. It's a sophisticated metropolis, so you do have the comforts of having a world-class identity, but you're also a satellite city that revolves around some of the big meccas. I think that floats into the subject matter of our songs."
Because of thoughts like these, they called their album The Family Myth.
"Part of it is about finding your place in a geographic area where there is no place," says Sayce.
The indeterminate character the city lends their music, as well as the band's varied range of influences, not to mention that their styles change drastically between albums, has landed them all manner of critical categorizations. They're Canada's Buzzcocks, say some. No, no, they're the Strokes, but from Toronto. No, wrong - they're two Richard Hells. On and on.
"When we first started - the very first Tangiers existence - it was like, 'Oh, sounds like XTC and Talking Heads and Television,'" says Reichmann. "And then it became more rock 'n' roll, the purist sensibility of garage rock sort of seeped in and then returned to the post-punk thing. So I think all the titling is weird. I would hesitate to pinpoint what era we're coming from other than now."
Upon hearing the new album, you may be less hesitant. There's definitely a strong current of 80s Brit rock à la the Smiths and the Cure at work on what is definitely the band's prettiest pop effort thus far. Once again, Tangiers fans will have to adjust their ears. Asked about the influence, Sayce simply asserts that indie rock inherently borrows from everything.
"I guess indie rock has this lineage that goes back to certain bands in the 60s, and through the 70s, 80s and 90s. We listen to a lot of different eras."
"And if it does sound 80s, blame the producer," adds Reichmann. "He made everything echoey - but we like that."
I guess by proxy, then, you can also implicate Les Savy Fav bassist Syd Butler, who checked out the band during one of their shows in New York last year and just had to sign them in the U.S. to his Frenchkiss label. He's the one who connected them with Zane as well as the "zillion-dollar Deathstar laser studio," Gigantic, where most of the album was recorded. The rest was done at Toronto's Chemical Sound studios after Gigantic's owner, also the heir to the Toys R Us empire (long story) kicked them out (even longer story).
Either way, it's a winning coincidence that Tangiers are delivering their sugariest album at a time when their distribution has never been better (in Canada they just moved from Sonic Unyon to their manager, Evan Newman's, new label, Baudelaire, which officially launched this week), and independent rock music has never been more popular.
"It probably helps us. I mean, we're more of a rock band. We don't fit into the traditional paradigms of radio rock, indie rock proper or garage rock or this whole fashiony post-punk thing. I think we're kind of wading in a weird pool. I don't know where the hell we fit in, but it works for us."
So here they are. They're back, and they're excited, though they're not expecting The Family Myth to be an overwhelming cash-in. Despite how well-loved they are, no one buys their records, they admit with laughs.
Asked about how they feel people will receive their new album, they both sigh.