–by Quincy Tejani, Music Connoisseur–
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Besides being the coolest (haha see what I did there?) genre name ever, cold wave is a type of post-punk which effortlessly melds together the punk sounds of France and German Krautrock in the late 70’s/ early 80’s. Bands like Kraftwerk and Can had an incredible effect on the emergence of this genre when bands were just beginning to experiment with the cold, emotionless sounds of the synthesizer (Check out: Trans Europe Express). Traitrs is a Toronto based cold wave band who is helping to keep the sound alive in the modern age. I sat down with the band to discuss their newest EP release, Rites and Ritual:
Quincy: First off, is there ever any confusion with both of you being named Sean (Shawn)?
Sean Nolan: No confusion really, it’s just a joke at this point. Definitely, the best part of having the same name is whenever we introduce ourselves at shows or wherever, no matter how drunk or high people get they always remember us. I’ve seen people get so out of their mind wasted they can’t remember where they live but they’ll still see us and go: “Shit! It’s Shawn and Sean!”
Q: The new EP is filled with incredibly layered post-punk tunes. Who are some artists who inspired you to start making music with such dark aesthetics?
N: We’ve always been drawn to darker music and artists. We like bands and records that make you feel good but a bit ill at the same time. The artists we listened to the most while writing the record were Dead Can Dance, Southern Death Cult, The Opposition, Bauhaus, The Sound, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Chameleons, Asylum Party and of course The Cure and The Smiths. We wanted the coldness and sparsity of our favourite post-punk artists with really propulsive rhythms and catchy vocal melodies. When I was writing the drums in particular, I listened to “Hidden” by These New Puritans. The percussion is so rich and powerful on that record, I got a lot of inspiration from them especially on our track “Savior”.
Shawn Tucker: While travelling it’s all about Bad Brains, Fugazi, Hüsker Dü for us. Also as a huge fan of horror films all through childhood until now, I find inspiration in its storytelling and macabre overtones and I enjoy dragging that into Traitrs. “Burnt Offerings” is taken from an Oliver Reed film. “Heretic” is taken from The Exorcist 2: The Heretic which will be our third single. A video by Italian director and horror/sci-fi fan Francesco Brunotti (who also directed our debut video “Witch Trials”) will be dropping soon so keep an eye out for that.
Q: What are some of the major underlying themes you cover in your latest release?
T: By the summer of 2015 all we had written were demo versions of Witch Trials and Gallows Hill. Those two tracks shaped who we were, who we wanted to be and felt right instrumentally, vocally and lyrically. Those tracks are filled with medieval and religious imagery which is something we come back to often. But at that point we didn’t even have a band name. It wasn’t until I was in an accident in November right before recording that the rest of Rites And Ritual took shape lyrically. I became so messed up on prescription drugs that I wrote the rest of the lyrics while bedridden and watching old horror films. It became such a dark place for me and looking back now and seeing what was written was pretty intense and scary. It’s like I’ve had to decode the messages myself once I took them into the studio to lay them down. Right down to the cover artwork, the whole record is laced with hurt, mid-century religion, sacrifice, witchcraft, ghosts, the occult, death and madness.
Q: Were there any major issues that you came across while recording?
N: The number one issue for us while recording is time and cost. We don’t have any government support or financial backers so everything put into recording comes from us. So with Shawn’s rib injury, we couldn’t really afford to spend much time in the studio so we worked our asses off ahead of time to be as prepared as humanly possible. We recorded “Witch Trials” and “Gallows Hill” in August and then did the rest of the album in two days in January 2016. Recording and mixing 5 tracks in a couple days is pretty intense. There isn’t a lot of time to process everything so you have to trust your gut instinct and be confident in the work. We heavily edit ourselves and our songs in pre-production so by the time we record our parts it’s second nature. We always have fun with our producer Josh so it never felt stressful during the Rites And Ritual sessions, but it would definitely be nice to take a week or so and record the next album.
Q: Have you guys planned to hit the road and do some shows outside of Toronto in order to support the new EP?
N: We’ve been playing a lot here in Canada since the record release in June and we have several more shows coming up in October and November. But so far, nothing outside of Canada unfortunately. We’re still a young band so we have a lot to accomplish in this regard. In 2017 we’d definitely like to branch out to the US and overseas especially. The record has been very well received in Germany, France, Italy, England, Greece etc, so we’ve been in talks with our friends in Japan Suicide to come over next year and tour with them which will be sick.
Q: Do either of you guys do any solo stuff we should know about? Or is it TRAITRS all the way?
N: I already barely sleep as it is, I can’t imagine adding more to my shitheap haha!
T: We are completely locked in with Traitrs. 100%. Everything is so extremely time consuming, it makes us wonder how other artists have the time for a solo/side project. It feels like we’re always working on Traitrs. Since Rites And Ritual came out, we’ve already started writing our next album in the downtime between shows and it’s all chaos. I can say we’re just over halfway there with the follow up. It’s a pretty intensive process like solidifying the tone, concept and feel musically then deciding where to take it lyrically and visually with the artwork. There’s a lot to consider and it takes time.
N: Yeah, there’s a lot that goes into it. And we’re always revising, editing, tweaking, trashing, writing and rewriting. Traitrs haunts my dreams, some days it feels like it’s all I think about.
Q: Lastly, what’s the best TV show you guys have checked out recently? And you aren’t allowed to answer “Stranger Things”.
N: South Park and The Last Man On Earth came back recently which is awesome. Those two shows make me laugh harder than any other current show. I love comedy but generally I find stand-up way funnier than most sitcoms, cartoons and comedy films. But South Park and Last Man bring me to tears. I just finished season 2 of Mr. Robot and it was alright. They definitely had a tough time following up the first season which I really enjoyed but this season wasn’t bad. Peaky Blinders is also really good, I caught up with that show a month or so ago. Shawn recommended it. Great acting and the cinematography is out of this world.
T: Let’s start by saying Stranger Things has an amazing soundtrack. I’d have started a few shows and probably the best right now, I’d have to say is Vikings and The Last Kingdom. I guess having some Danish bloodline helps. I’m a big fan of mid-century medieval shows like The Tudors and The Borgias. I’m on the 3rd episode of Cinemax’s Quarry and the setting, pacing, acting and tone is all excellent. And the last show I’ve started watching is The Exorcist on Fox. I enjoyed the pilot even though I thought I wouldn’t. Horror and television usually isn’t a great combination but it has gotten much better, take Hannibal for instance.
Quincy Tejani is the co-founder of The Violet Wave and is also editor of music. When he’s not listening to or writing about music you can probably find him walking through the forests of Ontario or watching football. He also never turns down a cold Pabst… never.