I, Teenager (Pt. 1)

My mom recently sent me home with a real-life photo album full of pictures of me. It basically starts when I was a baby and goes up until my university graduation, at which time everybody switched to digital cameras, and therefore no more printed photos exist.

I found some zingers in there: bad haircuts, bad clothes, bad glasses, good memories, great friends. The one piece that totally blew my mind was a live review of WU-TANG CLAN that I had WRITTEN BY HAND and then FAXED to Suroosh at the then titled Voice (presently Vice). Now, which of the items in that declaration was more shocking: that my submission was 100% analogue, or that I went to see the Wu-Tang? I choose the former.

I know, you’re thinking: Is this a joke? I read it last night and had the same reaction. Weird “Al” on stage with the Wu? Did I just make that up? As I recall I had taken some bad drugs before the show and spent most of the time barfing in the toilet and trying not to pass out (moral: don’t do drugs). Did this concert happen as I described it or is this some sort of first-gen mashup sarcasm?

Dated May 28, 1996, means I had just turned 19 when I wrote this. AND from the handwriting on the date, it also appears that I got my DAD to fax it for me. A quick note to my Mom and Dad: you are brave and the greatest parents EVER. You trusted me – just sent those vibes my way – and I ended up at a sketchy concert with a poster that promised SECURITY STRICTLY ENFORCED. And lived to tell. I love you.

So: was this teenaged drivel fit to print? Viceland.com does not have archived print editions on the internet earlier than December 2005. Luckily, I have mild OCD and, had they printed it, should have a copy in the garage.

So until I can dig that out, this post is to be continued

Mama2, May you Rest in Peace.

I flew into Toronto yesterday for perhaps my briefest visit ever: in at 8:45AM and out by 4:30PM. I went for my grandmother’s funeral. Though she has been ailing for months, my grandmother (better known as Mama2) died while I was in Calgary on this last tour. In Vancouver a few days later, Emily, James, Josh and Jules from Metric sent me a beautiful bouquet which we kept backstage. It was strange having to deal with death while on tour: being away from home, the opposite of comfortable and stable, and then having to reconcile your own existence during the in between moments. My sister lives in Calgary, and my Mom came out to visit, so when we found out about Mama2’s death we mourned together, as sisters, as family.

Yesterday in Toronto was spent again in mourning; going from teary-eyed to weepy to moments of sharing a relieving laughter. It was not a light affair. I worried, regretted, wondered: did I ever say goodbye to her? Is that kind of definite closure ever possible? I think it a luxury, a selfish impulse. I visited Mama2 over the past years while she was living with my parents, then at the nursing home and at the hospital and watched her in stages as she got worse, deterioriated, wavered between lucidity and confusion. Sometimes she knew me and Neptune, other times that just wasn’t possible because her mind was struggling with memory.

I do recall, during my last years of seeing her, the urge to just hug her, hold her hand, to touch her, to return the affection she had given me throughout my childhood. A couple years ago, when I would hug her she would say: “Don’t come too close, I’m sick,” but I didn’t care much for that excuse and hugged her anyway. When I last saw her in hospital I held her hand – she had the softest skin for someone who had spent their life working their fingers to the bone – I stroked her hair, as if trying to take away with my touch some of the loneliness she must have found in her illness. Mama2’s entire life was dedicated to working, to helping her family, to holding down the house and getting it done so we all could focus on our own lives. She was selfless and loving and I am grateful to her and to my family for having been raised by such a strong and devoted woman.

At the funeral home, just before the ceremony my mom asked me if I could say a few words, which certainly caught me off guard so I thought about it and when the moment came I declined. All I could think about was coming home for lunch in grade school and how Mama2 would halve and seed my grapes so I would eat them and watch The Flintstones and Definition uninterrupted – and not because I was spoiled but because seedless grapes were more expensive and Mama2 never wanted us to feel poor, or that we had less, or that we should ever be denied anything in life…as her life had been throughout WWII: a series of events that took everything from her again and again.

And so when I held her hand at the hospital in early December, it was the last time I saw her, and the last time I looked at her with all my love, as I always have. And I always will; for my last goodbye will be ongoing, as I live out my life and share everything with Neptune, as Mama2 would have wanted: fearlessly, passionately, honestly, lovingly and forever.

This isn’t much of a “Happy New Year’s” sentiment. But this is a time about endings and new beginnings, of living forward and respecting our families and friends, and thinking about the future. I thank you for sharing this blog with me, and hope we can all share more love, truth and trust in 2009.

Yours ever, Natalia

London Tonight; Toronto Last Week

This is the second attempt to finish this post. Yesterday, at the Rough Trade store in Brick Lane, the internet connection just did not approve. I tried two different computers and had a very witty and well written first paragraph suddenly disappear. It was much better than this first paragraph.

We are in London and play Porchester Hall tonight. With the help of alternating pints of beer and double macchiatos, we have conquered the jet lag and I’ve been waking up feeling very well-rested and normal. Adjusting when we get back home is going to be rough. I’ve found that staying incredibly busy – as we have been, having completed an 8-hour press day yesterday, followed by an in-store performance – doesn’t allow for any fading away or moments of exhaustion. You just go, do things, do interviews, do acoustic shows. The secret (apart from the pints/coffee equation)? Drink lots of water.

You can listen here to our BBC 6 Hub session with George Lamb (this link expires in a week).

Seven days ago, we were in Toronto. Murray and I did a TV interview with MTV, and I realised during that my socks were not exactly matched. While both black, one was slightly more faded and had a textured stripe through it. I was kind of embarrassed and I don’t know if you can see but I am always touching my ankles while seated, self-conscious as the odd socks peeked out.

That was before our Thursday night Toronto show. It went well enough, but while we were playing, the venue was having their liquor license revoked. There was an odd energy in the air: between that and our nerves playing out. After a post-show sing-a-long (which seems to be our new favourite backstage pastime) we all went for Guinness pints and street meat/veggie dogs.

Although we got home after 2AM, Murray and I had to be at the CBC for 8AM Friday morning. We did Q with Jian Gomeshi: catch the podcast here. We had a 10-hour press day – literally Murray did not finish until 6PM. It was exhausting and exhilarating, and I brought Neptune by for part of the day just so we could see her.

We had time for a cat nap before heading back to the venue. Friday night’s Toronto show was incredible. The audience was great and I don’t know what it was but it was our best show yet. Murray said it may have been the best Dears show in history. The songs were near perfect…we were just gelling on stage, having fun and being into it. It’s incredible: new beginnings, new beginnings (joke for McCarron).

Totally Busted: Santa Cruz

I was recently approached by the lovely Amanda Burt about Toronto’s conceptual art-party Santa Cruz making its way to Montreal. Piqued mostly by the idea that I could spend an evening with the lovely Miss. Burt, I of course agreed. I suggested, however, that I felt “too old for such art-house shennanigans,” but also was drawn by the idea of a Peanuts-inspired psychiatric booth where one receives loose-lipped words of encouragement.

Anyway, a few emails were exchanged and I guess I made it into the press release because I got this Google News Alert:
PARTY MAVENS: Santa Cruz Eagle Eyes

So I’ll be there and you should too, I suppose.

Playing the Record for People

On Tuesday, Murray and I embarked on an Ontarian adventure. We drove down to play the record for some people. This album is precious to us, and we would be totally devastated if our past year’s work was misused or stolen from us. So we never sent out any CDs to anyone, and in fact the only way anyone who didn’t play on the record can hear it is to come to one of our impromptu board room meetings for a listening session. We came to Toronto to play it for friends and also some industry types: at least, the ones who were open to the idea of a listening session. We would gather people together, put the CD on the stereo, then leave the room. After 58 minutes we’d come back, reclaim the CD and that’s it. That’s how we’re rolling: no burns, no iTunes imports, no files somewhere on a server. No ripping, burning, leaking or stealing allowed until we’re ready. Because we know it’s going to happen eventually — we’d just like to be involved when it goes down. Call us crazy, but these songs are the keystone, our main conduit keeping us connected with our fans, and we want to enjoy that communication, not live in fear of it.

So we’ve got a lot of convincing to do: our works’ cut out for us. Murray and I are kind of on a reconnaissance mission: collecting information, seeing who’s into our outsider ways, observing people’s reactions, their favourite tracks and single selections, what they did and didn’t expect. It’s been interesting, and the common thread (for me) is how good it sounds no matter where we play it. It carries itself with a creative consistency across several platforms: headphones, car stereos, amazing stereos, crappy stereos, computer speakers and other small systems. Even after hearing it dozens of times in its finished state, I still hear things I’ve not heard before.

Now we’re simmering, letting all the ideas come to us as sort of a natural reaction to how the music is being perceived. The music industry has forced our hand, compelled us to let go of old world methods and marketing templates for organic ways and the opening of an unconventional, artistic discourse. We want to put something out there for you to hear soon, too. Stay tuned for the news of listening sessions, because we might get crazy and invite you to the next one.