Discover up and coming artists in 10 questions…
9 May 2018
Canadian electro pop duo CUBS REFRAIN released their full length debut TELL ME YOU LOVE ME last month. A rapturous work of vivid passion, heartfelt intensity and vehement romanticism. A gratifying record that pleases your senses all the way through. A sparkling collection of emotions-loaded compositions. Turn Up The Volume hears echoes of Chvrches, Florence and the Machine and St. Vincent. But most of all I hear two towering voices and I
experience high-quality songwriting intensified by sky-high orchestrations and burning eagerness. Enough reasons to have a chat with the authors, Erin and Jordan. Let’s start
the acquaintance with a highlight of that stirring longplayer. Here’s ALL NEW LIVES…
I guess we’re all in the right mood now, let’s talk…
1 / What’s the story behind the band’s name ?
CUBS: “We settled on the name Cubs Refrain after a lot of consideration. The names of our previous groups were somewhat goofy and lighthearted, which was great, but we realized we wanted this name to have some more personal meaning for us both. We landed on a combined phrase that to us holds both nostalgia and growth. That being said, we really hope to keep it open to interpretation and will refrain from disclosing specifics. We started working together over correspondence while Jordan was working in BC and Erin was living in Spain in early 2015. At that point we only had the concept for the band and Jordan was starting to demo a bunch of new synth sounds. We had never worked seriously together before then but had played shows together in our respective bands back in our university days. We had always admired each other’s skills and approach to music, so we both kind of jumped at the opportunity, officially starting Cubs Refrain in August of 2015.”
2/ What was the initial sound, songs and themes you had in mind when starting up?
CUBS: “Jordan initially had the vision to change gears from our prior genres and try out synth-driven music. We originally really wanted our sound to be much more pared back, really similar to Oh Wonder. Their first few singles (and album) was hugely influential for
us, especially vocally. As we developed things further and started accumulating our
synths, we evolved into the heavier synth textures that you hear on the album. A lot
of that came from our love of CHVRCHES and M83, both of which have some incredible synth arrangements. We gradually found our own way to emulate our indie rock and
blues styles with our synthesizers. We weren’t really interested in making your sort of classic EDM beats with these synths, but really wanted to tell the same stories as we
had with our guitar and piano. Our approach to arranging songs remained very similar
to how we had written in the past, with the main difference being that almost all of the instruments used were synthesizers.”
3 / Your debut album’s front artwork is a beauty. What inspired the image?
Jordan: The art was actually a collaboration of a number of people, but the idea for it came to me in the spring of 2016 after a major house fire consumed my family home. We had this beautiful grand piano that we lost in the fire, so I wanted to capture that in some way visually. I actually took some sound recordings of us ‘disassembling’ it, which can be heard at the end of the instrumental track ‘Death of the Grand Piano’. hat’s the most literal sense of it, but we also felt that it represented our artistic vision of moving past tradition and embracing change.”
4/ Your brand new debut LP is titled ‘TELL ME YOU LOVE ME’. Who are the lovers?
CUBS: “The album tells the story of a fictional pair. We naturally put a lot of our own emotions and experiences into the songs we wrote for this album, but we wanted to portray it as a cohesive story and found that telling our fragmented pasts through the vessel of one couple was the perfect way to do it. We spent a lot of time developing each of their personalities, storyboarding their relationship, which takes the listener from the time they met to their eventual heartbreak and reflection. The title of the album, Tell Me You Love Me, we feel is an all-encapsulating phrase that can be expressed through changing times, from feelings of passion to desperation.”
5/ Which track is CUBS REFRAIN signature one so far and why?
CUBS: “‘Breathe’ is probably the quintessential Cubs track. From the vocals to the synth melodies to the dynamics, it’s really representative of who we are as artists. We feel that we have a really diverse sound, and ‘Breathe’ does a great job of showcasing that. It’s also one of the songs that marked the peak of our collaboration through the writing of the album, where we really felt we hit our stride.”
6/ Both your voices are amazing. The result of training or a natural gift?
“Jordan: “I’m glad you like our voices! I don’t consider myself much of a singer, so most
of my vocal ability I’ve worked to develop. Erin on the other hand seems to be able to make anything sound incredible with ease, so it’s always a big relief when she’s able
to sing on a track.”
Erin: “Wow, thanks. Besides being part of choirs growing up, I never had any real training. I’ve always been extremely shy with my voice so it’s been a slow progression to getting it where it is now. Working on this album has shown the most drastic progression, and I definitely owe a lot of that growth to Jordan for pushing my limits. I’m pretty excited
with my improvement up to now, but I know there’s definitely farther that I can go.”
7/ Closing track ‘WE ALMOST FAILED, BRIAN (Epilogue II’ is my favorite. What’s the song about and how did you created the wall-of-synths sound in the studio?
CUBS: “‘Brian’ is about moving on and being ok with where you are. We felt it was the perfect track to play out the album, almost as a reflection of the story itself. It wraps
things up in a sort of bittersweet way. It’s like looking back on a hardship fondly, knowing that you’ve grown because of it. The wall of synth sound was mostly about fitting all of the pieces around one another. There are lots of unison and octave layers that reinforce each other. We used entirely analog synths for the track, which really added to the harmonic richness of all the instrumentation.”
8/ Which movie would you pick to visualize your music
on a big screen behind you when playing a show?
Jordan: “The first movie that always comes to mind is ‘Drive’. I think maybe because
the soundtrack is so similar stylistically, but I do think that they have similar aesthetics.”
Erin: “I think the feel of our stuff would fit pretty well over ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’,
a fantastic movie about the confusions of adolescence and first loves.”
9/ If you could go back in time on which artist’s front door
would you knock and ask to have a selfie together?
Jordan: “David Bowie. I feel like out of most
famous musicians, he’d be down for a fan selfie.”
Erin: I’m gonna go with Michael Jackson.
I make a solid effort at the moonwalk.”
10/ Future plans for CUBS REFRAIN?
CUBS: “We’re hoping to just keep on playing bigger and bigger shows and take our music to new places! Jordan loves recording and producing, so it’s going to be difficult to keep him out of the studio. I wouldn’t read into that too much though, another album is a ways out from now.”
Thank you Erin, thank you Jordan for this interview.
May the road rise with CUBS REFRAIN!
TELL ME YOU LOVE ME
Album in full right here…
(press promo photo on top via Cubs Refrain)