Paint Interview and On-air Performance by Robb Johannes and Mandy Dunbar with Lama Balaghi or Spirit Live & Local Radio (www.spiritlive.net)
Paint – Live & Local - www.spiritlive.net
October 19, 2009, 7:00 p.m. EST
Lama Balaghi: Host
Robb Johannes: Vocals/guitar
Mandy Dunbar: Guitar/vocals
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Lama: You’re listening Live & Local, I'm Lama, and joining me right now are Robb and Mandy of Paint. How are you?
Mandy: Good, thanks for having us.
Lama: No, thank you for joining me tonight. So, you released your album, Can You Hear Me? in August. Reviews are great. This is one of the more recent ones that just came out earlier this month, it's from Youthink. It describes the album as, "In your face but not overpowering, melodic but still harsh, well-crafted but not over-prefected, it's not yet not mushy, desperate but not emo, and heartbreaking yet uplifting." Woo. So first of all, would you say that's a pretty accurate description of your style? Is that what you were going for?
Robb: I think so. It's really this blend of contradictions: musically and sonically it's very loud and very overbearing yet lyrically it's very melodic and there's almost folk-influenced themes. Every song has a narrative and tells a story throughout. So we're definitely hitting all of our bases. I'd say that's pretty accurate. That's a very long sentence too.
Mandy: It's a lot of adjectives.
Lama: I know, and I cut it down -- it's longer than that.
Robb: There was something about "emo"...
Mandy: I think it said we're not emo.
Lama: You're "desperate" but you're "not emo."
Mandy: Not quite that desperate.
Lama: Just desperate enough.
Robb: The burning in our souls just doesn't quite scream in the right way.
Lama: I don't know what the right amount of desperation would be but you're at it apparently.
Robb: When does it become emo, I'm not sure?
Lama: When you go in to work on your music, are you thinking about this kind of thing? Do you put so much thought into creating a specific sound, or does that just come out through the process?
Robb: That's a good question. It sort of does come out through the process but it's never forced. If it's almost as though we're trying to be something that we're not, and are saying, "We have to sound this way all the time," then that's just not bieng honest and that's not really capturing us. The concept for the band and the sound and the influences was very much a sit down and have a conversation: "Okay, what is this band? What are we gonna be? What are we gonna sound like?" But if we started that and it didn't work, we weren't gonna continue with it.
Lama: So it's not like you read that review and say that's what you were hoping for.
Mandy: I don't know how you write a song to that review, unless it was just every adjective from the review in the song. Maybe we can work on that.
Robb: You'd have to musically do that too. I'd have to go from (heavy metal scream) to (operatic howl).
Lama: Well, if you put that together, let me know I'll get it playing on the show (laughs). Before we go any further, let's get a feel for your sound. We're gonna play "Strangers" now but hang tight, much more to ask when we come back here with Paint on "Live and Local."
Lama: You're tuned into "Live and Loca;," you just heard "Strangers" from Paint and hanigng out with me right now are Robb and Mandy of the band. So, let's talk about the good old '90s.
Lama: A lot of your reviews compare you to the '90s. The Montreal Mirror describes you as, "alt-rock relic spritually scraping the '90s" -- gotta love how that's phrased...
Lama: Roth 'n' roll: The Palace of Rock calls it, "A solid album with guitar-driven rock songs, the '90s style." So, are you a big fan of '90s music by any chance?
Robb: This is really weird because the '90s were so extreme: in one hand you had Nirvana and Pearl Jam and these really interesting bands in the Britpop movement yet, on the other extreme you had Limp Bizkit and this complete crap coming out. so it's almost like when I hear the term "'90s rock" applied to us, I start to get a little "Ewww, no really? Are you calling us that?" But I was eleven when Kurt Cobain died, so I was already listening to that stuff at the time and it was really a big influence on me. I didn't really think that it was influencing our sound though, I was suprised by (those reviews). How about you?
Mandy: I think tha album's a little more unapologetically rock than the current indie trend which may be where that comes from.
Robb: Right. That's true, we just wanted to be over the top with it. I mean, the album starts the first song with a squeal of feedback -- which is saying, "Hey, you know what? We use distortion pedals and old tube amps and we're not afraid."
Mandy: And we don't have a keyboard. If ever.
Robb: No, there will be no keyboard. Guitars, bass, and drums. It's rock 'n' roll, man.
Lama: No need for the keyboard. I love the '90s, so I didn't see it as a bad thing. But you do have some influences coming out of the '90s: Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam.
Lama: Oasis is great. So, I found something on your website, it says, "The band is comprised of four people who have proven they're willing to publicly express how much they hate each other, but will kick the -- let's go with, "crap" -- out of any outsider who speaks ill of any of them." So, hate each other? What's the one thing about each other that drives you crazy?
Mandy: I can start.
Robb: Yeah, go for it.
Mandy: If I had to pick one thing, Robb is incapable of writing an email that's less than 3 pages long.
Robb: (laughs) Yeah, that's true.
Mandy: Which, in comparison to Marcus, who picks and chooses when he talks, is a contrast. It's pretty interesting.
Robb: I don't know if "hate each other" is necessarily... it may be accurate. That was definitely the description of the lineup when we were based in Vancouver. It was really hard to tell if we really, really hated each other or if we were just constantly making jokes about each other. It was a fine line.
Lama: So, more like teasing?
Robb: It was hard to tell, cos some things that were said about each other were really harsh. And it was public. If you go back and look at our olds blogs, there's back-and-forths between members of the band. It's tough to say -- but at the same time, if anybody else, if anyone who's not in the band were to take a shot at any of us, you can guarantee a gang of four would be all over them. We wouldn't tolerate that.
Lama: Have you ever had to actually kick the crap out of anyone for speaking ill of any of the band members?
Robb: I don't know if I can actually say that publicly because it's unresolved right now and I don't want to put anything to incriminate myself out in the public domain.
Lama: Okay. But it's all out of love, right?
Robb: Of course.
Lama: Okay, so we are going to take another music break...
Lama: We're back, you're tuned into "Live and Local," I"m here with Robb and Mandy of Paint. And they are set to give us a live song. So whenever you're ready, I'll let you go ahead and introduce it.
Robb: This song is about the city of Vancouver, it's called "Jenny and Maurice."
SONG: "Jenny and Maurice"
Lama: That was great, you sound fantastic. I don't think we needed any keyboard in that. I think the guitars wer enough.
Robb: Yeah, it needed some dirt.
Lama: Some dirt. Yeah. Next time I'll make sure to provide some dirt.
Robb: Yeah, we'll spread some out on the table.
Lama: What's the best part of performing live?
Robb: Several things. Looking over to my left or to my right and exchanging a glance or a little eye contact or a smile with the members of the band. I think the better time that we're having on stage together translates across to the audience. So, if we're having a good time, we know that the audience will be too. Though that is a fine line. We've seen Phish -- we're not a jam band or anything. I think having a responsive audience is really great as well -- where there's parts where by the third chorus of the song they're singing along, which we've had happen at some of our recent shows. And that's kind of a rush, it's almost like you can just step back and not worry about anything anymore.
Lama: Anything you want to add to that, Mandy?
Mandy: I think for me, at the places we're playing right now it's a lot of bands with all guys. One of the things I enjoy about playing live is that I get to break down a lot of stereotypes and just rock out and sort of surprises them that I'm a girl sometimes. Not surprises -- I think I look like a girl (laughter) -- the fact that I have a power stance.
Lama: Girl Power. Back to the '90s.
Mandy: Yeah, the Spice Girls! I knew we had an influence!
Robb: It's really great. That's an element that is a very important part of this band. Having a female guitar player who does add elements vocally, it throws back to the Pixies where it was this wonderful balance to the male voice. And audiences go crazy for Mandy. To see a girl just rock out.
Mandy: The sheer amount of marriage proposals that I get...
Robb: Yeah, we have women showing up wanting to get married to Mandy.
Mandy: My Sharpie's run out of ink a few times with all the autographs.
Robb: That's true. There's only so many breasts you can autograph. And there are girls who want to play guitar now because they saw one of our shows, that's kinda cool. There's too many beards in rock 'n' roll so it's nice to break that down.
Lama: That's very cool. I like that girls want to play guitar -- anytime you can influence anyone, it's gotta feel great.
Lama: Back to chatting with Paint. When we were in the break, we discovered that Mandy and I have a little something in common.
Mandy: A big something in common.
Lama: Something from the '90s again, so BSB. Backstreet Boys.
Mandy: YEah, the summer before I was in grade 9, we titled it "The Backstreet Boys Summer." We leanred all the dance moves, and we were gonna send in a video to Rosie O'Donnell cos she could make us meet them. It was a big deal.
Robb: Can I point out that if I was to talk about one thing about Mandy that could potentially make me hate her that this is it right here?
Lama: So it could potentially make you hate me too, because I was a big fan. I could recite the words.
Mandy: Are you still a fan of the Backstreet Boys? Because they just put an album out again.
Lama: I haven't heard their new stuff yet but I don't see myself being able to dislike them just cos they're the Backstreet Boys. I had their posters on my walls!
Mandy: Yeah, but Kevin's gone now, it just doesn't seem right. It's like Van Halen without... could I go that far? Now Robb really hates me.
Lama: But back to you guys... I want to talk a bit about your blog. You can access it through your website, www.thepaintsite.com, and you've got some interesting entries in there. I'm just gonna bring up your latest entry, "Shut Up and Scream." Robb, you that one up there and you're talking about how musicians are often told to "Shut up and sing" when they take a political stance, and at the end you ask, "Do you think musicians should shut up and sing?" So I just wanted ot throw that quesiton at you: do you think musicians should stick to what they're good at? -- not that music is the only thing they're gonna be good at... or is it okay if they want to get out and make a political stance?
Robb: Absolutely, hey're citizens. We're all citizens. I don't see why it's right for a steelworker to be interviewed on the side of the road as "This is what the public thinks," and that's perfectly legitmate -- yet as soon as a musician starts to do it, they're told to shut up and that they don't know anything. I think that art and activism have historically, for centuries, always been linked. We're in an age now where everything is hyper commercialized to the point where it's really difficult to see that value of art anywhere outside of the fringes. If you look back through the Roman ages and everything, all of these philosophers were artists, they were painters, they were writers. But they were ones that we learned about our culture through. They were the ones that were the most informed and looked outside of the box. I vote. I have every right to say what I need to say, just like anybody else does. Arts have always been subservise, so they're an easy target and an easy scapegoat as well, you know, "Corrupting our youth" and all these sorts of things. But that's not for me.
Lama: Anything you want to add to that, Mandy?
Mandy: I think Robb has a pretty good thesis about all of that.
Lama: Yeah, feel free to read it up on it more on the blog, because ypu do go into quite a bit of detail. It's an interesting entry. So you've got a show coming up: you're at C'est What? on the 24th, so that's this Saturday. It's at 67 Front Street East, 8 p.m., and according to your website you should "come see Paint in Toronto before they become as popular as U2 and run away to the UK or America."
Lama: Is that the goal? To run off to Britain and be bigger than U2?
Robb: (laughing) Did we say that?
Mandy: I think that was the article.
Robb: Oh, that was Iddie Fourka, she wrote that about us... if people are gonna listen, they're gonna listen. I don't think there's any shame in wanting to have a giant audience.
Lama: Not at all. I think it's a great goal.
Robb: You don't have to sell out. The funny thing is that a lot of people say that U2 really sold out but I just read their autobiography recently -- and you know that iPod thing that they did? They didn't actually take any money for that.
Lama: Oh really?
Robb: Yeah, everyone's like "Argh, U2, giant sellout" -- but they did it for free. I thought that was really cool.
Mandy: Cos they just love the iPod, and now they love the BlackBerry!
Robb: (laugh) The BlackBerry thing, I'm not sure, but the iPod thing was like that. That's a band that's really stuck to their principles, while we're talking "shut up and sing."
Lama: Yeah, Bono definitely doesn't just shut up and sing.
Robb: And he acknowledges that he doesn't have to.
Lama: You've also got another show in December. It's a while away, but it's on the 5th at Rancho Relaxo. SO if you can't make it this Saturday, that's always another option. BUt, try to make it.
Robb: Yeah, death or dismemberment are usually the only excuses -- for us at least -- to miss a show.
Lama: Natural disaster maybe.
Mandy: Not if you've got a boat and it's a flood. You can still come.
Robb: Yeah, exactly.
Lama: Tell me: have you ever had an audience member throw anything at you during a live performance on stage? You know, any bras coming at you? Roses?
Robb: Not with this band, I don't think... I'm trying to think if it's happened with other bands. I've had people reach on stage and try to start playing my instrument for me.
Mandy: Oh, that's generous of them.
Robb: It was in the middle of a solo. It really bothered me. I think I actually kicked the person.
Lama: Don't mess with Robb!
Robb: That line between audience and performer, I like blurring that. BUt it has to end somewhere.
Lama: Gotta draw the line. Okay, well I promise not to try to play your instrument or throw anything at you. If you're all set, we'd love to hear another song from you.
Robb: Sure. Speaking of thrwing things, I guess when you break somebody's heart you get things thrown at you, but sometimes it turns into a really good song. That's what this is, it's called "A Gentle Art."
SONG: "A Gentle Art"
Lama: Wow, I love that one. I like the lyrics. A little sad. Just a bit. I love the lyrics, they're great.
Robb: Thank you. That normally ends with a squeal of feedback and, as Mandy says, I'm humping my amp.
Mandy: That's my mom's favourite part of the show.
Robb: Yeah, the ending's for the ladies.
Lama: Wow, that's a great image to end off with.
Robb: Oh yeah, and people can see this, can't they?
Lama: Well, thank you so much for coming in. It's great to have you. Check out the album, Can You Hear Me? It's available on iTunes. It's apparently supposed to make you deaf, lots of loud songs on there. So if you think your ears can handle it, have a lsiten.
Robb: Make sure you've got an extra pair of socks before you listen to the album cos they're gonna get rocked off.
Lama: That was hilarious.
Robb: It was either that or an extra face cos it's gonna get rocked off.
Lama: I like the socks -- you could eventually get some Paint socks.
Mandy: I really, really like socks so that sounds great.
Lama: Please send me a pair when you get them made. You can also hit up the band's website at www.thepaintsite.com or myspace.com/paint. You're also on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube -- you're everywhere!
Robb: We are everywhere. Big Brother. That should've been our name.
Lama: And don't forget, C'est What? this Saturday. Anything to add?
Robb: We like playing acoustic, it's a different way to present the songs, but we're meant to be played loud.
A podcast of this interview and performance can be downloaded at www.spiritlive.net.