Paint Interview and Can You Hear Me? album preview for Unsigned with Pat Ciolek on Radio Humber College 96.9

Paint - Unsigned - 96.9FM
December 1, 2009

Pat Ciolek
: Host
Robb Johannes: Vocals/guitar

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SONG: "Don't Blow Me Away"

Pat: It's simple to start a band. Get a group of friends, learn to play a few chords or simple beats, and build from there. The latter is of course easier said than done. You have to have a large concentration of passion and drive in order to advance from frivolous jamming to serious gig playing and creating music. In 2001, Robb Johannes, who at the time lived in Vancouver, had ambitions to start a band that played a fusion of folk, funk, and rock. After the release of their first album in 2004, the band's sound continued to evolve, deriving from influences such as Idlewild, Oasis, and The Cure, articulating, and moulding into a guitar-driven band with infectious melodies and dynamic riffs. The band's second album showcases a stripped-down rock 'n' roll sound, with distinctive vocals and lyrics that live Johannes' life experiences through songs. Robb Johannes, equipped with his guitar and lead vocals has come along way with his band, Paint.

Robb: The band has sort of grown up with me. It started when I was 18 years old and, like a lot of 18-year-olds, I was in this very self-indulgent phase and I just wanted to be a folk singer. But I really liked funk cos I was playing bass at the time, and the band started as this complete hogwash of everything and we didn't do anything well. So it took a lot of time to get to it. What happened was, I took some time off from Paint and I joined three other bands (Hinterland, Paper Moon, and Carving Hearts) and I think that if you take all three of those together, that really shaped the new sound of Paint -- as well as just sitting down and really thinking: "What are we gonna sound like this time? What are we gonna do? Who are we gonna be?" We really had to reinvent ourselves from scratch, and it just feels like the sound that we have now is what is most honest.

Pat: The year 2001 was the start of the MySpace band generation. People had easier access to both music and information for both major, but most importantly, independent, bands. Paint was, of course, one of these inaugural groups that utilized MySpace to get their name out there. But they preferred to do things the old-fashioned way.

Robb: We got on MySpace really early when it first started. It's almost like that tool is so overblown now. It's hard to even be noticed. At the time it was, "Hey, cool, there's this thing called MySpace and there's only a few bands on it." But now everybody's got a profile and how do you stand out? I think the real way to do that is the way that it's always been: to be human beings, to be a band, to go out and play shows, to chat with your audiences, to tour, to network... I still have a lot of faith in that, and even small bands now that do well are all really good at that side of it. And that's ironic cos that side has never really changed since the '60s or the '70s, or even before that.

Pat: Within the seven years of Paint's history, the band's lineup has undergone several changes with the loss and addition of new members. The current lineup features Robb Johannes on vocals and guitar; Mandy Dunbar on guitar and backing vocals; Marcus Warren on bass; and Chris Oliver on drums. Despite the shuffling of people in the band, the moniker "Paint" remained.

Robb: The only reason the band's name is still Paint is just because we could never really think of anything new. We had the same thing in Vancouver when Matt Laforest, Paula McGlynn, and I started writing the songs that are on the Can You Hear Me? album. We thought, "This doesn't sound like 'Paint'... it's darker, it's heavier, it's edgier, it's louder..." So we just kept the name Paint. It feels like a different band but it's really exciting to play these songs that were played in a different city with different people and not to play them in Toronto. The addition of Mandy especially, and our drummer Chris -- I can't believe how excited I am at rehearsals, and on stage. We're all on stage smiling at each other, and that's really rare in a band; normally there's just so much stress and tension.

Pat: While Paint started in Vancouver, they've ended up in Toronto, home to a copious music scene with a larger variety of venues and opportunity. Of course, with that comes an increase in competition.

Robb: The music scene in Toronto is remarkable. A lot of people are down on it here but I find that if you're coming from Vancouver where it's pretty much impossible to tour, and there are so few venues to play at, as a result, you can't play very often. And that discourages a lot of bands. There's something to be said about the fact that in Toronto you can play five nights a week and never play to the same audience because there are so many cities that are just less than an hour or two hours away. I do find that there's more competition but I at the same time, it's that whole oversaturation phenomenon. I think there are just as many good bands now as there always have been, it's just hat there are so many other bands that aren't.

Pat: Following the release of Paint's first album, "Urban Folk Tales" in 2004, the band toured for a year and then took a break before embarking on the start of their second album, Can You Hear Me? The five year period in between consisted of Johannes experimenting with both political activism and substance abuse.

Robb: What ended up happening is I went on a major bender of drugs and alcohol for a few years (laughs), during which time I joined those few other bands. Did a lot of social activism. I got really invovled in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver and prisoners' rights activism. It was great experience; I got to travel around the world and lecture and meet people. It was a very inspiring time. But at the same time I had to get back to my roots: "Why am I doing this?"

Pat: Can You Hear Me? was released on August (11)th, 2009. With their amps turned up to eleven, Paint churned out an eight movement suite. The first single off the album is entitled "Strangers."

SONG: "Strangers"

Robb: It's broken up into three sections and there's three verses. Each of them is a different encounter that I had with a different person. A lot of it was drug and substance-induced, but it's people that you meet -- and maybe you only know them for an hour, but they change your life. There's something in your story and theirs that brings you together, and unfortunately it's often pain that brings people together. Which was be a good thing if you're able to transform it into something beautiful.

Pat: For more information on Paint, visit I'm Pat Ciolek with Paint: Unsigned. On Radio Humber 96.9 FM.

The audio version of this feature can be heard HERE.