Mix Talks: Cassette tapes and near-miss electrocutions with Walrus

Walrus

Gearing up for Halifax Pop Explosion, Mixtape is bringing you a series of Q&As with artists lined up to perform during the five-day (October 22 and 26) festival. For our second installment, we fired off some questions to Walrus, a Halifax band known for its tripped out, psychedelic sounds. Walrus play at Gus’ Pub on Thursday, Oct. 24 along with The Zolas, The Everywheres and Lightmares.

Mixtape Magazine: Your Music is rooted in the classic psychedelic sound, but you also manage to add “modern” flair with intricate rhythms and guitar riffs, creating something like a new-age psychedelic – What is the drive behind doing that?

Walrus: I think the new-age psychedelic sound comes from each member of the band. We all enjoy psych music, but I think we all have certain eras of music that we adhere to, like contemporary psych, or 60’s psych, or Floyd, so we’re really combining all of those things to create our own spectrum.

MM: Psychedelic has a very unique sound and requires some interesting musical creativity – What is it about the psychedelic sound that you love so much and got you guys into creating it?

Walrus: The fun thing about creating psychedelic music is that you can turn something so simple into something that’s hard to wrap your head around; when you get to change the surface of a song by using different effects and textures, it’s really intriguing. That’s what excites me as a member of Walrus – knowing that our sound will always evolve and change because we’re always trying to create new sounds, and always trying to restructure a simple pop song.

MM: One of the things you guys are known for is releasing albums in “old school” styles – cassette and vinyl. Why do you release music in these formats?

Walrus: We release cassette tapes because they are so cheap to produce…it doesn’t take a lot of funds to whip out like 50 tapes, so to be able to have a physical release of something and have it be so cost effective is a beautiful thing. Really, it seems people in Halifax are very responsive to cassette releases as well. A lot of our friends are doing the same and people seem to dig it. With vinyl, I think that’s something that every band dreams of releasing. Vinyl has a lot of character, so to get your own music pressed is something I’ve always wanted to do. We were lucky enough to have Adam Sturgeon of Out Of Sound Records really drive us through the process, basically handling everything from getting them pressed to screen-printing the covers. It’s not as cheap as a cassette release, but it’s worth it in the end.

MM: Walrus has released a bunch of split singles. How do you decide what bands to release a split with? Tell us a little more about the Chief Thundercloud and Psyche Tongue releases.

Walrus: We’re down to do a split with just about any bands that we are fans of, splits are a great way of spreading your music to people that might not normally hear it. Instead of just people who like us listening to it, it’s also listeners who like the Psyche Tongues or Chief Thundercloud. The Psyche Tongues release came about almost like fate. We, by chance, played a show with them in February while touring, and we really dug each others’ music, so we went up to Toronto in June to play NXNE and we stayed with the Tongues, and we hit it off like brothers or something, and before we knew it they had a full blown recording session set up in their house. We recorded “Okay” in 3 hours – maybe the most fun we’ve had recording – because it was so productive, and so off-the-cuff. With the Chief split release, we really like Craig’s music from Scribbler and Chief and he was always really supportive of us, and it was something we talked about doing for a while and then this summer it finally came together. We had a big batch of songs and Craig asked us to do a split and the timing just worked perfectly, and the end result is really amazing.

MM: What does it mean for you guys to be playing Halifax Pop Explosion this year?

Walrus: It’s definitely cool to be playing HPX, it’s something we all go to as music fans every year just to watch the shows and there’s a lot of history surrounding the festival, like so many classic Halifax acts played when their careers were just starting or whatever, so to actually be a part of it is certainly a cool feeling.

MM: What’s one awesome thing that has happened to you guys during a live show?

Walrus: One time in Ottawa we were playing a show with our best friends, Organ Eyes, at this venue called Mugshots, which used to be a prison in the 1900s or something like that, and where the bands play is right in the prison “backyard” area, where the prisoners would get to exercise, so when you’re playing you are actually outside, and about halfway through our set, it started pouring rain. All of our gear was getting soaked, but thankfully no one was electrocuted.

Photo: Walrus’ Facebook Page