I haven’t been able to get Dear Rouge’s “Boys & Blondes” out of my head for like, forever, because it is so maddeningly, infectiously GOOD. And while I’m no psychic, I would imagine the Canadian band will be playing it live at tonight’s Mercury Lounge gig in NYC. (If you don’t have tickets, you should grab some right now.) In anticipation of the show, I was able to catch up with the McTaggarts by phone to talk about the duo’s musical success, what it’s like when your creative + business partner is also your life partner, what might become of the tracks that didn’t make it onto PHASES (out now via Universal Music Canada) and more, so learn up on all of that starting right…NOW!
So congratulations on the new record! What was the feeling like going into making this one? Did you feel as much pressure with the sophomore effort as you mentioned you did when you put out the debut?
Drew: It’s the sophomore album, so people are already talking about it before you start working on it. It sets the tone for the band. So part of us really wanted to go quick at it, but then we just took a lot of time to make sure that the songs we were releasing were songs that we were proud of and that we wanted to stand by. So it took a little bit longer between records, but we’re really grateful now because we have a batch of songs that we’re super proud of.
Danielle: Yeah, we just thought about the songs that we liked and sounded good to us out of the batch of about forty, forty-five that we wrote. It was kind of nerve-wracking, but in the end just really wanted to get it out there for people to hear it.
Do you have a set formula in terms of how you typically make a song? Does one of you come in the lyrics, and someone else with the melody, or is it completely sporadic?
Drew: It’s completely sporadic. Every song is totally different. There are some that change a bit, like Danielle writes a lot of the lyrics and I do a lot of the production stuff, but then there are other songs that are totally different. So depending on who gets inspiration first, we kind of follow up with what that song needs.
Right. And what does this creative partnership look like when you’re together all the time? Have you tried to set up any boundaries to ensure you’re not driving each other crazy?
Danielle: We’ve tried like five or six times to do that, and it doesn’t work out. [Laughs] So sometimes I’ll be like, “Hey, can we just have a conversation today, and not talk about music?” and Drew will say, “Yeah, that’s fine.” Or sometimes on a day off we’ll try to plan to have like, a “normal” dinner or whatever, go out with friends, but most days have kind of become intermeshed in what we do. I think that’s okay right now for us, though, because we’re both so passionate about it.
So what about when you get done touring, then? Separate vacations? [Laughs]
Danielle: I want to do that eventually! But no, usually our vacation time is spent together.
Drew: It’s kind of difficult, because when you come home from touring you kind of want to have your own time to yourself to recoup and debrief, but we also need to have hang-out-with-each-other time, and then we need to see our friends. So it kind of feels like after tour there’s this week-long process of getting our bearings again.
Totally understandable. Well, speaking of travel, you’ve got a show here in NYC, then you’re off to LA, and then it’s a string of dates in Canada, right?
Drew: Yeah, we’ve mainly played in Canada, and that’s where we got our start. But for a Canadian band to go down to the States is a big deal. There’s a lot, and sometimes it kind of feels like being in the wilderness. We’re in Toronto a lot, just playing shows between there and NYC and those markets, and then playing on the West Coast, because we’re from Vancouver. So we’re mainly focusing on those areas right now so we can frequent them. It’s hard when you play your first show in Cincinnati, and there are just a few people there, and you don’t get to tell them you’ll be back soon, that it might be a few years instead. So we’re trying to be more frequent in the places we play in the States, and come back as much as possible.
Well, jokingly, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to come back at all until at least 2020! [Laughs]
Drew: [Laughs] We were actually living in Brooklyn the past year, and when we moved to go it was like, the week after Trump got elected. Everyone was like, “But WHY?!”
Oh my god. [Laughs] Well yeah, you shot the video for “Boys & Blondes” in Brooklyn, right? It’s so good!
Danielle: We had a general idea that that’s what we wanted to do, and asked some friends to be a part of it. The rap videos that Kendrick Lamar’s been doing lately, or Solange videos, are so creative and beautiful-looking. So we thought it would be cool to do a video that’s almost based on Instagram photos, in a way, because you have one theme that’s super duper rad and you switch from scene to scene. We were really inspired by a bunch of different scenes that kept cutting between each other, and being in New York, we wanted to create it almost as a tribute to living there, getting our friends to be in it. It was just really good vibes all around. We love Brooklyn, we love New York.
Yeah, and we’re stoked that you guys will be back! But obviously you don’t have to be here to have heard you Dear Rouge bopping around Spotify and iTunes features and beyond; have you ever been in a public space and heard yourselves on the overhead speakers and just had a little internal freak-out moment? And maybe the people around you were none the wiser that you were the creators of the song playing?
Drew: Yeah, totally. It’s usually when you’re in common places, like a restaurant or a shopping mall. We had a friend in Vegas who…
Danielle: I actually heard our song in Vegas, in like, Caesar’s Palace or something. I was like, “WHAT?!” It was pretty cool.
That’s amazing! And what about songs that nobody’s heard yet, anywhere? Is it too soon to ask if you’ve been working on new material? And/or what’s to become of the remainder of those forty, forty-five songs that didn’t end up on PHASES? Any plans to release those or use them on a forthcoming record?
Drew: I’d never try to limit the songs, but it is hard to bring old stuff. I think especially now, because we always think that our best songs are ahead of us, and we do tend to look forward. But we do want to release everything, so I think with the ones we didn’t put on this record, we’re going to try to find a creative way to release those for our fans. And find a way to get them out there without creating an official album, you know?
Right. Do you have a studio at home when you’re working on new stuff? Or is there a separate space you use when you need it?
Drew: Yeah, we have a place in Vancouver that’s an aux home studio kind of thing, band practice space where we can get ideas across. Nothing formal. We’re getting better, as all bands are, with technology. Everybody has the ability to try stuff on their own, so we’re kind of dabbling in that and stumbling along as we write. Because sometimes it’s easier to get what’s in your head when you can do it all by yourself, rather than having to communicate that to other producers or musicians.
Totally. And now that you’ve said the word “technology”, obviously the way people make and consume music at this point in time is worlds away from how it was even a few years ago, let alone when we were growing up. Do you feel like Dear Rouge arrived on the scene at an opportune window in the midst of that technological flux and development?
Drew: We were really lucky to come onto the scene when we did. If you’re a band with five records or something, and everything starts changing around you, you’re less likely to adapt. As a band, we’ve embraced the technology and the new industry, even the new stage setups you can do now, very early on. We’ve always been very grateful that we started the band at the time we did, because all that stuff was just coming to fruition, and we were able to make use of it, rather than be afraid of it.
Yeah! And speaking of stage setups, I know you’ll be doing some bigger festivals and things like that this summer, but what can we expect you to have going on at this Mercury show? It’s such a great space in there!
Drew: Yeah, we have tons of festivals coming up this summer in Canada, plus some shows in Seattle and Portland and LA, as well as some unannounced plans in the fall, but for this particular show we have our full band, so there will be four of us on stage. We’re just feeling really comfortable on stage with this current set list; we just finished a tour with Lights, and we’ll be ready to rip.