As his music might indicate, Peter Sagar really is one for home comforts.
Sagar, the mastermind behind slacker-rock band Homeshake, has spent the last few years making introspective, gooey guitar-driven tunes out of his adoptive home city of Montreal – honing and adapting his sound, resetting, and making the most of having a real sense of anchoring. With a body of work whose titles evoke those small, fleeting moments of privacy and unguardedness – 2014’s In The Shower and last year’s Midnight Snack – Sagar is clearly appreciative of time spent in familiar surroundings.
Fittingly, when I reach him over the phone in mid-November, Sagar is in the kitchen of his apartment putting the finishing touches on a late breakfast. Despite me interrupting his beans and toast with a fried egg on top, Sagar is friendly, infallibly polite, and surprisingly interested in my take on the best cheese for melting (munster, of course).
While the Canadian multi-instrumentalist and producer is not a recluse by any means, the step away from the limelight seems to have been both necessary and incredibly productive. Specifically, the reduced touring schedule from his days as Mac DeMarco’s guitarist seems to have helped Sagar hit a creative purple patch: his third full length-release, Fresh Air is slated to come out in February 2017, and will be his third record in as many years. If his previous releases are anything to go by, it promises to be the perfect soundtrack to ride out this Winter/impending doom.
Brightest Young Things: You’ve talked about struggling with the inherent challenges that come from being on the road constantly as a professional musician. What changes have you made, if any, to ameliorate things for yourself?
Peter Sagar: Yeah. I don’t tour very much. [Laughs] I can’t really handle it; it makes me go crazy. It sends me into a pit of depression, usually – not for any real reason, but I miss my partner back home. I miss her, and I told her, and that’s usually it. I’m lovesick.
But it’s pretty easy with Homeshake. The four of us are a very balanced group of people and we’re calm and considerate of each other. Brad [Loughead] always needs to eat vegan food, and we find it and eat there with him, so that’s easy. [Laughs] Stuff like that. You just kind of have to bend with the wind and be extremely soft and considerate of the people around you. You have to be with the right people, and it’s easy.
BYT: Montreal is often overlooked when discussing Canada’s indie music scene, at least in comparison to Toronto. What drew you to the city? What keeps you there?
PS: What draws many people here often is that it’s inexpensive to live, so you don’t have to work as much. [Laughs] Rent is controlled, so it’s very low, and there’s a very strong artistic community here, which keeps you on your toes, so I’m constantly inspired by people around me who are making great music and taking care of biz and everything. So that comes along with it. But definitely not having to work. [Laughs]
If I lived in Toronto, where rent is super high, I’d certainly need to have a job – but I can do my thing here and things are fine. I’ve just been doing music for about five years and haven’t had a job. And I will be fair: I won’t be hirable if this doesn’t work out. [Laughs] I’m really putting all my eggs in this basket.
BYT: In your opinion, what’s the state of the indie art scene in Montreal? Do you feel part of a greater community, or are people working in isolated pockets?
PS: I guess is pockets of people doing this and that, because there’s a lot of space and a bit of a language divide – I’m certain there’s francophone music going on that I have no idea about and that doesn’t cross over onto my radar or into this neighborhood.
It’s just good – there are so many good bands, and so many people here that do this. There’s also a really intense – maybe not intense, but big – party scene, a lot of people going to raves all the time. I tried to do that, but I can’t really rave. I don’t know how, and I’m not good at it. [Laughs] I think it’s easy for people also to get caught up in partying and socializing all the time and not getting any work done, so there’s definitely some people tangled up in that without putting the work in after. But for the huge majority of my friends making music out here – it’s very inspiring to see them do such good work.
BYT: Are there any acts that you’re close to or inspired by?
PS: There’s my dear friends Sheer Agony – they’re super good, power-pop kind of stuff. Jackson [MacIntosh] who fronts the band also recorded on my last album (Midnight Snack) and the next one coming out.
There’s a bunch of characters in this jam space-studio-venue that fifteen of us pay rent at. I never know who is in and out and about, and everyone playing there is always involved in various musical acts. There’s this band Best Fern that’s really sounding good right now, there’s Sivani – my friend Meghan’s band, and they’re spectacular. Another good one is Un Blonde, music made by my friend Jean. His music is really moving.
BYT: Do you guys ever really collaborate officially? You’ve mentioned recording together, but is there ever a cross-pollination of ideas, or the thought of creating a Montreal indie collective?
PS: I don’t know, probably. [Sighs] I have a problem: I can’t really make music with other people anymore, it just doesn’t work. Or maybe I haven’t tried – it’s been a long time since I’ve really collaborated with someone. I did a bit of work with a friend of mine, I made some beats for him to rap over, but he doesn’t live here anymore – he moved to Vancouver. And he hasn’t put it out yet. Actually, I owe him a piece of a song and totally forgot about that. [Laughs] But I don’t know – he’s far away and I think he’s trying to put something else out before he releases our collaboration.
BYT: With your upcoming album Fresh Air due for release in the spring, I’ve got to ask: are you familiar with Terry Gross’ talk show Fresh Air on NPR?
PS: No, I’m not.
BYT: I think you’d enjoy it. Obviously we ride pretty hard for NPR here in D.C. What do you listen to in your free time? Are you a radio, records, or podcast guy?
PS: Oh yeah, I know about NPR. And ooooh – good question. I usually just listen to records, although digital things; I haven’t had a working record player in about three years. I have a test pressing for my next record and I haven’t listened to it yet. I’ll have to go over to a friend’s house for that. [Laughs]
But yeah, I usually listen to whole albums. I don’t really like listening to just one song, as you can’t get a good idea of what’s going on. It feels like you miss the overarching theme that the artist was trying to convey. I’m a real album person, the whole thing.
I do really like listening to podcasts when we’re on the road. We were listening to recordings of Office Hours – the new Tim Heidecker show. It’s a good one! My favorite episode was probably when my friend Cole called in and told a story about his migraines. It’s a good show and I like that. I also enjoy This American Life and Radiolab. I don’t really look into these though, or actively seek anything out on that front. I mainly spend my time trying to find Japanese albums that are hard to download.
BYT: Oh yeah – there’s a ton of those Japanese funk albums on YouTube and they all link to each other. I spent like four hours listening to Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffaloes the other day and went down the hole – they all link to each other.
PS: Man, I love the YouTube hole. [Pauses to Google] I’m already checking these guys out. This is awesome.
BYT: From your bio, you seem to have an appreciation for a lot of 90s soul and R&B. If you could form a supergroup of 90s era artists who would you want to see collaborate and play together? You can choose to be in the band if you’d like.
PS: I definitely wouldn’t be in it. [Laughs, pauses] I don’t know – that’s a hard one. [Pauses] I don’t know about supergroups; I’m not really into them, you know what I mean? As soon as somebody puts that label on it, it assumes it’s supposed to be special, but maybe whatever comes out of those people collaborating is not special. Maybe the special things that come out of these stars is only what they can do by themselves, or what they do with certain other people who allow them to be superstars.
Like, what’s a supergroup that is good?
BYT: I’m thinking… Cream?
PS: Cream! [Laughs heartily] I really, really, really can’t stand Eric Clapton. He is the worst. See, for him – he needed those guys, because without them he’s awful. I know nobody agrees with me about that.
BYT: I’m not saying that I like Clapton necessarily, but most people would argue that he is objectively one of the best guitarists ever. Why do you think Clapton is overrated?
I mean, I don’t want to get down too negative of a path – I do that too much, and I’m trying to cut back on that given the current the state of the world. I think negativity is a pretty bad thing to be carrying around. That being said, his music is so polished and perfect and that really bores me. There’s no humanity or mistakes.
My dad had some video of Clapton playing in like 2010 – I think it was the Cream reunion DVD, actually – my dad loves that shit. I was watching [Clapton] play and there was no struggle in it. It just seemed to stale. Obviously that’s him now versus him in the 60s, but it just doesn’t grab me. There’s no bad, or good, or better, or worse – but it simply doesn’t do it for me.
BYT: So, what is compelling to you?
PS: I don’t know. Definitely sadness – I really like sad music, which is probably why all of my music is so sad. I don’t know man. [Laughs] I like someone who is doing it because they absolutely have to, not just because they can. That’s a feeling, I guess, and will vary from artist to artist that I really enjoy, but some sense that they had to do it because they’d either be letting themselves down or letting everyone else down. They had to get it out or it would kill them on the inside. But no one can ever really know how someone else feels while they’re making art.
BYT: That reminds me of the saying about most comedians using their art as a conduit for working some of their own shit out. It seems like you’re drawn to people who make music – and art – for catharsis and resolution.
PS: Yeah! And I think that’s a lot more prevalent and normal in music as well as comedy than people might know. Or maybe they do know, I don’t know. But it seems strange to want to create something if it isn’t an important cathartic experience. You gotta get it out or it really fucks with your shit. You gotta get it out.