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band crush: tops

meet canada's new it band (this is not a story about cropped tops).

by: ray siegel

October 01 2012

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The indie pop foursome that is TOPS is another awesome band to come out of Canada (they released their album on Arbutus, the same label as bands like Grimes and Doldrums).

We've never heard anything like them in pop music before; their sound is so new, but unexpectedly nostalgic. Like every great song from the past, theirs will make you reminisce.

Right before they dropped their new single, "She's So Bad" yesterday, we got to know the band. TOPS are on their way up according to their drummer, Riley Fleck, they won't stop until one of their songs has been "sampled by a TOP 40 hip hop song" (a true marker of success).

How you guys meet?


Thom Gillies: David was buying a popsicle at the dep, and I asked for a lick. He gave me one on his guitar instead. [Editor's note: "dep" is short for dépanneur, which is what Quebec natives call their bodegas. You learn something new everyday, eh?]
 
Why is the album titled Tender Opposites?
Riley Fleck: It's from a Morio Agata song called 恋のラジオシティ. The song is sung in Japanese, but I thought that the first lyrics sound like “tender opposite top.”
 
Who are your influences?
Jane Penny: Broadcast, the Pretenders, Patti Smith, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Zombies are all big influences of mine. I like strong women that put creativity and expression above having a beautiful voice or being feminine.
 
RF: There are a lot of flesh and blood drummers that I admire and respect, but lately I have been more inspired by fake drums and samples. There's an album in particular I came across last year called “Computer Dreams”. Most of the songs are slowed down looped samples of clean, sophisticated pop music like Whitney Houston or Sade. It sounds kind of lazy, but introduced me to the way in which really straight percussion, electronic or otherwise, can produce a sort of digital eerie-ness that's not quite psychedelic, but something else.

Which other bands are you most compared to?

JP: The band we get compared to the most is Fleetwood Mac. People compare us to Puro Instinct and Twin Sister—I guess because I'm a girl—but I like their music so that's fine by me.
RF: One time we were compared to Prefab Sprout and I'm down with that.

Do you agree with those comparisons?
JP: The Fleetwood Mac comparison is tricky, because we strive towards a more contemporary sound. They're a great band, and I really like the way that Stevie Nicks sings, but we aren't interested in making songs that have already been written.

What's your song writing process?
David Carriere: It isn't a thing that happens all at once. The songs gets closer to complete each time we work on them. Writing music together is challenging because everyone has their own idea of where it should go, but also has to let the song do its own thing too.

What inspired the song "Turn Your Love Around"?
JP: Turn Your Love Around was the first song that we wrote as TOPS. Starting something new made me think about the things that I've experienced that are over. The song is about realizing that you can't relive those experiences, good or bad, exercising your feelings towards the past and moving on.
 
What is your fan-base like?
DC: Everywhere you play makes for a different audience. It is cool when you play for people who don't know the songs, but then are all about them afterwords. Yeah.
 
What's your favorite genre of music that isn't pop?

TG: Psychedelic rock.
DVC: Chill noise.
RF: New age.

What's been your biggest moment as a band so far?
TG: Going on tour in the spring was a big highlight. We played in Marfa, Texas, this small remote town that has a really vibrant art scene, and got to spend time in California. Often our best shows were in smaller towns with really cool open people. Unexpected.

What do you hope your biggest moment as a band will be?
JP: I'd like to release a record that reaches a lot of people, a record with really good songs that changes the way people make music.
DC: Grammy Award for "Best Album of the Year!" Play hit song on TV. Play on Top of the Pops.

TOPS, "She's So Bad" and "Turn Your Love Around."

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