The Courtneys are a young Canadian trio and also, as of this writing, my singular obsession, as they’ve just released the perfect all-summer-long mini-album. It’s alive with fuzzed-up jangle and artful pop that makes for both good daytime listening and solitary nighttime repeat play. They sing about their obsessions: Keanu, 90210, and playing guitar “all night!” They sound girly and tough, young and sure–like women who know what they want from this world. We are lucky enough to premiere their video for the record’s third single, “Nu Sundae,” which gives us a glimpse into their freewheeling lifestyle, which includes riding through the naturescape like parade princesses on the back of a top-down VW.
Directed by Rose Gagnon, cinematography by Ryan Dyck, stunt driving by Tara Dwelsdorf.
I spoke with the Jen Twynn Payne (drums), Courtney Loove (guitar), and Sydney Koke (bass), a couple days ago. —Jessica
JESSICA: Can you talk about the making of this glorious video of yours? You gals look like this is really what you were born to do: just drive around, top down, looking cool with your hairs illuminated by the Canadian sun. It’s like the sensual punk equivalent of a really luxe rap video.
JEN: Oh man, I’m so stoked that you said “luxe rap video,” I think you got the idea bang-on! We were born to drive around with our hairs illuminated by the Canadian sun! That convertible is Courtney’s, and when we’re not jamming or playing a show we’re just cruisin’. We didn’t realize when we made the video how funny it was going to turn out. A sensual journey to 7-Eleven!
COURTNEY: It’s true, this video is basically a documentary of a day in the life of the Courtneys.
Do you ever dream about music? What was your last music dream? What did you dream about last night?
JEN: My last music-related dream was about this band the Soft Pack that I really like who we are going to play with in San Diego. I was just chillin’ with them! I’m hoping it was a premonition! Last night I had a straight-up NIGHTMARE about getting rehired at a job I was fired from, but they made me do janitorial work and they didn’t pay me. At one point the boss came over and said, “You will get a review of your ‘feminine duties’ in six months.” What the hell?!
COURTNEY: I didn’t have a dream last night, but I just woke up, so maybe it will come to me. I definitely have dreams where I have extremely important-seeming musical epiphanies, then when I wake up they are just totally silly.
You debut 12" just came out. On a freaked-out-emotions scale of 1 to 12—1 being a state of professional-backrub-induced relaxation and 12 being projectile barfing with anxiety—rate where you are with your feelings.
COURTNEY: I would say a 1 for me! But I’m pretty calm usually.
SYDNEY: I’m also a 1. I’m really stoked about how the album sounds, and we’ve gotten amazing feedback so far. Now ask me about how I feel about my upcoming master’s defense!
JEN: I was sittin’ at about at 1 for ages—right up until Exclaim put up an exclusive stream of the whole album a week before its release. That morning I went up to about a 3! I saw it online and I was like, “This is it! People have been jamming on this one single for six months, now what if they don’t like the rest of the album?” That only lasted about an hour though, and then the positive reviews started coming in.
COURTNEY: I like this scale. I’m gonna use it for everything.
How did you meet, and what was your first impression of each other?
JEN: Syd and I go way back. We are both from Calgary, where we were roommates and in other bands together. I honestly don’t remember how I met her, but I do recall the first time I saw her playing guitar, in a band called the Incandescence. She had this super-rad haircut, and I wanted to be her friend based on that. [Laughs] I met Courtney after I moved to Vancouver. I actually met her boyfriend, Connor, first, because he is in a band called Peace. One day he invited me over to watch a nine-hour japanese movie at his house, and I met Courtney there. I thought she was really shy. She served us hummus and carrots. I had never thought to eat hummus and carrots before, so she really opened my eyes, and we’ve been friends ever since.
SYDNEY: Aw, thanks! You’d never had hummus and carrots before? That’s ridiculous!
JEN: No, I thought you could only eat hummus with pita.
COURTNEY: I probably was really shy, yeah. When I met Jen and Sydney it was love at first sight.
SYDNEY: I was living in the States for a while, doing a PhD in neuroscience at Duke University. When I eventually decided to take a break from that to focus on music and art, I chose to come to Vancouver because Jen was living there and we had had such great musical chemistry in our previous bands. She told me to come and form a band with this cool girl she met; it was kind of mystical.
When you started the band, what did you hope you would sound like? Is that what you do actually sound like?
JEN: I never had a specific overall influence that I wanted the Courtneys to sound like. I feel like almost every time we write a song, one of us will be really into some band at that moment and we’ll be like, “Let’s write a song that sounds like Pavement” or whatever, and then it just comes out sounding like the Courtneys—which is way better, in my opinion! My biggest influences are anything on Flying Nun (especially the Clean), Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Three Six Mafia, and the song “Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I want that song played at my funeral.
SYDNEY: We all have really different musical backgrounds and influences. I’ve always really been into experimental/punk/noise music, for instance, and my other band, Shearing Pinx, is really experimental. I love forming bands without an expectation of what we will sound like; it’s really a factor of the influences and musical chemistry of the members.
COURTNEY: I don’t really have any specific guitar influences, at least not that I can think of. When I’m jamming I’m not really thinking about trying to sound like anything. I love cheesy ’80s music like the Sisters of Mercy and Kate Bush, and I like to chill at home and play guitar solos over those albums, so maybe some of that seeps in to the Courtneys, I’m not sure.
Thoughts on playing with your eyes closed? I ask because the other day a friend wand I were talking about our propensity to do that onstage. What is your onstage I’m-feeling-it tic?
SYDNEY: I’m a perfectionist and I hate missing notes, so I try not to zone out too much. Although I’ve been in lots of bands, singing and playing at the same time is a fairly new thing for me, so I feel like I want maximum concentration! I’m a bit self-conscious about doing any typical “bass player” neck moves so I mostly just head-bang when I’m really into it.
JEN: I never close my eyes when playing, but I do this really weird thing when I’m singing where I stare cross eyed at the microphone, because I don’t want to hit my mouth on it while I’m drumming! Often we’ll be playing a show and I’m singing and playing drums in front of all these people, but I’m just off thinking about the most mundane shit, like Oh no, I left my laundry in the dryer! or Better pay my phone bill tomorrow, or sometimes even daydreaming about upcoming shows—which makes NO sense—and suddenly I’ll just snap back to reality and be like, Holy shit!
Finally, confess to us Rookie readers: What is the grodiest or weirdest pop-culture thing you’ve goten into? got into or obsessed on/read/watched or Googled?
SYDNEY: Can’t really think of anything. I’m pretty sure Jen has enough answers for all of us… [Laughs]
JEN: Oh god, I don’t even know where to begin! I recently got really intrigued about Miley Cyrus‘s transformation into a hipster. Also I was really into following the Casey Anthony trial! I worked for a bit on a true-crime documentary series about serial killers, so I have a weird gross obsession with that kind of stuff. Also, the three of us once watched the Justin Bieber documentary and that sent me into full-blown Bieber fever. I got tickets to go see him for my birthday.[Laughs] I was a Belieber!
SYDNEY: We are fascinated by celebrity culture from the ’90s, especially things like quizzes and posters and baseball cards featuring groups like the Spice Girls and ’N Sync. We have a blast joking around with that stuff, like giving ourselves Courtneys personalities. I’m Crazy Courtney! Jen is Cute Courtney and Courtney is Classic Courtney, duh! ♦