Five Questions With… Excuses Excuses
The energetic Toronto punk rockers release a sophomore EP today. In this interview, the players reflect on their rapid evolution, a fascination with paint, and a concern about the value gap.
By Jason Schneider
Overflowing with attitude, energy, and hooky riffs, Excuses Excuses is a punk rock band from Toronto whose sophomore EP, Catch Me If You Can, is officially out June 1. The trio, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Kyle Wilton, bassist Trevor Bowman and drummer Jason Nicoll, views Catch Me If You Can as a coming of age of sorts for the band, as—having left their teenage years behind—they delve into more complicated lyrical themes and, by extension, an overall harder-hitting sound.
Recorded at Chalet Studio north of Toronto with producer Justin Meli and drum consultant Jordan Gaultier (YC Drum Company), the EP took shape around Nicoll assuming a full-time role behind the kit and the six songs represent the first real examples of Excuses Excuses’ uncanny ability to balance raw power with impeccable melodicism.
While each song on Catch Me If YouCan contains deeply personal reflections on the state of the world, “Pizza & Cigarettes,” “Rebel Without a Clue” and the title track best represent the EP’s message of empowering members of their generation to find their path rather than following society’s norms.
But on a more practical level, these tracks display Excuses Excuses’ attempt at writing pop music, even though—not surprisingly—it turned out inherently gritty. Kyle Wilton took some time to chat with us before the band launches Catch Me If You Can in Toronto on June 2 at Sneaky Dee’s, with shows in Ontario and eastern Canada to follow throughout the summer. Follow them on Twitter at @ExEbandCA.
What makes Catch Me If You Can stand apart from your debut EP?
The main difference between Catch Me If You Can and the Frame of Mind EP is the cohesiveness of the songs and our more natural approach to the recording. Although each song on the new EP has a unique style and feel, the themes of each song are all connected through the central message of empowerment. By touching on many social issues of today, the EP was made to help empower younger people to find passion in freedom of expression and embracing the uncertainty of the future, rather than fearing all of that.
In our opinion, this helped these songs tell more of a story together, without being a real concept album. We also did the basic tracks live at the suggestion of our producer and engineer, Justin Meli. It was the first time we’d recorded that way, so we were a little nervous about the new approach at first. But once we realized that we didn't suck as much as our anxious brains told us, it went well and sounded even better.
How has the band evolved in general over the past couple of years?
Immensely. As we are just entering our second year as Excuses Excuses, it’s odd to look back and attempt to analyze the difference, but we must say that the biggest changes have been to our chemistry as a group in both performance and writing ability. We only met our drummer before we dropped out of post-secondary to dedicate ourselves to making music, so in those two years we have been able to re-build our skillset from the ground up.
We have also embarked on our first few tours, which have helped us grow as performers. We quickly learned that it wasn't enough to merely be good at playing songs well in a live setting if you intend to make an impact in music and build a career of it. Once we figured that out, the tours, the planning, and the numerous weekly practices helped us to develop our abilities to perform and find our unique stage presence. We couldn't be happier with how far we have come in such a short time.
What songs on Catch Me If You Can are you particularly proud of?
Definitely our two singles, “Pizza and Cigarettes” and “Rebel Without A Clue.” “Pizza and Cigarettes” was the first song that we wrote entirely with our drummer, Jason, so it completely caught us off-guard when we started to hear peoples’ positive feedback from the demos. “Rebel Without A Clue” was much more of a personal victory for the band because of the length of time it took to write for the song. It had been around nearly two years before we finally felt confident to record it. Releasing it after that felt satisfying, given the effort we put into that song. That said, we’re very excited about every song on the EP.
What's the deal with the paint in your publicity photos?
That was a fun spin-off of what inspired the EP’s artwork. The cover is an oil painting by an up-and-coming visual artist named Mike Wills, who’s a friend. He came up with a sketch in his signature style that resembled the feel of this collection of songs, using very eye-catching colour combinations. After racking our brains over how we were going to come up with photography that would complement the EP and be even remotely as stimulating as the cover, Jason finally said, ‘Why don't we just get a bunch of paint, throw it at each other, and take some photos?’ So off to the craft store we went! A couple of snaps of the camera and hours of scrubbing the paint off the floor later, here we are. To us, it perfectly resembles the DIY attitude that drives us to do what we do best, in addition to creating the perfect correlation to the album artwork of the EP.
If you could fix anything about the music business, what would it be?
I’d say that one of the biggest things to fix, especially for artists, is the value gap. In Canada, we seem to do a pretty good job of recycling monies back into the industry, specifically through grant bodies like FACTOR and charitable organizations like Unison Benevolent Fund, to further strengthen the industry by giving back to the people in it; but many cannot say the same thing. Especially with the recent changeover to a streaming consumption focus, it is going to be extremely important to find a way to adequately compensate the creators of music for the work they did and amount of consumption. Currently, we do not think that this is equal, and we believe that there should be more monies flowing back through the industry to help furthermore artists’ careers and inevitably help to bring a wider variety of music to the fans.